When Dr. James Naismith invented basketball, he probably didn’t intend to answer one of humanity’s great questions: Which is better, *NSYNC or The Backstreet Boys?
Recently, footage emerged of Justin Timberlake draining shots from a distance at the Washington Wizards training facility. So, when TMZ caught up with Joey Fatone, as is their wont as a celebrity gossip site, they chatted with him about it. Using Timberlake’s prowess from half-court as evidence, he claimed *NSYNC would destroy The Backstreet Boys in a game of pick-up.
In the same interview, Fatone admitted that he “sucks at sports,” so it’s probably best to take his prediction with a grain of salt (also, it was a TMZ interview on the street). It should also be noted that the footage of Timberlake might have been doctored, as in, many takes were recorded, but only the ones in which he made shots were seen.
Nevertheless, let’s be clear, the man of the woods can ball. In addition to once draining a jumper over Kenny Smith at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, there’s another reason why I think Timberlake would dominate in a pick-up game. Before he performed at halftime of Super Bowl 52 in February, Timberlake posted a photo of himself preparing to take the stage while lacing up a pair of “Timberlake” retro Air Jordan 3s. There was brief internet outrage over how much he creased his Jordans. God forbid someone actually wore a pair of shoes instead of reselling them.
Do you know who you don’t want on your basketball team in a pick-up game? The guy who cares too much about keeping his sneakers pristine and just wants to show off his Nike Tech Fleece. The fact Timberlake would be willing to crease one of his Jordans before performing in front of a worldwide audience tells me he’s not above getting a little dirty and doing the little things to win a pick-up game. (Alternatively, it could also mean he’s just rich and doesn’t care about a single pair of shoes, but that’s beside the point).
However, basketball, as Dr. Naismith did intend it, is a team sport. *NSYNC might have Timberlake, but The Backstreet Boys have more than one option with which to counter.
Brian Littrell has been raining jumper on folks since way before Timberlake went viral with a couple of half-court shots. Everything about Littrell screams the pick-up player who has just the right amount of confidence to make all the big shots that you don’t expect. It also looks like he’s been coaching a kids’ basketball team recently. It never hurts to have a guy on your team who can run a few basic pick-and-rolls for some easy baskets.
The x-factor for the Backstreet Boys could also be Kevin Richardson. He’s been watching a lot of March Madness, and in general tweets about sports a lot. You know what I like about a general sports fan? They know how to play the right way in a pick-up game. Richardson is the guy who would call out picks for his teammates, be in perfect position to grab defensive rebounds and slow things down. He’s the guy who will actually tell his teammates to calm down when it’s a 4-4 tie after 10 minutes on the court. You need someone like that to win a pick-up game.
Before LaVar Ball actually sets this up as a $200 pay-per-view event this summer, there is another wild card you should consider ahead of contacting your favourite Las Vegas bookie to put money down on either side. For *NSYNC, Lance Bass has been on a 115-week fitness challenge since February 2017. Per Instagram, he also frequents the Equinox in Beverly Hills, so you can guarantee he is getting top-notch workout advice. Also, don’t forget Bass went for cosmonaut training in 2002 to prepare for a trip to outer space (it didn’t happen). Here’s all I can tell you about a guy who dedicates 115 weeks to fitness and once trained to leave the planet: he’ll probably out-effort you in a pick-up game.
Taking all of the above into consideration, it’s still difficult to handicap a favourite in this match-up. Although the deciding factor might be the fact Timberlake is a part owner of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, a team who recently lost 19 in a row and then lost by 61 points in Charlotte. He could probably round up his former *NSYNC band members and get them a lot of training against actual NBA guys. Hell, the Grizzlies could even sign up JC Chasez and Chris Kirkpatrick to 10-day contracts and give them some minutes (you laugh, but the Mavericks suited up Tony Romo for a game last year).
If I had to pick a winner, give me The Backstreet Boys 21-16 over *NSYNC with Littrell turning into a boyband version of Stephen Curry and hitting back-to-back threes to clinch the game. Now, let’s really make this happen.