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Wayback Wednesday

Wayback Wednesday: Reimagining The Jordan Challenge

Reimagining The Jordan Challenge in NBA 2K11

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 reimagining The Jordan Challenge in NBA 2K11.

The Jordan Challenge was a significant milestone in basketball gaming. In celebrating the career of Michael Jordan, it achieved what once seemed impossible: adding actual retro teams, rather than just a collection of Legends on Decade All-Star squads. Retro teams would be established as the norm, and the mode also paved the way for NBA’s Greatest the following year in NBA 2K12. The Jordan Challenge is a mode that I’ve profiled in a Wayback Wednesday feature, as well as gone back and finished. It’s a lot of fun, and a great achievement in one of the best NBA 2K titles.

With that being said, The Jordan Challenge isn’t perfect. As I’ve previously noted, the ten challenges do lack variety. Three of them are set in the 1990 season, recycling the 1990 Chicago Bulls and taking up spots that could’ve gone to other memorable games from MJ’s career. It doesn’t ruin the mode, but looking back, the inability to license certain players did limit it somewhat. With that in mind, I’m doing something a little different for this week’s Wayback Wednesday, and reimagining The Jordan Challenge with some additional and alternative games. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: A Long-Lost NBA Live 07 Preview

Dirk Nowitzki shoots a three-pointer in NBA Live 07

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 an NBA Live 07 preview that we had to pull due to spoilers.

The NBA Finals often brings us our first glimpse of the upcoming sim titles, though for the moment, both EA Sports and Visual Concepts are remaining tight-lipped. I’ve previously reflected on how the preview seasons seemed longer and more exciting in years gone by, and that was certainly the case in the mid 2000s. Back then, a lot of sites (including the NLSC) were on a mailing list for preview assets from EA. As the 2006 NBA Finals began, we received a press release detailing a simulation of the series in NBA Live 07, some prior gen screenshots, and new gen gameplay.

Unfortunately, we then received a directive from EA Sports that the feature and all of the media needed to be immediately pulled, as they contained something that wasn’t meant to be seen yet. As such, it would be a few weeks before we received any media that we could publish, and that 2006 Finals simulation in NBA Live 07 was lost to time. It’s something I’ve kept in my archives though, and since the Finals are upon us, it seems like a good time to bring it out of the vault. So, what was the result of the simulation, and why was the feature pulled? Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: The Lost Retro Teams

Bulls vs Blazers in NBA 2K11

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 retro teams that we’ve lost in NBA 2K.

It’s easy to take the retro teams in NBA 2K for granted. They’ve been a staple of the games since the introduction of The Jordan Challenge back in NBA 2K11, to the point where a lot of gamers no longer consider them bonus content; they’re something we expect to see in the games. There was a time, however, when it didn’t seem likely due to the hurdle of likeness rights. Indeed, a few years before 2K made it a reality, EA Sports made some preliminary steps towards including retro teams in NBA Live 08, ultimately scrapping the idea when they couldn’t license all of the players.

While it does seem like the concept of retro teams is here to stay – and there are plenty of ideas for new ones that could be added – not all of the previously included squads remain in NBA 2K. Over the years, a total of ten retro teams have been cut after being included in at least one game, though four of them would be replaced by a squad from around the same era. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: NBA Live 2003 Soundtrack

NBA Live 2003 Soundtrack: Get Live

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 NBA Live 2003 soundtrack.

Music is an integral part of video games, no matter the genre. It creates atmosphere, pumps you up to play, and forges a connection with gamers. As such, it’s no surprise that a game’s soundtrack becomes a significant part of our nostalgia, leading us to seek out tracks on YouTube or Spotify, or contributing to the rush we feel when we fire up an old favourite once again. Many games have brought us original scores that have subsequently become iconic, but the inclusion of licensed songs has led to a lot of debates about the best soundtracks in video games.

