H!P All Stars – basketball edition

In the future, all basketball players will be required to wear plaid skirts

In the future, basketball shorts will be replaced by miniskirts

Fun fact: one of the strangest things I did to acclimate myself into the world of H!P in my early moments of fandom was developing a habit of imagining Morning Musume as a sports team, with its members playing different positions based on line distribution and their roles in the group for any given Sunday single. It seemed like a logical thing to do, as Morning Musume operates similar to a sports franchise with members coming and going to carry on the team name, and being an idol requires being in top shape like any athlete in order to keep up with all the singing and dancing and exciting. For some reason I initially picked American football as the analogous sport, maybe because it was football season when I became a fan and had a craving for it in lieu of no longer closely following the NFL due to being disheartened by how that league is run. But later on I realized that basketball was a much better sport to assign to Momusu, as the specialized roles of football positions didn’t quite line up with how these girls work while basketball requires all players to do a little bit of everything, just like idols. Plus basketball is a much more fun sport to watch, play, and think about.

What’s even stranger is that to this day I still do it! Not just positions but also playing styles, and not just with Momusu, but with other H!P groups too. It’s to the point where I actually once had a dream that Ai Takahashi was the starting point guard for the Utah Jazz (why that team I have no idea). Could you imagine her making plays and racking up assists like John Stockton? I can…and maybe you can too after reading what I have in store here.

So, in honor of the NBA’s annual All-Star Weekend coming up, I present to you my Morning Musume and Hello Project basketball all-star teams!

Here’s how it works: I’ve analyzed each member based on three particular categories and used that to determine what their skill levels would be in three particular basketball gameplay aspects that I feel would be their idol equivalent: singing translates to shooting ability/range, dancing translates to ball handling, and idol personality/character translates to defense. I then determined their positions and playing styles based on their perceived roles within the group, line distribution, personality/reputation quirks, and their actual physical elements such as their height, body type and actual athleticism when applicable. So without further ado, here are some select members (past and present) and where I feel they would line up as basketball players! You better grab a comfortable seat, because this is a long one…

From WE BELIEVE to AI BELIEVE

From WE BELIEVE to AI BELIEVE

Ai Takahashi
Position: Point guard
Player archetype: Offense-oriented floor general
NBA equivalents: Steve Nash, Baron Davis, Pete Maravich
Ai-chan has always seemed to me like a player whose mere presence made the whole team better. Her skills and hard work on stage and in the studio give a sense of a player who can do almost anything she wants when the ball is in her hands, and the family-type chemistry she fostered as Momusu leader translates well into the director of an efficient offense where everyone is inspired to hustle and hit their shots. But much like the defensive capabilities of her selected NBA analogues, her personality has been considered weak by critics, though just like those players she probably deserves more credit in this regard.

Reina Tanaka
Position: Guard
Player archetype: Undersized isolation scoring machine
NBA equivalents: Allen Iverson, Gilbert Arenas, Jamal Crawford
Reina has always reminded me of Allen Iverson in a way, with the rebellious vibe, relatively short height, constant need to sing/score, and awesome fashion sense. And with her reputation as a bit of a lone wolf she fits in perfectly with the Iverson mold of players, diminutive guys who can rain shots on defenses and who seem to thrive when teammates give them room to operate in their own little worlds. Of course, I’m sure she has a much better reputation when it comes to PRACTICE.

Maki Goto
Position: Forward
Player archetype: Versatile superstar point forward
NBA equivalents: LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Grant Hill
With the way she was marketed, Gocchin really did seem like a player who could dominate by doing a little bit of everything, a talented jack-of-all-trades capable of filling any position and could get a triple-double almost any time. Her singing wasn’t perfect at first but she developed into an outstanding vocalist later on, much like the equivalents with their shooting/scoring. Plus the comparison has even more weight when you consider not only the hype she got early in her career but also her high-profile departure from her original team later on.

Natsumi Abe
Position: Shooting guard
Player archetype: The infallible scoring legend
NBA equivalents: Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan
I am well aware that a certain website considers Ai-chan to be the Kobe Bryant of H!P, and while a strong case is definitely made, I find that Nacchi fulfills this role better in the scope of my analysis. After all, whether you’re talking about Nacchi, Kobe, or MJ, you’re gonna be talking about a scoring legend whose abilities and aura demanded attention, whose competitiveness had both inspired and driven away contemporaries, whose constant marketing push and cult of personality attracted fans and haters alike, and whose controversies did little to tarnish his/her legacy (MJ’s alleged gambling and multiple retirements, Kobe’s infidelity, Nacchi’s “Playstation incident” and plagiarisms). The standard that old-school critics hold all newer players to, for better or worse.

ねぇ、笑って?

ねぇ、笑って?

