Artist Russell Hoban's assignment was to paint the perfect basketball team—the dream team, the five men who would complement each other so superbly and ideally that as a unit they would be without peer. When he submitted his finished work—the symbolic paintings on the opposite and following pages—he also sent along his enthusiastic word impressions of the team of superstars he has created. They appear below.
Well-armed and resourceful, he stands on the sorcerer's magic pentacle, and the bird of wisdom perches near him. He is 6 feet 2, weighs 185 and has big hands, a marvelous touch, uncanny peripheral vision. He is the quarterback, the great passer and ball-handler. He can conceive the correct move, even if it has never been attempted before. He has a good shot but enjoys setting up a play more than scoring. His passion for winning seems astonishingly simple and to be taken for granted, but this quality, in the degree possessed by this man and his teammates, is neither simple nor common. It is a wholehearted identification with victory. This is not a matter of doing what ought to win, and hoping for the best. It is a habit of anticipating what will win and demanding it of oneself constantly. This man is designed for winning.
This is the No. 2 man in the backcourt—with a crystal ball, a cannon and a swooping, ever-wary alertness. He is the executor of a dozen stratagems in half as many minutes. He is 6 feet 4, weighs 200 and is fast and contentious. His long-range shot is deadly. He can anticipate the thoughts of No. 1 and will be in the clear to receive the latter's deceptive passes. He is somewhat fierce in manner, but it is a controlled ferocity that is directed, when he has the ball, unremittingly toward the basket. He can take full command when necessary. He can be stopped if rendered unconscious.
The big man among big men, he is guided by the classical Stoic philosophy, whose central theme is to be concerned with what is within one's control and to ignore the rest. This he does. He has learned to live calmly, with his competitive instincts disciplined, ready to spring only when it is relevant to scoring or defense. He is the best rebounder, the blocker of shots, an over-the-shoulder hooker. He is 7 feet tall, weighs 235, and thus presents a large target for violence, which he accepts without complaint. He is able to occupy a tremendous amount of space at one time. His speed is not apparent, except that he is gracefully gone from one spot and appears in another more quickly than seems possible. He is a thoughtful man, and his thoughts are directed toward depriving the opposition of all peace of mind. No simple task, this is accomplished by creating the impression that he is ubiquitous and that no shot may be made in safety: he will be there to block it. Obviously, he does not actually try to block every shot. If he did, and failed too often, he would intimidate no one. He may cheerfully lose a game of pinochle, but not basketball. He is a proud man, not overbearing but serene—which helps him to bear the cross of extreme size.
The banner he flies—the pirate's Jolly Roger—is the clue to this man's personality and function. Conflict, with or against the odds, is his meat. He plunges into battle without inhibition, willing to risk offending for the good of his team. He is 6 feet 7, weighs 225, every inch and pound designed for power. He is the second-best rebounder, oblivious of the jarring physical contact in a game that does not permit protective helmets or pads. He would rather win a game than keep all his teeth. Tactical considerations seldom concern him; others will do his thinking. He is a strong driver and dangerous shooter at close range, but his prime purpose in life is getting the ball; without it, his team cannot win. Off court, he is just as uninhibited. He is the team clown and practical joker, who keeps everyone's spirits up with crude but hearty humor.
Sensitive virtuosity in the ultimate skill this game demands—putting the ball through the hoop—is the distinguishing mark of the No. 2 man in the front court. At his best from a corner or far outside, he has the delicate trigger finger and sharp vision of the oldtime frontier squirrel-shooter combined with the precise timing of the master musician. He is 6 feet 8, weighs 215 and, understandably because of his specialized function, he is often the most graceful member of the team. Not necessarily battle-shy, he nevertheless tends to avoid rubbing elbows mm with the crowd; instinctively, he seeks that half step of maneuvering room which is all he needs to get off his shot. He is a master of the successful feint and can throw an opponent off balance with a turn of head, shoulders, feet or even a sudden, swift glance. He is likely a jazz aficionado.
GUARD: Warrior-wizard, Achilles-Merlin in sneakers. He is the team playmaker, the planner, the idea man
GUARD (far left): Cannoneer with eagle eye and fierce resolution. He is the executive officer, he makes the plans work
CENTER (left): Philosopher with the striking power of a tiger. He is the pivotal player, the focus of action, the center
FORWARD (right): Buccaneer with the irresistible charge of a bulldozer. He has a taste for conflict, he gets the ball
FORWARD: Sharpshooter with the musician's precise timing. He has the surest hand, he scores from outside