Closure: The Unfinished NBA Live 2002 Franchise

Chris Webber in NBA Live 2002

As I said in my retrospective of NBA Live 2002, it’s a game that holds up a little better than I remembered. For all its flaws, for all the controversy that surrounded it as the first game in the NBA Live series not to be released on PC, it’s a game that I spent a lot of time with. Despite its problems, I can definitely say that I enjoyed playing it back in the day.

In fact, NBA Live 2002 actually produced one of my favourite basketball gaming experiences to date: a Franchise game with the Sacramento Kings. Unfortunately, as much fun as I was having playing through that first season – 82 games, twelve minutes quarters, of course – I never actually completed it. Needless to say, that save file is long gone, so there’s no chance of ever picking it up again. It’s a shame, because I was pretty close to the end of the regular season; close enough that it wouldn’t have hurt too much to sim through to the end, and then just play through the Playoffs.

When I went back and reflected upon my most memorable failed basketball gaming endeavours in The Friday Five, I mentioned that if I still had that save file for NBA Live 2002, I’d probably make some time to finish it off with a combination of simming and playing the remaining games. Well, the save file might be gone, but I still have NBA Live 2002, and an urge to do some fun stuff for the 20th Anniversary of NBA Live. You can probably see where this is going, so let’s not beat around the bush any longer. Join me as I gain some closure and finish what I started, with a helping hand from the simulation function!

Setting it all up

NBA Live 2002 Sacramento Kings Franchise Settings

As I fire up NBA Live 2002 on the PlayStation 2, I’m awash with nostalgia. The intro takes me back to my final year of high school, a time when basketball video games still had a long way to go, and dial-up Internet was still a thing. I’m reminded that at some point, I’m going to hear Swollen Members’ “Lady Venom”, a song that I have a love-hate relationship with. Looking at the in-game clips used in the intro, I can’t help but think that the people who say that the current NBA Live games have PS2-level graphics need to get their eyes checked, or at the very least, learn how to critique video games without hyperbole.

I don’t remember my exact record or the precise number of games I had left, but I believe that I was somewhere in the range of ten to twenty games away from the end of the regular season. I do know that I was ranked among the top teams in the Western Conference, battling the Los Angeles Lakers for first place. I also began my Franchise with default rosters, though I probably edited a couple of primary positions and some jersey numbers. It’s been a long time, and I don’t have anything written down.

Beginning a new Franchise Mode game with the Sacramento Kings, I select Simulation game style, Superstar difficulty, twelve minute quarters, 82 games, the 5-7-7-7 Playoff length, and I leave CPU initiated trades on. I can’t recall any major deals going down in the original Franchise; I opted not to make any moves myself, except minor alterations to my starting five from time to time. I therefore decide to set my lineup, and simulate right through until the end of the regular season. Saving the Franchise, just in case something goes terribly wrong and I need to take another shot at this, I begin the simulation.

Regular Season Simulation

Mike Bibby in NBA Live 2002

I get out to a hot start, with a 19-4 record through the first 23 games. At this point, the Dallas Mavericks offer me a trade of Steve Nash for Mike Bibby. Now, there’s no way that anyone these days would pass that up, but in the game, Bibby is an 81 Overall, while Nash is rated slightly lower at 80. For younger readers, as well as those who may not remember those days all that clearly, at the time Steve Nash was still on the cusp of becoming an All-Star; a “poor man’s John Stockton”, rather than an all-time great point guard in his own right. All the same, he probably should’ve been rated higher than Bibby.

It’s a moot point however, as my intention is to replicate my NBA Live 2002 Franchise as closely as possible, with the roster I actually used. And so, it’s with some regret that I decline an offer that no one in their right mind would pass up, knowing what they do now. Perhaps I’ll run another sim later, and pull the trigger on that trade if it’s offered to me again.

