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Wayback Wednesday: Marking NBA Milestones in Video Games

Wayback Wednesday: Marking NBA Milestones in Video Games

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 reflecting on how video games mark different NBA milestones, and how it dates them.

On several occasions, I’ve mentioned that video games serve as wonderful time capsules for the NBA. They’re a snapshot of the league at the time they’re released, preserving the rosters, team branding, and the rules and formats of the era. When you revisit an old NBA video game, you’re often reminded of players’ brief and forgotten tenures with certain teams, “What If” scenarios and lineups that never lived up to the hype, and the jerseys and logos that you both loved and hated. In a way, old games can act as interactive almanacs, and are a fun way to revisit NBA history.

With that in mind, basketball video games preserve different eras and milestones in the real NBA as much as they’re a timeline of gaming and technology. In many of my Wayback Wednesday features, as well as my 25th Anniversary of NBA Live articles, I’ve reflected on how various titles have represented an evolution in the genre, and the improvements that are noticeable from year to year. On this occasion, I’m looking at how they represent NBA milestones and significant changes in the league, as well as the way those events make them dated. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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The Friday Five: 5 Terribly Named Basketball Games

The Friday Five

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 terribly named basketball games.

Since nothing is classier or more cultured than Shakespeare, I’ll pull a quote from one of The Bard’s most famous works, Romeo and Juliet: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This famous quotation, often paraphrased as “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, is a metaphor which illustrates that a name doesn’t affect the nature or quality of the thing that it belongs to. Just like the idiom “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, it reminds us that superficial details aren’t everything, and that we shouldn’t make snap judgements based on them.

Of course, as The Simpsons once argued, roses wouldn’t be nearly as alluring if they were called stench blossoms or crap weed, and candy would likely be off-putting if it were called scum drops. The point is that while names aren’t always indicative or as important as we make them out to be, they do play a role in our initial impression of whatever it is they’re attached to. Even when we get past those impressions, a bad name can still stand out as an unfortunate attribute of an otherwise appealing thing. That goes for basketball video games, and there have been some terribly named ones over the years. Here are five examples that stand out to me.

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The Friday Five: 5 Ideas That Were Better In Theory

The Friday Five

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 ideas in basketball games that I believe were better in theory.

Basketball video games – and sports games in general – are often accused of being little more than expensive annual roster updates. As my interview with former NBA Live programmer Rod Reddekopp revealed though, even in the early days, a lot of code had to be rewritten and updated every year. Unless there are significant and noticeable changes in the modes, graphics, or gameplay however, it’s quite likely that we won’t appreciate all that work. On top of that, each new game needs some kind of hook, a fancy selling point that can be promoted in previews and on the back cover.

From our point of view, we want basketball games to keep getting better and add new content, and that means exploring new ideas. Whether it’s a change to the controls or a new gameplay mechanic, improved presentation and details, a new or enhanced mode, or additional historical content, we always want to see freshness and innovation. Our Wishlists show that we have plenty of ideas of our own that we’d like to see added in future games, and developers also have their own roadmap. The problem is that not all ideas pan out, no matter how creative and promising they once seemed. Ideas like the ones I’m talking about today were good in theory, but not in execution.

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Wayback Wednesday: Players I Remember Because of Video Games (Part 3)

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 another selection of players that I remember primarily because of video games.

In a couple of previous Wayback Wednesday features, I recalled some of the players that stick in my mind in large part thanks to basketball gaming. Making roster updates for NBA Live is unquestionably a factor here, as I ended up spending a lot of time looking at names, researching players to create them and edit their ratings, or simply moving them around from team to team. After I stopped making rosters, I found that I was far less familiar with players at the end of the bench, and even some of the lesser-known rotation players on basement teams.

That’s led to me being able to remember benchwarmers and other somewhat obscure players from the 90s and 2000s much easier than I can name certain current players. I expect that will change somewhat now that my current roster update for NBA 2K11 is taking shape, but growing up with basketball games has embedded a number of role players from yesteryear in my memory. I figured this would become an ongoing series when I posted the first article last year, and indeed, I have another list to share with you all today. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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The Friday Five: 5 Best Things in 5 of My Least Favourite Games

The Friday Five

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 the five best things in five of my least favourite basketball video games.

