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Wayback Wednesday: International Cover Players

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 the history of international cover players for various basketball video games.

Cover players are an aspect of basketball gaming that has become more important over time. The player on the box and the title screen may not always have much of an impact on the game beyond pre-order cosmetic items in career modes and a card in the team building modes, but they’re nevertheless a talking point. After all, the reveal of the cover player generally signifies the beginning of a new game’s preview season, tipping off weeks and months of discussion about what we’re hoping to see from an upcoming release.

As basketball games have increased in popularity, cover players have become selling points and an indication of a game’s brand strength, if not necessarily its quality. Both EA Sports and 2K Sports have sought to appeal to local markets with regional covers that feature a player from the country in question (or in a pinch, have some connection with said nation). They’ve resulted in the international editions of games becoming collector’s items due to their novelty, and are of course interesting trivia notes. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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The Friday Five: 5 Team Changes That Drastically Impacted 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 players whose team changes drastically impacted basketball video games.

There’s a reason that many basketball fans enjoy the NBA offseason almost as much as the regular season and Playoffs. All of the movement, all of the team changes that we inevitably see, are exciting to read and talk about. Will a blockbuster trade or big signing be the difference that helps a team to get over the hump? Won’t it be strange to see a player wearing a different jersey this year, especially after spending most (or all) of their career with their former team? After particularly crazy offseasons, we’re all eager to see just how much the league will be shaken up.

Needless to say, these team changes also affect the licensed NBA video games. After all, we’ll see those new rosters in the forthcoming games, and when the face of the real NBA changes, so does the experience on the virtual hardwood. All player moves contribute to that feeling of change, but some players unquestionably have a bigger impact than others. They’re the ones that shift the balance of power, making teams far more popular to play with, and more difficult to play against. Their impact can also reach much further, affecting a game’s branding and even influencing which teams appear in a demo. These players’ team changes have been among the most impactful.

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Wayback Wednesday: Players I Remember Because of Video Games (Part 4)

Wayback Wednesday: Players I Remember Because of Video Games (Part 4)

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.

It’s time for Part 4 in an ongoing series for Wayback Wednesday, in which I take a look back at players that I remember thanks to basketball gaming. I’ve joked about it a few times before in articles and on the NLSC Podcast, but I can’t remember a single thing about quadratic equations or pretty much anything else I learned in high school maths. However, I can still recall the “dunk from anywhere” code for NBA Jam Tournament Edition on SNES, the location of bonus barrels and DK coins in Donkey Kong Country 2 and 3, and a ton of quotes from classic episodes of The Simpsons.

Oh, and a bunch of lesser known NBA players from the 90s and 2000s. I may have also seen them play in real games, and basketball cards have also played a role in helping certain players to stand out in my mind, but playing video games (and in particular, creating roster updates for them) is what truly embedded them into my memory. As I said, I’ve got another list of ten players to share today, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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The Friday Five: 5 Hilarious-in-Hindsight Moments in 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 moments in basketball video games that are hilarious in hindsight, for one reason or another.

I’ve grown fond of saying that basketball games serve as time capsules, preserving snapshots of the league when they were released. It’s something that I believe, and it’s one of the things that make dusting off old titles fun. Scrolling through all the teams and looking at the rosters, you’re reminded of the forgotten stints of journeymen and stars alike, lineups that had so much promise but never panned out, and players who were pegged as being future stars. As I’ve said, basketball games become interactive almanacs of sorts, as they mark NBA milestones.

That’s not all they do, however. Sometimes they can seemingly predict the future, with the virtual hardwood suggesting unexpected events that actually come to pass in real life. Of course, other occurrences are clearly not prophesising the future, which underscores how it’s easy to call something a prediction in hindsight. Coincidences are amusing to note however, as are details that age poorly or become ironic when we look back at them. In either case, these moments found in various basketball video games become hilarious-in-hindsight – or at the very least, good for a smirk or a chuckle – and to that end, I have five examples to share with you today.

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Wayback Wednesday: Cover Players Who Changed Teams

Wayback Wednesday: Cover Players Who Changed Teams

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 cover players who changed teams not long after they made those appearances.

The choice of cover players is an aspect of basketball gaming that has become a bigger talking point since the early days of the hobby. The earliest NBA licensed basketball games tended to use photographs featuring a handful of players. Even in the late 90s, not all titles featured a single cover player, and more than a couple of cover players weren’t among the league’s elite. Since then, landing a big star has become an essential part of a game’s branding, and cover players have also influenced bonus content, including special game modes.

Sports game covers in general have their own lore and trivia. The infamous “Madden Curse” has been used to describe a string of misfortune suffered by NFL players who have appeared on the game’s cover. Basketball games have generally avoided such superstition, though a handful of players haven’t been so lucky. Arguably, it’s been their teams who’ve had the bad run of luck, as several cover players have ended up moving on not too long after becoming the face of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other titles. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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The Friday Five: 5 Basketball Gaming Suggestions for Social Distancing

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 suggests five basketball gaming ideas that you might want to try while social distancing.

These are definitely unusual and concerning times, as the world at large deals with COVID-19. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy, taking the proper precautions as far as hygiene and social distancing are concerned, and that everything works out with your employment, schooling, housing, and so on. I also want to commend and thank the healthcare workers around the world who are doing an amazing job caring for patients during these difficult times. If I may borrow and paraphrase a quote from M*A*S*H, if you ask me, you’re all supermen (and women).

Obviously, there are more pressing matters in the world than basketball video games right now. At the same time, many of us are naturally spending a lot of time at home, and looking to occupy our days with leisure activities, gaming being one of them. To that end, I thought that I’d offer up some suggestions if you’re looking to hit the virtual hardwood while you’re social distancing. With the depth of modern basketball games, we’re able to sink a lot of time into them. As for older releases, at this point there are several great titles to dust off for some retro gaming. If basketball gaming is on your agenda while you’re social distancing, here are some ways to stay entertained.

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The Friday Five: 5 Outdated Details in 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 outdated details in basketball games.

It’s difficult for basketball video games not to include a few outdated details at launch. Roster cut-off dates mean that a game’s lineups will be at least slightly out of date by the time we get our hands on it. Obviously all games are eventually outdated as new players enter the league, returning players change teams, and teams introduce new branding. Mind you, it would be a rather short and uninteresting article if I simply said all hoops games have outdated details and left it at that. It would make for a decent April Fools gag, though.

Since April 1st has been and gone this year, and fell on a Wednesday besides, I’ll go ahead and compile a proper list. I will however avoid including any outdated details related to rosters since as I noted they’re inevitable, and often fixed through official updates. I’m also excluding old games that launched with previous season rosters, as well as lockout-affected titles. Instead, I’m focusing on other outdated details that were noteworthy at release, or in some cases, details that quickly became outdated due to events that occurred post-launch. They’re not necessarily game-breaking issues, of course, but they nevertheless stand out as interesting trivia notes.

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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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