by Lang Whitaker

I’m on this insane schedule right now. I wake up every morning at 9 and eat oatmeal. (When I went to my doctor to get shots before going to Africa, he secretly took some of my blood to get it all checked out. Everything was fine, but my cholesterol was jacked. So now I can’t eat good food any longer. Oatmeal seven days a week. On the upside, it keeps you regular.)

I go to work, where we’ve been pretty busy of late. We just finished KICKS, and now we’re working on another special issue (yee-uh) and then we’ve got another regular issue of SLAM shipping in less than a month. So there’s always stuff going on there — for instance, I just found out an upcoming photo shoot I’m trying to put together might get disrupted by a Judas Priest/Whitesnake concert.

I come home, eat dinner, spend an hour or two catching up with Wifey, and then I’m back on my grind, working on The Book, which is due in just over a month. I write until 2 or 3 in the morning, then crash and get back at it the next day. On Saturdays and Sundays, I write all day. And so on, and so on, and so on.

My only respite comes each night around midnight. When my eyes get bleary, when my iBook has started to singe my thighs, I shut it down for about half an hour and play a game of college football. I’ve always loved college football, and EA’s NCAA 10 is a great, great game. If I wasn’t more disciplined, I could easily waste a night or a weekend on this thing. Playing college football lets me get my mind off basketball and baseball. Plus it’s a dope game.

One of the coolest additions to NCAA 10 this year is the Teambuilder feature, where you go to an EA website and create a team that’s then available for download in the actual game. People have made all sorts of teams, from hip-hop legends to baseball all-stars. I found a couple of NBA teams, though I thought we could do better. So I created the SLAM Magazine NBA All-Stars. We play in New York City in an open air stadium called The SLAM Dome, with a SLAM logo at midfield and SLAM logos on our helmets.

slamncaaThere were a lot of NBA guys I couldn’t figure out what to do with. Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Tim Duncan — just because some guys are great NBA players, they don’t always project to football. There were also some limitations imposed by EA. For instance, there are only a couple of dozen faces available, which explains why Blake Griffin, a reserve defensive end, doesn’t look anything like Blake Griffin. You also can’t build a player who is taller than 7-1, so I had to fudge Yao’s height. Otherwise, all the heights and weights should be correct. And I made the entire roster freshmen, because I wanted to have as long as possible to play with these guys in dynasty mode.

Finally, I tried to put together a team that could actually go out and play right now and do pretty well. I rated guys as realistically as I could (which explains Monta Ellis’s low injury rating) and did my best to put guys in reasonable positions.

HEAD COACH
I guess I’m actually more like the GM, but I listed myself as coach because I built this team (with consulting from Tzvi and Ben and our creative director, Melissa, who weighed in on the uniforms and logo).

Let’s unveil the rosters for the initial SLAM Magazine NBA All-Stars…

QUARTERBACK
At QB, I want a guy with speed, experience, poise, leadership. He needs eyes in the back of his head and an ability to make the players around him better. Chris Paul seemed like the obvious answer to me here. Even though he’s small at six feet, he has the intangibles to compensate. CP3′s backup is Derrick Rose, a wildly talented but still raw youngster. I also put Ricky Rubio and Allen Iverson on the roster at QB. Those would be some interesting position meetings.

RUNNING BACK
Finding running backs wasn’t easy. We needed guys who weren’t too tall, so they’d be fast, but also weren’t so small that they’d be easily tackled.

So Dwyane Wade is our starting tailback. How many times have you seen Wade dribble at the top of the key, then somehow weave between three or four defenders and get to the rim untouched? That elusive quality will serve him well as our feature back, plus Wade is strong enough to fall down seven times and get up six, or something like that. D-Wade is backed up by Tony Parker, Baron Davis and Russell Westbrook. (Because the roster was so large and I couldn’t play everyone, I had to redshirt Rodney Stuckey.)

FULLBACK
Deron Williams. He’s got the core strength to stay in and pass protect or lead block for Wade. Also, he’s smart enough to know all the plays and adjust to blitzes, etc. Plus, he’s used to being behind Chris Paul. Deron’s backup is going to be Jameer Nelson, as long as his shoulder holds up.

