Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five lists five examples of content that should return in future NBA Live and NBA 2K games.
Basketball video games have come a long way when it comes to additional content. In the very early days, simply including every single NBA team (rather than a selection of the previous year’s postseason teams) was a big deal. Once it became standard to include every team, extra content was basically limited to the custom teams and a few secret unlockable teams usually comprised of the game’s developers. NBA Live 2000 would see the arrival of Legends, and then 2K would take historical content even further beginning in NBA 2K11, with the inclusion of Michael Jordan’s Bulls squads.
Indeed, much of what we might have once called bonus content is now considered to be essential. It’s difficult to imagine Visual Concepts removing the historical teams from NBA 2K; if it were to happen, the backlash would be tremendous. The removal of content is a sore point for basketball gamers because we have seen certain features disappear from both NBA Live and NBA 2K over the years. While content such as the historical and WNBA teams nicely round out recent games, there are things that a lot of gamers would like to see return. I obviously have my own list of content that I’d like to see again, which I present for everyone’s consideration (including EA and 2K).
1. Decade All-Star Teams
Let’s talk Legends. Not counting the cheats in NBA Live 96, Legends first appeared in NBA Live 2000. They were headed up by Michael Jordan, making his first official appearance in the NBA Live series a season after his second retirement. To allow gamers to immediately enjoy playing with all the Legends, they were placed on their own squads: the 50s All-Stars, 60s All-Stars, 70s All-Stars, 80s All-Stars and 90s All-Stars. These came to be collectively known as the Decade All-Star Teams, and were a staple of NBA Live for many years. The early NBA 2K games featured similar teams, going so far as to divide them up into East and West squads for each decade.
The Decade All-Star Teams may not sound like a particularly exciting concept in an era where we have an extensive selection of historical teams, but at the time, it was a big addition in terms of additional content. It was a good way to celebrate all of those Legends, and the teams were fun to play with. NBA Live in particular could stand to see them return, as the game currently doesn’t offer any historical content outside of Ultimate Team. With NBA 2K now including the All-Time Teams as well, Decade All-Stars would similarly allow for some fun fantasy matchups. They’re a good way to make further use of the old school players that they’ve licensed.
2. Legends Pool
If you wanted to play with all those Legends in older NBA Live games, you weren’t just limited to the Decade All-Stars. While editing the rosters, we were able to toggle between the Free Agent Pool and Legends Pool, with the latter allowing us to place any of the included Legends on a current NBA team. Even though there was only one copy of each player, it still provided us with a fun way to create a fantasy league, and a shortcut in the creation of retro mods. If Legends are going to be accessible outside of Ultimate Team – as I hope they will be – then bringing back the Legends Pool would be a great addition to the newly restored roster editing in NBA Live.
I’d suggest that it would be a useful addition in NBA 2K, too. While it is possible to move players from any of the historical teams to another squad, this isn’t always the ideal solution. If you want to place a retro player on a current team, you’ll need to mess with the historical content and break up a team’s roster to do so. If there were copies of all those players available to sign (including all the different versions of players who appear on multiple teams), it would be very handy. It’d be even better if we had a cloning tool for Legends and current players alike for use in making custom rosters, but in terms of bringing back old content, the Legends Pool is a must.
3. Full Range of Retro Jerseys
One of the biggest disappointments with NBA Live 18’s content was the lack of retro jerseys. Sure, the eight retro jerseys that were worn by teams in various games during the 2018 season were added, but they were the only throwbacks that were available. The selection of retro jerseys we’ve come to expect was nowhere to be found, not even as collectables in Ultimate Team. I understand the approach of wanting to have an authentic selection of 2018 season jerseys, and it’s possible that licensing issues were a factor. However, if it is possible to include a wide variety of retro jerseys in NBA Live 19 – home, away, alternate, and so on – it is content that should return.
Generally speaking, NBA 2K is much better in this regard. In addition to the retro jerseys that teams wore during the 2018 season, many of the previous throwback uniforms are still available to select. The main issue here is that the selections for each team don’t really match what’s available in the game. A lot of jerseys used by the retro squads aren’t accessible for the current team. The All-Time Teams, which you would expect to have a big selection of retro uniforms, are missing many of them as well. There are also noteworthy omissions, such as the early 90s Nets, SuperSonics, and Bullets uniforms. They’d make a great addition to MyTEAM and the game in general.
4. Draft Class & Other Special Teams
When it comes to additional content, Legends and historical squads tend to be what most gamers are interested in. There’s room for EA Sports and Visual Concepts to get a little creative though, and pad out the included content with some other special teams. Some examples from past games that spring immediately to mind include the Draft Class squads in NBA 2K on the previous generation. As with the Decade All-Stars, it’s fun to have some premade teams for fantasy matchups. Other examples include brands such as Team Jordan and Team adidas, the International and European All-Stars, and so on. There are many teams that could be made using existing players.
Now, given the choice between adding content like this and expanding the roster of historical squads in NBA 2K, I’m obviously going to choose the latter. I would also place the Decade All-Stars as a much higher priority. Content like this could have a use beyond padding out the rosters with some easily slapped together teams, though. Their art assets could be made available in Ultimate Team and MyTEAM, providing some authentic branding. Imagine collecting all the players to create Team Jordan or the adidas All-Stars, and then having the team artwork ready-made to use with your fantasy squad. Extra content like that seldom goes astray.
5. FIBA, Euroleague, & Other International Content
Although we have seen national teams and Euroleague teams in NBA Live and NBA 2K before, they’ve never been given the same attention as the historical teams. While I know that bothers a lot of people, it is fair to point out that the games are NBA Live and NBA 2K, so it stands to reason that NBA content is going to be the main priority. With that being said, national squads and teams from international leagues do provide an entertaining change of pace, not to mention they’re an excuse to put the Dream Team in the game. If those teams can be licensed, then by all means include them in future releases. I know that a lot of gamers will be very pleased to see them.
Of course, the presence of certain additional teams can feel quite empty without the presence of a mode to take advantage of them. Again, their assets can be put to use in Ultimate Team and MyTEAM, but those modes aren’t for everyone. One of the best things about the FIBA teams in previous NBA Live games was the inclusion of a special tournament mode. Much like a season mode for the WNBA teams in NBA Live, a simple tournament or challenge mode would make the extra teams more fun to play with. I don’t see NBA Live or NBA 2K including complete leagues from around the world a la FIFA, but representing basketball beyond the NBA is still a nice idea.
What other content would you like to see return in future NBA Live and NBA 2K games? Have your say in the comments section below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.