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Monday Tip-Off

Monday Tip-Off: Hey, That Meme Looks Familiar!

Monday Tip-Off: Hey, That Meme Looks Familiar!

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some reflections on encountering a familiar image in a meme, and other moments of recognition.

It’s good advice to be careful about what you put out there on the internet. We’re not always as anonymous as we think, and poor behaviour can come back to haunt us. In general, it’s prudent to exercise caution in sharing personal information and even photos, as it can compromise one’s safety. It’s something to keep in mind when you’re a content creator, even in a niche community. Someone with an axe to grind may be petty enough to use it to directly harass you, or talk trash about you elsewhere online. I’ve encountered both during my time running the NLSC.

On a lighter note, when it comes to the content you create for one and all to see, you never know where it will end up. It’s both exciting and humbling when something gains traction, as my article on the Rising Cost of MyCAREER did last year, or when your work is referenced, as a WhatCulture video did with a post about NBA Elite 11. On the other hand, it’s funny when parts of your content end up being recycled, or shared outside of the original context. In particular, I’ve seen some of my screenshots show up in other articles, or on social media. And, speaking of the latter, there’s one familiar screenshot that has been used in a meme shared by several accounts.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Community, Or The Wrong Parts of It?

Monday Tip-Off: The Community, Or The Wrong Parts of It?

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some thoughts on blaming the entire basketball gaming community for changes and additions that only a vocal minority asked for.

Even though everyone in the basketball gaming community shares a common passion, we’re not always on the same page. We’re divided along several lines: mode of choice, online or offline gaming, ideal controls and mechanics, how much realism the games should have, and so on. This makes it impossible for anyone to speak on behalf of the entire community, and no one person’s vision alone is right for basketball gaming. In turn, developers have many voices to listen to – some offering up conflicting feedback – and so are guaranteed to disappoint a contingent of the fanbase with certain choices.

While we collectively understand that, in our disappointment and indeed our outrage, it’s difficult to accept. When we’re disappointed and angry – whether it’s about video games or anything in life – we want to lay blame. We point the finger at developers, the suits, and even ourselves. In all three cases, that blame isn’t entirely misplaced. However, when it comes to blaming ourselves, we’re talking about a much larger group; a group that has less control than the other two, and is less likely to be wholly in agreement. As such, when we blame what we see as an undesirable aspect of NBA 2K on the community, we’re often pointing the finger at the wrong parts of it.

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Monday Tip-Off: Could College Basketball Be EA Sports’ Niche?

Monday Tip-Off: Could College Basketball Be EA Sports Niche?

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with my thoughts on the prospect of EA Sports using college basketball as a springboard for their return to the virtual hardwood.

Excluding the mobile version of NBA Live, we haven’t seen a new basketball video game from EA Sports since 2018. There was time when such a thing seemed like an unthinkable prospect. Sure, NBA Live had had a rough release here or there, and NBA 2K steadily rose to become the premier brand by the end of the 2000s. We still expected a basketball game from EA, though; two in fact! With the NCAA series ending in 2009, and NBA Live missing several years beginning with the cancellation of NBA Elite 11, we’ve grown accustomed to their hoops titles being benched.

Not everyone has a problem with that. For some gamers, it’s EA Sports’ just deserts after failing to develop a satisfactory basketball title, or perhaps moving away from the PC platform (or indeed, both). I do understand that sentiment. However, for all the good things that NBA 2K has done, we’ve seen the downside of 2K having a virtual monopoly over the virtual hardwood. Unfortunately, while there would be a benefit to competition and choice in the space, NBA Live has not been able to deliver and be that viable alternative. With that in mind, eschewing the NBA in favour of a new college basketball game could prove to be EA Sports’ best move at this juncture.

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Monday Tip-Off: Mentoring Terry Hanson & Making a Star

Monday Tip-Off: Mentoring Terry Hanson & Making a Star

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with tales of mentoring Terry Hanson, and trying to turn him into a star in my NBA 2K14 MyCAREER.

I’ve always enjoyed generated rookies in franchise modes, and later career modes as well. While NBA 2K’s franchise modes have allowed for custom Draft Classes – and this customisation is important to have – I personally prefer fictional players as the years progress. They become Virtual Hardwood Legends in our save files, weaving stories of Hall of Famers, breakout stars, and unfortunate busts. We can do that with actual NBA players too, of course, but generated rookies are a blank slate with no real world comparisons. We can completely indulge our imaginations with them.

