Neal Pollack, you big tease. How do you headline a column “What if LeBron James and Wolverine joined the New York Knicks” and then make it about just LeBron. What about Wolverine? What kind of basketball player would he make?
Wolverine is a mutant, possessing animal-keen senses, enhanced physical capabilities, retracting bone claws, and a healing factor that allows him to quickly recover from virtually any wound, disease or toxin, enabling him to live beyond a normal human lifespan. This healing ability enabled the supersoldier program Weapon X to bond the near indestructible metal alloy adamantium to his skeleton and claws.
Okay then. First question: how old is Wolverine? Wikipedia says he was born in the 19th Century, which is clearly stupid. Let’s say he’s as old as Hugh Jackman, who recently turned 40, so no long-term contract. (Having said that, Wolverine is clearly in good shape, though, and it looks like he can avoid most injuries, so that’s a plus.) Next problem: Wolverine is apparently only five-foot-three, so you probably wouldn’t want him in the front court. He’d be a shooting guard, which means on the Knicks, he’d be replacing Quentin Richardson, who is averaging eight points a game with a .398 field-goal percentage. So nobody’d be expecting that much.
Wolverine would (presumably) not be allowed to use his claws in an actual NBA game, so that’s a problem. Animal-keen senses and enhanced physical abilities describe pretty much everybody in the NBA except maybe Eddy Curry, you have to have at least what I’d consider to be enhanced physical abilities to at least get to a high level in the NBA. Where Wolverine differs would be in his stamina (you could pencil him in for 48 minutes a night, even on back-to-back games on West Coast road trips) and his strength (you don’t lightly foul a man with a metal skeleton). Even if he had below-average ball-handling ability, you’d think he could drive the lane on a consistent basis and no one would want to mess with him. Wolverine would, you’d think, be able to intimidate every wannabe tough guy in the NBA from Shaq on down.
The question would then be – could he shoot? Beats me. It would seem that superheroes wouldn’t be as good as shooting a basketball as anyone else – probably worse, because their strength would kick in and send the ball sailing. I think Wolverine could certainly learn to shoot at least as good as Jason Kidd. (I think I could learn to shoot at least as good as Jason Kidd.)
Would Wolverine be a good teammate?
Wolverine is frequently depicted as a gruff loner, often taking leave from the X-Men to deal with personal issues or problems. He is often irreverent and rebellious towards authority figures, though he is a reliable ally and capable leader. He has been a mentor and father figure to several younger women, especially Jubilee and Kitty Pryde, and has had romantic relationships with numerous women (most notably Mariko Yashida), as well as a mutual but unrequited attraction to Jean Grey, leading to jealous run-ins with her boyfriend (later husband), Scott Summers.
So probably not any worse than Kobe, then. I think the Knicks could do worse.
Note: I am NOT a comic-book fan and realize that this analysis is incomplete, probably idiotic. But at least I did better than Pollack. (Who is busy calling me a nerd, among other things.)