Kaori Iida
Position: Forward/center
Player archetype: Dependable big man with range
NBA equivalents: Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett
Tall and versatile, able to stretch the floor with good range and movement while also providing a reliable inside presence when needed, capable of excelling either as the team’s focal point or in a supporting role. Much like her NBA equivalents, “Johnson” can come off as goofy at times but is definitely a talented force not to be taken lightly.

Mari Yaguchi
Position: Point guard
Player archetype: Short player with big game
NBA equivalents: Muggsy Bogues, Chris Paul, Earl Boykins, Spud Webb
Yeah, this one was a bit too easy. Just as the NBA has had its share of tiny players who have made big impacts, Marippe is a skilled, top-notch H!P member and leader who is remembered for more than just her lack of size. Wait, does this mean a high-speed chest pass from CP3 is his version of the Sexy Beam??? I don’t think I can watch the Clippers the same way again…

Miki Fujimoto
Position: Swingman
Player archetype: Talented-yet-aloof flashy superstar
NBA equivalents: Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady
I’m sure you know this type of player: capable of pouring on the points from anywhere while performing highlight-worthy feats in the process, locking down opponents on defense, and just being an unstoppable force when on fire…yet, despite all these abilities and accomplishments, you also get the sense that maybe this player isn’t quite trying hard enough, like the real focus is elsewhere. Such is the way of Mikitty.

Rika Ishikawa
Position: Small forward
Player archetype: Perimeter defense-oriented hustle player
NBA equivalents: Metta World Peace, Scottie Pippen, Shawn Marion
I’ve always pictured Rika as a defense-oriented small forward who manages to overcome lack of natural talent on the other side of the ball with pure hustle and determination. Her strong idol personality equates to strong defense in this analysis, and her membership in the most units in H!P history speaks volumes of her undeniable work ethic; even if her singing voice can be called “weak” she still manages to sound pleasant through sheer will, much like how a seemingly awkward shooter can still manage to put points on the board.

WHO WANTS TO SEX LI CHUN

WHO WANTS TO SEX LI CHUN?

Junjun
Position: Center
Player archetype: Foreign-born low-post defensive specialist
NBA equivalents: Dikembe Mutombo, Serge Ibaka, Samuel Dalembert
Sometimes a player will get drafted for the sole purpose of clogging up the lane; offense output isn’t expected as long as said player can grab rebounds, discourage low-post attacks, and make a difference by simply being there. Junjun is this type of player; she’s clearly not the best singer or dancer, but her “my pace” attitude and near-total disregard for Japanese etiquette has helped save her team from getting completely steamrolled on more than one occasion. A fitting role and position for Momusu’s tallest member.

Koharu Kusumi
Position: Forward/center
Player archetype: Dominant-yet-cartoonish big man
NBA equivalents: Dwight Howard, Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain
Dominant, yet cartoonish…a very accurate description of Koharu, don’t you think? Pushed as the “miracle” member, she had clear success with her Kirarin and Ohasuta work and as a visible icon of the crew, but also was revealed to be difficult for teammates and management to deal with due to possible ego and work ethic problems. Still, her contributions and performances can’t be denied, even if her ambitions for personal stardom conflicted with the group’s team spirit…and above all else, her singing definitely reminds me of Dwight, Shaq, and Wilt’s free throw shooting.

Hitomi Yoshizawa
Position: Power forward
Player archetype: High-flying low-post phenom
NBA equivalents: Blake Griffin, Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Kemp
For some reason I felt compelled to have a focus on Yossy here, as I always envisioned her role in the hypothetical basketball team as a thunderous dunker performing put-back slams and catching alley-oops all day, considering her actual athleticism and weighty voice. And since she was my original favorite Musume after fully becoming a fan I can’t help but liken her to those flashy big men who can wow and attract crowds despite being the team’s second wheel.

That hand in the corner is Joey Crawford right before he ejected all three of them

That hand in the corner is Joey Crawford right before he ejected all three of them

Sayumi Michishige
Position: Forward
Player archetype: Bane of referees everywhere
NBA equivalents: Rasheed Wallace, Stephen Jackson
Sayu is probably mostly remembered more for her “poison tongue” and arrogant facade than anything else, but she’s also a highly-dedicated, dependable teammate who will do whatever it takes to help her squad. But unlike her basketball counterparts, any publicity is good publicity when it comes to her.

Riho Sayashi
Position: Guard
Player archetype: Speedy slash-and-penetrate combo guard
NBA equivalents: Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Monta Ellis
An undersized phenom possessing insane handles and footwork, capable of attacking the lane from any angle with speed and grace, racking up points with crazy finishes and unexpected assists…but that long range shot is still pretty damn inconsistent. Rihoriho is definitely the “Flash” of the current squad, but will her highlight-worthy athleticism lead to an injury-prone future?

