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The Friday Five: 5 Players Whose Careers Should Inspire MyCAREER Stories

The Friday Five: 5 Players Whose Careers Should Inspire MyCAREER Stories

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 a list of five players whose NBA careers could (and indeed, should) inspire future MyCAREER stories.

As I’ve previously discussed, there are some real players whose careers bear some entertaining similarities to a few of the stories we’ve had in MyCAREER. I’ll admit that making those comparisons made me see those tales differently, especially the saga of the NBA 2K15 MyPLAYER! I also still really enjoy how “The Way Back” in NBA 2K19 resembled Andre Ingram’s road to the NBA, including a debut towards the end of the regular season. Obviously that was coincidental, but it does make you wonder which other players have stories that would be suitable for MyCAREER.

Now, you might be inclined to say that just about every player who makes it to the NBA had an interesting journey that would be viable as a MyCAREER story. That’s true to an extent, but many of them – while impressive and compelling in their own way – are very similar and straightforward. They don’t necessarily set up a unique scenario from a narrative or gameplay standpoint. We’ve already seen a variety of MyCAREER stories from triumphant tales of highly-touted prospects to underdogs scrapping for opportunities. Again, we’ve even seen a DJ become an NBA star! So, could any real players provide a template for future stories? I believe I can name five.

1. Randolph Morris

Randolph Morris in NBA Live 08

Yes, I’m starting out with the most obscure player on this list! However, it’s probably the most feasible out of all these ideas for MyCAREER stories based on real players. Randolph Morris didn’t have a particularly noteworthy career, playing just 74 games in four seasons, including two with the Knicks and two with the Hawks. With stats that are comparable to Yinka Dare, Morris doesn’t seem like an ideal candidate to base a MyCAREER story around. We undoubtedly want our MyPLAYERs to find far more success on the virtual hardwood, but it’s not about what Randolph Morris did in the NBA. Rather, it’s about how he came to debut in the league that’s intriguing here.

After his freshman year at Kentucky, Morris declared for the 2005 Draft, but wasn’t selected. Since he didn’t hire an agent, he could continue playing for the Wildcats, but couldn’t re-enter the Draft. Morris was eligible to leave college to sign with any NBA team as a free agent though, and on March 23rd 2007 – five days after Kentucky were eliminated from the NCAA tournament – he did just that, joining the Knicks and thus becoming the first player to go from the NCAA to the NBA in the same week. We’ve had MyCAREER stories that included college games before, but a scenario like that would put a new spin on a familiar narrative, and possibly open up multiple paths.

2. John Starks

John Starks Inspires Underdog MyCAREER Stories

When I was first getting into basketball, I was keen to learn everything that I could about the NBA and its players. One of my guides in those early days was a book by Bruce Weber titled Pro Basketball Megastars 1995. It’s a great introduction to some of the big names of the day, though it’s also a fun time capsule as it’s discussing “the NBA after Michael Jordan” just a few months before his comeback! In any event, I read those player profiles over and over again as a newly-minted hoop head. One of the players profiled was John Starks. Reading about the one-time All-Star and future Sixth Man of the Year taught me about the different roads players took to the NBA.

Starks was one of the biggest undrafted success stories of the 90s. After a rookie season riding the bench behind Mitch Richmond in Golden State, Starks played in the CBA and WBL before latching on with the Knicks. A freak injury spared him from being a training camp cut, leaving him on the roster when Trent Tucker went down. The rest is history. I’m intrigued by the idea of starting MyCAREER as a sophomore coming off a rookie season as a benchwarmer, and possibly even debuting later due to injury. With the G League and fictional branding for MyNBA expansion teams, the story could even take a short detour inspired by Starks’ tenure in the minor leagues.

3. Connie Hawkins

Connie Hawkins in NBA 2K10

One of the most interesting aspects of MyCAREER stories is that Visual Concepts haven’t been afraid to delve into some darker subject matter. “Livin’ Da Dream” had Vic Van Lier die in a car crash, and reference his parents dying of HIV/AIDS. “The Way Back” in NBA 2K19 introduced openly villainous antagonists, and “When The Lights Are Brightest” explored the politics of college sports and being an advocate as an athlete. With that in mind, it’s not unthinkable that a MyCAREER story would consider tackling the issues of gambling, point-shaving, and game-fixing. In other words, it’d be interesting to see a MyCAREER story inspired by Connie Hawkins.

For those who are unaware, despite not being arrested or indicted in the 1961 college basketball gambling scandal, Connie Hawkins was blackballed at the collegiate level and banned by the NBA. After becoming a star in the ABL, ABA, and for the Harlem Globetrotters, Hawkins reached a settlement with the NBA, and they lifted their ban. It’d be interesting to play a MyCAREER story where we’re likewise unfairly banned from college and the NBA, and must overcome the allegations while playing our way to the big time. I’ll admit that it would be controversial, but arguably no more so than some of the themes and issues that have already been featured in MyCAREER stories.

4. Anfernee Hardaway

Anfernee Hardaway in NBA 2K24

If you were a young NBA fan in the 90s, you’ll remember two things about Anfernee Hardaway. The first is that we preferred to call him Penny, not only because he was frequently referred to by his nickname, but because we got sick of well-meaning older relatives trying to correct our pronunciation (“An-THON-y. It’s An-THON-y.” No, it isn’t. Look at this trading card!). The second is that he was incredibly talented and fun to watch, and that it was a tremendous shame that injuries led to more What Ifs than success for Penny. With that being said, for a few years he and Shaquille O’Neal were an exciting duo, and when Shaq went to LA, Penny looked like he could be The Man.

Beginning with the NBA Draft, there’s plenty of material to work with, including the fact that fans weren’t thrilled about Orlando teasing and then foregoing a twin tower combo of Shaq and Chris Webber. There’s pairing up your MyPLAYER with another young star, possibly bringing back the dual player controls of Orange Juice. There could be a subplot about working with and learning from a veteran mentor, just as Scott Skiles helped Penny and eventually ceded point guard duties to him. You could be thrust into the role of franchise player when your superstar teammate leaves in free agency. Of course, it could be a mix of all these stories, just like Penny’s actual career.

5. Steve Francis

Steve Francis in NBA Live 2000

Who doesn’t like a good redemption story? As a rookie, Steve Francis soon became a villain in Vancouver when he made it very clear that he didn’t want to play for the Grizzlies. This ultimately resulted in a trade to Houston, and the Grizzlies missing out on a future star. It’s not fair to pin their subsequent relocation entirely on Francis, but losing him didn’t exactly help the efforts to keep the team in Canada, making him an even bigger villain to Grizzlies fans. It tainted his reputation with other NBA fans as well, being seen as the brash rookie who thought he was too good to play for a losing team. It was more complicated than that, but his image had definitely been tarnished.

It’s fair to say that he never completely shed that reputation or lived down his decision with all hoops fans, but given his crowd-pleasing highlights, it wasn’t too long before Stevie Franchise became a fan favourite. Injuries cut his prime and career short, but he was a star despite the initial bad PR. I’d suggest that would make for an interesting MyCAREER story. Casting our MyPLAYER as a reluctant and misunderstood villain didn’t work in NBA 2K23, but that’s because a feud between the 16th and 17th picks was a silly idea. If you’re a top pick that’s forced a trade and now has to win over fans with your stellar play, that’s a much better redemption arc and more believable story.

What’s your take on these ideas for MyCAREER stories? Which other players have had NBA journeys that could inspire a fun narrative for MyCAREER? Have your say 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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