We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a look back at the year that was 2020 here at the NLSC.
I think it’s fair to say that 2020 has been one of the most unusual years that many of us have ever experienced. For me, it’s both flown by – as the years seem to do as you get older – yet it’s also dragged. The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously disrupted life as we know it in so many ways, and contributed to 2020 being somewhat miserable. On top of that, we’ve lost some beloved athletes and celebrities, including Kobe Bryant. Although the hardships of the pandemic are not over yet, it’s safe to say that a lot of people are looking forward to a fresh start in 2021.
At the same time, there have been bright spots. The Next Gen consoles launched, and while it hasn’t been easy getting hold of one, people who do own them generally seem to be happy with them. Here at the NLSC, we were able to keep doing our thing for another year as far as producing content and supporting the modding community, and we also officially added a new member to our team. 2020 is a year that I’m sure a lot of people would rather be done with and soon forget, but since this is the last Monday Tip-Off of the year – there will be a Wayback Wednesday this week, and then The Friday Five will open 2021 – I’m taking the opportunity to look back at 2020.
2020 in General
As I noted, 2020 has been a rough year for many people, obviously in large part due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us have made adjustments and been able to find pleasure and distractions in our hobbies, including basketball gaming. We were hit with some awful news in January however, when Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people were killed in a helicopter crash. I’d never condescend to compare our pain to that of their family and friends, but suffice to say many of us were shaken by it. Losing celebrities such as Alex Trebek, Sean Connery, and Diego Maradona, and others hoops legends in K.C. Jones and Tim Heinsohn, also stung.
The inability to visit friends and loved ones, especially when international travel is involved, has undoubtedly been tough on many of us. Fortunately we have the means of keeping in touch online, and I certainly encourage everyone to reach out. It’s not fun to feel isolated, and I know that’s taken its toll on so many people in 2020. My general message here isn’t unique or original, but in short: stay safe, stay strong, and stay in touch as best you can. Things aren’t going to go back to normal the moment the clock ticks over to 2021, but hopefully, we’re on the right track. In the meantime, we’ll be here for your basketball gaming needs, as we have been for the past 24 years.
My Favourite Monday Tip-Offs of 2020
I take pride in my articles and other features, and I do my best to bring you interesting content each and every week. The week of course starts out with the Monday Tip-Off, which usually takes the form of an opinion column or essay, but I do like to change up the format every now and again. With another year of features in the books, I’m all for you going back and re-reading the entire catalogue, or perhaps checking it out for the first time. However, as always in these Year in Review features, I have some “Editor’s Picks” to suggest. These are 15 Tip-Offs that I found particularly satisfying to write, was happy with the way they turned out, and covered subjects I believe are important.
- How Career Modes Overtook Franchise Modes
- What Toxic Rec Players Don’t Understand
- The Dumbing Down of MyTEAM
- The Right Direction for NBA Live
- MyPLAYER in the Middle
- The Changing Face of NBA 2K
- 3v3 Pro-Am in NBA 2K20 is…FUN?!?
- Influencers on the Virtual Hardwood
- The Decline of MyCAREER Offline
- Who Is Anderson Murray?
- Is NBA 2K Pay-To-Win or Not?
- Thoughts on Skill-Based Matchmaking
- How We Really Feel About VC
- Three Months, Three Skins, No Fixes
- The Rec Is Garbage, But Who’s To Blame?
I’ve selected those articles as they ran the gamut of discussing important issues facing basketball gaming, cathartic venting on my part, and lighter topics that are more about fun and interesting aspects of the games. I was flattered when my articles about issues in MyTEAM and the question of NBA 2K being pay-to-win appeared on Reddit and Operation Sports. I was quite pleased with how the Malcolm in the Middle-inspired featured image for MyPLAYER in the Middle turned out. A couple of those topics, such as career modes overtaking franchise modes, are ideas I’ve had for a while. Five years on, I’m not running out of things to talk about at the beginning of every week!
My Favourite Wayback Wednesdays of 2020
Wayback Wednesday continues to be a fun feature for me, and I hope it is for all of you as well. I’ve already covered many of the classics, but there are still plenty of games to cover with retrospectives and the like. The other advantage of Wayback Wednesday, of course, is that eventually everything becomes retro! I’ve been trying to cover some more recent games that appeal to nostalgia formed in the past decade or so. It’s all very well and good to talk about NBA Jam and NBA Live 95, but there are newer games that we’re starting to look back on fondly. The hoops games of yesterday also provide some interesting trivia, which I’ve tried to cover throughout 2020.