That debate has naturally produced a variety of answers when it comes to basketball games, but there’s one playlist in particular that a lot of gamers mention: the NBA Live 2003 soundtrack. Many of its tracks have come to be associated with the game, and the album release was certified platinum, a first for a video game score. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: The Original NBA Jam

NBA Jam Arcade Title Screen

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 original NBA Jam with an overdue retrospective.

It occurred to me that although I’ve been running these Wayback Wednesday features since 2015, I’ve yet to cover the original NBA Jam, released by Midway in 1993. I’ve talked a lot about its sequel, NBA Jam Tournament Edition, and even covered its spiritual predecessor, Arch Rivals, but I haven’t profiled the famous game that tipped off an iconic series (and indeed, an entire subgenre of basketball gaming). That’s partly because NBA Jam TE is one of my all-time favourite games, but it’s about time that I fill in the gaps and talk about the original.

As an undisputed classic, it’s difficult to say anything about NBA Jam that someone else hasn’t already said. However, it’s too fun, too amazing, and simply too important in the history of basketball gaming for me not to discuss it in a Wayback Wednesday feature. It brought us Fire, shattered backboards, and the legendary commentary of Tim Kitzrow…it’s NBA Jam! Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: NBA Live Picture Editor

No Portrait Available Texture (NBA Live Picture Editor)

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 NBA Live Picture Editor, a tool for modding portraits in NBA Live 95, 96, and 97.

For a veteran modder, there’s something really fun and satisfying in breaking out the tools to edit an old game. The nostalgia in doing so is comparable to dusting off an old favourite to play it, as memories of all those hours tinkering come flooding back. I indulged in that nostalgia a month ago when I revamped a couple of my mods for one of my all-time favourite basketball games, NBA Live 96. Although I was satisfied to finally complete some unfinished business, particularly with the Complete Update for the 2001 season, I didn’t have time to do any work on the portraits.

Editing portraits in NBA Live 95, NBA Live 96, and NBA Live 97 is done using a tool called the NBA Live Picture Editor. Co-developed by two of our founders, Tim and Brien, it’s a nifty tool that wasn’t put to use all that often for public releases. As such, it’s somewhat overlooked in the history of our modding community. It’s worth remembering though, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: The Little Things That I Miss

Unlockable Developers in NBA Live 98

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 some of the little things in old basketball games that I miss.

In 2019, we have an interesting relationship with nostalgia. It’s popular to indulge in it, but in recent years, there’s also been a significant backlash against reminiscing about the past and holding it in high esteem. The argument is often distilled into “old heads that can’t get over their nostalgia filter” vs “clueless kids who don’t understand the concept of recency bias“. The conversation is further muddied when it comes to video games, because advances in technology have undeniably led to improvements over the years. Of course, there have also been undesirable changes and missteps.

These Wayback Wednesday features are obviously about celebrating nostalgia, but I also feel it’s important to appraise how well games and their mechanics hold up, as well as make comparisons to other titles from the same era. I have a lot of fun doing that, and it’s always interesting to revisit old favourites. It’s given me an appreciation of ideas that were ahead of their time, and how far basketball video games have come. There are things that are best left in the past, but I’ve also encountered a lot of little things that I miss, and that’s what I’m discussing today. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: The PDA in NBA Live’s Dynasty Mode

PDA in NBA Live 2005's Dynasty Mode

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 PDA feature in NBA Live’s old Dynasty modes.

I’m keen to see NBA Live flesh out its franchise mode experience again. Not only is it a necessity as far as delivering a well-rounded game, but I’ve spent many, many fond hours with Franchise and Dynasty modes in older NBA Live titles. NBA Live was the first basketball game with an in-depth multi-season mode, and it continued to expand through its revamp into Dynasty. NBA 2K has obviously taken the experience much further with Association, MyLEAGUE, and MyGM, but during NBA Live’s strong run back in the mid 2000s, many of us were really enjoying Dynasty’s advancements.

