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. This week, I’m tipping things off with an update on my efforts to build a team of 90s All-Stars in NBA Live 18’s Ultimate Team.
As I’ve noted in previous articles and in episodes of the NLSC Podcast, my current mode of choice in NBA Live 18 is Ultimate Team. Unfortunately, Franchise mode just isn’t where it needs to be yet, and while I do like the concept of LIVE Events and LIVE Run, living in Australia, I’ve found online play to be very choppy so far in NBA Live 18. While I obviously hope NBA Live 19 will see an improvement in both of those areas, for the moment I am enjoying playing Ultimate Team. I was taken in by the mode when it debuted in NBA Live 14, so even if those other modes were more appealing to me right now, I know that I’d still be spending some time with LUT.
I spent a considerable amount of time with Ultimate Team back in NBA Live 15, and managed to put together a team comprised of 90s Legends. As Legends packs began to be released for NBA Live 18, I decided that I wanted to try that again, especially as it’s currently still the only way to play with Legends in NBA Live. After drawing Scottie Pippen a few weeks back, those efforts got off to a very promising start. After adding John Stockton and Karl Malone last week, I found myself with a formidable starting five that’s reminiscent of the old 90s All-Stars squad. While I’m quite satisfied with that lineup, I wanted to round out the bench with some more 90s players.
Of course, with so many of the weekly challenges being three minute quarters with minimal fatigue and no need to substitute, a starting five of Scottie Pippen, Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, and John Stockton is certainly more than sufficient. Even in the tougher challenges featuring normal fatigue and substitutions, a deep lineup that included All-Star Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving cards provided me with plenty of options to bring off the bench. Still, while I enjoyed having a mix of current and former stars, I liked the idea of collecting more players that I grew up watching, and being able to run with a completely retro squad.
Even without a retro bench, though, that starting five proved to be a lot of fun to play with, and not just because of the nostalgia factor. Legend cards in NBA Live 18’s Ultimate Team tend to be very powerful, and those five players can certainly get the job done at both ends. Now that his dunk package has apparently been fixed, Pippen can finish inside as he should. Drexler, as you would expect, is also adept at putting defenders on a poster. Stockton racks up steals with ease, and is a very capable threat from downtown; Pip and The Glide are quite strong in those areas as well. When it comes to bullying defenders inside, The Dream and The Mailman are beasts.
There are a few issues with some of the Legends cards that unfortunately haven’t yet been resolved. Hakeem Olajuwon has a low mid-range rating, despite being a very solid shooter from that distance. While Hakeem’s post rating is quite high, it’s oddly lower than Karl Malone’s. Given that a couple of Legends have had their ratings and dunk packages fixed, it’s my hope that EA will be able to address a few more issues like that before support and content updates for Ultimate Team conclude. The cards are hardly useless as-is, and in some cases they admittedly benefit from being a little overpowered, but I’d still prefer that they be more accurate.
With coins being a little harder to earn this year, and Legends packs being rather expensive, I have actually spent a little real money on NBA Points in order to buy them. I usually prefer to avoid doing that, but the pulls have been worth it. One of the benefits of Ultimate Team compared to MyTEAM is that Legends packs always have one of the featured retro players in them, as opposed to only having a “small chance” of pulling one, as is the case with NBA 2K’s Throwback packs. There are only two Legends packs per week, so you may end up getting doubles, or a player you don’t want (if not two), but you’re at least getting a Legend card each and every time.
From here on out, I’d like to avoid spending any more money, and instead focus on acquiring players through the Auction House. My intention was to begin grinding for coins – and that’s still on the To Do list – but my efforts received an immediate head start when ToneLoc21 was kind enough to gift me a very generous amount of coins in exchange for a Stephen Curry card I no longer needed. Scouring the Auction House for the best deals, I added Dennis Rodman, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp (Cavaliers edition), Chris Mullin, John Starks, and Dikembe Mutombo. Along with Toni Kukoc, who I drew at the same time as Pippen, I now have a strong 90s themed lineup.
Although I would’ve preferred the SuperSonics version of Shawn Kemp, it’s been listed at a much higher price, and I wanted to stretch the coins I’d been gifted as far as possible. As it stands, I’m very satisfied with the lineup I’ve been able to put together so far. It’s easily my favourite squad that I’ve ever been able to assemble in Ultimate Team, and getting Scottie Pippen in particular felt rather gratifying, as his card eluded me when I put together my 90s team in NBA Live 15. Of course, I’d still like to add Anfernee Hardaway and a couple of other old favourites if I can get them. Shaquille O’Neal is a long shot, but maybe I can trade up for Sonics Kemp and a few others.
Like the players we create and build up in the career modes, there is something a little bittersweet about assembling the Ultimate Team or MyTEAM that you really want. After all, it doesn’t carry over to the next game, meaning all the grinding (as well as any money you’ve spent) can feel like it was all for nothing once it’s time to start over. However, there’s satisfaction in the accomplishment, and fun to be had with your team as long as there are challenges left to play through. I still haven’t made a dent in any of the Master Challenges in NBA Live 18’s Ultimate Team yet, so with NBA Live 19 still six months away, I have ample time to give them a shot.
Ultimate Team is a mode that could still stand to be deeper, from expanded content and better collection management tools, to additional sub modes and ways to earn permanent cards. Right now though, it remains a reasonably solid team building mode. Being able to collect some of the best players from the era I grew up watching has definitely made it enjoyable for me this year, and with any luck, the fun isn’t over just yet. Licensing issues are obviously keeping a couple of players out of the game – Michael Jordan, most notably – but I’m glad to be able to run with a 90s All-Stars team, not too unlike the ones we used to have in NBA Live all those years ago.