The Friday Five: 5 Retro Basketball Gaming Ideas

The Friday Five

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 retro basketball gaming ideas that you might want to try out.

The preview season for NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18 isn’t quite in full swing yet, and although the 2017 NBA offseason is underway, a lot of the big names are already off the board. There are Summer League games to catch of course, but I expect that right now, a lot of basketball gamers are choosing to hit the virtual hardwood. Whether it’s LIVE or 2K Pro-Am, MyTEAM, MyCAREER, or perhaps a new MyLEAGUE or MyGM game with updated rosters, we’re finding ways to get our basketball fix while we wait for news on the upcoming video games, and the start of a brand new season.

Of course, you may be looking for a change of pace, especially if you’re feeling a tad nostalgic, or a little bit burned out on the most recent games. To that end, you may want to dust off an old favourite, perhaps picking up where you left off in an old saved game, or possibly engaging in a little Achievement/Trophy hunting. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something new to do with a classic game, there’s a lot of fun to be had if you get a little creative, and enjoy “What If?” scenarios. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, I have five retro basketball gaming ideas to suggest.

1. Andrew Gaze: Legend on Two Continents (NBA Live 2000)

Retro basketball gaming with Andrew Gaze in NBA Live 2000

If you’re after a retro basketball gaming experience that can hold still hold up as being relatively deep, you probably won’t want to go much further back than NBA Live 2000 PC. Although it’s obviously no longer the pinnacle of basketball gaming, NBA Live 2000 is certainly still playable – though it will take a little work to get the PC version up and running on newer operating systems – and its Franchise Mode is solid, even today. There’s a lot of history that you could re-write all these years later, but I’m going to throw out one suggestion in particular: make Andrew Gaze an NBA star.

For those who aren’t familiar with Andrew Gaze, he is the legend of Australian basketball. On top of being the perennial captain of the Boomers through several international tournaments, Gaze was to the Australian National Basketball League what Michael Jordan was to the NBA. Gaze did have a couple of brief stints in the NBA himself, winning a championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 1999. As a result, he’s actually included in the rosters of NBA Live 2000. The challenge here, quite simply, is to make him a significant player in the NBA at the age of 34, for at least a couple of seasons. A couple of ratings boosts, within reason, are optional.

2. Cory Hightower’s Path to Greatness (NBA Live 2002)

Cory Hightower in NBA Live 2002

This is actually an idea that came to me when I was writing a previous Friday Five about players who appeared in NBA video games, but never ended up actually playing in the league. One of those players was Cory Hightower, a player from Flint, Michigan who was highly regarded in pro-am competition and played in several leagues in the USA and abroad, but never made it to the NBA. After being drafted by the Spurs and traded to the Lakers, Hightower was released despite impressive performances in the Summer League and pre-season. After playing in the CBA in 2001, he was a member of the Hornets’ training camp roster prior to the 2002 season.

As I noted in my previous article, Charlotte didn’t cut him until after NBA Live 2002’s rosters were finalised, so he appears in the game. You can probably guess where I’m going with this. Sure, you could go back to NBA Live 2002 and make Kwame Brown or Desagana Diop into stars, but Cory Hightower is The Legend That Was Never Told. Combine that with the unfounded allegations that the Lakers cut him because he showed up Kobe Bryant, and you’ve got a great story waiting to be told. Teamed up with Baron Davis, Jamal Mashburn, and the rest of that 2002 squad, Hightower might just keep the Hornets in Charlotte in a retro basketball gaming reality.

3. It’s Him or Me: Kobe vs. Shaq Remix (NBA Live 2005 or ESPN NBA 2K5)

Alternate History Shaq & Kobe in NBA Live 2005

The Los Angeles Lakers of the early 2000s have their fair share of What If scenarios, and no, I’m not talking about the controversial 2002 Western Conference Finals. Although the Lakers were on top of the league again by the end of the decade, at some point long-time fans of the Purple and Gold have surely wondered what would have happened if Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant had been able to squash their feud, and play several more years together. That’s certainly one retro basketball gaming scenario that you could set up, but the results probably wouldn’t be too surprising. Instead, what if the Lakers had chosen The Diesel instead of The Black Mamba?

In this scenario, using either NBA Live 2005 or ESPN NBA 2K5, you’d reverse the trade that sent Shaq to the Miami Heat, and place Kobe on the Los Angeles Clippers. From here, you have several options. Do you play as Shaq and the Lakers – perhaps with Karl Malone and Gary Payton still on board – or do you try to lead the Clippers to greatness with Kobe? You could assume control of the San Antonio Spurs, the real 2005 champions, and take on those new-look Western teams. Out East, you could guide the defending champion Detroit Pistons to victory over a very different Heat squad, or turn Miami into a contender some other way. What if, indeed…

4. MJ: Rebooting a Legend (NBA 2K11)

MJ: Creating a Legend in NBA 2K11

NBA 2K11 delivers a great all-around experience, but the Jordan Challenge was easily one of its strongest selling points. Even when the game was new, you could argue that in a way, it was offering a retro basketball gaming experience. Now that it’s going on seven years old, it can provide that experience in more ways than one. I’d certainly advocate going back and finishing the Jordan Challenge if you haven’t already, as I can attest to it being a lot of fun. Once you’ve completed all the challenges, you’ll unlock MJ: Creating a Legend. You can also unlock it with the code icanbe23, but again, I do recommend unlocking it legitimately.

Either way, once you’ve unlocked MJ: Creating a Legend, this is where the idea begins. For anyone who doesn’t know, the mode is basically My Player, only you assume control of a young Michael Jordan. You get to decide which of the 30 NBA teams he’ll play for, and then play through his career, rewriting history as you see fit. I’m not sure how many gamers actually spent a lot of time with MJ: Creating a Legend after unlocking it, so if you’ve never really checked it out, it’s something to consider if you’re in the mood for some retro basketball gaming. If you can have a little fun finishing up the Jordan Challenge at the same time, so much the better.

5. Keeping LeBron James’ Talents in South Beach (NBA 2K14)

LeBron James vs. Kawhi Leonard in NBA 2K14 PC

Alright, so dusting off NBA 2K14 might not exactly qualify as retro basketball gaming just yet, as it’s still a fairly recent release. The PC version is a port from the previous generation though, so in terms of the game’s tech, I guess you could kind of call it retro. In any case, four or five years in the NBA actually feels like quite a long time when you consider the length of the season and how much player movement takes place, so I’m running with it. The premise here is simple. This is all about re-writing history so that LeBron James remains with the Miami Heat beyond the 2014 season.

You can actually play out this scenario a couple of ways with NBA 2K14 PC. There’s Association mode, which is the main option. Take control of the Heat – either as a secondary team, or your team of choice – and keep LeBron in South Beach. You can either play or sim through the 2014 season, or jump straight to the 2015 season with UBR or URB, of course moving LeBron back to the Heat before you begin an Association game. Alternatively, if you haven’t already done so, you can play through LeBron: Path to Greatness, finishing the path where James remains in Miami to win not one, not two, not three, not four…well, you get the idea.

I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t find some of these retro basketball gaming ideas appealing, but they would obviously be rather time consuming. If I could somehow do something with them though, perhaps simulating a bulk of the games, I do think that it would be fun. I’d certainly try to make a feature out of it, too. What do you like to do when you dust off an old favourite for some retro basketball gaming? 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.

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