Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to basketball video games, the real NBA, or another area of interest to our community, either as a list of five items or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.
When it comes to basketball games, I like to think of myself as a member of Sim Nation…shout out to Da_Czar. Although some of the improvements to basketball games in recent years have challenged my perception of how realistically I play, and what realism truly means, on the whole I would say that I do indeed prefer a true to life style of play, and want to see NBA Live and NBA 2K reflect the real NBA as closely as possible. Of course, I also believe there’s a need for more casual, or “arcade style” gameplay settings, too.
I also have to admit that my approach to basketball games hasn’t always been so sim. When I first started playing NBA Live 95 on Super Nintendo, my approach was definitely more casual, and less focused on realism. However, even after I took an interest in playing basketball games more realistically, I’d occasionally take a break from that style, in the name of doing something fun. Not that I don’t consider playing realistically to be fun, but sometimes, a break from the norm and a bit of silliness is refreshing. And, as you’ll soon find out, I’ve done some quite silly things with basketball games from time to time.
1. “Hardcore” Rules in NBA Live 95
In other words, this was when professional basketball met professional wrestling. For those of you who aren’t familiar with sports entertainment, “hardcore” is a style of professional wrestling that ignores the usual rules of the pseudo-sport, in order to portray exceptionally violent matches that usually heavily involve weapons, often unconventional ones. It came to prominence with the peak of Extreme Championship Wrestling in the late 90s, and also became a part of the World Wrestling Federation’s (now WWE) programming in the form of the hardcore division, championship belt and all. It’s controversial, but it has its place in the industry.
The basketball equivalent would be “no blood, no foul”, and that’s kind of what my cousin and I did in our Houston Rockets season in NBA Live 95. As I’ve mentioned before in the Five, my cousin and I would go back and play NBA Live 95 as it was an old favourite, and even as late as 1999, we had a season going with the Rockets. However, our interest was waning, and we’d gotten into professional wrestling around that time, too. So, to spice things up, we turned off fouls, and had a “hardcore” game. The result? Hakeem Olajuwon racked up 95 steals thanks to the ability to shove opponents without penalty, and became the league leader overnight. Very silly.
2. Play dress up with a benchwarmer (multiple games)
When you wheel and deal in the franchise modes of basketball games, you end up creating a new identity for your team. Another thing my cousin and I would often do – when we weren’t mixing sports entertainment with a real sport – was to play dress up with one of our benchwarmers. Our trades usually brought in a new player to be our twelfth man, and said player generally ended up wearing every accessory possible. This resulted in an amusing visual whenever there was a blowout, and he subsequently got into the game.
I know what you’re thinking. “Whoa, you kids were out of control!” Yes, yes, I can hear the sarcasm from here. And in the grand scheme of things, I guess it’s not that silly. In fact, it’s kind of an extension of how fans really get behind benchwarmers like Brian Scalabrine and Joel Anthony in real life, and exaggerate their on-court prowess for comic effect. And you know, Kirk Hinrich has kind of been loading up on the accessories in real life, in recent years. But our players – and it was usually Gary Grant – really did look ridiculous. Why Gary Grant? Because on one of the bloopers tapes that came out in the 90s, he hit a three off an alley-oop attempt, and played it off like he meant to do it. From then on, he was our benchwarming hero.
3. Quadruple Double for Ben Gordon in NBA Live 06
Like I said, I do prefer to play basketball games realistically, but every so often, I’ll inject a little fan-fiction. My teams also tend to win a little more than they probably should…hey, it’s not like I’m going to lose on purpose just to be realistic, right? Anyway, in my memorable NBA Live 06 Dynasty, I not only brought back Shawn Kemp for one last run, I’ve also made Ben Gordon into a superstar, and won back-to-back championships. The icing on the cake, however? That would be Gordon’s quadruple double against the Los Angeles Lakers in season two.
It gets crazier, though. In that game, not only did Gordon tally a quadruple double, he also racked up 92 points, just a little shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time mark. Crazier still, that wasn’t his only quadruple double of the season, as I managed to do it a couple more times in a campaign that also saw him break the all-time single game record for steals and assists, and rack up a bunch of triple doubles. While going 77-5, and winning over 50 games in a row. Yeah, suffice to say, I wanted to shake things up a little in that second season, and I pushed the envelope quite a bit at times. I have no regrets though; as I said, something out of the norm can be a lot of fun.
4. Revamping the Jazz in NBA Live 2002
On the other hand, doing something too silly can take a situation that sounds fun on paper, and just suck all the fun out of it. I’ve mentioned this one a couple of times before, as I consider it one of my biggest failed endeavours in basketball games, but it’s worth bringing up again as a cautionary tale. I once started a Franchise game in NBA Live 2002 with the Utah Jazz; a bad idea to begin with as they were, at the time, my least favourite team in the league. However, I had the bright idea of doing something silly with the roster, thinking it would be hilarious and fun. It wasn’t, but we’ll get to that.
First of all, I traded John Stockton for Mike Bibby. I did this because I had a Sacramento Kings Franchise going at the same time and I liked what Bibby could do, and for a while there, he became my go-to at point guard when I was shaking up a roster. Furthermore, it was a ridiculous trade that no one in their right mind would ever make. I also acquired Scottie Pippen, and thought it would be hilarious if I brought all-time great Karl Malone off the bench in limited minutes…see, I was kind of a hater when it came to The Mailman, and to be honest, he’s still not one of my favourites. Long story short, it was a stupid idea, and I quickly lost interest. Sometimes, silly is fun. Other times, it’s just going to spoil your experience with basketball games.
5. Intentionally lose in NBA Live 96
Hey, remember how I scoffed at the idea of losing on purpose a little earlier? Wouldn’t that be a silly idea? Well, this is a list of five silly things I’ve done in basketball games, so naturally, that is indeed something I’ve done. After I finished my 1997/1998 opening night roster patch for NBA Live 96, I decided to start a season with the Chicago Bulls. In the name of realism, I decided to keep Scottie Pippen out of the lineup, since he was set to miss a few months following surgery in the offseason. And, since the Bulls had lost to the Boston Celtics on opening night, I figured I’d do that, too.
I’d also gone to the trouble of doing a little schedule editing and ensuring that the Bulls’ opening night game was against the Celtics instead of the Charlotte Hornets, so why not, right? And so, I lost, and as I recall, came respectably close to the actual final score of the real game to boot. Then I discovered that I’d made a mistake when editing Kurt Thomas, and he was averaging over 100 points per game, so I had to start the season all over again. And, of course, I lost that first game to the Celtics…again. Then I ended up scoring over 100 points with Michael Jordan against the Atlanta Hawks later in the year, throwing realism and the notion of emulating the season right out the window. Told you it was silly.
What are some of the sillier things you’ve done in basketball games, be it NBA Live, NBA 2K, or another title? Let me know in the comments below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.