Of course, not every new idea was a good one. The revamp into Dynasty mode took away the ability to control more than one team, and some of the staff development mechanics over the years have felt more video game than sim. However, perhaps the most problematic and annoying feature was the PDA, which made its debut in NBA Live 2005’s Dynasty mode. As with most other concepts that didn’t pan out, it did have some merit, but the drawbacks outnumbered or outweighed the benefits. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: The History of Jumpshots in Video Games

Kevin Durant shoots over Nicolas Batum (NBA 2K14)

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 jumpshots in basketball video games.

Jumpshots are a basic staple of basketball, and one of the most common ways of scoring; especially in the modern era. With that in mind, it’s strange that they used to be one of the weaker aspects of the mechanics in basketball video games. In the early days of basketball gaming, jumpshots were nowhere near as reliable as they should have been. I even remember a strategy guide for NBA Live 96 basically advising against taking jumpshots and in particular long two-pointers, citing that they had all of the difficulty and risk of three-pointers, without the added reward of an extra point.

Thinking back on it now, that advice actually predicted the rise of analytics, as well as disdain for shooting from midrange. Of course, while opting for shots right at the rim or from beyond the arc and eschewing the midrange is all about efficiency in the modern NBA, in old school basketball video games, it was about effectiveness. Until the mechanics were properly developed, taking a jumpshot – even a wide open ten footer along the baseline – was unrealistically risky on the virtual hardwood. You can call this piece The History of Jumpshots in Video Games (Or, Why Shot Meters Are Important). Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: The Evolution of MyCOURT

Lodge MyCOURT in NBA 2K17

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 evolution of MyCOURT in NBA 2K’s MyCAREER.

When MyCOURT was first announced for NBA 2K15, it struck me as a gimmicky premise that wasn’t really worth getting excited about. In all fairness, my reaction was partly due to NBA 2K14 souring me on MyCAREER after really enjoying the mode in NBA 2K13, but even putting that aside, it sounded like a superfluous feature that was banking on 2K’s ever expanding “My” branding. As it turned out, MyCOURT has proven to be both a visually appealing hub for MyCAREER, and a means to get a hang of your player, try out custom jumpshots, and play some fun games.

Even as MyCAREER has adopted The Neighborhood as its primary game hub, our MyCOURT remains an important part of the game world. It’s also been revamped and renovated since its debut in NBA 2K15, with some cool designs and new mini-games. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Revamped NBA Live 96 Mods

Editing the 2001 Season Roster for NBA Live 96

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 doing something a little different, and releasing revamped mods for NBA Live 96.

As I mentioned in my retrospective for NBA Live 96, the PC version is one of my all-time favourite games. It’s the version that I played the most, the first NBA Live that I owned on PC, and the game that led me to discover the NLSC, years before I came to run it. After discovering the tools that Tim, Lutz, and Brien had made, I spent quite a bit of time modding the game. It’s something I went back to for our 20th Anniversary of NBA Live content, when I created the Definitive NBA Live 96 mod.

Feeling like I had a bit of unfinished business with the game, I’ve gone back and made a few updates to the Definitive NBA Live 96 mod. I’ve also gone back and finished the Complete Update mod, which updates the game as of the 2001 season. The latter is a mod that I never finished as NBA Live 2001 came out while I was still updating it, and I thought it would be fun to finish it off for a Wayback Wednesday feature. You can download the two mods at those links, but I wanted to share a few thoughts as I went back to do some modding…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: TV Sports Basketball

TV Sports Basketball Pre-Game Intro

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 Cinemaware’s TV Sports Basketball, released in 1990.

Cinemaware is a name that may ring a bell for older gamers, but is likely unfamiliar to the younger crowd. That’s because like so many other early game developers who went bankrupt by the 90s, they only exist as a brand and library of releases that has since been purchased by another company; in this case, Swedish game developer and publisher, Starbreeze. Cinemaware made some fine games in their day, and as with many other titles from the early days of video games, it’s fortunate that they’ve been preserved and made available through another company purchasing their assets.