Masaki Sato
Position: Shooting guard
Player archetype: Headscratch-inducing enigma
NBA equivalents: JR Smith, Ricky Davis, JaVale McGee
Ever seen a player constantly do things that just make your jaw drop and go “WTF”? And not always in a “that was an awesome/amazing play” kind of way, but simply confusion as to what exactly just happened? Maa-chan’s whole MO seems to be incomprehensible weirdness, with even her most ardent followers completely clueless to what might be going through her mind with some of the things she does or says. But I guess that’s part of the charm with this kind of player: good or bad, there’s never a dull moment. (and yes, I know JaVale McGee is not a shooting guard, but good luck telling him that)

Sakura Oda
Position: ???
Player archetype: The missing piece of the puzzle
NBA equivalents: Robert Horry, Steve Kerr
Your team is stacked and its future has a lot of potential…but something doesn’t seem quite right. You still need one more player, one who can overshadow the rest of the roster’s shortcomings, one who can hit the big shot at the right time to put you over the top. Sakura came from humble roots as an audition reject getting a second chance in the Trainee program, and has since began her tenure in Momusu on an auspicious note. Is it a one-time thing or can we expect some more clutch shooting for years to come?

This obviously didn’t cover everyone in Morning Musume or referenced every notable basketball player/type, but hopefully you can get an idea of how things work. Kei Yasuda as a Charles Oakley-style low-post workhorse… Ai Kago as a talented trouble magnet a la Latrell Sprewell… Risa Niigaki = Derek Fisher? I also didn’t cover the newer members too much, because there’s still a lot of development possible with them. Will Zukki become the new Round Mound of Rebound? Is Harunan the next Manute Bol? Can Masaki even be properly analyzed for this (let alone at all)? UPDATE: just thought of one for her; see above.

Since we’re talking about a basketball team, how would the lineups be? Here’s what Platinum Musume might look like:

Starters Bench
PG Takahashi G Niigaki
SG Tanaka G Linlin
SF Kamei F Mitsui
PF Michishige C Junjun
C Kusumi

Or how about predicting the post-Tanaka era’s possible outlook:

Starters Bench
PG Sayashi G Ishida
SG Oda G Sato
SF Ikuta F Suzuki
PF Michishige F Kudo
C Fukumura F/C Iikubo

Fuck it, might as well do one for the classic “Renai Revolution 21” team:

Starters Bench
PG Yaguchi G Tsuji
SG Abe G Kago
SF Ishikawa F Nakazawa
PF Goto F Yasuda
C Iida F/C Yoshizawa

And why stop at just Morning Musume? Combining the H!P Kids into one team would actually make more sense, since not only do they have all the tall girls, they also fill out perfectly to an actual 12-person roster!

Starters Bench
PG Tsugunaga G Shimizu
SG Natsuyaki G Nakajima
SF Suzuki G Okai
PF Sugaya F Hagiwara
C Yajima F Tokunaga
F/C Sudo
C Kumai
Miya's ready to school anyone who steps on her court

Miya’s ready to school anyone who steps on her court

Gotta love that Buono backcourt. I can easily picture Momo as a Gary Payton-style defensive point guard who won’t shut up, Maimi as an athletic power forward masquerading as a center, Chisato as the team’s 3-point specialist, Maasa as the team’s low-post muscle, the two Sakis as flashy pace-controlling ball handlers, and Yurina as the team’s obvious equivalent to Yao Ming…and of course Airi, Miya, and Risako as the primary scorers.

What about S/mileage? They have enough members for at least a starting lineup: Take-chan at point guard, Kanyon at shooting guard, Kananan at small forward, Meimei at power forward, and Ayacho at center, with Rinapuu as the sixth man (sorry, Rina). Of course, most basketball leagues probably require a minimum of 8 players suited up, so maybe bring Maeda and Ogawa back from the dead to fill out the bench? Though I’m sure they’d be demanding starter minutes. Or perhaps that new H!P unit coming soon for a more full roster?

This season's hottest free agent

This off-season’s hottest free agent

I didn’t think too much about soloists and smaller past groups due to basketball being a team sport, but I suppose mixing and matching acts could work, such as old shuffle groups like Salt5, or Manoeri with Egg backup dancers.

So…any thoughts on who I picked for what? Do you think certain girls are better suited for other positions, or perhaps a different sport would be more appropriate? Or maybe you think I’m insane for taking this kind of thing this far (in which case you should probably look at the name of this blog again)?

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5 thoughts on “H!P All Stars – basketball edition

  1. Pingback: Recommended Reading: February 15th, 2013 | Idolminded

  2. I would’ve considered starting Nakazawa over Ishikawa, to save Rika’s energy for the 4th quarter when she would be used strictly to shut down the opposing player’s best team, plus Yuko has seniority on the team. Although I could see why you would bench her, Yuko, while on the tail end of her prime was still better than Rika at that time, who was just approaching it.

  3. Pingback: If you love your child, send her out into the world | IT'S CRAZY!!!!!

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