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 players who only appeared on certain teams in video games.
It’s time for Part 2 of a topic I’ve previously covered here in The Friday Five: players who appeared on certain teams in video games, but not in real life. As I said last time, one of the fun parts of revisiting old games is seeing a snapshot of the NBA as it was when they were current, and recalling players’ forgotten stints with various teams. In doing so, you can also discover oddities such as players appearing on the rosters of teams that they never actually suited up for in real life. Although these look like mistakes, there are several reasons why it happens.
As I noted in my previous article, these include early roster cut-off dates and deals made later in the offseason, deals that are voided, and injuries that put players on the shelf for the entire time they’re with a particular team. Roster cut-off dates aren’t an issue anymore thanks to official updates – and we could always make updates to the rosters ourselves – but due to the aforementioned circumstances, some players will still only ever suit up for a particular team on the virtual hardwood, while being little more than a name on the roster/payroll in real life. Once again, I find trivia like that to be quite interesting due to the different back stories, so here are five more examples!
1. Bill Curley (Trail Blazers, NBA Live 96)
I mentioned Bill Curley in one of my Wayback Wednesday features on players that I remember because of video games. While I remembered him from appearing on the Portland Trail Blazers’ roster in NBA Live 96 – still wearing a Detroit Pistons jersey in his portrait – I’d forgotten that he actually missed the entire 1996 season due to an ankle injury. That places him on this list of players who only appeared on certain teams in games however, as he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves without ever playing a game for the Blazers. As Basketball Reference doesn’t list him on their 1996 roster, if not for games and trading cards, you could easily forget that stint.
Funnily enough, it looked like the same thing might happen in Minnesota, as Curley missed the entire 1997 season with a knee injury. He would finally return to action in the 1998 campaign and played a second season for Minnesota in 1999, while also appearing on the virtual Timberwolves in NBA Live 98 and NBA Live 99. Curley’s appearance on the Blazers’ roster in NBA Live 96 notably contributed to the glut of power forwards in their lineup, though a couple of players should’ve been listed as small forwards. As a final piece of trivia, Curley was traded to the Pistons for Sean Elliott in 1994, and wore number 30 for the Warriors long before Stephen Curry did.
2. Lamar Odom (Knicks, NBA 2K14)
While Lamar Odom had a long and successful career, it unfortunately ended on a rather sour note. After being included in the trade for Chris Paul that fell through, he was subsequently traded to the Dallas Mavericks. It proved to be a poor fit however, and after a turbulent season that included an assignment to the D-League’s Texas Legends that was cancelled a day later, he was sent back to the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2012 offseason. As a result, his final NBA game in 2013 came with the team that he had begun his career with back in 1999, though he played a much smaller role, averaging career lows in scoring, minutes, and free throw shooting.
It wasn’t quite the official end of his NBA career, though. That came a year later when Phil Jackson brought him to the Knicks on the final day of the 2014 season. The move was basically a favour to Odom, who had spent some time in Europe before being sidelined with a back injury. He didn’t play in New York’s final game of the season, but his signing saw him added to their roster in the official updates for NBA 2K14. As such, he was playable on the virtual hardwood, but never actually suited up for the team in real life. Odom infamously suffered a life-threatening medical emergency in 2015, but fortunately he has since made a remarkable recovery.
3. Terrell Brandon (Hawks, NBA Live 2004)
Beginning his career in Cleveland as a solid backup to All-Star point guard Mark Price, Terrell Brandon finally got a chance to shine when Price was injured in 1995, and subsequently traded to Washington in the offseason. Listed at 5’11”, Brandon nevertheless stood tall as he led the Cavaliers in scoring and assists in 1996 and 1997. He earned an All-Star nod in each of those seasons and also carried them to a Playoff appearance in 1996. In the 1997 offseason, he was dealt to the Milwaukee Bucks in a three team trade that also sent Shawn Kemp to Cleveland, and Vin Baker to Seattle. As it turned out, the deal marked the beginning of the downturn of all their careers.