- NBA Hangtime Retrospective
- The Legacy of NBA 2K18
- 25 Years Since Michael Jordan Said “I’m Back”
- Adam Morrison NBA Live 07 Commercials
- Fox Sports NBA Basketball 2000
- Bug Hunting in NBA Live 96 PC
- The Unbelievable Starting Five
- The Joy of Boot Disks
- Vince Carter Gets Booed in NBA Live 10
- A Trashed Mavs Jersey in NBA Live 2004
- Discovering an NBA Live 08 Roster
- NBA 2K11 Retrospective
- The Pressbook in NBA 2K
- The Instant Replay “Cheat” in Old Games
- NBA Live 09 & Fallout 3
- NBA 2K14 PS4 & X1 Retrospective
I’ll also throw out my “Familiar Faces in Strange Places” series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4), and the companion “Familiar Faces Back in Familiar Places” series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) as special mentions on top of those 15 features, since they’re a mixture of real life and video game content. I managed to add several games to my collection throughout 2020, so you can expect to see more retrospectives coming in 2021. I do like delving into some of the more esoteric topics though, such as tracking down the court bug in NBA Live 96 PC, reminiscing about shared nostalgia for NBA Live 09 and Fallout 3, and combing through an old NBA Live 08 roster found in my archives.
My Favourite Friday Fives of 2020
It’s my longest-running feature, and I still enjoy publishing it every week! Although I do offer up commentary in The Friday Five, since that’s now something I use Monday Tip-Off for, I make an effort to use the Five to share interesting facts and trivia. Once again, I have to give thanks to Chase over at Operation Sports for linking to a couple of Friday Five articles, and offering up some kind words about them. As many topics as I’ve covered in the Five, there always seems to be something new to talk about, and topics that can be revisited with further examples, or a new ranking for a Top 5. These are the 15 Friday Five articles from 2020 that I feel the most proud of.
- 5 Worst Things in 5 of My Favourite Games
- 5 Best Things in 5 of My Least Favourite Games
- 5 Outdated Details in Basketball Games
- 5 Hilarious-in-Hindsight Moments in Basketball Games
- 5 Expensive Basketball Games to Collect
- 5 Funny Basketball Game Commentary Moments
- 5 Things Developers Got In Trouble For
- 5 Cancelled Games (Other Than NBA Elite 11)
- 5 Unexpected Jerseys Included in Games
- 5 Pettiest Moments in Basketball Gaming
- 5 Things NBA Live Doesn’t Get Enough Credit For
- 5 Things NBA 2K Doesn’t Get Enough Credit For
- 5 Things NBA Jam Doesn’t Get Enough Credit For
- 5 Ways to Spot a Shill
- Top 5 Coincidences in Basketball Games
I feel like I’ve said it a lot over the years, but something I’d like to aim for moving forward is more Top 5s. The Friday Five’s format is intended to lend itself to either a listicle or countdown feature, but it seems that I opt for the former much more than the latter. It’s probably because a Top 5 is a very short list, so there’s always bound to be noteworthy omissions. With that being said, I’ve been planning a feature for 2021 that I might be publishing through The Friday Five, with each week representing five entries in a Top 20 countdown. I’m still deciding whether it will be its own standalone feature or a multi-part Friday Five series, but the latter is certainly a possibility.
NLSC Podcast Rewind
After stepping in as co-host of the NLSC Podcast for over a year, Dee4Three is now officially a member of the NLSC Team. I know I can speak for Derek when I say that we’ve had a lot of fun doing the show in 2020, especially now that we’ve established the mailbag as a weekly segment. I was also able to record a few interviews as part of our 25th Anniversary of NBA Live celebrations, gaining some interesting insights from some of the people who worked on the series from the very beginning. Again, I encourage you to tune in to as much of the back catalogue as you can, but if you’re looking for a place to start, here are 15 episodes from 2020 that I’d recommend.
- #307: The Joy of Roster Modding
- #310: Interview with Rod Reddekopp
- #312: The Silence is Deafening
- #316: Interview with Darren Schueller
- #317: The Perks of PC & The Merriness of Modding
- #318: Interview with Andrew Jinks
- #320: A Post-Mortem of NBA 2K18
- #325: Playground People, The Game & Its Sequel
- #332: The Measure of a Sim Gamer
- #339: NBA 2K21 Impressions, NBA Live Hopes
- #342 & #343: The Making of a Classic, Part 1 & Part 2
- #345: There’s Skating Afoot
- #348: Growing Older All The Time
- #351: Lockdown Defenders
- #352: NBA 2K21 Next Gen Impressions
I’ll also mention our End of Year jumbo mailbag special. Again, we’ve really enjoyed recording shows throughout 2020, and are looking forward to continuing the podcast next year. Thanks to everyone who has sent in topics and questions so far! It isn’t always easy to encourage engagement, especially in a community that’s traditionally been about modding and other content, rather than a podcast. The feedback we’ve received along with the mailbag submissions, as well as the amount of people who are tuning in every week, really makes us feel good. I hope that you’ve enjoyed the 2020 season of the NLSC Podcast, and are looking forward to more shows in 2021!