A few games later, with a record of 23-5, the Miami Heat offer me LaPhonso Ellis (80 Overall) for Bobby Jackson (78 Overall). Ellis is a solid veteran, but he’s at the end of his career. Jackson was entering his prime in 2002, and he’s my sixth man and backup point guard. Also, I’m sticking to the “script”, so once again I decline.

The offers keep coming: 79 Overall Joseph Forte for 77 Overall Hedo Turkoglu is pitched to me twice; 74 Overall A.J. Guyton for Brent Price; Ellis for Jackson, again; 77 Overall Anthony Carter for 81 Overall Mike Bibby (uh, no thanks); 77 Overall Shammond Williams for 75 Overall Mateen Cleaves; 77 Overall Keyon Dooling for Jackson; and 81 Overall Dikembe Mutombo for 83 Overall Vlade Divac. I turn them all down, and by the time the trade deadline rolls around, I’m 43-10.

The regular season ends with a 112-107 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, a troubling omen as the postseason looms. No shame in that though, as those Lakers did go on to win their third straight championship in real life (though not without controversy), and in the simulation, they’ve gone 68-14. Shaquille O’Neal was an absolute beast in NBA Live 2002, and in that old Franchise game, he’d dropped 71 and 56 points in two games against me. I actually remember feeling pleased that I’d “held” him to 56, after that 71 point outing. I wasn’t actually sure that I could beat them in the Playoffs, and as it stood, in this simulation they took the season series 3-1.

Peja Stojakovic in NBA Live 2002

While I elected not to make any trades, a few CPU teams made deals among themselves. The Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks swapped Brad Miller and Tim Hardaway. Toni Kukoc also returned to Chicago, who sent Eddie Robinson to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for him. Ellis also ended up joining him in the Windy City, as the Miami Heat traded him for Marcus Fizer. The Cleveland Cavaliers traded Desagana Diop to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Rasho Nesterovic.

Incredibly, the Washington Wizards acquired Dirk Nowitzki from the Dallas Mavericks for Richard Hamilton. Minnesota traded Anthony Peeler to the Denver Nuggets for Jason Richardson, whom they had somehow acquired from the Golden State Warriors; strangely, no trade between those teams is listed on the Transactions screen. In fact, glancing at the rosters, it appears that quite a few trades are missing from the list of transactions as well. Finally, the Heat traded Anthony Carter to the San Antonio Spurs for Antonio Daniels.

My 61-21 season was good for third in the West, behind the Lakers’ 68-14 record, and the Portland Trail Blazers, who went 62-20. The San Antonio Spurs actually had the second seed by virtue of winning the Midwest Division, with a comparatively lacklustre 48-34 record. The Orlando Magic topped the Eastern Conference with a 64-18 record, thanks to a healthy Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady. The New York Knicks were 62-20, though the Toronto Raptors nabbed the second seed, winning the Central Division with a 54-28 record. Despite MJ’s triumphant return and trading for Dirk, the Wizards finished ninth in the East at 35-47. Chicago and the newly relocated Memphis Grizzlies were tied for the worst record in the league, at 21-61.

With the Playoffs ready to tip off, I had a few decisions to make. How many games would I play? Free time was a factor, so would I choose to simulate most of them, and only play games that I needed to win? Would I play as many games as possible, but on shorter quarter lengths? Given that I’m used to playing the current games, would I drop the difficulty level to give myself an easier time with NBA Live 2002’s quirks?

While I mulled it over, I decided to play a full length exhibition game with the Sacramento Kings on Superstar difficulty.

The Exhibition Game

Doug Christie and Derek Fisher in NBA Live 2002

Since I’ll likely have to go through them in the Playoffs anyway, and I want to see just how competitively I can play on Superstar difficulty, I chose to take on the Lakers in the exhibition matchup.