Terry Hanson is a generated rookie in Year 3 of my NBA 2K14 MyCAREER, a game that I just can’t get enough of right now. To date, I’ve done all the things that all of us always do in the NBA side of MyCAREER. I’ve set records, averaged a triple-double, and won championships. I’ve levelled up my MyPLAYER, maxing out at 97 Overall, as was the case with some builds in NBA 2K14. I’ve turned my avatar into an All-Star and punched his ticket to Springfield when the time comes to hang it up. Inevitably, if we play NBA MyCAREER long enough, we’ll fulfil a destiny of superstardom that’s at the heart of the story. Now I’m writing a new chapter: making Terry Hanson a star.

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Monday Tip-Off: Choose Your Own Adventure

Monday Tip-Off: Choose Your Own Adventure

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with my thoughts on how basketball video game modes can sometimes limit your ability to choose your own adventure.

When I discussed playing through a second season in NBA 2K14’s MyCAREER and my enthusiasm for embarking on a third campaign, I mentioned that I would have some decisions to eventually make. Right now, I’m enjoying being a member of the virtual Philadelphia 76ers in the 2016 season, coming off back-to-back titles and a triumphant rise to superstardom. However, I can never rule out the possibility of playing for another team, with the Chicago Bulls being a prime candidate. If nothing else, I’d appreciate seeing some new uniforms from game to game!

However, moving on in NBA 2K14’s MyCAREER isn’t as easy as it is in later games. Glancing at my rookie contract, it may be a while before I’m able to pursue any other career opportunities outside of the City of Brotherly Love. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it’s based on reality. At the same time, it gets in the way of that “choose your own adventure” aspect of role-playing in basketball video games. It’s not the only mode that’s placed restrictions on how it can be played, and how much freedom you have to seek out desirable scenarios. This can be frustrating, yet also an interesting and challenging part of the single player career and franchise experiences alike.

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Monday Tip-Off: Fantasy Concepts In Sim Games

Monday Tip-Off: Fantasy Concepts In Sim Games

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with my thoughts on sim basketball games adopting fantasy concepts.

The concept of “sim” in basketball and sports gaming raises many questions. Just how much realism should a game strive for? For that matter, what is “sim”? Obviously it implies realism, but just how closely should it resemble reality? Does it mean accurate down to the last detail, or can it take some liberties for the sake of accessibility and enjoyment? It’s a balancing act that sim games have been attempting for decades now. From a gamer’s perspective, we can sometimes tailor the experience through the use of gameplay sliders, but they aren’t available in all modes.

Of course, when it comes to fantasy concepts in sim games, the issue goes beyond the action between the lines. Franchise modes are based on real aspects of the NBA, but they invite us to create our own reality with fictional results and player movement. When we place ourselves into the games to play out a career and participate in the connected online modes, it’s indulging a fantasy. Realism also goes out the window with the card collecting modes, where we can assemble fantasy lineups with players from different decades. Even the All-Time and All-Decade teams count as fantasy concepts in sim games! The question is: can we, or indeed should we, draw a line?

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Monday Tip-Off: My Basketball Video Game Collection (2022 Edition)

Monday Tip-Off: My Basketball Video Game Collection (2022 Edition)

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with a look at my basketball video game collection, as of 2022.

Back in March, I tweeted out a photo of my entire physical basketball video game collection, with some follow-up screenshots of the digital releases I own. I’m proud of my collection and satisfied in how I’ve been able to amass it, so I was pleased with the reception. While collecting is something that I do for my own enjoyment – and create content for the NLSC, of course – I was naturally hoping that my fellow hoops gamers would be impressed and get a kick out of the photo. I wanted it to inspire nostalgia, intrigue, and yes, a slight touch of good-natured envy. I’d say mission accomplished!

Given the old maxim of a picture being worth a thousand words, I could just leave it at those Tweets. However, I would like to talk a little more about my basketball video game collection, and provide a comprehensive listing as it’s impossible to get every title to be clearly visible in one photo. There are also a few digital releases that I didn’t display in my follow-up screenshots, including a couple I neglected to mention since they’re standalone releases and not on a digital platform such as Steam, Xbox Live, or the PSN Store. Finally, it’s been almost seven years since I wrote about my basketball video game collection, and I’ve been able to make some exciting additions since then.

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Monday Tip-Off: And The Adventure Continues…in NBA 2K14

Monday Tip-Off: And The Adventure Continues...in NBA 2K14

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with a look at how the adventure of my NBA 2K14 MyCAREER continues, and my future goals with the mode.

On the NLSC Podcast, Dee4Three observed that he hasn’t seen anyone warm up to a game as quickly and enthusiastically as I have with NBA 2K14. It’s a fair statement! There are other games that I’ve developed more of an appreciation for, but few of them have gone from “I accept it’s good, but it’s not for me” to “This is one of my all-time favourite games” the same way that NBA 2K14 has. I don’t know if it’s nostalgia for a era in the NBA I liked better, the fact that it’s one of the last games that came out when I was in my 20s, or my lukewarm reaction to NBA 2K22, but that’s how I feel.

