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 moments in basketball video games that are hilarious in hindsight, for one reason or another.
I’ve grown fond of saying that basketball games serve as time capsules, preserving snapshots of the league when they were released. It’s something that I believe, and it’s one of the things that make dusting off old titles fun. Scrolling through all the teams and looking at the rosters, you’re reminded of the forgotten stints of journeymen and stars alike, lineups that had so much promise but never panned out, and players who were pegged as being future stars. As I’ve said, basketball games become interactive almanacs of sorts, as they mark NBA milestones.
That’s not all they do, however. Sometimes they can seemingly predict the future, with the virtual hardwood suggesting unexpected events that actually come to pass in real life. Of course, other occurrences are clearly not prophesising the future, which underscores how it’s easy to call something a prediction in hindsight. Coincidences are amusing to note however, as are details that age poorly or become ironic when we look back at them. In either case, these moments found in various basketball video games become hilarious-in-hindsight – or at the very least, good for a smirk or a chuckle – and to that end, I have five examples to share with you today.
1. Kevin Durant has a maxed out Loyalty rating in NBA 2K16
Times have changed when it comes to superstars having lengthy stints with a single NBA team. It’s not as though superstars never changed teams – Moses Malone was particularly nomadic throughout his Hall of Fame career – but many of the all-time greats only ever played for one club, or only joined other teams much later in their careers. LeBron James’ Decision seems to have ushered in an age where stars feel more comfortable moving around, to the point where it’s surprising when a big name stays put. Even though it’s the norm, certain moves are still controversial, and that certainly describes Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors in 2016.
I’m not going to delve into the criticisms and controversies that surrounded Durant’s decision to join a team fresh off winning a record 73 games and blowing a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, but it did result in a hilarious-in-hindsight moment in NBA 2K16. In that game, set in Durant’s final year with the Oklahoma City Thunder, he has a loyalty rating of 100. That maxed out attribute means that he’s far more likely to re-sign with his current team when his contract runs out in MyLEAGUE, MyGM, or MyCAREER. In the wake of Durant joining the team that eliminated him after they made their own 3-1 comeback only weeks beforehand, that rating felt…well, Bender says it best.
2. The Fantastic Journey of LeBron James in NBA 2K14
NBA 2K16 may not have seen Kevin Durant’s departure from the Thunder coming, but one of its predecessors made some predictions that came true…in a way. I noted that LeBron James’ Decision in 2010 changed the culture as far as big name players changing teams more readily, but at the time, I figured it was a one-time thing for him. He left Cleveland when they couldn’t get over the hump, promised to win a handful of championships in Miami, and did win two rings after taking his talents to South Beach. I expected he’d finish his career there, but LeBron of course returned to Cleveland, won a championship, and subsequently joined the Los Angeles Lakers.
Now to be fair, the “Fantastic Journey” path in NBA 2K14’s Path to Greatness mode doesn’t predict these exact events, but it starts with LeBron leaving Miami after the 2014 Finals. Said fantastic journey sees him join the New York Knicks, the biggest market in the league and a move analogous to signing with the Lakers. It also involves a return to Cleveland, which seemed like a bizarre and unlikely suggestion before the 2014 offseason. Like WWE 2K14 predicting the end of The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania, LeBron’s seemingly unlikely Fantastic Journey is hilarious in hindsight when you consider the parallels to how his real career has played out since.
3. “Jordan is Back!” on NBA Live 2000’s cover
Speaking of big names wearing different uniforms, in 2001 we got a drawn-out sequel to Michael Jordan’s 1995 comeback as His Airness mulled making another return, this time with the Washington Wizards. Following months of reports and speculation, his second comeback was made official in September. The hilarious-in-hindsight moment here comes courtesy of the NBA Live 2000 cover. Tim Duncan was the primary cover player that year, but an insert of Michael Jordan with the words “Jordan is Back!” also appeared on the front of the box. Of course, this was meant to herald his return to the virtual hardwood by way of being included as one of the Legends in NBA Live 2000.
Within a couple of years though, it turned out to be a prediction of sorts, even though it was never meant to be one and was only referencing the new historical content. It’s what makes it hilarious in hindsight, though. Even though it hadn’t even been a full year since Michael Jordan officially retired for the second time and another comeback wasn’t unthinkable, at the time it still seemed highly unlikely. Obviously his inclusion in the Legends Pool allowed us to bring him back into the league in Franchise mode, but I don’t think many of us were expecting it to happen in real life as well. It’s just one of those amusing coincidences that look like a prediction or an omen in hindsight
4. The “Craptors” Dig in NBA Live 96 PC’s Code
If you’ve caught any of my interviews with the developers from the early days of NBA Live – part of our ongoing 25th Anniversary of NBA Live celebrations – then you might be aware that I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of a funny Easter egg in the NBA Live 96 PC executable file. As I mentioned in a feature in which I explored that file, there are a couple of pointers to art files for the Toronto Raptors that refer to them as the “Craptors”. Given that NBA Live 96 was developed at the EA Canada studio located in Burnaby, BC, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was intended to be a secret little dig at the Vancouver Grizzlies’ fellow expansion team, and cross-country rival.
What makes the jab hilarious in hindsight is that the Raptors have ultimately gone on to have more success than the Grizzlies, not to mention they’ve actually remained in Canada. The Raptors’ first Playoffs appearance was in 2000, while the Grizzlies didn’t get there until 2004, by which point there were in Memphis. Although the “Grit and Grind” Grizzlies made some impressive runs, it was the Raptors who made it to the NBA Finals and won a championship first. They also have the better all-time record, both overall and while both teams were still in Canada. It’s a punny bit of snark, but the Raptors definitely had the last laugh, even though they probably don’t know it.
5. NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER Story Mirrors Andre Ingram’s NBA stint
As the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2018 season drew to a close, the disappointment of their fifth straight year of missing the Playoffs was abated by an unlikely success story. After a career in the D-League/G League along with a stint in Australia’s NBL, 32 year old Andre Ingram finally made his debut in the big time when he was called up from the South Bay Lakers. Not only did he become the oldest American rookie since 1964, but his 19 points were the most by a debuting Lakers rookie since Nick Van Exel scored 23 in 1993. It was also the second highest total by a rookie debuting after the All-Star break. His second game wasn’t as good, but it was still a great story.
With that in mind, you might think that it inspired part of A.I.’s story in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER. A.I.’s journey takes him to the South Bay Lakers, and if the right choice is made early on in the tale, he’ll get to play in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2018 season finale (and still somehow be a rookie in the 2019 season, but that’s a whole other topic). However, given the timing of NBA 2K19’s production and the filming/mo-cap sessions for the MyCAREER story – and the fact that other parts of the story don’t line up as well – the wheels would have been in motion long before Ingram’s storybook stint. Still, it’s an amusing coincidence that made the tale feel quite relevant.
Have you noticed these hilarious-in-hindsight moments before? Can you think of any other moments in basketball games that turned out to be either amusingly prophetic or ironic and way off-base in hindsight? Let me know in the comments 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.