This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at the teams in Super Dunk Shot.
One of the first games I covered in a video retrospective for Wayback Wednesday was World League Basketball. It’s the PAL release of Sculptured Software’s NCAA Basketball for the Super Nintendo, replacing the college teams and tournament with a fictional global basketball league. The change was made because no college sports games have been licensed for release outside of North America, but the Japanese version – Super Dunk Shot – made an even crazier alteration to the teams. The game is basically a bootleg NBA title, from the season structure to the teams and players.
I’ve talked about the names of teams in Super Dunk Shot in previous articles and on the NLSC Podcast, but I believe they deserve their own feature. Some of the names really are ridiculous, but in the best possible way. These days I have all three versions of the game in my collection, but I wish I had them all those years ago. I loved World League Basketball, but I would’ve spent a lot of time with a college hoops and bootleg NBA game as well. Again, the teams in Super Dunk Shot deserve to be spotlighted, so Division by Division, let’s take a look back…way back…
Yes, even though the names of players and teams have been changed in Super Dunk Shot – to an extent – the names of the Divisions still match the four Divisions in the NBA back in 1992. As you can see from the screenshots, the logos definitely walk the line between parody and blatant rip-off in many cases. The Pacific Division teams didn’t employ too much creativity in their renaming; the Portland Trailers, Phoenix Sons, Los Angeles Lasers, Long Beach Clips, and Seattle Superjets, are obviously very close to the Trail Blazers, Suns, Lakers, Clippers, and SuperSonics respectively. The Golden State Warthogs and Sacramento Bears, conversely, are more creative.
Of course, a running theme with the teams in Super Dunk Shot is that the names that are extremely close to the originals are just as funny as the off-the-wall substitutions. In the “so close, I can’t believe there wasn’t a lawsuit” category, I think the Lasers and the Superjets are the best. Replacing Warriors with Warthogs is definitely quirky, but the Bears jumps out at me as being a weird choice. They could’ve gone with Queens, Royals, or Lions as a substitute for Kings, maintaining the theme of royalty. On the other hand, including at least one drastic change allows them to say “See? Our teams are totally different!” Just don’t look too closely at the names of the players…
With the exception of the Houston Pockets, the logos of the Midwest Division teams are incredibly close to their real life counterparts. Glance at the logo for the Spears, and you might as well be looking at the San Antonio Spurs’ branding. The Minnesota Huskies opted for a different canine, resulting in a much friendlier-looking logo. A lot of jokes have been made about the Jazz name being a poor fit for Utah compared to their original home in New Orleans, but Jaws isn’t much better; I don’t think there are very many sharks in Salt Lake City, after all. The Denver Nucleuses and the Dallas Maximums are a bit of a stretch. Miners and Rangers would’ve been much better.
As far as the best and funniest combination of new names and logos, I’d say that the Spears, Huskies, and Jaws are the best, while the Pockets and Nucleuses are the worst. The Midwest Division also has a fictional seventh team, the All American Dynamics. Added to bring the number of teams to an even 28, the Dynamics are basically an All-Star squad comprised of duplicates of other teams’ top (renamed) players. It wasn’t the ideal solution for season play, though funnily enough, their previous season record was listed as 72-10. Four years later, the Chicago Bills…uh, Bulls, would achieve that exact mark when they became the first team in NBA history to win at least 70 games.
Let’s go to the East and the Atlantic Division, where we find one of the absolute best names in the game: the Boston Celeries! I don’t think they could’ve found a better pun on the Celtics, and replacing Lucky the Leprechaun with an anthropomorphic stick of celery is – as the kids are saying these days – chef’s kiss. The Philadelphia Wolfpack takes home the trophy for the most esoteric rebranding, when names like “Patriots”, “Founders”, or even “Americans” would’ve been thematically similar to 76ers. New York Kicks is a pretty good one, though. I know it’s a double standard to write off Clips and Sons as lazy while praising Kicks, but I love how it looks like a typo.