Some Friday Five topics end up being an ongoing, open-ended series, while others are covered as a two-part series, back-to-back. This is an example of the latter. Last week, I talked about five of the worst things found in five of my all-time favourite basketball games. The obvious sequel to that feature is a list of the five best aspects in five of my all-time least favourite hoops titles. I’ve also realised that I wrote a couple of similar Friday Five features going on five years ago, but these lists are more personal, and of course, new games have come out and I’ve remembered other things since then.

Just as the best basketball games that become our favourites have their flaws, games that we end up disliking usually have at least one or two good features or ideas. If nothing else, they’re concepts with potential that we’d like to see executed better, or indeed, implemented in a much better game. With any luck, these modes and features will stick around long enough to be enjoyed in a superior title, or be adapted and adopted by the competition, as the case may be. Unfortunately, some of them do fall by the wayside, and we never get to really enjoy them. Without any further ado, here are five of the best things in games that rank among my least favourite.

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Monday Tip-Off: Basketball Gaming Twitter

Monday Tip-Off: Basketball Gaming Twitter

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a few thoughts on basketball gaming Twitter.

A common online refrain is that social media is one of the best and worst things to happen to the Internet. Of course, that same statement is made of the Internet itself, in regards to society at large. There’s truth in both cases, as the Internet and social media in particular have allowed people with similar interests to connect with one another, but the interactions aren’t always pleasant. Twitter gives everyone a voice, but not everyone uses that voice wisely, or responsibly. As Owen Good once noted, there’s a difference between having an opinion, and having a point.

The basketball gaming community obviously has a presence on Twitter, serving as a connection between hoops gamers who frequent a variety of platforms, including our site and Forum, Operation Sports, Reddit, and various publications that cover video games. It’s therefore an effective way of keeping up to date with the latest news, as well as sharing content of your own. When it comes to discussion and feedback, in my observation, it’s a mixed bag. There are knowledgeable people who post good ideas and advocate for games to get better, and there are others who add very little of value to the conversation. Mind you, that’s usually how it goes with Twitter.

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The Friday Five: 5 Worst Things in 5 of My Favourite Games

The Friday Five

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 the five worst things in five of my favourite basketball video games.

I’ve been playing basketball video games for many years now, and there are several titles that stand out as my favourites. I’m probably overdue to write an article where I rank them, either in Monday Tip-Off or as a multi-part Friday Five series. With over two decades’ worth of games, the arcade and sim subgenres, and more than one series among my favourites, a Top 5 wouldn’t be sufficient. I feel I’d end up making some very contrived selections in order to make the list of five as varied and interesting as possible, which wouldn’t necessarily allow it to be completely accurate and honest.

Obviously, games become our favourites because of their strong points. The titles we love the most are the ones that offer the best combinations of quality gameplay, deep modes, and memorable features. They’re the ones that we’ve spent hours upon hours with, creating many fond memories on the virtual hardwood. However, even the best games and the ones that rank as our personal favourites have their problems. It’s rare that there isn’t one thing that bugs us, one thing we can point to as being the worst aspect of a game that we otherwise hold dear. With that in mind, here are five of the worst things in five games that I’d rank among my personal all-time favourites.

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Wayback Wednesday: The ABA in Basketball Video Games

Wayback Wednesday: The ABA in Basketball Video Games

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 how the ABA has been represented in basketball video games.

Despite its influence on the NBA and the sport in general, the American Basketball Association doesn’t have a lot of representation on the virtual hardwood. It makes sense as the National Basketball Association became the dominant “brand” when it exploded in global popularity in the 80s and 90s, by which point the ABA had long been absorbed in the 1976 merger. Although it’s not exactly forgotten, its history is somewhat glossed over in favour of celebrating the NBA’s heritage. Of course, that’s not altogether surprising; as the old saying goes, history is written by the winners.

