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Review: “The Hotshot Hoopsters”

BuckBokai continues with its 40th-anniversary retrospective on DC Comics’ ultimate mini-series, the “Strange Sports Stories” collection in Brave and the Bold issues 45 through 49, proving today that he loves this blog by slogging through “The Hotshot Hoopsters,” cover story in issue #46. I read this one so you don’t to.

Last season’s Lithuanian Basketball League (LKL) championship series pitted the country’s age-old rivals Žalgiris Kaunas against Lietuvos Rytas for the nth straight time since the first sports missionaries brought the new religion to the country in the 1920s.

This was to be no ho-hum cliché-ridden series interesting only to the country’s citizens, however, thanks to the stark raving insanity manipulation of Žalgiris by team owner Vladimir Romanov. In what was certainly a nearly unprecedented move, Romanov fired head coach Darius Maskoliunas *in the middle of the best-of-seven championship series* with his team down two games to one. Assistant coach Gvidonas Markevičius stomped out a day later, leaving Žalgiris with a coaching staff numbering zero.

Thirty-five year-old point guard Marcus Brown was informally pressed into service as a coach, but it was readily apparently in game four that the offense was based on maybe three set plays plus a whole lot of improvisation in transition, while the defense was a simple zone with some full-court pressure. Žalgiris took game four, 83-70, and anyone watching who didn’t know the backstory (or understand the Lithuanian-language play-by-play) would have concluded that Lietuvos Rytas’ Rimas Kurtinaitis was outcoached. By nobody.

The connection to the lead story in Brave and the Bold #46? Well, if you think Kurtinaitis was flummoxed roadkill in Kaunas, wait ‘til you see the lobotomized job the coaches do in “The Hotshot Hoopsters.”

Let’s get this party started appropriately and straight up say that Hotshot Hoopsters is truly the worst story of DC Comics’ first “Strange Sports Stories” run; this story encapsulates precisely all the reasons why this half-baked series was doomed to failure from the start. In short, why would you have writers obviously barely peripherally interested in sports writing about sports? Why would you have an artist who’s seemingly never attended a basketball game illustrating the hoops-centric story in the series?

Enough digression! Into the exciting National Collegiate Basketball Association (NCBA, presumably) semifinal we go, where it’s Calford University vs. Western State! Calford rides “High Harry” Thomas into the final and, based on Thomas’ awesome form alone (see panel at right for what the previous panel calls a “dunk”) it’s clear that Calford dominated NCBA ball in 1969-70.

After the game, though, d’oh! It turns out that Calford star Bill No-Last-Name-Provided has contracted one hell of a (possibly bird) flu. Due to the fact that the entire team is infected thanks to sharing High Harry’s bong in the post-game (okay, BuckBokai made that up), the doctor quarantines the entire dormitory – in which the entire basketball team lives (BuckBokai didn’t make that up, however: You see the sort of literary conceit at “work” here. But oh, it gets worse.)

Sadly, inconsolable coach Ben Barry accedes to the doctor’s wishes (Yeah, surrrrrrrrrrrrrrre) and resigns himself to forfeiting the NCBA championship to Alvania. But wait! Here’s an answer provided by a bunch of over-intellectual students with whom in no way did the writers of this comic book personally relate:

By the end of page five, the Eggheads – o yes, they wear this label with pride throughout the story (Yeah, surrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre) – have fully blown off Coach Barry, are practicing on their own and using bioniglandular pills that “we invented.” Lucky, lucky, they “Keep us in perfect physical condition!” and “Not only that, but they add to our abilities too.” One supposes that these comic book writer surrogates barely pubescent dudes wouldn’t notice a little shrinkage anyway.

(Sudden thought: Does Jim Spencer of the Hartnell Aggies know his berries can be found in pill form? Without a prescription, even!)

And Professor James, who we’re informed is the boys’ “personal counsellor (sic),” adds that “I feel confident that superior knowledge will pay off on the basketball court as it does in real life!” (Yeah, surrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre.)

Just as the opening tip is about to be settled … “Hotshot Hoopsters” is interrupted by “Health Myths Debunked!” The reader may note that no word on bioniglandular pills is provided, however.

Back to the game! The boys of Calford have made good on their promise, mastering the game in days and coachless dominate the apparently equally as coachless Alvania. Just look at the amazing play below – and try not to wonder exactly what in Naismith’s name the Alvania players are doing on defense; apparently the other three defenders are covering Calford players outside: waaaaaaaaaaaaaay outside.

Apparently, the devastating strategy is all based on the Calford Eggheads’ ability each to hit the shot from a single spot on the floor but at near 100% accuracy. So a little bit like Glen Rice, then.

In the fourth quarter, some spoilsport killjoy obviously informed Alvania’s players that each of them has a good meter or so in height on the opposition, and they “settle down to careful play, sweeping the boards again and again as they control the rebounds…”

When the two-minute warning buzzer sounds – Don’t ask BuckBokai; it must be an NCBA thing – the score is 70-70 and the unnamed/nearly unseen Alvania coach’s two remaining active neurons finally fire; “In the huddle, he explains his plan…”

To wit: “Those hot-shot hoopsters shoot from only four *spots* on the floor! I want you to stand there – monopolize those spots – so they can’t shoot from them! They can’t make layups and they’re tired! Play for a *tie!* In the overtime we’ll win!”

Dude. It took you 46 minutes to get that? Seriously, he’s making Rimas Kurtinaitis look like Red Auerbach out there. And in the end he pays for his cowardly stratagem of going for the tie, rest assured. Turns out (Spoilers ahead!) the Eggheads had a trick play in the bag the whole time, namely a Curly Neal-like bomb from halfcourt.

In the remarkably sedate post-game, Barry asks the professor for his strategy (you know, because he didn’t bother raising a brain cell’s worth of effort during the NCBA championship game). Responds the professor, “in a scientific experiment, it is wise to have an alternate method to assure success!”

To which Buck Bokai can only add, “Huh?”

Next: “Danger on the Martian Links,” not at all a bad story, all things considered…


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