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Sports Video Game Hall of Fame - Or A Sure Sign I'm A Geek

June 28, 2008 - John Whittaker

Nate James graduated from Duke University in 2001.

He never played a game against Syracuse, never stepped foot in the NBA and is, by all accounts, a great guy and teammate.

I can't stand him. Or at least, I can't stand the video game version of him.

One of the things my brother Matt and I used to spend a lot of time doing when we were younger was playing video games, including NCAA March Madness 1998 on the original Playstation. I'd usually take Syracuse, though sometimes I'd rotate in Gonzaga, Indiana, Florida or Kentucky.

It didn't matter who I played with, though, because Nate James, coming off the bench, would bury 3-pointer after 3-pointer on me. It didn't matter what defense I had my team playing, who I had on him or whether or not he was double-teamed. James' middle name was changed to a word that rhymes with plucking.

If people want to know why I always find it hard to root for Duke now, it probably goes back to video Nate James. You're welcome.

Thinking about James made me start thinking about other video game athletes - though only the ones that came up in games I played a lot, which is why Jeremy Roenick in NHL 1994 for the Sega Genesis and a host of others aren't included.

While Matt and I won't be able to add anybody to this list until sometime in September - when he'll get home from Iraq and we'll get to spend a day playing college basketball and probably NBA Live on my Playstation 2 - here's a look back at some of the best video game athletes we've run across.

Barry Sanders, NFL Quarterback Club 1998 (Super Nintendo)

In a game that was supposed to be dominated by quarterbacks, Barry Sanders was unbelievable. One of my favorite all-time video game moments was playing this game with a college roommate my junior year, Matt Wolfgong. He had the Packers, I had Detroit, and it was a close game - when it started. Sanders ran for something like 200 yards, including two runs where computer Barry pulled out two or three spin moves while stiffarming defenders and tightroping down the sideline for touchdowns. I swore the controller was about to get thrown through my little 13 inch TV. Gong, thankfully, settled for the floor.

Bo Jackson, Tecmo Bowl (Nintendo)

Much has been written about Video Bo, and I'll leave the bragging to Bill Simmons, who wrote this in the Sept. 1, 2006, edition of ESPN: The Magazine: "Everyone has the same highlights: running Bo backward to his own goal line, then turning him around so he could plow through everyone for a 99-yard jaunt. Or watching Bo bust TDs even if the defense called his play (no one else could do that). Or seeing Bo carry defenders like a knapsack for 20, 30 yards. Video Bo was larger than life. I've heard that when Bo speaks at colleges, someone always brings up the video game thing, and Bo will laugh and admit that "No matter where I go, somebody always mentions it."

Dell Curry, Tecmo Basketball for the Super Nintendo

Ask my buddy Kurp about Dell Curry in Tecmo basketball, with rosters for 1992-93, for the old Super Nintendo. In college, we'd play Tecmo during study breaks or between classes. Being a Cavs fan, Dave would usually take Cleveland, but he could have taken an All-Star team and it wouldn't have mattered. The Hornets did have Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson, but it was always Dell Curry who drove Kurp nuts - 3-pointers from half-court, 3-pointers with a man in his face, 3-pointers from the third row while eating a hot dog. Dell Curry was Kurp's Nate James.

Pat LaFontaine, Faceoff 1998 (Playstation 1)

LaFontaine didn't play for the Buffalo Sabres in 1998, but, by a quirk of the video game release schedule, he was still on the Sabres' roster for the game. My college buddy Dole and I would play this game endlessly - it was like our Madden - with him as either Phoenix, the Philadelphia Flyers or Pittsburgh Penguins. I'd usually use Buffalo, though Anaheim (whose Duck mascot used to quack after an Anaheim player scored) and Vancouver were rotated in too. Back to LaFontaine - he was unstoppable, especially flipping the puck past goaltenders with his back turned to them or firing slapshots from the blue line. And, if we played the game in Buffalo, I never got tired of hearing the announcer say, "Buffalo goal by Pat La-La-LaFontaine!" Dole hated that.

Faceoff '98 also immortalized John LeClaire, Eric Lindros and Eric Desjardins - Dole called them the Father, Son and Holy Ghost line. I still can't stand John LeClaire because of that game, though giving Lindros a concussion in every game by hitting him along the boards with Rob Ray still gives me goosebumps.

Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood , MLB 2001 (Playstation 1)

You have no idea how much I hated this combination. I'd usually play with the Yankees - starting the game with Roger Clemens and bringing in Andy Pettitte in the later innings. If I had a lead, I'd of course finish off with Mariano Rivera. Problem is, I never had a lead in the late innings, since Matt would have hit about 60 home runs with Sosa and then, after starting Jon Lieber, bring in Kerry Wood to pitch the last four innings - where he'd throw 101 mile an hour fastballs for four solid innings, with a changeup thrown in to make my video game hitters look ridiculous. It didn't matter how you pitched Sosa - he'd hit anything out. And, if we played a home run derby, the only way to beat Sosa was with Ken Griffey Jr.

Don Mattingly, World Series Baseball 1994, Sega Genesis

Since we only had one Sega controller at the time, Matt and I didn't play against each other much on this game. But, when Matt was at school and I had the house to myself, I'd sneak in a few games of World Series baseball. That was a fun Yankees team, and the game had an option to play a World Series. Whenever Mattingly would come up, home runs were in order - with the power swing, he'd hit it out almost every time. You wonder why that game's still one of my favorite baseball games. Here's to you, Video Donnie Baseball!


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Some people will tell you Video Game Bo Jackson is a better athlete than actual Bo Jackson. Video Bo don't know Diddley!