Still, given that the NBA does pay homage to the ABA and adopted some of its ideas including the three-point line (though Abe Saperstein’s American Basketball League did it first), it’s strange that it doesn’t have much of a presence in video games. The ABA had been gone for around two decades when I was getting into basketball and basketball video games, but I recognise its importance and would love to see it celebrated in gaming as well. What have we seen so far? Let’s take a look back…way back…

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The Friday Five: 5 Errors That Were Never Fixed

The Friday Five

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 errors in various basketball video games that were never fixed.

Post-release support for basketball video games has come a long way. Official roster updates are now the norm, and while there are complaints about their quality, they at least add new content to the game, and update modes where custom rosters can’t be used. We no longer have to petition the developers to create bug fixes, and it’s much easier to provide feedback about errors that arise. Modern NBA Live and NBA 2K titles do have their problems, but we’re more likely to see resolutions, as well as content updates that keep them fresh throughout the year.

This wasn’t always the case, especially on consoles. Before the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 era, patches and updates were mostly a perk of PC releases. Even then, they weren’t as plentiful or detailed as they are now. There were a lot of errors that we just had to put up with, as there was no way that they were going to be fixed until the next game came out; assuming they didn’t become legacy issues, of course! Mind you, even when games did receive official patches, they would sometimes introduce new errors that were never followed up on with further fixes. Some of these errors were just cosmetic, some we could fix ourselves, but all were annoying in their own way.

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Monday Tip-Off: Rest in Peace, Kobe Bryant

Monday Tip-Off: Rest in Peace, Kobe Bryant

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a tribute to the late and legendary Kobe Bryant.

Depending on where you are in the world, the week was ending or just getting started when you heard the tragic news that Kobe Bryant had been killed in a helicopter crash in California. Following unfounded rumours and speculation, we eventually learned that his daughter Gianna, and seven other people, also lost their lives in the accident. It’s been difficult to process the news. Words like “surreal” feel so cliché at a time like this, but they’re nevertheless apt. Social media timelines and NBA broadcasts have been filled with grief and tributes since the terrible news broke.

I too feel compelled to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant, now that I’m past the initial shock. However, I will admit that I was hesitant to forego my planned column in favour of this one. I didn’t want it to be in poor taste, to come across as an opportunistic content creator who’s just trying to get clicks and attention by talking about a topical tragedy. Ultimately, I decided that I wouldn’t let cynicism deter me. Whether you cheered for him or against him, Kobe Bryant was one of the greatest players in league history, carving out a remarkable legacy in the real NBA and on the virtual hardwood alike. It’s only appropriate to pay tribute to him as we all mourn this awful turn of events.

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The Friday Five: 5 False Memories in Basketball Gaming (Part 2)

The Friday Five

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 more examples of false memories of basketball games.

A lot of people don’t want the truth to get in the way of a good story. Many others simply don’t have as good of a memory as they believe they do. Let’s face it: most of us have remembered something incorrectly at one time, particularly when it comes to video games (basketball or otherwise). As I said in my previous Friday Five article on this topic, there are plenty of reasons for this: rumours and urban legends that just refuse to go away, fuzzy memories of games we haven’t played for many years, or forgetting that something was the result of a mod and not in the game by default.

This week, I’m taking a look at five more examples of false memories in basketball gaming, while once again trying to get to the bottom of how those faulty recollections came about. Sometimes it’s the aforementioned lapses in memory, or changes made by mods being remembered as default features. Other times, it’s the result of technical limitations. Less benignly, it may be deliberate misinformation, or at the very least, exaggeration to make a point that results in the truth getting mixed up with hyperbole. Whatever the case may be, we’re left with false memories of basketball games, and I’ve got five more examples that I’d like to debunk today.

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Monday Tip-Off: 2019 Year in Review

Monday Tip-Off: 2019 Year in Review

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a look back at the year that was 2019 in basketball gaming, and our community here at the NLSC.