At the end of the first quarter, I’m down 33-16. I’m shooting 41% from the field, which amazes me because I’m sure I’ve missed way more shots than that. About the only way I can get points is when a defender bites on a shot fake from Webber, and I drive it in for the dunk. I’m a dismal 2/13 from the free throw line, because the T-Meter is moving ridiculously fast, even for strong foul shooters. The Lakers have seven steals, mostly because I end up losing the ball whenever I come within a foot of a defender. I’m being beaten 15-8 on the boards, and the Lakers have 15 field goals on 60% shooting.

It’s at this point that I started to wonder if I was actually playing on All-Star difficulty all those years ago. The game is still quite challenging on that setting, while not being as cheap or unfair. You know what? This is just for fun, not thumping my chest and proving that I’m the best basketball gamer in existence (because frankly, I strongly doubt that I am). I don’t need to play any more of this game; I’m playing on All-Star.

I decided to play another game: Kings vs. Lakers, three minute quarters, All-Star difficulty. I prevail 35-32 after a very hard fought game, a contest in which I didn’t take the lead for good until 25.5 seconds remaining. Free throws are still a little tougher than they should be, open shots don’t fall as much as they should, and without a proper physics engine, running the pick-and-roll and playing defense isn’t as effective as it is now. However, it’s suitably fair and competitive. With no gameplay sliders in sight until NBA Live 2004, All-Star difficulty it is!

I also decided that I might as well simulate the first round, play any series against the Los Angeles Lakers, and if I reached them, the Western Conference and NBA Finals. However, should the simulation go bad and put me on the brink of elimination, I’d play out the rest of the series myself.

The Playoffs

Vlade Divac in NBA Live 2002

Rounding up the regular season award winners really quickly: Shaq was the Most Valuable Player (29.9 ppg, 13.1 rpg, 3.8 apg, 2.7 bpg), Raja Bell won Most Improved (while averaging 3.1 ppg no less…it’s all coming back to me, now…), Lorenzen Wright – may he rest in peace – was the Sixth Man (5.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg), Theo Ratliff was Defensive Player of the Year (9.5 rpg, 3.9 bpg), and Kwame Brown was Rookie of the Year (19.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2 apg…yes, really). Chris Webber’s 28.9 ppg, 11.3 rpg, and 4 apg earned him All-NBA First Team honours. Well, All-NBA honours. NBA Live 2002 only selected one All-NBA, All-Defensive, and All-Rookie team.

By the way, Michael Jordan averaged 30.9 ppg, 6 rpg, 5.8 apg, and 2.7 spg for the Washington Wizards. He made the All-Defensive team, but Allen Iverson’s league-leading 36 ppg netted him All-NBA honours ahead of His Airness. Suffice to say that Franchise Mode, and NBA Live’s sim engine in general, still had room for improvement.

The Playoff picture was as follows:


Los Angeles Lakers (1) vs. Denver Nuggets (8)
Sacramento Kings (4) vs. Phoenix Suns (5)
Portland Trail Blazers (3) vs. Golden State Warriors (6)
San Antonio Spurs (2) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (7)


Orlando Magic (1) vs. Miami Heat (8)
Boston Celtics (4) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (5)
New York Knicks (3) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (6)
Toronto Raptors (2) vs. Charlotte Hornets (7)

Shawn Marion and Chris Webber in NBA Live 2002

The Blazers’ ten-game winning streak to end the season knocked me down to the fourth seed, and a potential second round match-up with the Lakers instead of the San Antonio Spurs or Minnesota Timberwolves. Oh well…I was going to have to face them at some point, anyway. I have to say, it’s made some of the changes to seeding in recent years seem like really good ideas.

Simulating the first round series against the Phoenix Suns, I broke out the brooms for a sweep. I blew them out 106-83 in Game 2, but Games 1 and 3 were close, with scores of 101-98 and 111-110 respectively. With C-Webb posting a line of 28.6 ppg, 12 rpg, 3.6 apg, and 2 bpg through the first three games of the postseason, Bibby averaging 16.3 ppg and 8.3 apg, and Peja Stojakovic contributing 21.6 ppg and 6 rpg, I was ready to take on the defending champion Lakers in round two. I had a feeling that Shaq would top his 28.6 ppg, second on the team to Kobe Bryant’s 29.3 ppg in their sweep of the Denver Nuggets.

