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.
So first of all, what’s the scouting report on Terry Hanson? He’s a 6’7″, 215 lb small forward out of Pittsburgh. Despite being one of the top prospects in the Class of 2015, he was still available when my Philadelphia 76ers were on the clock with the 30th pick of the first round. Even a team that went 72-10 and is fresh off back-to-back championships is not going to pass up that opportunity; especially with the future of their starting shooting guard, Jason Richardson, up in the air. As you can see from the screenshots, he looks like someone’s rough attempt at re-creating LeBron James in Create-a-Player. Indeed, you can imagine him being nicknamed “Baby LeBron”.
Facial similarities and the headband aside, there are some other comparisons that we can draw between Terry Hanson and LeBron James. Hanson is extremely athletic, with an impressive vertical leap (a rating of 96). He’s adept at finishing around the basket, taking advantage of a quick spin move and playing much stronger than his 215-pound frame might lead you to believe. From deft layups to thunderous facial dunks and soaring alley-oop finishes, he can get buckets. He’s also arguably a better shooter than a young LeBron, but has similar struggles at the free throw line. Hanson is also a capable defender, with his numbers not necessarily telling the whole story.
Hanson moved immediately into the starting lineup, and replacing Jason Richardson gave him big shoes to fill. Rather realistically for a rookie, this would prove to be a daunting task at first. Richardson was a much better shooter, and with Hanson playing out of position at shooting guard – as I’ve mentioned before, Carmelo Anthony is our starting small forward – he spots up from three more often than is perhaps ideal. He’s still shooting a decent percentage, but his game is definitely slashing and mid-range. Hanson doesn’t have the best hands, either. His fumbling of passes in early games left me grumbling after frustrating turnovers. More like “Terrible” Hanson, am I right?
Actually, I was wrong! While Terry Hanson does have his weaknesses, I’m inclined to dub him “Terrific” rather than “Terrible”. It’s so much fun throwing lobs to him on the break, and watching him finish with a massive tomahawk, reverse jam, or windmill. I’m never quite sure if his high-arcing shot is going in or not, but he knocks it down often enough to keep the defense honest. He’s even making more of his free throws, and doing his part defensively and on the boards. In short, Terry Hanson is looking like an absolute steal at the 30th pick! He’s one of a few players that went way too late in the Draft, and not surprisingly, they’re among the best rookies in my 2016 season.
To that end, I have a goal in Year 3 of NBA 2K14 MyCAREER: make Terry Hanson the Rookie of the Year! As I said, like everyone else who puts time into the NBA side of MyCAREER, my avatar has plenty of honours, from Rookie of the Year to Finals MVP. Making a star out of another player, a generated rookie no less, is a brand new challenge. Obviously this is something that can be done quite easily in the franchise modes, where I’d have complete control over everyone. It’s far more challenging to attempt it in MyCAREER, where I’m orchestrating the proceedings while locked to a single player. There’s only so much of his performance that I can directly influence.
That’s what makes it such a fun idea though, not to mention the role-playing aspect of it all. It feels as though there’s a parallel with the story of my MyPLAYER. Hanson is a talented prospect who slipped in the Draft, and is now looking to prove everyone wrong. I like the idea that I’m now the experienced player offering guidance to him, just as Thaddeus Young and Jason Richardson did for me as a rookie. While I don’t have the ability to make him wear a clown nose – as J-Rich did to me as some light rookie hazing – I can imagine some friendly ribbing as I nevertheless take him under my wing. So far, it seems to be working out quite well for both of us, and the team.
As an aside, these imaginary scenarios were a major part of basketball gaming when I was growing up. For all of the great production values we see in MyCAREER stories, the narrative that we’re presented with can get in the way of imagination. Once again, a generated rookie like Terry Hanson is a blank slate for creative back stories. Why did he slip in the Draft? Was it an injury, an attitude problem, or simply concerns that his skills wouldn’t translate to the NBA? Honestly, I haven’t decided just yet, though I lean towards scouts and GMs underestimating him. Their loss is our gain, and again, I love the cyclical nature of it, given my own journey in NBA 2K14’s MyCAREER.
Of course, it’s one thing to role-play and imagine stories for generated rookies. How do I make Terry Hanson into a star, and get him that Rookie of the Year trophy, with limited control over his performance in MyCAREER? Getting him buckets is easy. I love assists, and I’m adept at setting up my CPU teammates to tally a bunch of them. Quite a few of my 15-16 assists per game come courtesy of Hanson’s scoring acumen. He’s currently leading all rookies in scoring, but when I looked at the ROY race, he was only ranked fourth. This emphasised that scoring alone probably wouldn’t be enough for him to be recognised as the league’s top rookie at the end of the season.
Leading all rookies in a couple of categories would likely clinch the trophy, and he’s currently second in assists per game. This is actually another area of his statistical production that I can control to some extent. On top of sharing the ballhandling duties with him more often and allowing him to get the assist, I can also change the way that I’m scoring my 33-34 ppg. Some of the points that I’m getting from isolations or pick and roll situations could instead come from spotting up, and calling for the pass when he has the ball. There’s enough time left in the season to boost his assist numbers, and not even take a hit to my statistics as I endeavour to break my own record for dimes.
The rest of his numbers, though? They’re a lot tougher to reliably manipulate! I could possibly let him, Melo, and even Nerlens Noel grab more rebounds, instead of taking pride in averaging a triple-double. The problem is that if I don’t snag those boards, there’s no guarantee that they will. Steals and blocks are even tougher. If this were a franchise mode game, I could go out of my way to pad Hanson’s defensive stats. In MyCAREER, I’m relying completely on the AI. Unlike rebounds, I can’t sacrifice my own blocks and steals numbers to potentially boost his. I can let Terry get a board instead of me, but he must be actively picking his man’s pockets, and swatting shots.
I’m not going to give up on the challenge of getting Terry Hanson Rookie of the Year. I do acknowledge that compared to the accomplishments of my avatar, or generated rookies in franchise play, there’s a lot more that’s out of my hands. I won’t consider it a failure if he doesn’t win, especially as I expect he’ll still be All-Rookie First Team. If nothing else, I’m confident that he’ll remain extremely fun to play with. Still, I’m not about to concede just because it’s difficult, and another rookie is currently favoured in the race. The combination of role-playing a scenario, and then making it happen in gameplay, takes me back to the fun I used to have with games. It’s been so refreshing!
Indeed, it’s kept the MyCAREER experience in NBA 2K14 fresh three seasons in, and it’s one of the main reasons that I’m not keen on simulating any games just yet. Sure, it’s still fun to post dazzling numbers with my MyPLAYER, but as I said, we all do that. The temptation to do that is always there in MyCAREER, not to mention that it’s a necessity to level up as quickly as possible. However, caring about your teammate’s numbers, and not acting like you’re Bugs Bunny playing baseball, puts a new spin on the mode. Once we reach a certain level, our MyPLAYER can pretty much do it all on the virtual hardwood. Getting our teammates to put up big stats is the real challenge!
It’s why I’m trying to get a still-in-his-prime Carmelo Anthony to score more, and why I’m looking to make Terry Hanson into a star. I’m really enjoying the idea of us being a Big Three and winning titles in Philly. And hey, if I do move on when my rookie contract is up, maybe it’ll become Terry’s team! Or perhaps we’ll end up moving on together. The best part of modes with multiseason play is that they can become epic journeys. His rookie season isn’t even over, and he has no real life counterpart, but Terry Hanson is already one of my all-time favourite teammates in MyCAREER. I’m going to enjoy continuing to write the story of his NBA career, alongside mine.