The Friday Five: 5 False Memories in Basketball Gaming

The Friday Five

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 is a list of five examples of false memories we have of basketball games, and how they came about.

False memories are recollections of something that didn’t actually happen or exist, or of something happening in a way that differs greatly from reality. There are plenty of examples such as misquoted lines from TV, film, music, and literature, not to mention recollections of completely non-existent works. False memories can also involve commonly held, yet erroneous beliefs. The latter phenomenon has been labelled the “Mandela Effect”, after the belief that Nelson Mandela had actually passed away in the 1980s. The spelling of the Berenstain Bears is another famous example.

Needless to say, video games provide us with plenty of examples of false memories and the Mandela Effect. This is usually due to rumours and urban legends that are perpetuated despite being debunked time and time again, or simply an incorrect recollection of a game you haven’t played in a long time. Other times, the memory may be accurate in that it’s something that was experienced, but inaccurate in that it was the result of a mod, or something seen in an early preview. As is often the case, basketball gaming provides us with its own examples of false memories, and today I’m taking a look at five of them, along with some possible explanations.

1. Completeness of The Jordan Challenge Rosters

1996 Bulls Roster in NBA 2K11

Despite being one of the best features we’ve ever seen in a basketball game, especially as it established a precedent for the inclusion of retro teams, The Jordan Challenge wasn’t perfect. I’ve mentioned how I’d reimagine it in a Wayback Wednesday feature, but even putting aside players who would’ve made it even more special if they were included – such as Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller – there are numerous omissions from the rosters. We seem to remember the rosters as being far more fleshed out, but most of the teams only had five or six players. The starters are generally included, but if you go back and take a look, you’ll see that several noteworthy names are absent.

To throw out a handful of examples: Randy Brown is a prominent omission from the Bulls’ squads of the late 90s. Likewise, Bill Walton is notably absent from the 1986 Boston Celtics, while Greg Ostertag is nowhere to be found on the 1997 and 1998 Utah Jazz. I have two theories as to why we have false memories of the rosters for those teams being more impressive than they actually were. One, it was a big deal just to get what we did, so we retroactively overlook the omissions due to our fondness and nostalgia. Two, 2K did manage to license more players for NBA’s Greatest the very next year in NBA 2K12, and so we’ve forgotten they weren’t in NBA 2K11.

2. Michael Jordan in the Free Agents

False Memories: Free Agent Michael Jordan in NBA Live 2004

It hasn’t been uncommon for players who retired during the offseason to show up as free agents in NBA Live or NBA 2K for the first year that they’re out of the league. We’ve seen it recently with players like Manu Ginobili in NBA 2K19 and NBA Live 19, and as far back as NBA Live 2003 when players like Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, and other retirees were still in the active rosters. With that in mind, it isn’t far-fetched for basketball gamers to recall Michael Jordan being in the Free Agent Pool in NBA Live 2004. Those recollections are false memories however, as a 40 year old version of His Airness is not available to sign as a free agent in that game.

How have people come to believe otherwise? Well, NBA Live 2004 was the last NBA Live game where MJ made an official appearance, and there was a prime version of him in the Legends Pool that could be added to the active rosters. Since the All-Star rosters are from the previous season, a “Wizards version” of Jordan can be found on the East squad. That instance of MJ can be added to the Free Agents (or any regular team) through DBF editing on PC, and so it’s possible that he was accidently placed in the Free Agents via a roster update (either mine or someone else’s). I have a feeling it happened at some point, but not in the default rosters. Believe me, I’ve checked!

3. Jason Collier as a Referee

False Memories: Jason Collier & The Referee (NBA Live 06)

Shortly before the 2006 season tipped off, Jason Collier of the Atlanta Hawks passed away unexpectedly, due to an abnormally enlarged heart. As he was an active player, he was already included in the 2006 season video games. When I discussed weird moments in basketball gaming in a previous Friday Five, pepis21 recalled seeing Jason Collier showing up as a referee, noting that it was rather spooky in light of his passing. At the time, I chalked it up to a mistake I must’ve made in my current roster for NBA Live 06 PC. I figured I must’ve accidentally placed him in the Referee Pool rather than the Retired Pool when I was removing him from the active rosters.

However, it appears that we both had false memories of this occurrence, albeit two different recollections. When I was trying to recreate the scenario in order to get a screenshot, I discovered that assigning an NBA player to the Referee Pool doesn’t result in their face being used for a referee. In fact, removing the referees from the Referee Pool doesn’t stop them from showing up, either. What actually happened here is that one of the random faces for the white referee does look a bit like Jason Collier from certain angles, though there are clear differences (including his hair colour). He also shows up when Collier is active in the rosters, so it’s a case of mistaken identity.

4. Backboard Shattering in NBA Live

Shaq dunking in NBA Live 95

Three-pointers are in vogue these days, but many years ago, most basketball fans were all about dunks when it came to their favourite highlights. Dunking in general was a crowd-pleasing moment, but slams that shattered the backboard were always held in high reverence. The sheer power such jams displayed, along with their rarity, made them something special. Naturally, gamers wanted to rip down the board and send glass flying on the virtual hardwood as well. A few games did allow just that, including the original NBA Jam, but there were always rumours of how to achieve it in other titles such as NBA Live. Needless to say, those methods were always bogus.

Over the years, I’ve seen quite a few basketball gamers recall false memories of being able to shatter the backboard in NBA Live. It’s possible that they’re thinking of NBA Jam and getting the titles mixed up, or that they believe the rumour they heard from their best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend (thank you, Simone) of how it could be done. On the other hand, it could be that they’ve seen (or played) Coach K Basketball, a game in which you can tear down the rim. As it’s an EA Sports title and shares an engine with NBA Live 95, the two games look very similar. I’d suggest this is where most false memories of shattered backboards in NBA Live stem from.

5. The Reveal of the NBA Live 13 Cover

Fake NBA Live 13 Cover

Remember when NBA Live 13 was cancelled? If you’ve been playing basketball video games for at least a decade or so, you probably do, even if you’ve always been a 2K gamer. NBA Live’s struggles over the past couple of generations of consoles are well-documented, after all. You may also remember some of the early glimpses of gameplay footage, and Overall Ratings for the rookies being revealed around the 2012 Draft. What you won’t remember is the reveal of the cover player, and if you do, those are false memories. Everything went quiet shortly after the Draft, and then the game was cancelled without the intended cover player ever actually being revealed.

If you remember an NBA Live 13 cover design featuring LeBron James, then you are remembering an image that was being circulated at the time. However, it wasn’t an actual leak of the cover art and player. It was just a mock-up that someone had made; possibly as a hoax, possibly just for fun while we were waiting for an announcement that ultimately never came. As it turned out, they weren’t too far off. When we spoke to former NBA Live Executive Producer Sean O’Brien, he revealed that LeBron’s teammate Dwyane Wade was set to be the NBA Live 13 cover player. Had the game not been cancelled, he would’ve been the first repeat cover player for the series.

Have you ever had any recollections of basketball games that turned out to be false memories? Are there any commonly held false memories about basketball gaming that you’d like to debunk? 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.

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