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 This week’s Five is a list of five more outdated details in basketball games.
Developers tend to do a great job of updating basketball video games for the season they’re set in. As I noted in my previous Friday Five covering this topic, they have the benefit of being sent updated artwork from the NBA, so they’re able to account for branding changes that aren’t yet officially announced. To that end, apart from missing transactions that occur after the cut-off date, and the absence of rookies and other players who haven’t signed in time, most games don’t have too many outdated details. These days, official updates are also far more comprehensive.
With that being said, sometimes games end up shipping with a variety of outdated details. Perhaps a change was announced too late for it to be included, and in the case of older games especially, it may not be something that can be patched. Oversights happen, and inaccuracies can be caused by strange circumstances. I’ve come up with another five examples, which I’m sharing with you all today. Please note that once again, I’m avoiding the obvious examples related to cut-off dates or the old practice of releasing games with a previous season’s roster, and only noting things that were or became outdated details when a game was new and current. Let’s begin with…
1. Ninja Headbands in NBA 2K20
Here’s a recent example, though it’s one that’s been fixed in the official roster at least. The “ninja” style headbands, often worn by tennis players, were starting to become popular in the NBA. EA Sports were able to add them to players in NBA Live 19, and Visual Concepts were prepared come NBA 2K20, not only giving them to the players who wore them but also making them available for our avatars in MyCAREER. All good…until the NBA decided to ban them! Like most things that the NBA bans, it was a controversial move, but not without reason. The NBA identified that the ties could be dangerous if they got caught or were pulled, especially without regulation lengths.
Fair enough, but the late decision meant that NBA 2K20’s brand new cosmetic feature that had been a welcome addition was now an outdated detail. It wasn’t 2K’s fault, but it was something they’d have to address. As noted, they’ve pushed through new faces that removed the ninja headbands, and added traditional headbands where necessary. MyPLAYERs are still free to equip the ninja headbands though, in Rec, Playground, and NBA games. In other words, the ban hasn’t extended to the virtual hardwood…yet. This is an example of how outdated details aren’t always a bad thing. The real NBA players have been fixed appropriately, but we can ignore the rule for our avatars.
2. Oklahoma City Branding in NBA Live 09 PS2
I touched on this one when I discussed Kevin Durant wearing the Sonics’ jersey in the attract mode video on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but it deserves its own entry as one of the outdated details in basketball games. As mentioned in my previous article, the Sonics’ move to Oklahoma City and rebranding to the Thunder was very abrupt as well as controversial. Despite a couple of preview screenshots featuring the Thunder branding, NBA Live 09 launched on all platforms with the placeholder logo, court, and jerseys the team had used during the Summer League. Free DLC for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions properly updated the game for the 2009 season.
No such luck for the PlayStation 2 version, as such updates simply weren’t feasible. That version was already an afterthought in many ways – the deeper Be a Pro aside – and being stuck with the placeholder branding just emphasised that. Of course, there is a silver lining here. Oklahoma City’s logo and jerseys have often been criticised as being plain at best and ugly at worst, and the Thunder name isn’t universally liked either. The placeholder branding may be outdated, but it also let us pretend the team had a different name. These seem like unnecessarily outdated details, but then if you wanted to be up to date, NBA Live 09 on PlayStation 2 wasn’t the way to go, anyway.
3. All-Star Court in NBA Live 97
The All-Star teams are inevitably outdated at launch, given that they’re the previous year’s squads. These days they’re updated when the All-Star break rolls around, and on PC at least, we were able to make our own updates before official rosters were commonplace. I’m not counting something like old All-Star lineups among outdated details, but I will include artwork and the location of the game. Generally speaking, games set the All-Star Game at the announced location, and include an updated court and jerseys. In some of the older games the jerseys were outdated, but the court had at least been updated so that it was accurate as of the season that the game was set in.
That isn’t the case for NBA Live 97. The All-Star Game is still set in San Antonio, rather than Cleveland. The uniforms have been updated as of the 1996 game, but unfortunately 1997 was the first year that the East and West All-Stars wore their original team jerseys. NBA Live 2003 would later have the opposite problem with jerseys, with players wearing their original uniforms when in fact the league went back to special All-Star designs that year. These things happen when changes are announced late in a game’s development cycle, and no doubt that’s the reason for the outdated details across the board in NBA Live 97’s All-Star Game branding.
4. Jersey Colours in NBA Jam Tournament Edition PC
This one is the result of the PC version of NBA Jam Tournament Edition being the final version released, and the beneficiary of updates that spanned multiple seasons. The various arcade revisions and home console releases included updated 1994 season rosters, but the PC version was updated as of the end of the 1995 campaign. In fact, it was even able to sneak in a couple of deals made before the 1995 lockout went into effect, as Hersey Hawkins is unlockable on the Seattle SuperSonics, and Kendall Gill is on the expanded roster of the Charlotte Hornets. The new logos that Houston, Seattle, and Atlanta were set to debut in the 1996 season were also added.
Despite those updates, the jersey colour schemes for those teams remain outdated. In all fairness, the jerseys in those original NBA Jam games aren’t particularly detailed to begin with, and were generally accurate of the 1994 and 1995 seasons. I’ll also admit that I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time, and it wasn’t until years later that I gave it much thought. Being such a weird mishmash of updates across multiple seasons, it’s inevitable that the PC version of NBA Jam TE features a handful of outdated details. It doesn’t detract from the fun at all, and as I said, I didn’t really notice it too much at the time. Nevertheless, it still stands out as an example.
5. Roster & Rotation Size in NBA Live & NBA 2K
As you’re probably aware, the NBA expanded the size of team rosters from 15 to 17 players as of the 2017 offseason. At the same time, they introduced the concept of two-way contracts and players. These players would spend a majority of the season in the G League, but would also be available to play for an NBA team for up to 45 days. NBA 2K18 included the new roster size and accurately reflected two-way players, but NBA Live 18 did not. For that matter, NBA Live also hadn’t been updated to allow thirteen players on the active roster; a change made for the lockout-shortened 2012 season that was intended to be temporary, but has ultimately become permanent.
Coincidentally, both of these outdated details stem from changes that were made as NBA Live was either on or coming off of a hiatus. NBA Live 14 was released a year after the change to active rosters became permanent, and the series had skipped NBA Live 17 before the introduction of two-way contracts. 17-man rosters are implemented as of NBA Live 19, though only twelve players can be active and two-way players still aren’t designated as such. Meanwhile, though NBA 2K was quick to implement the new 17-man rosters in NBA 2K18, the series didn’t add a 13th active roster spot until NBA 2K15; three years after the change had gone into effect in the real NBA.
Do you remember noticing any of these outdated details? What other outdated details can you recall in basketball video games? 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.