With both teams undefeated so far in the 2002 Playoffs, something had to give, and I wasn’t going to leave it up to the sim engine to decide my fate.

Taking on the Lakers

Shaquille O'Neal and Vlade Divac in NBA Live 2002

I opened the series with a hard fought overtime victory, stealing home court advantage with a 145-142 win. As expected, it was a battle of the bigs, as Chris Webber was my most consistent option on offense with 47 points on 23-of-29 shooting. Yes, this is NBA Live 2002 on All-Star difficulty, so I had to cheese it in the paint to get the job done. I really had to, as Shaq dropped 73 points on me, on 33-of-42 from the field. If I hadn’t managed to foul him out in overtime, he very likely would’ve ended up with 80+ points, and Rick Fox might not have started chucking from long range to go 6-for-27 on the night.

It was a reminder that more contemporary tactics probably weren’t going to get the job done over the course of a seven game series. NBA Live 2002 does have a hand check button though – as I mentioned in my retrospective, it’s actually the last game in the NBA Live series to feature it – so I resolved to use it a little more and try to send Shaq to the line more often, if I could. The physics and collisions of that era are obviously quite primitive, so fouling hard isn’t always a reliable strategy.

Game 2 saw more of the same, serving up a reminder of how much better the defensive side of gameplay has become in basketball video games. I actually felt proud to hold Shaq to just 10 points in the first quarter, but naturally, he erupted for 23 in the second. He finished with “just” 47, which from memory was the lowest total I’d held him to in NBA Live 2002 on 12 minute quarters. Of course, it helped that I got him into foul trouble once again, and he sat for much of the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, C-Webb and Peja came up big for me, combining for 27 points in the final period, finishing with 32 and 36 respectively.

At the final buzzer, I had prevailed, 124-118. Amusingly, during the back and forth battle in the fourth quarter, things started to resemble the controversy from the 2002 Western Conference Finals. I was whistled for nine fouls in the quarter, giving up 11 free throws along the way. Vlade Divac spent most of the game in foul trouble, and both he and Mike Bibby finished with five fouls. Doug Christie racked up four, while Webber and Bobby Jackson had three apiece. Still, I was up 2-0 and heading back to Sacramento. Of course, it certainly helped that no one outside of Shaq was scoring a lot of points. Kobe had just 15 points on 16 field goal attempts in Game 2.

So far, my plan to double team Shaq, foul him as much as possible, and try to keep the ball out of his hands, hadn’t really worked for more than a few plays here and there. Furthermore, realistic tactics weren’t going to get the job done consistently at the offensive end. From there on out, if I wanted to avoid leaving the door open for a Lakers comeback, I was going to have to go against Da_Czar’s creed. I’d have to play a video game, not basketball…at least for the most part.

The Sacramento Kings Pre-Game in NBA Live 2002

Whether it was home court advantage kicking in, playing a more up-tempo offense, or indulging in a little cheddar, I raced out to an early 11 point lead in Game 3. Better yet, I manage to hold Shaq to just four points – 1-for-2 from the field, 2-for-2 at the foul line – in the first four minutes. I know that doesn’t sound particularly impressive, but in NBA Live 2002, that’s no mean feat. As I found myself up 25-10, I started to wonder whether I did indeed play on Superstar difficulty back in the day. It felt impossibly cheap when I tried it, but perhaps I wasn’t as sim as I thought I was back then. After one, Shaq has six, and I’m up 45-27.

