Welcome to another edition of The Friday Five! This is a weekly feature appearing every Friday, in which I discuss a variety of topics related to basketball video games, the real NBA and other subjects of interest to our community, either by listing five items or counting them down in Top 5 format.
As video game technology has improved, we’ve come to expect high quality cinematic intros that immediately draw us into a game and make us want to spend hours playing it. Basketball games are no exception, with their intros ideally getting us pumped for some virtual hoops action by highlighting just how exciting the sport can be. This week, I present my picks for the five best basketball video game intros…at least so far.
Starting off with number five…
5. Michael Jordan in Flight
This may strike many of you as a surprising pick as it’s obviously rather dated, which is to be expected for a game that came out in 1993. However, for its time it was quite innovative, standing out in an era where more often than not, all you could expect to see was a colourful (if somewhat pixellated) title screen, in all its VGA glory.
The game itself hasn’t necessarily aged well; it’s a basic three-on-three basketball game, Michael Jordan is the only real player that appears and it lacks the depth of later NBA sims, or indeed the NBA sims of the time. Having said that, it did have some nifty instant replay features, including the ability to save and watch them later, and the gameplay was good enough for its day. Watching the intro, featuring MJ throwing down a dunk from the free throw line, definitely got you in the mood to play it.
4. NBA 2K13
I originally had NBA 2K13’s intro in the third spot but ultimately dropped it to fourth for one glaring reason: there’s a little too much Jay-Z. That was always going to happen in a game that very prominently advertises him as an executive producer and I certainly wouldn’t say that it ruins the intro, but he does kind of overshadow the product.
It’s still a great intro though, showing off some nicely put together clips from what is a great game and the song, Jay-Z’s “Public Service Announcement”, is a good fit. With the quality and variety of animations in the latest NBA 2K games, from dribbling to dunks, to player rituals and celebrations, we get a really slick and realistic-looking intro that makes the game look very appealing.
3. NBA Live 2005
PlayStation 2 era graphics are definitely starting to look very dated and NBA Live 2005 featured some…interesting lighting on top of that, but I liked the intros that EA Sports were using for NBA Live around this time. NBA Live 06 and NBA Live 07 had good intros too, but after re-watching all three, I have to go with 2005.
The intro features an entertaining array of dunks, offensive moves and defensive stops, while also showcasing the All-Star Weekend, which was making its debut that year. Some of the really fun dunks from the Slam Dunk Contest are on display and they picked a great one to end the intro on, punctuated by Kenny Smith’s reaction on commentary. Additionally, Andrew Anthony’s delivery of “NBA Live 2005” sounds really, really cool.
2. NBA Live 2000
The first six NBA Live games on PC featured intros that used real NBA footage and in my opinion, they were all great. The clips that they chose, the way they were edited together and the music they were scored with combined to set the atmosphere and got you ready to play the games.
These intros definitely peaked with NBA Live 2000, a game still remembered fondly as one of the best of the NBA Live series. Bookended by a Kevin Garnett dunk that morphs between footage from a Timberwolves game and KG shooting around by himself on a street court, we have a great highlight reel accompanied by one of the best songs featured on an NBA Live soundtrack. Unless you were in a hurry to play, this was an intro you watched almost every time you booted up the game and to date, I’d deem it the best intro an NBA Live game has had.
1. NBA 2K12
From a gaming standpoint, I like NBA 2K13 better than NBA 2K12 but as far as the intro is concerned, 2K12 remains unsurpassed. I know there’s a fair amount of people who don’t like or at least grew weary of Kurtis Blow’s “Basketball”, but it suited the old school motif of the intro and the game itself.
To me, it’s a really creative intro that spotlights some of today’s biggest names and rising stars, while also showcasing the historical content of the game and playing into all the “stars of yesterday vs. the stars of today” discussions. The way the camera pans between all the players, ending on Derrick Rose passing to Michael Jordan for a free throw line dunk, is simply fantastic. Looking back at number five in the countdown, I guess that’s just my preferred way to end an intro. In any event, for the time being, I’m picking this is as the best intro we’ve ever seen in a basketball video game.
So, those are my top five basketball video game intros. Agree? Disagree? Let me know your top five basketball video game intros in the comments below and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum. Be sure to check in next Friday for a new Five!