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Life without NBA basketball — and sports in general — has been tough. Simply put, there’s no replacing the thrill of watching one of the most exhilarating games, in a league populated with the world’s most vibrant stars, on a nightly basis.
However, that’s not stopping the NBA from attempting to recoup something from the millions lost in revenue by the ongoing hiatus. The players-only NBA 2K tournament is one creative idea that’s been … all right. While it fills the void to some degree and puts NBA personalities back on our TV screens where they’ve been painfully absent from, it amounts to a small Band-Aid on an open wound.
Without a moderator to keep conversation flowing, it’s mostly just watching two NBA players quietly face off in a basketball video game, with most of the contests being blowouts — not the most riveting television. There have been some exceptions, like Patrick Beverley‘s vintage trash talk or Devin Booker‘s gamer bravado shining through, but the NBA won’t be calling it quits after this tourney by any stretch.
Coming up next is a H-O-R-S-E tournament featuring Chris Paul, Trae Young and Zach LaVine, and the longer this suspended season continues, the more the league will be forced to improvise with new content to keep our attention. Bearing that in mind, let’s take a look at a few events we’d really love to see NBA players compete in on our TV screens next.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or Mario Kart 8
NBA 2K is one of the most popular games out there, but it’s not particularly enjoyable to watch, especially when the contests are routs and the players aren’t thrilled on a second-to-second basis. But you know which multiplayer games can light up a living room with their manic but ultimately family-friendly nature? Nintendo’s less serious but still high-octane brand.
Unlike Call of Duty or 2K games designed for more serious gamers, revamped classics like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Mario Kart 8 on Nintendo Switch are accessible for everyone. Even better, the games’ frenetic nature (who among us has not screamed bloody murder as a blue shell streaks toward our helpless little go-kart on the final lap, or shouted with jubilation at launching an opponent offscreen in Smash?) brings out any player’s inner child.
If you want to see a more excited, animated side of the players, put four of them on a tiny map in Smash with all the items turn on, or let them decide a Grand Prix on Rainbow Road. Nintendo games revel in chaos, and if we got a tournament like this, the audience at home would be soaking it in too.
Okay, so players drinking on television probably isn’t great for the league’s image, but we don’t even need actual beer in the cups! Just use water! Because like it or not, people are playing a lot of virtual BP over their video chats these days. It’s one of the more popular quarantine activities for people who enjoy playing drinking games with friends, since, ya know, we can’t see our friends. Plus, you just KNOW these guys have played a game or two in their day.
We’ve always wondered which NBA players would actually be good at drinking games. If the league wants eyeballs, have ’em square off one-on-one in a six-cup tourney and let’s set the record straight.
TikTok dance contest
Partner up with TikTok, and let our favorite NBA stars make absolute fools of themselves trying to capture the latest trending moves.
So what if you’re annoyed by that one girl from high school trying to show off her busted dance moves with every new TikTok sensation, or embarrassed for the frat bro you met at that one college party who does every dance ironically to try and be funny? This isn’t that, because you’d better believe this TikTok hater would immediately tune in to watch Victor Oladipo serenade us while he’s groovin’ or Luka Doncic try and dance to … anything, really.
Do I have any idea how you’d televise an event when recorded TikToks go straight to the app? Of course not; that’s for the powers-that-be to figure out. But if you’ve even thought about making a TikTok with your parents while in quarantine, then you’re already part of the target audience.
Jackbox.TV is basically just trivia games on a screen that anyone can access with the right login information from their phone. Most trivia games wouldn’t make compelling television, but Jackbox actually is quite entertaining in the way it antagonizes its participants (especially in Trivia Murder Party).
There are a variety of games to choose from, and some of the random questions that get brought up are sure to elicit WTF reactions from our favorite NBA stars, which is honestly the biggest potential draw of televising NBA players doing anything right now.
Just before ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski announced the Chicago Bulls were finalizing a deal with Arturas Karnisovas to become their vice president of basketball operations, I ranked the seven main candidates for the job. Sure, Karnisovas is getting the gig, but some of the other names on the list — Bryan Colangelo and Spencer Dinwiddie?? — are still worth a second look.
ESPN’s Mike Schmitz and Jonathan Givony have graced us with their newest NBA mock draft, which includes the most likely picks, best fits and latest intel (subscription required).
The Ringer’s Dan Devine remembers the night the Toronto Raptors trailed by 30 in the third quarter, were playing without three starters … and decided to come back and win anyway.