This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content.
The issue of missing players isn’t as prominent as it was in the early days of basketball gaming. Video games have become a huge industry, authenticity is the name of the game, and the licensing agreement with the NBA Players Association ensures that all active players are represented in NBA Live and NBA 2K. These days, active players who aren’t included at launch are added via official roster updates, so most of the issues with missing players involve historical players that couldn’t be licensed. Fortunately, as the addition of Steve Nash in the latest NBA 2K17 roster update demonstrates, that doesn’t have to be a permanent problem either.
As I’ve discussed in previous articles, this wasn’t always the case. Due to certain players retaining full control over their likeness rights, and sometimes signing exclusive deals with specific developers, some of the biggest names in basketball have been missing from classic hoops games. In some cases, however, they didn’t leave a vacant spot on their team’s roster. Some games elected to include placeholder players, which many old school basketball gamers came to call Roster Players, after the name they were given in various editions of NBA Live.
Roster Players have an interesting legacy in basketball gaming, so let’s take a look back…way back…