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. This week, I’m taking a look back at Quick Pick Play in NBA Live 08.
Custom teams were once a staple of both NBA Live and NBA 2K, from the original four squads in NBA Live to the fully customisable teams in later games. Unfortunately, neither game currently features custom teams, at least in the traditional sense. NBA 2K has expansion team creation and team relocation and rebranding in MyLEAGUE and MyGM, but the old method of adding a new team to a roster is no longer available. NBA Live 2000 was the last Live to feature custom teams, and as such, they became a popular Wishlist item. In NBA Live 08 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, EA Sports tried to grant that wish by way of a new mode: Quick Pick Play.
It’s another mode that probably isn’t too well-remembered, even among hardcore NBA Live gamers. However, like a lot of long-forgotten features in basketball video games, it’s worth another glance all these years later. Let’s take a look back…way back…
The premise of Quick Pick Play was simple. It consisted of a single exhibition game, with hand-picked fantasy rosters. Users would select the team they wanted to play with, and then build ten man squads using any NBA players of their choosing. The mode could also be played against the CPU, with the user picking for the AI-controlled team. An auto-fill option allowed users to quickly select players and set up a game. When manually picking players, they could be sorted by team, as well as the top twenty centres, power forwards, small forwards, shooting guards, point guards, shot blockers, dunkers, shooters, quickest players, and best overall players.
Duplicates were not allowed on the same team, so unlike traditional custom teams, it was impossible to field a lineup entirely of clones. The same player could be chosen by both teams however, so if you were playing against a friend, you didn’t have to fight over your selections, or miss out on your favourite player. A draft option would have been fun, but the mode still functions fine without it. There was no online multiplayer functionality for Quick Pick Play, which is understandable. While it would’ve been cool to have, and perhaps boosted the mode’s popularity, it could’ve been quite messy, both in terms of its technical feasibility and competitive balance.
Needless to say, it didn’t quite have the same charm as custom teams. You were stuck with the team’s name and branding, and the squads couldn’t be used in any other mode. It was a fun way to change things up though, and play with some fantasy lineups without having to modify the game’s rosters. Thinking back to times where I played local multiplayer games with custom rosters, it would’ve been very handy. I remember playing a friend in NBA Live 96 PC many, many years ago, and being bothered by his insistence that he stack the Charlotte Hornets with a bunch of star players. When he went home, I had to reset and update the rosters all over again!
That wouldn’t have been necessary with a mode like Quick Pick Play. It would have been ideal for situations like that: casual exhibition games against friends, where you both picked your favourite team and created a fantasy lineup. No roster editing necessary, before or afterwards. While in-game stat tracking and record keeping would have been nice, it probably would have been unnecessary in most cases. If you were having a local multiplayer session and wanted to stage your own Playoff series, you could easily keep track of the win-loss record yourself. Quick Pick Play didn’t really need to be any deeper or more complex than it was.
Despite being a solid mode and a nice addition, it’s one that I often forget about until I dust off one of the games that include it. While I do think it’s a fine idea, the fact of the matter is that by the time NBA Live 08 was released, I wasn’t playing any local multiplayer games of NBA Live. I was primarily a Dynasty Mode gamer, and on very rare occasions, I’d give an online game a try. As I said though, it would have been a very useful mode to have back when I was playing NBA Live with friends in the same room, either sitting on a couch or in front of the PC. As it stands, when NBA Live 08 came out, I was simply never in a situation where I needed to use Quick Pick Play.
With that being said, I could see some value in NBA Live or NBA 2K implementing a similar mode today. Granted, I’d rather see full custom teams and team rebranding outside of MyLEAGUE and MyGM, and you could even argue that the concept has evolved into something more meaningful, in the form of Ultimate Team and MyTEAM. However, I think there could still be use for a mode like Quick Pick Play, especially if it had online support. It might not be suitable for ranked and random match-up play, but a “play with friends” option would be fun. Throw in some record keeping, and you can recreate those old fantasy team battles.
Quick Pick Play also stands as another example of how EA Sports would innovate with NBA Live. It wasn’t as noteworthy of an innovation as All-Star Weekend, Freestyle Control, or other big features, but it was an extra mode of play that they managed to include. After the Xbox 360 version of NBA Live 06 launched without Dynasty or the All-Star Weekend, EA spent the next few years trying to make sure that the game wasn’t too lacking in modes and features. Quick Pick Play was also featured in NBA Live 09 and NBA Live 10 (where it was renamed to Fantasy Teams), but it hasn’t returned since the series was resurrected with NBA Live 14.
Because Quick Pick Play wasn’t available in the PC version of NBA Live 08, it probably flew under the radar for a lot of people who were part of our community back then. NBA Live was also losing ground to NBA 2K at the time, and not being a major feature, Quick Pick Play didn’t really get mentioned in the previews of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 version, so it’s easily forgotten. It’s kind of a shame, as it’s a nifty concept. If I had to choose one feature to bring back in NBA Live and/or NBA 2K, I would admittedly pick custom teams over it. However, Quick Pick Play is an idea that could perhaps still find a place in future basketball video games.