Modding, Community, & Content
It’s been my goal to wrap up our 25th Anniversary of NBA Live content this year after going into overtime with it, much as I did with the 20th Anniversary features. There are a few things that I might end up posting in 2021 as belated content, or I might end up repurposing the ideas for Wayback Wednesday. I realise it’s hard for people to get excited about NBA Live with the series being on indefinite hiatus and a lot of the old guard who remember the good old days moving on, but I do appreciate the interest and support of the 25th Anniversary content all the same. It’s good to find some closure on these projects that I’m passionate about. Speaking of which…
My roster update for NBA 2K11 has remained a work in progress. Unfortunately, so many other things have gotten in the way, but the goal remains to finish a 2020 season roster, and move swiftly on to 2021, especially now the new season is underway. I did have a good opportunity to catch up with the NBA shutdown, but again, life had other plans. There are other modding projects that I’d love to undertake once they’re done, and I’ve done some preliminary work on them while taking breaks from the current roster mod. I’m looking forward to finishing them up and trying out some new things next year. I’d hoped to release more mods in 2020, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.
Speaking of our modding community, in some ways it’s still going strong, but I have noticed a drop off in people making use of our upload facilities, or even sharing work in our Forum. I realise that there are several platforms available to modders these days, with some offering more control and an opportunity to build a community of your own. I’d like to think that we can all work together, and that we still provide a valuable service and platform to modders and basketball gamers in general. To that end however, if there are any ways that we could improve upon what we do here at the NLSC, please let me know. I’m open to constructive feedback and suggestions.
The same goes for discussion in our Forum. Our traffic has remained constant, but we’re still not as chatty as we used to be. Again, I realise that we’re competing with so many other online platforms, from Reddit and Discord to social media as a whole, but we obviously have a great group of dedicated basketball gamers here. I encourage everyone to join in the discussion in the Forum and on articles. As with the modding community, if there’s anything we can do to make the site and community better, I’m open to constructive feedback and suggestions. Apart from that though, a big thank you as always to everyone who continues to be a part of our community!
Basketball Gaming in 2020
As I mentioned, the future of NBA Live seems to be up in the air. There have been some promising developments with two major names who worked on the NBA 2K series – Rob Jones and Scott O’Gallagher – making the move to EA Sports. Apart from that though, there hasn’t been any further news about NBA Live. That leaves NBA 2K as the only Triple-A basketball game to be released this year. NBA 2K21 Current Gen was, in my view, a fairly sloppy product, but the Next Gen version has been better. I think there are people in the community that are overselling how good it is, but I’ve enjoyed it far more than the Current Gen version. I’m glad I was able to get a PS5!
Elsewhere, Basketball Classics hit V1.0 on Steam; congratulations to our friends Josh and Dave from Namo Gamo on that milestone! It was also a pleasure having them on the podcast twice this year. Dunk Lords and PBA Basketball Slam: Arcade Edition also came to Steam, and are interesting games worth keeping an eye on. I know that I’m not alone in wishing we still had more titles in the basketball gaming space, which is sorely missing established series such as NBA Live, NBA Jam, and NBA Street. We can only wait and see what the future holds in that regard, but it’s great to see indie developers stepping up to provide some alternatives on the virtual hardwood.
Looking Ahead to 2021
We’re just a few days away from 2021, and while there’s obviously a great deal of uncertainty in the world, I’m sure we’re all hoping for better things in the New Year. 2021 will mark the 25th Anniversary of the NLSC. I’ll admit that I don’t have any specific plans as yet, but I’m working on a few ideas to celebrate the milestone. So many sites have come and gone in that time – in our community and elsewhere on the Internet – so I feel fortunate that we’ve been able to stick around, especially now that we’re paying for our own hosting. As I’ve said before, we came close to having to shut down or downscale in 2016, but fortunately we’ve been able to keep on keeping on.
Our original content will continue, including my weekly features and the podcast. I know that Derek is looking to produce some more content as well, including an overdue spotlight for various modding projects in our community. I’m sure that we’ll experiment with a few features here and there, and of course, try to produce some great mods while providing support to other modders. As always, we’ll do our best to cover the news, hopefully line up some interviews whenever we can, and endeavour to be the resource and community that basketball gamers are looking for. There are a lot of options and competition out there, but we want to be a destination for you.
With that being said, thank you once again for your support throughout 2020; it does mean a lot to us. I’ll plug our Patreon, GoFundMe, and tip jar at this time, but as long as you’re visiting the site on the regular, enjoying our content, and making use of our facilities, you’re helping us out and making our efforts worthwhile. Thank you to the members of the NLSC Team for assisting me throughout another twelve months, and a hearty official welcome to Derek once more. I hope that you’ve enjoyed what we do here throughout 2020, and are keen to join us for more fun and informative content in 2021. Until then, stay safe, get buckets, and see you next year!