During the lockout season of 1999, Brandon was traded to Minnesota in the deal that sent Stephon Marbury to the New Jersey Nets. He remained a solid player for the Timberwolves for the next couple of seasons, but injuries abruptly ended his 2002 campaign, and he never played in the NBA again. He was traded to the Atlanta Hawks in 2003 as part of a four team deal that included Latrell Sprewell and Glenn Robinson, purely for salary cap purposes. He didn’t technically retire until the Hawks waived him on February 17th 2004 however, so he appears on their roster in NBA Live 2004, his tenure in video games lasting two years longer than in real life.
4. B.J. Tyler (Raptors, NBA Live 96)
If you don’t remember B.J. Tyler, don’t worry; he wasn’t around for very long. Indeed, I could list him as another player that I remember thanks to video games, for reasons I’ll get into momentarily. Anyway, Tyler was a first round pick of the Philadelphia 76ers in 1994, and played 55 games for them in the 1995 season, starting eight of them. He was subsequently selected by the Toronto Raptors with the 23rd pick of the 1995 Expansion Draft, but he never played a single game for the team. As the story goes, he fell asleep with an ice pack on his ankle, causing severe nerve damage and forcing him into an early retirement after inking a five year deal with the Raptors.
This didn’t stop Tyler from appearing in NBA Live 96, complete with a new portrait in which he sported a Raptors uniform. He was also included in NBA Live 97, but video games would be the only place he made an appearance on the Toronto Raptors. That brings us to why I remember him from those video games: not only do I recall seeing him in the game and later overwriting him in roster updates, but because I used NBA Live 96 as a reference for my 1996 season mods for NBA Live 2001 and NBA Live 2004, I added him to the Raptors’ roster. He was admittedly still on their payroll until 2000, but his career was actually over before NBA Live 96 was even released.
5. Dikembe Mutombo (Bulls, NBA Live 2005)
After the Chicago Bulls traded for Dikembe Mutombo in August 2004, I was looking forward to him anchoring their defense in the paint. Sure, Mt. Mutombo was getting on in years, but even playing around half the game, he was good for a couple of swats and around seven boards per game, and still made players think twice about driving the lane. It wasn’t to be however, as a little over a month later he was traded to the Rockets for Adrian Griffin, Eric Piatkowski, and Frank Williams. Chicago still made the Playoffs that year for the first time since 1998, but I was sorry that I never got to see Dikembe Mutombo in a Bulls uniform. Well, in real life, anyway.
Had I started a Dynasty game with the default rosters in the PlayStation 2 version of NBA Live 2005, I could’ve played with a Bulls squad that featured Mutombo. The trade to Houston occurred in time to be included in the PC version, released almost a month later, but it missed the roster cut-off date for the console versions. It wasn’t a mistake of course as Mutombo was officially a member of the Bulls’ roster for about a month, but it ended up looking like an error as the default rosters place him on a team that he ultimately never played for. It wouldn’t be an issue today of course, as official roster updates would overwrite those outdated default lineups by opening night.
Special Mention: David Vaughn (Bulls, Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside)
When you fire up Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside, you’ll notice a few oddities with the rosters. Kobe himself is the starting point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers due to being the face of the game, as he never played that position for them (and indeed only started one game in the 1998 season). Latrell Sprewell is absent from the Golden State Warriors’ roster, the result of his 68-game suspension following the infamous choking incident involving P.J. Carlesimo. And of course, Michael Jordan isn’t in the game, instead replaced by a Roster Player. One of the players who can be found on the Chicago Bulls roster, however, is David Vaughn, formerly of the Warriors and Magic.
The Bulls acquired Vaughn in February, in exchange for Jason Caffey. The reason he’s a special mention is because he did play three games for the Bulls before being waived, and then later getting some revenge against MJ. I’ll admit that I’d forgotten about those three games when I was compiling my list, and I’m glad that I double-checked before going live with the article! Still, it’s a unique situation, appearing on their roster in a game released late in the season following a trade deadline deal, but before being cut after just three games and finishing the year elsewhere. When else am I going to be able to mention it? It doesn’t technically count, but it’s still notable.
Can you remember any other players who only played for certain teams in basketball video games? Do you remember the players in these scenarios? Let me know 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.