Monday Tip-Off: Fun with Basketball Video Game Glitches

Headless Utah Jazz Players in NBA 2K11

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games.

Although glitches are generally seen as a problem in gaming – and for good reason – they’re not always a bad thing. Sure, they aren’t a lot of fun when they cause games to crash and lock up, or ruin features and functionality, but when glitches are relatively harmless, they can be pretty funny. I wouldn’t say that it’s as common in basketball video games as it is in other genres, but there are even times when bugs and glitches can be advantageous, making certain tasks easier, or even completely bypassing difficult and tedious sections of a game. TV Tropes calls them Good Bad Bugs, and the speedrunning community obviously knows them very well.

A lot of people are probably familiar with the “Jesus Bynum” glitch that drew a lot of negative attention to the NBA Elite 11 demo. Although most people probably never experienced the glitch for themselves, it became a symbol of the game’s problems. While NBA Elite 11 was shaping up to be a disappointing game for other reasons before it was ultimately cancelled, the Bynum issue is really more of an example of a glitch that is fun and amusing; something weird that obviously shouldn’t be happening, but certainly funny when it does. With that in mind, I thought I’d talk a little about some amusing glitches today, and share a few of my favourites.

I’ll start out by mentioning the event that inspired me to write this column. Shooting around in Arcane’s MyCOURT last Saturday night while we were waiting to tip off a game of 2K Pro-Am, I was practising adjusting shots in midair. Manually adjusting on dunk and layup attempts is probably something that I don’t do enough to elude defenders, so I was working on getting the timing down on the animations in Stephen Curry’s layup package. As I attempted one of Curry’s high-arcing layups and tapped the Shoot button to make the adjustment, something wild happened.

It’s probably one of my favourite glitches that I’ve experienced in all my years of playing basketball video games, especially since the shot went in. The only way that it could’ve been better is if it happened during a game, but seeing it happen at all was good enough. I’ve encountered similar glitches over the years but haven’t been able to record them for posterity. I did once save a replay of a glitch like this in NBA Live 10, but every time I tried to upload it to EA Sports World, it mysteriously failed. With the recording functionality on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, not to mention programs like Fraps on PC, we’re now able to capture these glitches much more easily.

I’ve experienced some other glitches recently, but that one is easily the most spectacular. I came across a more mundane glitch while I was capturing some screenshots for last week’s Wayback Wednesday, in which I took a look back at Michael Jordan’s presence in NBA 2K11. After entering Instant Replay to take a couple of screenshots of an MJ dunk and then letting the play roll through to the end, upon rotating the camera, I noticed that a couple of the Utah Jazz players had quite literally lost their heads.

Headless Utah Jazz Players in NBA 2K11

It’s not uncommon for players to disappear in Instant Replay upon moving the camera too close to them, but usually their entire body disappears. Missing body parts – particularly the head – make for an amusing visual in video games, so naturally I had to get a screenshot of them as well.

During a BIG Moments game in NBA Live 14, Jimmer Fredette managed to keep his head, but lost his jersey, along with a good chunk of his midsection. I only saved a short clip, but from memory, his torso remained glitched out like that for the rest of the game. For all its other issues, this was the only time that I encountered that particular glitch in NBA Live 14.

In NBA 2K13 PC, Carmelo Anthony once demonstrated an even more painful variation of the same sort of graphical glitch, as his back caved in after he was sent to the free throw line. Ouch!

Graphical Glitches in NBA 2K13

As I mentioned before, sometimes glitches work to our advantage. Unfortunately, a couple of times in NBA Live 15, I experienced a glitch that definitely worked in the CPU’s favour instead. It managed to score twice on one possession by grabbing the ball as soon as it passed through the net, then automatically triggering a shooting animation. On another occasion, the CPU managed to get away with offensive interference. Well, it was whistled for it, but the basket counted as if there’d been a defensive goaltending violation instead. Every other time I’ve seen offensive interference occur in NBA Live 15, the basket has been correctly negated.

On the other hand, there were times when glitches definitely benefitted me in NBA Live 15. During another Ultimate Team game, Andre Iguodala made one of the most spectacular dunks you’ll ever see. As I put it in the video description on YouTube, Iggy defies gravity, physics, and logic on this one:

Speaking of defying the laws of physics, this putback attempt by Shawn Kemp demonstrates an extreme example of the notion of there being a lid on the basket. That might not sound beneficial, but that’s not the end of the glitch, as the ball begins to hover off the rim towards Dominique Wilkins, only for Kemp to magically will it back into his hands for another offensive rebound and possession of the ball. I hadn’t seen anything like that before (or since) in NBA Live 15, or any other basketball video game, so I made sure to capture a video.

Fortunately, these specific glitches have all been quite rare, with only the CPU double scoring glitch rearing its ugly head twice in my experience. Ideally, we wouldn’t experience glitches at all in video games, but that’s just not a realistic expectation. We can only hope that games will be as bug-free as possible, and that glitches will have minimal impact on the experience. As annoying as they can be, however, they can also be enjoyed as a great source of amusement, which I feel is the case with several of these glitches.

Of course, when it comes to having the most amusing glitches, basketball video games have some stiff competition. In fact, just as I was finishing up this article, the following glitch showed up in my Twitter feed:

That might be difficult for basketball video games to top. Still, if you’ve got a contender, feel free to share it! It’s always good for a chuckle.

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