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 NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of five interesting coincidences where basketball games seemingly predicted the future.
With a bit of creative thinking and hindsight, it’s not too difficult to find “correct predictions” everywhere. Take Michael Jordan’s “Total D” basketball trading card from 1995, for example. Noting that the one-time Defensive Player of the Year is still generally known more for his dunks and scoring outbursts than lockdown D, the back of the card refers to him as an “Aerial Wizard”. A reference to his high flying exploits, or a prediction of his second comeback with Washington, as well as the team’s name change a year before it was even announced? I’ll let you be the judge.
If you’re thinking rationally, you’ll have correctly written off the above suggestion as nothing more than a couple of fun coincidences. As I said though, it isn’t too difficult to take those coincidences and spin a story about them eerily predicting the future. To that end, this week’s Five is all about basketball video games that predicted one thing or another…or so it would seem. And no, the inclusion of the Charlotte Bobcats in NBA Live 2004 doesn’t count; they’d already been unveiled, and we all knew they would be making their debut the following season.
1. NBA 2K14 Predicted LeBron leaving Miami
I mentioned this in my Wayback Wednesday retrospective on LeBron: Path to Greatness in NBA 2K14, but it bears mentioning again. As it turned out, the mode ultimately predicted a few elements of LeBron James’ future career in the NBA. The decision to either remain with the Miami Heat or explore free agency was looming as LeBron entered his fourth season with the team, since he would be able to opt out at the end of the year. While Path to Greatness predicted a lot of things that didn’t happen – at least, not yet – more than a couple of events came to pass.
Unfortunately for diehard Miami Heat fans (and bandwagoners who are now Golden State Warriors fans), the “Continue Heat Dynasty” path didn’t come to fruition in real life. Allen Iverson fans were also left disappointed when The Answer didn’t make a triumphant comeback for the Philadelphia 76ers. The “Fantastic Journey” path did give us a glimpse into the future, though. Alright, so LeBron didn’t go to the Knicks, and as yet, he hasn’t taken his talents back to South Beach for one last run. He did leave the Heat after the 2014 season however, even returning to Cleveland! Between NBA 2K14 and WWE 2K14, 2013 was a good year for 2K’s predictions.
2. NBA Full Court Press Predicted the Oklahoma City Thunder
Now, if you’d predicted that the Seattle SuperSonics would move to Oklahoma City and become the Thunder circa 2008, it would simply be an example of paying attention and not mystical foresight. After all, Clay Bennett’s ownership group weren’t very subtle in their attempts to move the team from Seattle, and the Thunder moniker leaked fairly soon after their fate was decided. The move and name change had actually been predicted more than a decade before however, the same year that the SuperSonics made the NBA Finals no less.
Yes, as you can see from the above screenshot, Microsoft’s forerunner to the NBA Inside Drive series, NBA Full Court Press, called it years before it happened. The game featured a selection of custom teams that could be enabled, and one of them was named…you guessed it, the Thunder! Their default jerseys were even coloured orange, as is the alternate road uniform that Oklahoma City debuted in 2015. The colour can also be found in OKC’s logo, which is generally considered to be rather generic and uninspired, rather like the Thunder logo in NBA Full Court Press. Coincidence? I think not!
3. A Bug in NBA Live 99 Predicted the Rise of Stretch Bigs
You probably know by now that NBA Live 99 shipped with final 1998 season rosters, owing to the lockout of 1998-99. You probably also know that it did eventually receive updated 1999 season rosters, via the official patches. What you might not know, however, is that a bug in the first official roster update accurately predicted the rise of three-point shooting some fifteen years later, and in particular, the increase in outside shots attempted by big men. You might think that the presence of a rookie Dirk Nowitzki in the roster is also a sign, but that’s merely a red herring.
The real clue lies with Brad Miller. Although Miller did attempt quite a few threes later on in his career, with NBA Live 99’s official rosters, he was a gun from downtown when simulating games. This was the result of his DSTATS, fields in the players database that determined simulated performance. Miller’s dummy numbers for three-pointers were 42 made out of 53 attempted in 31 games. In a full season, he’d easily hit over a hundred triples. The issue was fixed in the second roster, so it was just a simple case of oversight…then again, maybe it wasn’t. It certainly seems to have predicted the next big offensive revolution in the NBA, well ahead of it taking place.
4. NBA Live 06 & NBA 2K6 Predicted the 2006 Champions
The player who appears on the cover of a basketball video game is an interesting matter. On one hand, it ultimately doesn’t affect any core elements, or the general experience. On the other hand, the choice of cover player can still affect the appeal of a game, and as the years have gone by, it’s also influenced extra content and pre-order bonuses. From EA Sports and 2K Sports’ perspective, choosing a well-known player with a strong brand and wide appeal is obviously the right approach. The choice of cover player is going to look even better if they end up winning one of the end-of-season awards, or indeed, the championship.
For their 2006 season games, EA and 2K lucked out…or correctly predicted the result of the 2006 NBA Finals, depending on how you want to look at it. NBA Live 06 featured Dwyane Wade, a rising star at the time, while his teammate Shaquille O’Neal graced the cover of NBA 2K6. In featuring Wade on their cover, EA also correctly predicted the NBA Finals MVP. And since this is a wacky theory, I might as well also mention that Shaq was featured on the NBA Live 96 cover ten years earlier, and NBA Live 99 cover player Antoine Walker was also a member of the 2006 championship squad. We can safely assume that’s also somehow significant.
5. NBA Live 2000 & NBA Street Predicted MJ’s Wizards Comeback
You probably thought that the “Total D” trading card story in the intro was the end of me trying to find something that predicted Michael Jordan’s comeback with the Washington Wizards (which I know is something I’m not supposed to mention). The card may not have predicted it, but NBA Live 2000 just might have. The game marked MJ’s first official appearance in the NBA Live series, as a member of the newly added roster of Legends. Tim Duncan may have been the official cover player, but a badge featuring His Airness and the words “Jordan Is Back!” also adorned the box art. Kind of similar to his “I’m Back” proclamation in 1995, is it not?
MJ’s appearance in the first NBA Street game was probably an even more blatant clue. Upon beginning the City Circuit, His Airness informs you that he’s there to join your team if you need him. In other words, he’s an active player again! Unlike the badge on the cover of NBA Live 2000, he’s not wearing Bulls gear, but rather a blue singlet. Blue, the primary colour of the team he was part-owner of, and ultimately returned to play for: the Washington Wizards. Sure, you might point out that it’s more of a Carolina Blue, but that’s just another red herring. There can be no doubt that those two classic hoops games predicted the comeback of which we mustn’t speak.
In all seriousness, it just goes to show that with enough imagination and creative interpretation of supposed “clues”, anything can look like an accurate prediction in retrospect. Can you think of any other fun coincidences and unusual circumstances that basketball video games have “predicted”? Join in the fun in the comments section 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, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.