As a holiday present to the audience, each of you has received courtside tickets to the first annual BallinEurope Festivus Invitational Tournament. Thanks to the miracle of totally BiE-unaffiliated (and totally mind-blowingly awesome) website What If Sports, we can bring together great players of the past and present for true dream matchups – and without all the messiness of traditional time travel.

For this inaugural event, six virtual invitations were extended to some of the most memorable players and squads in basketball history. Paradoxes caused by requiring a player to play against another version of himself (a feat thus far only successfully achieved by M.J.) were kept to minimum with only one player – Chris Bosh, oddly enough – forced to warp the spacetime continuum a bit. (Although Coach K could also be appearing simultaneously on opposing sidelines as well.)

Take a look at the rundown of these six teams to imagine the outcome: Who will win the BiE Festivus Invitational? Stay tuned and happy holidays, everyone!

• Dream Team Europe. Really the raison d’être for the tournament, these guys were first called together for virtual training camp back in August 2009 and they’ve been in limbo ever since.

Due to the unfortunate limitations of the What If database (i.e. NBA statistics only), all-time greats Dejan Bodiroga, Nikos Gallis, Dino Meneghin and Theo Papaloukas won’t be suiting up for Dream Team Europe and poor Saras is going to be undervalued as a player, based as he is on his Golden State Warriors days. Still, the dozen remaining from the original 19 of the expanded roster looks pretty good nevertheless.

Roster: Vlade Divac, Pau Gasol, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Andrei Kirilenko, Toni Kukoc, Sarunas Marciulionis, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Drazen Petrovic, Dino Radja, Arvydas Sabonis, Peja Stojakovic.

• Team USA 1960. Called “the greatest amateur team of all-time” by Wikipedia, and why not? This twelvesome included two of the NBA’s Top 50 (Oscar Robertson and Jerry West), destroyed all comers at the London games by an average of 42-plus points per game, and this year became one of the first two Olympic teams to make it into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

For the Festivus tournament, the ‘60s won’t be playing with immortals Burdette “Birdie” Haldorson, Earl Allen Kelley, and Lester Lane, the three members of this Team USA who never played in the NBA; instead, BiE’ll fill out the roster with a trio of NBA studs from 1960: Wilt, Russell and Cousy. Be afraid of the old guys…

Roster: Jay Arnette, Walt Bellamy, Bob Boozer, Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Cousy, Terry Dischinger, Darrall Imhoff, Jerry Lucas, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Adrian Smith, Jerry West.

• The Redeem Team. BiE suspects that someday this outfit will be in the Hall of Fame as well – probably alongside the 2012 team, should the potentially quite fearsome combination of 2008 and 2010 rosters happen.

In any case, the Redeem Team roster was a harkening back to the old days with a team that was essentially a “Who’s Who” of American basketball. And unlike the original Dream Team, most of these guys were in or close to their primes when their Olympic Games tipped off.

This summer the Redeemers were a bit embarrassed over at BallinEurope’s sister site, when they were swept out of a best-of-seven exhibition series with the 1992 side; they’ll be looking to get revenge over the Festivus holidays.

Roster: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Carlos “The Human Victory Cigar” Boozer, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Tayshaun Prince, Michael Redd, Dwyane Wade, Deron Williams.

• The 21st-century Dream Team. Take a look at the sort of havoc dudes like Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Lamar Odom and Tyson Chandler are wreaking after their turn with the so-called “B-Team.” Add in the unstoppable Kevin Durant, plus Derrick Rose, Chauncey Billups and (formerly University of New Mexico Lobo) Danny Granger. Then recall that really only one team – Brazil in the pool round – gave these guys a game in the 2010 FIBA World Championship, and … we can probably drop that pathetic moniker.

Roster: Chauncey Billups, Tyson Chandler, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, Danny Granger, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Love, Lamar Odom, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook.

• The All-Time Toronto Raptors. BiE has a professional obligation to love the Euraptors, thanks to the unwritten rule that essentially every jumpshot-first player from the Continent is obliged to spend time on the Toronto roster. These guys might be slightly outclassed by the rest of the Festivus field, but hey, every tournament needs a Chaminade, right?

The template for the Toronto twelve comes from Hoops Manifesto, which earlier this year helpfully listed the “Top Ten Raptors of All-Time” for our edification. BiE was happy to see two of our favorite Euros – Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon – named in the enumeration. Added to the squad for the tournament are the apparently overlooked Alvin Williams as well as current Raptor Linas Kleiza because, oh, what the hell.

Roster: Andrea Bargnani, Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon, Vince Carter, Doug Christie, Antonio Davis, T.J. Ford, Charles Oakley, Morris Peterson, Damon Stoudamire, Alvin Williams.

• The Dream Team. No introduction necessary, surely.

Roster: Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Christian Laettner, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, John Stockton.

As far as the competition itself, the BallinEurope Festivus Invitational Tournament will employ a combination of European and American tournament styles on the way to a single championship game for ultimate supremacy.

The tourney starts with pool play: Group A has Dream Team Europe, Team USA 1960 and the Redeem Team; Group B runs with the Century 21s, All-Time Raptors and the Dream Team. Each team will play the others in its group twice with point differential settling ties; all point totals are considered without respect to “home” and “away” teams, since all games will be played in the neutral site of Budapest.

(Whaddya mean Budapest isn’t a great basketball city? Come on, we, um, hosted the Harlem Globetrotters this year and, um … look: It’s close to the BallinEurope home office, okay?)

Four teams will advance to the knockout stage for best-of-three game series. The championship, as stated, will be a single game played after a third-place match between teams eliminated in the playoff round.

The schedule is as follows:

December 24
Dream Team Europe vs. Team USA 1960
Century 21s vs. Toronto Raptors

December 25
Toronto Raptors vs. Dream Team
Team USA 1960 vs. Redeem Team

December 26
Redeem Team vs. Dream Team Europe
Dream Team vs. Century 21s

December 27
Toronto Raptors vs. Century 21s
Team USA 1960 vs. Dream Team Europe

December 28
Redeem Team vs. Team USA 1960
Dream Team vs. Toronto Raptors

December 29
Century 21s vs. Dream Team
Dream Team Europe vs. Redeem Team

December 30
Off day

December 31, January 1
Group A first-place vs. Group B second-place
Group B first-place vs. Group A second-place

January 2
Group A first-place vs. Group B second-place (if necessary)
Group B first-place vs. Group A second-place (if necessary)

January 3
Third-place game

January 4
Championship game

Why no games today? All players and coaches are involved in Festivus merriment right now! In fact, there’s Michael Jordan participating in the traditional “Airing of Grievances” right now…

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