This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content.
Since I’m still working on a few retrospectives for Wayback Wednesday (as well as our ongoing 20th Anniversary of NBA Live content), I’ve been looking through the archives for something fun and interesting to share with you this week. Combing through an old folder of images, I came across a collection of screenshots of LeBron James in NBA Live 10. I took them in May 2010 for an article that was looking ahead to his upcoming free agency, and speculating upon which jersey he might be wearing come the 2011 season. Since LeBron announced his number change prior to his free agency, he’s wearing number six in all of them.
As it happened, both LeBron James’ career and the fortunes of the NBA Live series took an infamous turn just a few months later. Let’s take a look back…way back…
First of all, let’s take a look at the screenshots. As free agency loomed for LeBron James in 2010, there was a lot of speculation as to where he would end up. Many people figured that he’d follow in the footsteps of fellow all-time greats like Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant, and remain with his current team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. There was talk that he might go to the Chicago Bulls, but there were also rumblings that the Miami Heat could be contenders to land him as well. The New York Knicks had money to spend, but some speculated that LeBron’s friendship with Jay Z might give the Nets an edge, ahead of their move from New Jersey to Brooklyn.
As it turned out, the rumours regarding the Miami Heat were true. As we now know, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh were interested in teaming up in pursuit of multiple championships (not one, not two, not three…), and Pat Riley was able to orchestrate the union in Miami. It was certainly a controversial move, as LeBron’s ESPN special announcing his decision – appropriately named “The Decision” – was widely criticised for being self-serving, egotistical, and tasteless. LeBron’s reputation had already taken a bit of a hit, following a few incidents that left many fans with the impression that he was a prima donna and a sore loser.
With his move to Miami, LeBron and the rest of the Heat became the villains of the NBA. They were the team to hate, though it certainly didn’t stand in the way of their success. Although they fell to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011, the Heat would go on to make three more NBA Finals appearances, winning back to back in 2012 and 2013. After losing to the San Antonio Spurs in 2014, LeBron’s free agency once again became the story of the offseason, as he returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Two years later, he has two more Finals appearances and another title under his belt.
While LeBron James has been carving out an impressive legacy since I posted those screenshots way back in May 2010, times have been a little tougher for the NBA Live series. Changing course and rebranding with NBA Elite 11 turned out to be a mistake, and EA Sports have been slowly trying to rebuild the game over the past few years. As it stands, NBA Live 17 is supposedly coming out in the first quarter of 2017, but we’re still waiting on concrete details about the future of the series. I expect that when we finally get some screenshots of the game, we’ll indulge in speculation of a different kind. The series has a long way to go, but hopefully it can rebound.
Meanwhile, LeBron James is seeking his seventh consecutive Finals appearance, and fourth championship. Kevin Durant, who was the cover player of NBA Elite 11 and faced LeBron in the 2012 NBA Finals, still seeks his first championship, now with the Golden State Warriors. It’s going to be interesting to see where things go from here in both the real NBA and basketball video games, but looking back, you can’t help but wonder what might have been if LeBron James went elsewhere, and EA Sports had kept building upon NBA Live 10 instead of rebooting. No doubt the landscape of the NBA, and basketball gaming, would be quite different.