The Cinemaware game that I grew up playing had nothing to do with basketball. It was their first game, a medieval action strategy title called Defender of the Crown. As with many of Cinemaware’s releases, it found its way onto several platforms, with the NES version being the one I own. Until I picked up the Cinemaware Anthology on Steam at Kenny’s suggestion, I had no idea that they also released a basketball game for Amiga and MS-DOS in 1990: TV Sports Basketball. I enjoy discovering these old basketball games that I missed out on at the time and checking them out to see what they had to offer, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Livin’ Da Dream in NBA 2K16

Livin Da Dream Title Screen (NBA 2K16)

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 Livin’ Da Dream, the MyCAREER story in NBA 2K16.

Career modes have come a long way since they were essentially franchise modes with player lock. The concept has continued to evolve this generation, with MyCAREER pioneering the use of in-depth stories to accompany the gameplay experience. This hasn’t been to everyone’s liking – indeed, I’ve been critical of the approach on more than one occasion – but there’s no denying that a tremendous amount of work has gone into the production values of MyCAREER stories. 2K has also brought big names on board to bolster both the writing and performances of the tales told in MyCAREER.

After telling the story of competing with Jackson Ellis in NBA 2K14 and enlisting the help of several NBA players to voice themselves in cutscenes mentoring your player in NBA 2K15, 2K went all out in NBA 2K16. They brought in acclaimed (and now Academy Award-winning) director Spike Lee to develop a story for the mode that allows gamers to live out their dreams of playing in the NBA. That theme gave the story its title – Livin’ Da Dream – and it was a significant milestone in the continuing evolution of MyCAREER. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: A Mistake Unnoticed in Over 20 Years

Kevin Edwards Credit in Attract Mode (NBA Jam TE PC)

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 a mistake in the PC version of NBA Jam Tournament Edition that I haven’t noticed in over twenty years.

As I’ve mentioned on several occasions, NBA Jam Tournament Edition is one of my all-time favourite basketball games. While I own the game on both Super Nintendo and PC, I’ve always been partial to the latter. It’s the version that I played the most, and I have many fond memories of playing the game with my cousin. One school holidays, we spent a lot of time playing with and against every single team, beating everyone to unlock all the secret players, and challenging ourselves to hit statistical milestones. For a while, it was a fixture of our basketball gaming rotation.

That’s why it’s so strange that I’ve never noticed a certain mistake in the game in over twenty years of playing it. While playing as the New Jersey Nets for the No Threes Challenge, I noticed that Kevin Edwards actually has Blue Edwards’ portrait. I knew about both players and what they looked like, basically from the time I started playing NBA Jam TE, so it’s really odd that it’s never clicked until now. I thought that I’d see if I could delve into the issue further, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: NBA Jam TE No Threes Challenge

No Threes Challenge in NBA Jam TE PC

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 on another challenge in NBA Jam TE for PC, namely the No Threes Challenge.

Since I enjoyed dusting off the PC version of NBA Jam Tournament Edition to take on last week’s All Threes Challenge, I decided to immediately follow it up with the complete opposite: the No Threes Challenge! This time, the goal is to win a game without hitting a single three-pointer; an easier task than in most of the sim titles, but potentially tough because of the way the CPU prevents inside shots with blocks and shoves. This won’t be a hit with analytics enthusiasts, but I’m going to give it a try anyway, using the New Jersey Nets. Let’s go back for a challenge…way back…

Once again, I’m open to suggestions for further retro basketball gaming challenges, be they for NBA Jam TE or another title (provided of course I have access to the game in question). I’m also open to ideas for Wayback Wednesday retrospectives, so if you’ve got a challenge in mind or something you’d like me to cover in this nostalgic weekly feature, let me know in the comments below. Also feel free to share any stories of your own self-imposed challenges on the virtual hardwood! I hope you enjoyed going Wayback with me, and a reminder to please subscribe to the NLSC YouTube channel for more video content.

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