Jobu explores the best way to really see what video game athlete was the best of all time.
Unless you consider the THQ WCW and WWE wrestling games (Revenge, No Mercy, Wrestlemania 2000, etc), I’ve never been a big fighting game fan. Yes, I owned Mortal Kombat for SNES. Yes, I owned Street Fighter II (the regular old fashioned one for SNES, not the alpha beta gamma round robin tournament 3,000 editions that have followed). I even owned Tekken Tag Tournament for the PS2. I just wasn’t a huge fan of said games. I’ve always leaned heavily towards sports games (go figure). Maybe if someone had combined the two, things could have been different. That’s what we’re here to talk about today. If I were building the best sports fighting game of all time, who would I include on the roster?
Larry Johnson – NBA Jam
I don’t know how popular this choice will be. I’m not sure he’s necessarily even the best player in the NBA Jam game, let alone one of the best video game athletes of all time. However, there’s no one else I’d rather be when playing my good buddy, Dr. Draft, in NBA Jam. The guy can pull off helicopter dunks on one play, run down to the other end to stuff a shot and then come back and nail a three in your mug for the buzzer-beating win. He can rebound, and he is equally adept at stealing the ball by picking your pocket or just punching you in the face as hard as he can and taking it. There are few players who combine that kind of “man’s man” toughness and grit with the ability to hit the outside shot too.
Also, come on. The guy was friggin’ Grandma Ma for crying out loud. How many of us have fond memories of Larry dressed up as an old lady, complete with a Mumu and his patented Converse sneakers, slamming dunks all over fools on the court? I know I loved those ads. There’s your special attack right there. Larry could just turn into Grandma Ma and destroy all comers.
I don’t care how many threes Dr. Draft can inexplicably hit with David Robinson (seriously… how the hell??). I will always pick The Charlotte Hornets, so that I can have LJ and Alonzo Mourning (ZoMo, as I dubbed him) on my side. 60% of the time, it works every time.
Shaquille O’Neal – Shaq Fu
When a guy is as dominant as Shaquille O’Neal was in his prime, he has to make one of these lists, right? In real life he was a guy who had one of the best combinations of speed and power on the court of all time. In video games, he was just as dominant, and way better at marketing than anyone at the time, and possibly ever. When you’ve already starred in your own fighting game, you have to be included in any sports related fighting game after that.
I know Shaq Fu, like many of Shaq’s other endeavors off the court, was terrible. Just plain terrible. Bad graphics, bad controls, bad gameplay… you name it, Shaq Fu had it. Also, it’s a made up name. That’s not a real fighting style at all. It’s made up nonsense, like the Shaqtus. Nowadays you see Shaq awkwardly hocking anything he possibly can get paid to hock, and yucking it up with Barkley in the game during NBA pre game shows on TNT. Back in the day, he was a fighting machine. So he’s in the game too.
Michael Vick – Madden 2004
I’m not sure how many of you actually played this game, but it made up a very big part of my senior year of college. We never turned the playstation off, which probably led to the eventual breakdown of both my PS2 and my buddy Drew’s as well. While during the 20+ seasons of our suite-wide franchise mode I never had the pleasure of actually having Vick on my team, I got to see him play plenty of games. It was frustrating and scary to have to play against him.
Not only could he throw bombs the length of the field (and knock over his receivers if you believe Power Ade commercials), but he too was very hard to catch. Other than a made up guy I once drafted in a franchise on Madden 25 who had a 99 for speed (99!!), I’ve never seen a faster video game quarterback in my life. You couldn’t catch the guy. Based on his athletic ability alone, Vick has to be in the game. He’d even have a pet dog to reflect his recent change of character.
Mike Tyson – Mike Tyson’s Punch Out
Let’s face it. Everyone else you faced in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out was a total chump. I know some were harder than others, Soda Popinsky was far from unbeatable, and so was Bald Bull. Even if you managed to get through Super Macho Man, which I didn’t do until I was like 18 and in College, Tyson was a whole other battle.
The Fresh Prince once wrote a song about fighting Mike Tyson. He poetically uttered the following words: “One punch, that’s all it took. He hit me in my ribs and my insides shook. Now how can I say this and be a little discreet. Let’s just say that my bowels released.”
Mike Tyson made the Fresh Prince crap his pants. That one punch warning held very true in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. If Mike hit you once with one of those big uppercuts, it was all over, Rock. I’ve only seen one man ever beat Mike Tyson, and that was my college friend, Rob. His one punch attack would make him probably the toughest villain you could face in the game… except of course, for one man.
Bo Jackson – Tecmo Bowl
Duh, folks. Duh. If you didn’t’ know when you started reading this piece that Bo Jackson was going to be my top choice, then you have somehow lived a life devoid of all knowledge about both sports and video games. There’s no stopping Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl. That unstoppability has made him a legendary figure in video games. In fact, that legacy might be even greater than the one he left with his extraordinary feats on the actual fields of play.
Bo Could out run you and out muscle you on any given play. Even if you guessed your opponent’s play, you still might not be able to even tackle him. He’d just end up shaking you off and throwing you 35 yards out of bounds. Do you know how frustrating that is? I don’t even think I’d make Bo a playable character in the game. He’d have to be the end boss, right? Otherwise, you’d never lose!
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