We’re at the start of a new week, but a couple of days away from the end of the year, not to mention a decade. Given the timing, I’ve decided to use this week’s Monday Tip-Off to reflect on the past twelve months, just as I did last year. Although this isn’t The Friday Five, I will be using a similar format on this occasion, as I’d like to take the opportunity to spotlight some of my favourite content from the past year, and discuss various aspects of the hobby under their own subheadings. If you’ve missed out on any of these features, I’ll be linking to them so that you can check them out.

Overall, it’s been another successful year here at the NLSC. Our modding community is still productive, and we’ve been able to do some fun things with our content. We expect to be around for some time yet, and basketball gaming itself is still thriving. There have been some ups and downs as there always are, and that does leave us with a few issues that we need to deal with moving forward. However, I’m confident that we can come together as a community and work out appropriate solutions. Without any further ado, here are my reflections on the final year of the 2010s, and an editor’s pick of articles, podcasts, and other features that I’m particularly proud of.

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The Friday Five: 5 Landmark Basketball Games of the 2010s

The Friday Five

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 basketball games that were landmark releases during the 2010s.

It’s the final Friday Five of 2019, and indeed, the final Friday Five of the decade! As the 2010s draw to a close and a new generation looms on the horizon, it feels like a good time to reflect on the decade that was in basketball gaming. Originally, I was going to compile a Top 5 countdown of the best basketball games of the decade, but it’s difficult not to omit some worthy candidates in a list of five. It’s also potentially a very boring countdown, given NBA 2K’s dominance and NBA Live’s struggles over the past ten years. The more I thought about it, the less appealing the idea became.

As such, I’ve decided to talk about landmark releases, as there have been a handful of those during the 2010s. That may sound like a distinction without a difference, but to me, a landmark game doesn’t necessarily need to be one of the best or the absolute pinnacle of its genre; just one that had a great impact and was very influential. Of course, there is some overlap as the games I’m listing here are great releases and could be candidates for a “Best Basketball Games of the Decade” countdown, but the point is that wherever you rank them, there’s no denying their importance and effect. These games represent important milestones in basketball gaming over the past decade.

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Wayback Wednesday: Christmas on the Virtual Hardwood

Wayback Wednesday: Christmas on the Virtual Hardwood

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 Christmas content in basketball video games.

Merry Christmas and Season’s Greetings, basketball gamers! I hope you’re enjoying the festive season, and are looking forward to some of the marquee games that are set to tip off this Christmas Day. Since this week’s Wayback Wednesday has fallen on Christmas Day itself, I thought it would be fun to look back at how the occasion has been celebrated on the virtual hardwood. After all, a lot of video games have included Christmas content as Easter eggs – if that’s not too ironic a turn of phrase – and there are even seasonal games, such as the classic Holiday Lemmings.

Basketball games tend to have a more straightforward approach to the matter, but there’s still some interesting history with the virtual hardwood and the holiday season. With that in mind, and in the spirit of the season, let’s deck the halls, rock around the Christmas tree, and take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: The Difficulty of Going Back

Monday Tip-Off: The Difficulty of Going Back

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a few thoughts on the increasing difficulty of going back to an older basketball title.

Recently, I looked into producing a couple of ideas that I’d been kicking around for Wayback Wednesday for some time: going back and finishing 100 Challenges in NBA Live 15’s Ultimate Team, and finishing 50 Challenges in NBA Live 16 LUT. Once the NBA Live 15 server shutdown was announced, I knew that I’d have to get onto the first idea as soon as possible, as it would no longer be doable once online support ended. I drafted the introduction to the piece, fired up NBA Live 15, and started a game. I was intent on making a feature out of some unfinished business.

Only, that’s as far as I was able to get. I couldn’t finish the game, and after taking a glance at NBA Live 16, I likewise decided against going ahead with those features. Granted, it was partly due to calculating how much time it was going to take and deciding that it’d be too many hours of repetitive play that I could be spending on other projects. It was doable of course, as long as I put in the time every day before the shutdown, but the prospect wasn’t appealing. I came to the realisation that it was no longer as easy to go back and play old games, compared to previous generations. For me at least, there’s just too much difficulty in going back for an extended time.

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