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 12 in an ongoing series looking at players who only appeared on certain teams in video games.
As I noted in Part 11 last month, in addition to bigger names, there are some lesser-known and remembered role players, journeymen, and bench warmers who ended up with phantom stints. I’ve gone back and forth on whether they’re worth profiling or not, since the prominent players that we all remember tend to be more interesting examples. Not only is there usually more to say about them, but as I also pointed out in Part 11, players who move around a lot and aren’t locks to be retained beyond training camp are more likely to have phantom stints captured in video game rosters.
Still, why should that disqualify them from being profiled? Besides, when you’re an NBA junkie, you’ll find that you remember some obscure names, even several years later! Video games undoubtedly help with that, from updating the rosters to making your own trades and signings in franchise modes. Indeed, my own memories of these players are definitely more closely tied to video games than the real NBA, with the exception of the one noteworthy name. Even then however, he’s been present in several of my franchise and career mode games over the years. Enjoy this list of role players, journeymen, and a notable name, whose phantom stints were made tangible!
1. A.J. Guyton (Los Angeles Lakers, NBA Live 2003)
I remember A.J. Guyton from the early 2000s Chicago Bulls, which as I’ve discussed before, was a tough team to play with in Franchise mode. They weren’t much fun to try and rebuild with either, as I can attest as someone who tried to package Guyton in a number of trades back in the day! He lasted longer than Khalid El-Amin, likely due to being slightly taller and a marginally better shooter. Nevertheless, he was gone after two years and 80 games with the Bulls, jumping at the chance to sign with the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. I certainly can’t blame him for that, as I imagine those Bulls teams weren’t any more fun to play for than they were to watch!
Those Lakers were already set at point guard though, so it was no surprise that they ended up cutting Guyton before the season began. He signed with the Warriors in November and played a couple of games before being cut, marking the end of his NBA career (though he did play overseas until 2010). Guyton was still on the Lakers when the rosters were finalised for NBA Live 2003 however, resulting in a phantom stint. Indeed, if you go back through the previous instalments of this series, you’ll see that he’s one of several names that became players who only appeared on certain teams in video games thanks to the various roster cut-off dates for NBA Live 2003.
2. Brad Lohaus (Charlotte Hornets, NBA Live 97)
This admittedly isn’t the video game trivia that Brad Lohaus is best known for. Even though he was a backup for a lowly Milwaukee Bucks team at the time, basketball gamers came to know Lohaus as he was one of the players picked for their two-man squad in the original NBA Jam. He was one of the slowest players in the game and wasn’t much good on dunks, but he could shoot threes, a reflection of his status as an early example of a big man who was a three-point specialist. Though he spent most of his career with the Bucks, Lohaus also played for the Celtics, Kings, Timberwolves, Heat, Knicks, and Raptors, and had two stints with the Spurs, in the mid to late 90s.
You’ll note that that resume doesn’t include the Charlotte Hornets, but that’s where you’ll find him in NBA Live 97 PC. That’s because he was traded to Charlotte along with Anthony Mason for Larry Johnson in the offseason of 1996, and remained on the Hornets’ roster right up until Halloween. Shortly after the season tipped off, Lohaus signed with the Raptors, appearing in six games before being released in December and heading overseas to play in Italy. He then returned to the NBA towards the end of the 1998 season to play nine games for the Spurs, and opted to retire when the lockout threatened the 1999 campaign. Of course, this doesn’t beat being an NBA Jam legend!
3. Mike Miller (Portland Trail Blazers, NBA 2K16)
We’ve come to the most noteworthy name on this list. Mike Miller was the 2001 Rookie of the Year, and a two-time NBA champion playing alongside LeBron James in Miami. He didn’t put up big numbers in those championship runs, but as a shooter, he was the right kind of player to shore up the bench of a team built around LeBron. It’s probably no surprise that when LeBron returned to Cleveland in 2014, they also brought Miller on board following a one-year return to the Memphis Grizzlies. The Cavaliers fell to the Golden State Warriors in the 2015 NBA Finals, and looking to re-tool for another run in 2016, they sent Miller to the Portland Trail Blazers for cash.
Unfortunately for Mike Miller, this meant that he missed out on being a part of the Cavs’ historic comeback victory over the Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals. His loss would not be Portland’s gain however, as they released him in late September. It wouldn’t be the end of Miller’s NBA career though, as he signed with Denver and played two final seasons with the Nuggets. NBA 2K16 was released the day after the Blazers waived him, so that’s where you’ll find Miller in the original default rosters. Oddly enough, this phantom stint wouldn’t be represented in NBA Live 16 – which came out the same day as NBA 2K16 – as the Day One patch included a roster update.
4. Erick Barkley (San Antonio Spurs, NBA Live 2003)
No relation to Charles, Erick Barkley had a brief and uneventful NBA career in the early 2000s. Taken by the Trail Blazers with the 28th pick in 2000, he spent two seasons in Portland, playing limited minutes in a total of 27 games. Like many of the players that I’ve covered in the past couple of instalments, he’s most noteworthy for being included in trades involving more significant players changing uniforms. In Erick Barkley’s case, the Trail Blazers traded him to San Antonio in 2002 along with Steve Kerr, who became a familiar face back in a familiar place in the process. While Kerr would play a role in the Spurs’ 2003 championship run, Erick Barkley did not.
The Spurs traded him to Chicago in October, and the Bulls immediately waived him. That was a wrap for his NBA career, but like the aforementioned A.J. Guyton, he continued to play pro ball overseas. He eventually retired in 2011, and later became an assistant coach at his old high school. As for that phantom stint with the Spurs, it was captured in NBA Live 2003; once again, a game that has provided us with several examples of players who only appeared on certain teams on the virtual hardwood. I’ve said it before, but it’s amazing how even twenty years later, video games help us to recall players that didn’t even play a single season’s worth of games in the league!
5. Donte Greene (Memphis Grizzlies, NBA 2K13 & Boston Celtics, NBA 2K14)
Although Donte Greene didn’t have a particularly memorable career – one in which all of his official appearances came with the Sacramento Kings – his name sticks out in my mind. It’s largely due to working on roster updates for NBA Live all those years ago, but also thanks to Axel’s Houston Rockets Dynasty in NBA Live 10. Axel traded for Donte before the first season, and he became a valuable contributor off the bench. More infamously though, as Axel began to flesh out his story with some creative writing, Greene wound up – quite literally – in Damon Stoudamire’s crosshairs. In hindsight, it was in questionable taste, but it did make for a unique Dynasty story!
Funnily enough, while I remember that fiction, I’d forgotten the tail end of the real Donte Greene’s NBA career. After missing the entire 2013 season, he signed on with the Memphis Grizzlies on April 17th, a move that was reflected in the final official roster update. He played for the Grizzlies in the Summer League, before being traded to the Boston Celtics for the late Fab Melo in August. Before Donte could don Celtics green, Boston waived him in September, ending his NBA career without tallying a further official minute since 2012. Updates soon exorcised that phantom stint from the rosters, and Greene has since been active overseas and in The Basketball Tournament.
Shout out to David L once again for the heads up on a few of these examples! There are yet more instalments in this series still in the pipeline, but for now, do you recall these players who only appeared on certain teams in games, and their respective phantom stints? 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.