Shaq gets going in the second thanks a barrage of unstoppable dunks, some of which come after offensive rebounds that I should’ve grabbed…but that’s NBA Live 2002 for you. Still, 19 points for Shaq at halftime in full length quarters is a very respectable defensive effort, and thanks to an offensive onslaught from Webber and Stojakovic – Peja is 4-for-7 from downtown, and the team is 9-for-14 overall – I’m up 78-48. The run continues in the third quarter, as Divac even blocks a dunk attempt by Shaq at the 7:46 mark. Yes, it surprised me so much, I had to pause, go into Instant Replay, and make a note of the exact time for posterity.

Entering the fourth quarter, Shaq has just 26 points, and I’m up big, 107-66. Webber has 28 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. Eight of those boards are at the defensive end, so the ratio is actually correct for once. Peja has 25 points (including five threes), four rebounds, and four assists, while Bibby has 15 points and seven steals. I decide to let my bench play out the game, which slows down my offense, and allows Shaq to score four points in the first two minutes. He finishes with 38, and the Lakers catch up a bit, but I still come out on top, 125-95.

In holding LA to 44% shooting while shooting 65% from the field myself, including 14-for-24 from downtown (58%) and 83% (5-for-6) from the foul line, having Webber grab more defensive boards than offensive ones, holding Shaq below 40 points on 12 minute quarters, and winning by 30, I’ve probably played my best ever game of NBA Live 2002. I start thinking that I may have to try cheesy tactics on Superstar difficulty the rest of the way. In the meantime, I’m up 3-0, and on the verge of advancing to the Western Conference Finals.

For Game 4, I crank up the difficulty to Superstar. Six minutes into the game, I’m down 25-11, losing the ball whenever I get within a foot of the defense, and three fifths of my starting lineup are in foul trouble. I decide to restart the game on All-Star.

Chris Webber at the line in NBA Live 2002

It seems that Game 3 was an anomaly, as even when I forego sim-style tactics, the AI is giving me a tough challenge. Shaq clearly doesn’t want to see his season end, as he has 26 points by halftime, though it’s only a narrow 58-55 lead for his Lakers. Peja is ice cold: 3-for-14 on the game and 0-for-8 from downtown, despite several open looks. This is a victory I’ll have to earn.

And earn it I did. Down by ten in the third, it took a furious rally and a buzzer beater by Hedo Turkoglu to take a 92-90 lead into the fourth. Getting Shaq into foul trouble once again helped out a little, as he sat out the final few minutes of the third, and picked up his fifth foul two and a half minutes into the fourth. With a couple of stops, and Peja finally knocking down a couple of threes, momentum was on my side at last. Trailing by 13, the Lakers brought Shaq back into the game at the five minute mark. He pads his point total to 47, but it isn’t enough. I advance with the 124-111 victory.

While I was hoping to take on the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, I’m glad that I was able to face them at some point in the re-creation of my Franchise. I have to admit that I feel somewhat pleased at “holding” Shaq to an average of 51.3 ppg, too. I can’t emphasise enough how much of an unstoppable beast he was in NBA Live 2002, so holding him under 50 points in three of the four games actually feels like quite an achievement. With the Lakers vanquished and history rewritten, I’m now eight wins away from a virtual championship.

Western Conference Finals

Chris Webber and Rasheed Wallace in NBA Live 2002

In real life, it took the Portland Trail Blazers fourteen years to get out of the first round following their loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000 Western Conference Finals. In this reality, they only took two years to get back to the Conference Finals, sweeping the Golden State Warriors in the first round, and then advancing past the San Antonio Spurs in seven games, four of which were decided by four points or less. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat and New York Knicks are squaring off in the Eastern Conference Finals, both getting there rather easily. Indeed, New York is undefeated.

Since I’m playing 12 minute quarters and time is a factor, I decide that I’ll sim as much of the series as I can, only playing any games where I’m on the brink of elimination, or even just the deciding game if possible. Not that the Blazers don’t provide a fun matchup, but the series with the Lakers and the potential NBA Finals appearance were the games that I most wanted to play myself.