Actually, that’s selling the game short. Those are definitely factors, of course, but the PlayStation 4/Xbox One version of NBA 2K14 was simply a tremendous game. I had my reasons for not playing it as much back in the day, but to that point, I’m making up for some lost time now. However, it’s surprising that I’m spending that time playing MyCAREER, given my burnout on the mode. I even titled my recap of getting into it last year as “One MyCAREER For The Road“, figuring that it would close the book on my interest in career mode play. Instead, I’ve found myself picking it up again. The adventure continues, and I honestly don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about that.

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Monday Tip-Off: Aiming For Stats & Records

Monday Tip-Off: Aiming For Stats & Records

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some thoughts on what it’s like when we aim for stats and records on the virtual hardwood.

Not to sound like a grumpy old man or anything, but there’s a big emphasis on stats and records in the NBA these days. That’s not to say they weren’t ever relevant, or something that fans and players alike never cared about. Wilt Chamberlain was very much aware of his stats and records, so this mentality predates the three-point era, let alone the past couple of generations. However, it does seem like everyone is obsessed with numbers these days – including rather obscure statistical achievements – to the point where actually winning games and even championships seems secondary.

It’s interesting how this mentality also applies to basketball gaming. Of course, we’ve long used hoops games to put up crazy numbers, leading to a big night for players in real life to be referred to as a “video game performance”. A handful of video games over the past couple of generations have even challenged us to put up stats and beat NBA records for Trophies and Achievements. The funny thing is that it’s not always easy to post ridiculous numbers on the virtual hardwood, or to replicate the feats of NBA greats and record holders. Also, while it’s fun to try alone, chasing records and stats can be a disastrous approach in online play, coming at the expense of winning.

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Monday Tip-Off: Shot Aiming Is A Hit & Miss Idea

Monday Tip-Off: Shot Aiming Is A Hit & Miss Idea

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some thoughts on shot aiming mechanics, and how they are a hit and miss idea; pun fully intended.

There’s been a lot of talk about the skill gap in NBA 2K in recent years, as you would expect with a greater emphasis on the online competitive scene. Much has been said about the need to separate the good from the great, the scrubs from the elite, and truly celebrate and reward stick skills on the virtual hardwood. Mind you, several gamers push back on the idea of proper matchmaking, so I do question how “competitive” the scene really is. Many of the mechanics that those gamers champion are likewise of questionable value when it comes to the skill gap, and overall quality of gameplay.

Shot aiming is a prominent and somewhat controversial example. On paper, it’s a good idea. It’s more skilful then simply pressing and holding a button, and one could argue that it’s trying to emulate actual basketball skills and technique. In practice, it’s seldom worked out as well as intended, and developers have ended up shelving the concept quite quickly each time it’s been attempted. I have some mixed feelings about shot aiming. I can see the logic behind the idea, but its repeated shortcomings leave me sceptical that it can truly work. Furthermore, I’m bothered by the elitism that it fosters, and the notion that any objections or criticism of it indicates a lack of skill.

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Monday Tip-Off: The Greed of Attribute Upgrades

Monday Tip-Off: The Greed of Attribute Upgrades

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with my candid thoughts on the greed involved with the attribute upgrades in NBA 2K’s MyCAREER.

So, you may have two questions. First, why am I still talking about MyCAREER when I’ve moved on from the mode? Second, do I think that I’m revealing some shocking truth here? To answer the first question, I am still playing the mode in NBA 2K14. Additionally, having spent many years playing MyCAREER, I have thoughts on how it can improve. I want it to be as good as it possibly can be for everyone who plays it, and I believe in advocating for my fellow gamers. If nothing else, if you’re feeling frustrated with the situation, it may help to know that you’re not alone.

That leads into the answer to the second question. Gamers – and not just basketball gamers, mind you – have a tendency to be temporarily outraged at injustices, only to quickly move on and seemingly forgive and forget; at least until the issue affects them once again. It’s important that we keep discussing these matters, and that we get to the heart of the issues. It’s no secret that all of the modes in NBA 2K that utilise Virtual Currency are a cash grab, because recurrent revenue mechanics are the major money-makers for publishers. I’ve previously discussed the rising cost of MyCAREER, but the greed goes beyond that when you realise attribute upgrades are now pointless.

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Monday Tip-Off: NBA 2K Has All The Leverage Over Cheesers

Monday Tip-Off: NBA 2K Has All The Leverage Over Cheesers

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with my thoughts on how NBA 2K has all of the leverage over cheesers, and should take advantage of that.

