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 times that various basketball video games featured incorrect jerseys.
In sim basketball titles, accuracy down to the last detail is the name of the game. An arcade title usually has more wiggle room for inaccurate, exaggerated, and stylised details, but we still expect a certain degree of faithfulness in NBA-licensed products. Some inaccuracies are admittedly only apparent to the most eagle-eyed gamers who are particularly attuned to minute details on jerseys, courts, and shoes. However, other inaccuracies are blatantly obvious to everyone, leaving one to wonder just what the developers and artists were thinking (or what sources they were working from).
Case in point: the five incorrect jerseys that I’ll be spotlighting today. Now, I’ve decided not to include any jerseys with incorrect colour palettes, such as the Chicago Bulls jerseys that were more pink than red for so many years. My reason is that they tend to be well-known examples too numerous to mention, and we can assume that they’re the result of developers working from official colour palettes that didn’t yield the proper results in-game. Instead, I’m focusing on jerseys that were incorrect due to weird mistakes in their design, or some other oddity. Some of these incorrect jerseys are noticeable right away, while others do require being something of a uniform buff.
1. Seattle SuperSonics’ Road Jersey (Fox Sports NBA Basketball 2000)
I’m going to tip off this list with an example of a jersey that’s correctly designed, but incorrectly assigned. Fox Sports NBA Basketball 2000 includes the red alternate jersey of the Seattle SuperSonics. The problem is that it’s the only road jersey that they wear, which is incorrect. Although that alternate was somewhat prominent – Desmond Mason notably wore it when he won the 2001 Dunk Contest – it never actually replaced the established green uniform as the primary jersey for road games. If you go back and watch some games from the 2000 season – in which Fox Sports NBA Basketball 2000 is obviously set – you can confirm it as being an error.
At first, I thought that it might’ve been a case of the alternate jersey being randomly selected for an exhibition game. Before the introduction of pre-game jersey selection, a few games (including NBA Live) would utilise alternate jerseys on Sundays in their Season mode, and randomly select them in exhibition play as well. However, further tests demonstrate that the Sonics’ alternates are their only road jerseys in Fox Sports NBA Basketball 2000, which as noted before, is incorrect. I guess that makes it a design choice, which is unusual in a sim title. Then again, if you look at some of the other design choices that were made in that game, it arguably makes a lot more sense.
2. Bootleg-Like Chicago Bulls Jerseys (NBA Live 2000)
I’ve mentioned this one before, as it’s one of those odd mistakes that showed up in quite a few NBA games in the early 3D era. For some strange reason, the Chicago Bulls’ road jersey often featured incorrectly coloured numbers. Instead of being black with a white outline, they were plain white. This gave them the unintentional look of a bootleg uniform, like the knock-off Michael Jordan jerseys that made the rounds back in the 90s, and can sometimes still be found on eBay. It’s rather distracting once you notice it, and many gamers would spot it right away. The bootleg-like jersey was still a thing as of NBA Live 2000, though it would finally be corrected in NBA Live 2001.
Looking back, it’s strange how those incorrect Bulls road jerseys kept popping up in games during the late 90s. After all, it wasn’t as though technical limitations prevented the developers from including the proper details on the numbers. The numbers were their own texture files, so it wasn’t a matter of using plain text and a common font for all of the teams. No other teams commonly had this issue, which makes the error even more mysterious. Considering their popularity during the 90s, it’s really bizarre that the Chicago Bulls of all teams had incorrect jerseys in several games. That was indeed the case however, and you can find several examples when you go back to those titles.
3. Incorrect Flag on Europe Live Jerseys (NBA Live 07)
Credit goes to Pep for pointing this one out when I looked back at the Europe Live jerseys for Wayback Wednesday. For those who missed that article and don’t recall what Europe Live was, it was a preseason event sponsored by EA Sports, in which a handful of NBA teams toured Europe playing exhibition games against local clubs and hosting basketball camps. The teams wore special versions of their jerseys that featured a custom trim paying homage to the host country’s flag. Europe Live ran for a few years, but the uniforms were only ever included in the prior gen version of NBA Live 07. As it turned out, one of those Europe Live jerseys was notably incorrect.
The Los Angeles Clippers visited Russia, and thus their jersey trim featured the country’s tricolour flag with its white, blue, and red horizontal fields. If you look closely at the trim on the shorts however, you’ll notice that the horizontal fields are red, blue, and white; essentially the Serbian flag, minus the coat of arms. Looking at the game in which they wore them, the real jerseys got it right, so this wasn’t a matter of replicating an inaccuracy. It’s a small error that you may not notice at a glance, but once you’ve seen it, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Incorrect trim aside, it’s a shame that we didn’t get any of the other Europe Live jerseys in future NBA Live titles.
4. Oklahoma City “Thudner” (NBA 2K13)
There’s no way I can leave this infamous uniform off any list of incorrect jerseys in basketball video games. The Oklahoma City’s new navy alternate jersey introduced back in 2012 wasn’t one of the most popular NBA uniform designs. It tends to make a lot of “worst jerseys” lists, and understandably so. It isn’t garish or badly designed, but it is undeniably bland. When it was unveiled, you might say that it landed with a thud. That’s certainly the message you can take from the jersey’s depiction in NBA 2K13, in which “Thunder” was misspelled “Thudner”. It seemed only appropriate that a widely panned uniform would contain such a mistake in its design on the virtual hardwood.
To that point though, one does have to wonder: was it intentional? No reps from 2K have ever confirmed or denied that it was meant as a jab at the jersey. If it was, one would assume that it was done as a joke between artists and developers, accidentally making it into the game instead of the real design. After all, 2K has been known to be petty at times, but a potshot at NBA Live is very different to mocking a team’s jersey in an NBA-licensed product. More likely it was an oversight that proof-reading failed to catch, resulting in the amusing typo. Of course, even if it wasn’t 2K’s intention, the incorrect name still reflects a common opinion towards that particular alternate jersey.
5. Outdated Jerseys in Midway’s Games
So these examples of incorrect jerseys may not be seem completely fair given that the old NBA Jam games by Midway took a minimalist approach to uniform artwork to begin with, but they’re still noteworthy. The first issue here is that as NBA Jam TE saw new revisions and home ports, it ended up encompassing a couple of seasons. Players were moved around and a few logos were even updated, but the colours of the jerseys remained the same. This wasn’t an issue for most teams, but by the time the PC version of NBA Jam TE was released, the colours for the SuperSonics, Rockets, and Hawks jerseys didn’t match their new logos added ahead of the 1996 season.
NBA Hangtime had similarly incorrect jerseys in terms of having outdated colour schemes. These inaccuracies persisted through a few revisions, as well as some of the later home ports which had been updated for the 1997 season, resulting in even more teams having incorrect jerseys. The dubious honour of the most egregiously incorrect jerseys is shared by the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies, who are using each other’s colour scheme. In all fairness to Midway, I somehow overlooked that error for more than twenty years myself, most likely because I rarely used them and they were among the first opponents on the tournament ladder. Now, I can’t not see the mistake.
Do you recall these incorrect jerseys? Are there any other examples along these lines that come to mind? Let me know in the comments, 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.