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The Friday Five: 5 Players In More Video Games Than NBA Games Played (Part 6)

The Friday Five: 5 Players In More Video Games Than NBA Games Played (Part 6)

Welcome to another edition of The Friday Five! Every Friday I cover a topic related to basketball gaming, either as a list of five items, or a Top 5 countdown. The topics for these lists and countdowns include everything from fun facts and recollections to commentary and critique. This week’s Five is Part 6 in an ongoing series listing players that appeared in more video games than actual NBA games.

When it comes to trivia like this, I’m always concerned about running the topic into the ground. I always want my features to be fresh and interesting, and going back to a particular subject does invite repetition, while potentially appearing to be lacking in imagination. At the same time, I want to be thorough, covering all of the relevant and interesting examples. It’s why I’ve repurposed some topics that I originally planned as Friday Five series into longer lists for Wayback Wednesday. Since this one goes back a few years and has five instalments already, I figured I’d keep the ball rolling.

Meta musings about my “process” aside, I do have another five examples of players who appeared in more video games than NBA games. It’s not an unprecedented phenomenon – obviously, since we’re up to Part 6 – but it’s still somewhat unusual. You’d expect there to be more examples of players who made the NBA yet were left out of games, but that’s become rarer thanks to official roster updates. Alternatively, you might expect players who fall just short of officially debuting in the NBA to be absent from video games entirely. When the timing is right though, those players get to play on the virtual hardwood, while having some interesting stories in real life.

1. Rodney Zimmerman (NBA Live 96)

More Video Games Than NBA Games: Rodney Zimmerman, Pistons (NBA Live 96)

The fun part of old basketball games being interactive almanacs is that you can play with the rosters of yesteryear. The downside is that if you’re trying to use them as a reference, they do lack details and context. Some games capture stints that only really happened on paper, and subsequently the virtual hardwood. I’ve got an entire series of Friday Five articles dedicated to discussing such players. Since the rosters capture a specific snapshot of the league, you need to be able to check with other sources. After all, if you’re making an opening night or end of season roster, some players might not be on the right teams, while it may not be necessary to create certain benchwarmers.

I’ve previously discussed how NBA Live 96 PC was one of my references for 1996 season roster mods before resources such as Basketball Reference become available. A teammate of Ed O’Bannon at UCLA, Rodney Zimmerman went undrafted, but followed his fellow Bruin to the NBA in 1995. He signed with the Detroit Pistons in October, but didn’t see any court time before being released in January. To that point, including him in my 1996 mods wasn’t entirely inaccurate, but when I updated the NBA Live 2004 mod with end of season lineups, I realised that he needn’t have been added. With no further NBA appearances, Zimmerman isn’t in any other video games.

2. Sofoklis Schortsanitis (NBA Live 2004, NBA Jam: OFE, NBA 2K13-2K17)

More Video Games than Real NBA Games: Sofoklis Schortsanitis, Clippers (NBA Live 2004)

A few big men have been given the nickname “Baby Shaq” over the years, including Eddy Curry. Born in Cameroon but raised in Greece, Sofoklis Schortsanitis was yet another prospect who was once compared to the four-time NBA champion. I recall that there was some buzz around him when the Clippers drafted him 34th Overall back in 2003. He’d already been playing professionally in Greece and was still seen as a raw prospect, but as the saying goes, you can’t teach size. In an era where more and more high schoolers were being drafted and teams were obsessed with raw potential, an 18-year-old big with some pro experience was appealing as a second round pick.

Schortsanitis was still under contract, so he was seen as a future project. Nevertheless, he was among the hidden rookies in NBA Live 2004 that could be unlocked via a code. The Clippers explored the possibility of adding him to the team in 2006, but he was unable to get out of his contract. When he was free in 2010, his performance in the Summer League failed to impress. They kept his Draft rights though, which were traded to the Hawks in 2012, and then the Thunder in 2014. Big Sofo retired in 2020 having never played in the NBA, but he did make it into NBA Live 2004. He also appeared in NBA Jam: On Fire Edition and NBA 2K as part of the EuroLeague teams.