WR
Our starting receivers? Kobe and Bron. They’re both fast, physical and way tall. I also added Vince Carter, though he’s more of a possession receiver. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are our burners, and Toney Douglas is in there too, mostly because his brother Harry is a receiver on the Falcons.

TE
I initially had LeBron at tight end, but I felt like it wasn’t a proper utilization of his skills; it was too easy to forget about him there. So I moved Bron to receiver and bumped up Josh Smith and Thaddeus Young to bracket our line. I want guys who will get nasty in there, and I think Josh and Thad can do that. Plus, nobody will outjump either of them in the red zone.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Since CP3 is right-handed, I really need to protect his blindside, so I put Amare Stoudemire at left tackle. Black Jesus has the size and strength to handle any college kids rushing at him, and he has the speed to stop guys from turning the corner. I also took into account Amare’s eye injury. While Amare seems to be recovering well, in a worst case scenario, Bob Whitfield had a tremendous NFL career at left tackle despite being blind in one eye. I put Yao Ming at center, because he’s a center. Greg Oden and Dajuan Blair with bookend Yao at guard. Al Horford will play right tackle, with the ability to be a punishing run blocker.

Our starting offensive line averages 6-11.5 and 271 pounds. They’re also all athletic and versatile enough to run block or pass protect. (Backups on the o-line include Brandon Bass, Andres Nocioni, Kevin Love and Andrea Bargnani.)

DEFENSIVE LINE
You want defense? We’re lining up KG and Dwight on the ends, where they’ll be flying off the line at opposing QBs. Backing them up is a rotation that includes Carlos Boozer and Emeka Okafor. In the center of the line, gumming up the run, are Shaq and Al Jefferson, with Kendrick Perkins and Craig Smith providing relief. Come on, Urban Cryer, just try throwing one of those little dump passes over our line. Every one of these guys requires a double team, so something’s got to give.

LINEBACKERS
Since we’re playing a 4-3, I needed three fast, aggressive linebackers. I went with Carmelo Anthony at MLB, because he’s quick enough to read and react, he’s smart enough to be the captain of the defense, and he’s from B-More and a Ravens fan, so he grew up watching Ray Lewis and those stone-cold defenses. On the outsides I went with Ron Artest and Stephen “Whoo!” Jackson. These two will be relentless coming after QBs and running backs, plus I like having Artest and Whoo! on opposite sides, watching each other’s backs. Because we know they’re good at that. Eric Gordon and Caron Butler fill out the linebacker core.

CORNERBACKS
Nate Robinson and Leandro Barbosa will line up at the corners, each with speed to burn. While Nate is short and teams could try to pick on him, he actually played cornerback in college, so he’ll have the shortest time to adjust. And Barbosa’s actually 6-3, so his size and speed at the corner could be epic. Devin Harris will be our nickelback, and Rajon Rondo is also in the CB crew.

SAFETY
As the quarterback of our defense, Chauncey Billups will line up at free safety. He’s built more like a linebacker, but he’s got the speed to provide help over the top and the smarts to position the rest of the guys. Alongside Billups will be our strong safety, Brandon Roy, who just seems like he’s going to be a big hitter. Hopefully he doesn’t start flopping on the football field as much as he does on the basketball court. Backing these guys up will be Delonte West and Jason Kidd, who obviously isn’t as fast as he used to be but has the veteran savvy to still be in the right place at the right time.

SPECIAL TEAMS
I’ve got Monta Ellis and Nate Robinson slated to be our return men. (Nate actually returned a punt for a touchdown when he was at Washington.) Our placekicker is Steve Nash, converting his soccer skills to football. And for a punter, I couldn’t think of anyone obvious, so I went with Kevin Durant. My thinking is that he probably won’t have to punt much anyway, and besides, I want him around this team, encouraging guys, working hard, staying out of trouble.

So that’s the SLAM Magazine NBA All-Stars. If you want to play NCAA 10 using this team, you can: Just go to the Teambuilder menu and search for either SLAM or NBA or All-Stars and it’s there for you to download, free of charge.

Have at it. And if you run into me and the SLAM NBA All-Stars online, prepare to lose!