The December patch for NBA 2K22 Next Gen included an attempt to reduce cheese in the online scene. More specifically, it addressed exploits with quick left and right bursts – the infamous “zigzag cheese” – that has been contributing to a homogenised, unrealistic style of play. Needless to say, the cheesers weren’t pleased. There were more than a couple of angry comments, usually along the lines of how NBA 2K had been ruined, and that video games shouldn’t have to be realistic. It’s clear that a vocal contingent of online NBA 2K gamers are in favour of utilising cheesy tactics.

As someone who has been turned off the online scene due to its toxicity and style, and believes that a sim game should maintain a base level of realism and strategy, my response is: tough cheese! A truly competitive scene should facilitate different styles of play, and discourage easily repeatable exploits. Mastering a single move and then proceeding to spam it over and over again is hardly skilful. It certainly isn’t basketball either, and while there’s value in taking liberties with realism, a sim game should still be realistic at its core. That the developers have taken a stand against cheesers does suggest that they believe this as well, but to that end, it’s vital that they stand firm.

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Monday Tip-Off: Hacking MyCAREER in Older Games

Monday Tip-Off: Hacking MyCAREER in Older Games

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off by recounting the fun I’ve recently had with hacking MyCAREER in older games.

Here at the NLSC, our stance on hacking modes such as MyCAREER and MyTEAM has been the same as our policy on piracy: we don’t support it. Since we already walk a fine line with modding, we try to stay on the right side of both the law and our host’s terms of service, in order to avoid any unwanted repercussions. On top of that, there’s also the matter of fairness. While we can understand wanting to stick it to a Triple-A publisher by hacking MyCAREER or MyTEAM for content and in-game currencies, it’s also upsetting the competitive balance, and ruining things for your fellow gamers.

To that end, recounting my experiences hacking a MyCAREER save probably seems quite hypocritical. Here I am preaching fairness, while going against our own rules and community philosophy; talk about double standards! If you’re grumbling, I can appreciate where you’re coming from. However, there is a distinct difference between hacking to gain advantages in the connected modes of MyCAREER while the servers are still online, and messing around with an offline save years later. In fact, that’s a distinction that we can perhaps draw in our rules moving forward, because at a certain point, hacking MyCAREER for your own enjoyment does become fair game.

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Monday Tip-Off: 20 Classic Jerseys I Want to See in NBA 2K

Monday Tip-Off: 20 Classic Jerseys I Want to See in NBA 2K

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with suggestions for 20 classic jerseys that I’d like to see added in future NBA 2K games.

NBA 2K has an impressive array of classic jerseys. It’s yet another example of how the series has gone above and beyond with extra content, especially when compared to recent NBA Live titles. Of course, NBA Live once included a large range of classic jerseys, even bringing them back in NBA Live 10 after they fell by the wayside in the seventh generation releases. Unfortunately, recent NBA Lives have only included the throwbacks that will be worn on Hardwood Classics Nights during the season they’re set in. Conversely, NBA 2K’s selection of retro uniforms is extremely comprehensive.

With that being said, it’s definitely not complete. As of NBA 2K22, there are several classic jerseys that are still missing from the selection of retros. I’m not just talking about short-lived alternates or special event jerseys, though I’d certainly love to see them added as well. There are some prominent uniforms, including primary home and away jerseys, that haven’t yet been featured in NBA 2K. Now, the selection that we currently have is great, minor inaccuracies aside. Many eras are accounted for, and some teams are fairly close to complete, at least when it comes to primary uniforms. Nevertheless, I’d love to see future NBA 2K games add these 20 classic jerseys.

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Monday Tip-Off: Look Beyond What You See

Monday Tip-Off: Look Beyond What You See

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some advice to look beyond what you see when it comes to visuals on the virtual hardwood.

I’ll be honest: I never thought that I’d be quoting Rafiki in an article about basketball video games. The sentiment fits though, so hey, hakuna matata. As in the metaphor that’s repeated a few times during the course of The Lion King 1½, there’s value in looking beyond the superficial aspects of basketball video games. That’s not to say that graphics aren’t in any way important. They form our first impressions of a new title, and when a new generation launches, we do expect to see some sort of leap as far as the graphics are concerned.

As such, I’m not trying to dismiss criticism of – or downplay disappointment in – the graphics of NBA 2K on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X (or any other game, for that matter). However, there’s a reason we have a long-running gag on the NLSC Podcast about cancelling pre-orders if a new game doesn’t feature any shoelace physics. It’s easy for me to say because I grew up with games that look extremely primitive now, but we can get too caught up in visual details that are inconsequential in the long run. Whether critiquing a game or simply seeking to enjoy it, I’d suggest that you’ll gain far more valuable insights and satisfaction if you look beyond what you see.

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