Portland deals my Kings their first loss of the 2002 postseason as they take Game 1, 94-86. The sim lets me even the series at one game apiece with a 103-89 victory in Game 2. We then split the next two games: a 105-99 Kings win in Game 3, then the Blazers triumphed 93-87 in Game 4. With the Blazers taking the pivotal fifth game 97-86, it was time to intervene and lead the Kings to victory…or at the very least, go down swinging.

Even with my participation, it’s a close call. Arvydas Sabonis is essentially Shaquille O’Neal with more layups in NBA Live 2002, as he finishes with 31 points and 17 rebounds. Rasheed Wallace meanwhile had 31 and 15. Some sloppy turnovers almost erase the clutch efforts of Mike Bibby in the fourth – he had 10 points and three steals in the period – but I just manage to hold off a late Blazers run to escape with a 116-115 victory, forcing a Game 7 in Portland. Whichever team advances will face the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, as they finished off the New York Knicks in six games.

As Game 7 tips off, I can’t help but really appreciate the Playoff atmosphere and presentation in today’s games. If you go back and play a big postseason game in a title of NBA Live 2002’s vintage, you’ll quickly see what a difference the presentation in today’s games makes. In 2001, simply seeing the Playoffs logo on the court was a nice touch that we really appreciated. These days, we expect to see a little more than that.

Chris Webber and Arvydas Sabonis in NBA Live 2002

Maybe it’s only fitting that it feels like just another game though, as the Blazers entered Game 7 seemingly determined to pull off the biggest choke job since…well, the Blazers of 2000. I’m up 34-16 at the end of the first quarter, and since I am in Portland, I’m definitely missing the “booing the home team” crowd reactions that later games would introduce. I decide to let my bench play the entire second quarter, and it doesn’t hurt me at all, as I lead 63-41 at the half. With Bobby Jackson in foul trouble, I ended up bringing in Mateen Cleaves, who tallied 10 points, three steals, and two assists in 11 minutes.

In the third quarter, I basically just pad my starters’ stats a bit, while trading baskets with the Blazers. They cut the deficit to 19, but I feel strangely confident that I can not only maintain, but actually increase that lead by playing my bench the entire fourth quarter. It’s Jabari Smith’s time to shine! And yes, I did begin to write Jabari Parker there.

The Trail Blazers do actually cut the lead to nine at one point, but even with my bench committing eight turnovers as I try to pad their stats, they get the job done, and the Miami Heat await as I’m through to the 2002 NBA Finals! Sabonis only has a modest 24 points and 11 rebounds this time around. Cleaves finishes with 11 points, seven steals, and five assists, while Smith has 11 points, two rebounds, two steals, and two blocks in his 12 minutes of court time.

2002 NBA Finals

Chris Webber and Eddie Jones in NBA Live 2002

As I sit four wins away from a virtual NBA championship, I find myself on the horns of a dilemma. Truth be told, the Miami Heat aren’t the most exciting opponent in NBA Live 2002. In reality, they went 36-46, and did not quality for the Playoffs. In my Franchise game, they have a starting five of Alonzo Mourning, Brian Grant, Anthony Mason, Eddie Jones, and Antonio Daniels. Kendall Gill, Marcus Fizer, Cedric Ceballos, and Eddie House are their key players off the bench. It’s quite a respectable lineup on paper, but not exactly a clash of titans, either.

Additionally, I’m getting a bit burned out on NBA Live 2002. While the game is better than I remembered it, I’m also getting a first hand reminder of the more annoying aspects of its gameplay, so at this point, the nostalgia is wearing a bit thin. Keeping aside an extra save just in case I want another shot at this, I decide to take the same approach as I did with the Western Conference Finals: sim as much as I can, and only play the games that I need to win.

Once again, we split the first four games. I win the first two in Sacramento by scores of 104-101 and 110-102, and Miami evens the series at home, winning Games 3 and 4 with scores of 106-98 and 104-102 respectively. With a 112-108 win in the pivotal Game 5, however, I’ll have an opportunity to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy on my home court in Game 6. I’ll also have the opportunity to do that in Game 7 if it comes to that, but at this point, I’m ready to bring an end to the proceedings.

