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 an update on my first season of MyCAREER in NBA 2K17.
Over the weekend, I finally wrapped up my first season of MyCAREER in NBA 2K17. As much as I’ve been enjoying it, I was ready for it to be over and done with, mostly because I was really looking forward to my plans for the second season and beyond. Playing through every game on twelve minute quarters, only occasionally simulating to the end as the regular season reached its final weeks, turned out to be quite a grind. The postseason freshened up the experience a bit, but I was still eager to start the next chapter.
Playing through the Western Conference Finals and NBA Finals over the course of Saturday evening and afternoon, I was able to bring my rookie campaign to a fitting conclusion, and start looking ahead to new challenges. All in all, it’s been the most positive experience I’ve had in MyCAREER since NBA 2K13, so as I begin my sophomore campaign, I thought that I’d reflect on my rookie season and first foray into virtual free agency in this year’s game.
As I’ve mentioned several times before, my NBA 2K13 MyCAREER game with the Denver Nuggets is one of my favourite basketball gaming experiences. I finally got a handle on player locked gameplay, grew attached to the team, and as a result, felt really engrossed in the mode for the first time. It was a memorable rookie season that produced a 73-9 record, a hard fought NBA Finals series against the Miami Heat, and ultimately a championship. When NBA 2K14 came out and I found myself playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves, it just didn’t feel the same. It’s an experience that I’ve written about before, describing it as the “new game blues”.
My first season in NBA 2K17’s MyCAREER has now also become one of my favourite basketball gaming experiences, and I do think the fact that I ended up on the Nuggets is part of the reason for that. Sure, MyCAREER now has some nifty new features, and the storyline isn’t as intrusive as it was in NBA 2K14 through NBA 2K16, but playing for Denver brought an element of nostalgia to the experience. There were familiar faces among my teammates, and although the Nuggets aren’t my favourite team, they’re not a franchise I actively cheer against; in fact, thanks to my previous experience, I do have kind of an affinity for them, at least in video games.
It wasn’t just nostalgia that made my NBA 2K17 MyCAREER enjoyable, however. I relished the challenge of earning more minutes and gradually getting good enough to put up All-Star stats on a regular basis. The wins started to pile up, and I managed to unlock several Badges, which also made a difference in 2K Pro-Am. I got to a point where I started to challenge myself to reach certain statistical marks, and shoot for records. There was the unfortunate occurrence of the All-Star Game bug, but on the bright side, Danilo Gallinari became a better teammate, knocking down shots and even making good passes (though the On-Court Coach Badge helped with that).
Although I was enjoying playing for the Nuggets again, I began mulling the idea of jumping ship to the Chicago Bulls after the season ended. I’ve never been able to play for my favourite team in MyCAREER before, and since I’ve previously stuck with the team that drafted me out of loyalty, I felt like changing things up this time around. Although I considered requesting a trade alongside Justice Young, as the deadline loomed, I decided to finish the year with Denver, compete for the championship, and move on after that. Needless to say, being in the midst of a big winning streak had a lot to do with that. I felt that I had unfinished business.
Speaking of Justice Young, on the whole, I kind of enjoyed this year’s story. Once again, it isn’t too intrusive, and ultimately provided a bit of extra flavour to MyCAREER, as well as a creative and useful gimmick in the dual player controls. Yeah, the whole “Orange Juice” moniker is a bit cheesy, as is the “President of Basketball”, but that ultimately became background noise to me. I’d still prefer to create my own back story, but the narrative was far more “one size fits all” than “Livin’ Da Dream”, and there were no unlikeable or annoying characters. While I’d like to forego stories in MyCAREER completely, it was well handled in NBA 2K17.
By the end of the regular season, I was feeling a little burned out, and simulating to the end of a few games after reaching the fourth quarter. I did consider increasing the difficulty level at that point, but since I was still grinding for Badges and wanted to get through to the second season quickly, I decided to wait on doing that. I did find renewed enjoyment in shooting for records, and the Playoffs brought a fresh batch of record books just waiting to be re-written. Sweeping my way through the postseason, I actually ended up facing the Bulls in the NBA Finals. After a marathon session, I finished the series on Saturday evening, winning the 2017 NBA championship.
When it was all said and done, I’d racked up a healthy amount of hardware and accomplishments in my rookie campaign. I tallied over twenty quadruple-doubles, led the league in scoring, assists, and steals, broke several team and NBA records, took home regular season and Finals MVP honours, and was named Rookie and Defensive Player of the Year. My outstanding rookie season also saw me tick off nine requirements for induction into the Hall of Fame. I’d had a lot of fun dominating the league, and building up my player for the connected online modes. Now it was time to make a fresh start in Chicago, as well as up the difficulty for more of a challenge.
The funny thing is that when I reached the 2017 offseason and it came time to choose the three teams I wanted to field offers from, I started to get cold feet. The Nuggets wanted me back, and I’d certainly grown attached the team, as I had in NBA 2K13. Of course, despite my historic season and our championship victory, their interest in me was only at 98%; surely, it should’ve been 100%! It was still the highest of any team, and maybe it’s impossible to max out a team’s interest in NBA 2K17, but in role playing as my player, I took it to mean that they weren’t all in on me, either. As such, they became my second choice, with the Bulls being my first preference.
Chicago’s offer didn’t include the highest salary – that is to say, the most Virtual Currency – but I was promised the same amount of playing time. I thought about negotiating for more money, but seeing as how their interest was only 72% – again, despite my historic rookie season that far out-performed Rajon Rondo – I didn’t want to press my luck, and miss out on the opportunity to go to my favourite team. Therefore, I blinked first in the negotiations, immediately accepting their first offer. In the process of doing so, I pulled something of a reverse Kevin Durant: joining the team that I’d just defeated in the Playoffs.
Even though it was what I’d been planning to do, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a hint of regret as I watched the cutscene of my player and Justice Young holding up their new Bulls jerseys at a press conference. Had I made the right decision? Was this change going to be worthwhile? I found myself speculating that there are probably real NBA players who feel a similar mixture of regret and doubt when they sign with a new team, in the midst of feeling excited about a new start (and big payday). Maybe I was just getting into the role playing aspect too much, but I was actually impressed that the game evoked that kind of response from me.
I’ve played the season opener of my sophomore campaign, and I can already tell that a higher difficulty is going to make things more challenging and interesting. While it was fun setting records and building up my player, my future enjoyment will come from having to work harder, with an increased chance of losing (or at least having a rough night). I might also sim a little more often, in order to progress through the season more quickly. As far as my ultimate goals moving forward are concerned, they’re quite clear: bring championship number seven to the Windy City, and fulfil that final requirement for induction into the Hall of Fame.