The New Jersey Mets naturally score some points for stealing the name of a New York baseball team, though it makes me wish that the Kicks were the Yankees instead. Washington Bullions is a truly brilliant name, not only for the way that it seamlessly fits into the Bullets’ branding, but because bullions are often used by governments as a form of emergency currency (though this is probably giving the developers too much credit). Miami Beat is a decent name, but their modified logo is delightfully sinister. Miracle is arguably the best of the bunch though, given that it later became the name of Orlando’s WNBA team (now the Connecticut Sun).
Long-time members of our community are no doubt aware that I’m a Chicago Bills fan from way back. I know that talking heads such as Nick Wrong and Shannon Dull like to push the narrative that LeBlanc Jamison is the GOAT, but for me, Mick Jordun is still The Man. Indeed, I would go so far as to suggest that only Roster Player comes close! Anyway, 1992 may have been all about Bills vs Trailers, but there are some other quality names in the Central Division. Indiana stole the Packers moniker from Green Bay, though the Bullets/Wizards (or indeed, the Bullions) used that name in Chicago. Pistols works as a replacement for Pistons, but the new logo isn’t that great.
Cleveland Caviares is a stretch, but at least their shortened nickname of Cavs remains intact. I’m guessing the animal on the Milwaukee Backs logo is intended to be a doe rather than a buck, which is more creative than the new name. The Atlanta Eagles is one of the best names in Super Dunk Shot, maintaining the bird of prey theme with a very common name for sports teams. Then there’s Charlotte going from the Hornets to the Hornbills. There’s another fun coincidence here as New Orleans later dropped that name and adopted an avian moniker, though hornbills and pelicans aren’t in the same order, family, or genus. That concludes our ornithological trivia for the week.
The Teams of Super Dunk Shot: Only in 1992!
It’s difficult to imagine a Triple-A developer in 2021 doing what Super Dunk Shot did with team and player names in 1992, essentially creating a bootleg NBA game. There have been too many lawsuits over roster players standing in for unlicensed historical players, and parody has its limits. A Super Famicom port in 1992 obviously flew under the radar though, and it resulted in a product that’s a lot of fun to look back on. Sculptured Software’s game – no matter what name you know it by – was fantastic for a 16-bit title released in 1992, and its gameplay holds up surprisingly well today. As I’ve said, I greatly enjoyed World League Basketball when I was younger.
I really would’ve gotten a kick out of playing a bootleg NBA game though, dropping 30-40 points per game with Jordun on route to another not-NBA Championship for the Chicago Bills. We employed our imagination a lot in old basketball games, so I could absolutely see myself mentally changing the names of the teams in Super Dunk Shot back to their real life counterparts. Of course, I think they can (and should) be enjoyed for what they are. Some of the new names and logos are more creative than others, but overall, the bootleg NBA aspect of Super Dunk Shot gave it a great hook, the same way World League Basketball rather ingeniously replaced the NCAA.
Ranking the Super Dunk Shot Teams
To wrap things up, how about I take a shot at ranking the new names and logos of the teams in Super Dunk Shot? This is highly subjective, based on my own fondness for the puns/wordplay in the names and the creativity in modifying the logos, as well as the entertainment value in the lack of creativity in other cases. Feel free to disagree and offer up your own rankings or favourites/least favourites in the comments below. I’m omitting the All American Dynamics as it’s a filler team, but if it were on the list it’d be near the bottom, as it’s not particularly creative or funny. In any event, here’s my ranking of all the rebranded teams in Super Dunk Shot, from best to worst.
San Antonio Spears
New York Kicks
Los Angeles Lasers
Golden State Warthogs
New Jersey Mets
Long Beach Clips
I’m also still keen to see an alternate 1992 season roster mod for NBA 2K (or an old NBA Live) that uses the names of the teams from Super Dunk Shot instead. If you’re looking for an April Fools idea, feel free to run with that one! It certainly worked for Sculptured Software back in 1992.
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