As the Heat get up by nine late in the first quarter, and ultimately lead by four at the break, I’m kind of regretting my haste in getting this postseason over and done with. They’re certainly playing better than the sum of their parts, and I’m starting to wonder whether I’ll need that seventh game after all! Fortunately, my bench manages to settle things down, get a few stops and offensive boards, and we claw our way back into the lead. I bring my starters back in with seven and a half minutes remaining. Peja catches fire, and with a ten point lead at the half, I’m feeling confident again.

After a see-saw battle in the third, my lead remains intact at ten. After blowing the game wide open in the fourth, there was really only one thing to do as time wound down: try to get Chris Webber a triple double. I make it happen with two minutes left in the game, feeding Peja for a layup to make it 120-92. After coming up with a steal with around 14 seconds left, I run down the clock. With a final score of 122-95, I’ve won the championship in NBA Live 2002! The late Don Poier makes brief mention of that fact as my players run around for a couple of quick cutscenes, and then I’m at the postgame menu.

Mike Bibby in NBA Live 2002

It’s a bit underwhelming, but the season is in the books at last! Webber takes home NBA Finals MVP honours, averaging 27.7 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.4 bpg, and 1 spg over the course of the postseason. Peja doesn’t do too badly either, averaging 22.8 ppg and 4.5 rpg. I finish with a regular season record of 61-21, a Playoff record of 15-5, a sweep of the rival Los Angeles Lakers, and the 2002 NBA Championship. Not too shabby.

I didn’t have any plans to play a second season, but I decided to proceed through the offseason all the same. Chicago won the Draft Lottery, and ended up taking a 6’11” small forward called Chris Haydorn, the projected first overall pick. With the 25th pick, I take a 6’5″ shooting guard called Levar Day, and a 6’8″ small forward called Derek Cobb with the 50th pick. I’m over the cap, so my only major free agent moves are re-signing Mike Bibby for seven years, and Jabari Smith for two. I saved the game, in case I felt like simming a few seasons at a later date.

Final Thoughts

Chris Webber in NBA Live 2002

So, did I really get any “closure” from this?

In a way, I’d say that yes, I did. It’s a shame that I never got to finish that old NBA Live 2002 Franchise, and if I still had the save file, this is something I definitely would’ve done with it instead. However, it was fun to revisit NBA Live 2002 and try to replicate that old Franchise, and see it through to the championship. It’s given me a sense of completion, like picking up an old platformer I could never finish, and finally defeating the final boss. Even though I’ve well and truly moved on from NBA Live 2002, it feels good to have paid tribute to that old Franchise.

Granted, it’s not quite the same as playing through the entire season from start to finish, and then winning it all. It’s also not quite the same as being able to continue on from an old save file, but the latter is impossible, and the former is simply unfeasible; I just don’t have the time or the patience for that. As it is, I spent enough time doing it this way, but having said that, I’m definitely glad that I did. A basketball gaming regret has been turned into a positive experience, over a decade later.

Stay tuned for more 20th Anniversary of NBA Live content!

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September 5, 2016 2:01 am

Glad you were able to finally finish that franchise off, it kind of reminds me of my experience with the PC version of the series 04-07 that although you could make the game to look far more realistic and get player patches and courts looking much better than the console version of the time I always managed to lose a franchise mode to “corrupt file” loading screen so many times to the point that I would have 3 back up saves lol

Shaq was a beast in nba live early days I think he scored 80+ on my once while the rest of his team took 20 shots combined!

September 11, 2016 2:49 am

This was a fun read! I remember my franchise with Cleveland on NBA Live 2004. Losing game 7 in the finals against the TWolves by one point! Ricky Davis had a chance to win it for you me but missed a jumper from the free throw line. Rookie LeBron averaged a triple double in the playoffs. Maybe the worst loss in my gaming carrier.