The Incredibleness of Strat-O-Matic Basketball

Long before the cutting-edge technology video games of today, and slightly before the inaugural Lakers vs Celtics and the NBA Playoffs rolled out for Sega Genesis, there was a board game that if you were a basketball fan, you absolutely had to play.  It involved dice, player cards and game cards.  And it was the most realistic thing going.  Do you remember Strat-O-Matic basketball?

First off, the game didn't have NBA rights.  So as you can tell from the absence of team logos on the cover of the box abovd, it wouldn't use the actual team names.  The Celtics were known as "Boston" only.  The only thing pointing towards their being an actual team was that the Clippers were known as "Los Angeles C" while the Lakers were known as "Los Angeles L."

It was awesome because you could trade guys to teams.  For example when the Celtics temporarily signed Larry Robinson, I remember bringing his player card over (only I would remember a detail like this) eager to see what kind of stats he'd be able to contribute.  Likewise there were revealing traits of each guy that could be uncovered.  For example the player cards went on an overall score level of "0-4."  Guys like Larry Bird and Michael Jordan were 4s.  Someone like Charles Jones was a 0.  In the playing cards there'd be an action declared such as "Visitor pass to any 1+ scorer for a shot." Then you'd roll the dice and each player card had a listing from 1-12 (the combination of the die) to see the results.

The famous scorecard- I made hundreds of copies of these
Sure Jordan and Bird were a 4 scorer rating.  Magic might be a 2 (because he was more of a distributor than scorer).  But then you'd see Reggie Theus or Mike Woodson with the infamous 4.  Really Mike Woodson is a 4 scorer?  Who would've known!

Jordan, Bird and Woodson of course

There were other really cool details too. For example if a guy took very few free throws in a season but shot them at an absurdly successful rate, they might have a good "2-10, 12" rating.  2-10 was for the elite free throw shooters (think Bird, Mark Price) in the league meaning if you rolled a combination of 2-10 (very likely) the free throw was made but if you rolled an 11 or 12 it was a miss.  But the 2-10 AND 12?  Enter Craig Hodges from 1991 and 1992.

So back then I simulated the 1989-90 Celtics season, all 82 games.  You didn't even need to have someone to play against, as long as you went by the notion of always giving the ball to the guy on the other team who they'd legitimiately pass it to.  In other words if I'm the Knicks and I can pass it to Gerald Wilkins or Patrick Ewing, I give it to Ewing.  The record I got?  52-30, or the exact same record of the actual 1990 Celtics.  How cool is that?

What's even more cool is what I found out today:  The company is still in business, selling their game.

So go ahead, play your NBA 2K (I certainly do when I can).  But don't forget to give credit where its due: Strat-O-Matic basketball which set the precedent for accurate basketball statistics, simulation and fun.  Sound off below in the comments if you ever played this great game!

Team and Player and Game Action Cards