Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Mars Game

The Mars Game is a projected basketball game between the inhabitants of Earth and those of Mars, winner gets to destroy/enslave the other. Each planet sends its best five. Whether teams can practice, scout each other, have substitutions, or be coached is never part of the discussion.  One game.  Five best. We don't know whether Mars has players who are eight feet tall and 150 lbs, or four feet tall and can hit from  50 feet.  They might be much more speedy.  They might live for 700 years and have played together for 100.

It may not be the most important measure of a player - though were it to become a real game it would certainly become that - but it is interesting because it removes many of the side issues that come up in discussing who is The Greatest Ever. That ongoing discussion among tipsy and irritable fans can quickly turn into Who was the Greatest Champion (Bill Russell) or Who Had The Greatest Career (Kareem Abdul Jabbar). Which position is most important? Who made his teammates better? Who was the best all-around player? Who had the greatest season?  Who was best at his peak? The arguments are sometimes mere pretenses for choosing the hometown boy, or actually about what is the proper criteria* for evaluating players.

If someone wants the discussion of who is on my all-time baseball team, I find I cannot choose unless certain questions are answered.  Do you mean best season, best few years, best ten years, or best career?  If a single season, under what rules and era conditions will they play?  Do they get a chance in this time-travel league to adjust for a year? I would have similar cautions about choosing a basketball team.

The Mars game bypasses most of that. For the Mars game I am choosing Wilt Chamberlain first, even though he irritated me and I loved Bill Russell.  You might choose Russell or Jabbar at center if you had to play against Mars for years. But one game, I'm choosing Wilt, and it's not close.  I do have some qualms about not knowing whether there is a three-point shot, because that does bend the game significantly.  I imagine I would hedge against that by choosing Steph Curry second, even though there are ten players better than him. Though I would ask Wilt what he thought before making the pick.

Chamberlain is not who I would have chosen even as recently as last year, but I have been looking at old film and become convinced. He leapt higher, and with grace.  He may have blocked twenty shots in a game and regularly blocked ten. He was immensely strong. He was adaptable.

For the record, I am choosing Lebron well before Michael Jordan, even though I find him irritating as well.

*Every chess match is a furious argument about how chess should be played.


Sam L. said...

Where will the game be held? Mars, or Earth? Mars and our guys can DUNK. Earth, and the Martians can't jump. How high is the basket? How long is the court?

Cambias said...

Since it's team vs. team, shouldn't you be trying to pick the greatest team in history, rather than a bunch of players judged individually?

Christopher B said...

The small number of players on the court means any one or two getting hot will have an outsized impact. In a single game for all the marbles you want five guys with the best potential for such a break out, while still being willing and able to play a supporting role when they recognize another player going on a streak.

james said...

Which Martians?

Sam L. said...

If Dejah Thoris is cheerleading the Mars team, I'd put some money on their team.