3. David Bluthenthal (ESPN NBA 2K5-NBA 2K7)

David Bluthenthal in NBA 2K6

Undrafted in 2002, David Bluthenthal – now David Blu – ended up having a standout career playing in Europe. Fresh off a EuroLeague championship in 2004, Blu signed with the Sacramento Kings in August. He was one of the final cuts right before the 2005 season tipped off, but still appeared on the Kings’ roster in ESPN NBA 2K5. It was likely a multi-year deal, as he continued to appear in the rosters as a Free Agent in NBA 2K6 and NBA 2K7. Interestingly, he doesn’t appear in NBA Live 2005, or any other NBA Live titles. It’s an example of how different cut-off dates and a lack of official updates used to result in each series having minor differences in their lineups.

Researching Blu, I discovered that he’s considered one of the best three-point shooters in EuroLeague history. A 6’7″ player who spent time at both forward spots, he was perhaps ahead of his time given the increased focus on three-point shooting and small ball lineups in the NBA over the past decade. He garnered plenty of accolades in Europe though, and obviously found his way into a few video games, too. As another point of interest, Blu attended the University of Southern California. His great-great-granduncle, Isaias Hellman, was one of the founding fathers of the school. Blu was also inducted into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame back in 2006.

4. Magnum Rolle (NBA 2K11)

Magnum Rolle in NBA 2K11

When you work on roster updates, some names just stick in your mind. I remember adding Magnum Rolle to my roster updates for NBA Live 2005-08, after the Hawks signed him late in the 2011 season. The 51st Overall pick by the Thunder in 2010, Rolle was traded to the Pacers for the 57th pick, Ryan Reid. Along with Lance Stephenson, Rolle was considered one of the steals of the 2010 Draft. He had a good showing during the Summer League, though the Pacers ended up cutting him just before the season tipped off. As I noted, the Hawks signed him in April after stints with the D-League’s Red Claws, but he didn’t see any playing time in Atlanta.

As far as official video game appearances are concerned, he was in NBA 2K11. He was hidden by default though, along with some other second round picks that the producers working on the rosters likely anticipated being cut. He can nevertheless be activated with REDitor II, and added to Atlanta’s roster. Rolle made some further appearances in the Summer League and was also back in the Hawks’ training camp after the 2011 lockout ended, but didn’t make any further video game appearances. One of a handful of players drafted out of Louisiana Tech – Karl Malone’s alma mater – he retired in 2017 after playing in Japan, Thailand, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, and Israel.

5. Rashad Wright (NBA Live 2005)

Rashad Wright in NBA Live 2005

Picked last in the 2004 Draft, I could’ve sworn that I remembered Rashad Wright playing in the NBA. I realised that I was mixing him up with Rashad McCants, who was drafted a year later and played four years in the league for the Timberwolves and Kings. Wright played his entire career in Europe, which included championships in Belgium and Germany. Despite being a long shot to make the league as the final pick in the Draft, the Pacers did sign him to a rookie contract. That resulted in his inclusion in NBA Live 2005 PC, but not ESPN NBA 2K5. According to his RealGM profile, he was released days before the season tipped off, and didn’t sign any further contracts.

Wright was still active in Europe when EuroLeague teams debuted as bonus content in NBA 2K. He wasn’t playing for any of the featured clubs though, thus didn’t make any further cameos in video games. While I had initially confused him with Rashad McCants, there have actually been a couple of other players named Rashad Wright, including a player who went undrafted the year before this Wright was selected by the Pacers. However, the Wright that I’ve profiled here is the only one that’s made it to the NBA, and appeared in a video game. Outside of Summer League appearances with the Pacers in 2004 and Magic in 2005 though, he didn’t ever officially make his debut.

These articles end up covering some obscure names, so as usual, I’m interested to see if anyone remembers them from video games, Draft and offseason coverage, or their stints in other leagues. 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.

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