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 retro teams that I’d like to see added in future NBA 2K games.
With a large roster of retro teams already in NBA 2K, you’d think it might be tough to suggest new squads to include. A lot of the obvious teams are already in the game, as Visual Concepts has managed to license a lot of the great championship teams, their opponents, and other prominent and successful squads. It’s getting to the point where they are adding some more unorthodox but still interesting teams to the game, which opens up the door for some potentially unusual suggestions. With that in mind, there are quite a few NBA Legends who could be celebrated with squads that would make fun and intriguing additions to the selection of retro teams in NBA 2K.
Please note that as per the title of this column, this is Part 3 in an ingoing series where I list the retro teams that I’d like to see in NBA 2K. While not all of the teams that I mentioned in Part 1 and Part 2 have been added to the game, I’ve already discussed them, and my desire to see them in NBA 2K still stands. I’m looking to discuss a new list of retro teams each time, so in no way do my latest picks cancel out the ones that I’ve previously mentioned. I’m also making these suggestions under the assumption that Visual Concepts will be able to license most (if not all) of the key players, though in many cases, they’re already in the game. With that being said, let’s get to the list!
1. 1995 San Antonio Spurs
If you’re talking about the most successful pre-Tim Duncan San Antonio Spurs teams, then the 1995 squad is right up there. Their 62-20 record was a franchise best at the time, and their roster was full of talent, led by the 1995 Most Valuable Player, David Robinson. The Admiral was joined by Dennis Rodman, as well as a returning Sean Elliott, who had been traded to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for The Worm the previous season. Vinny Del Negro and Avery Johnson started in the backcourt, while veterans Chuck Person, Terry Cummings, Willie Anderson, and an aging Moses Malone came off the bench. In short, there were a lot of memorable names of the era.
Unfortunately for the 1995 Spurs, their legacy is of a team that came up short, all the while surrounded in controversy. Hakeem Olajuwon got the better of David Robinson in the Playoffs, with the underdog Houston Rockets knocking out the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Rodman proved to be a distraction, missing games due to injuries and suspensions, and perhaps most infamously, dating Madonna. He would be traded to the Chicago Bulls in the offseason, ending a tumultuous two year stint with the Spurs. Still, it’d be fun to have the best pre-Duncan Spurs squad among the retro teams in NBA 2K, celebrating The Admiral’s MVP year and Rodman’s brief tenure.
2. 1997 Detroit Pistons
Grant Hill may be heading to the Hall of Fame this year, but due to his prime being cut short by a myriad of ankle injuries, a lot of people forget – or indeed, were never aware of – just how good he was. In fact, his numbers through his first six seasons with the Detroit Pistons are comparable to those posted by Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, and LeBron James. Although not as strong, Hill was basically LeBron before LeBron, playing the point forward role and posting great all-around numbers. Due to landing on a rebuilding Pistons team as the third pick in 1994, Hill didn’t see a lot of postseason success, though his teams made the Playoffs four times in six years.
While the championship Pistons teams that are already in NBA 2K are obviously far more noteworthy, I don’t think it would be inappropriate to celebrate Grant Hill’s induction into the Hall of Fame by including one of his squads. The prime candidate would be the 1997 Pistons, whose 54-28 record was the best during Hill’s tenure in Detroit. Hill himself had one of the best seasons of his career, and he was joined on that squad by Joe Dumars, Otis Thorpe, Theo Ratliff, Lindsey Hunter, Terry Mills, Grant Long, Rick Mahon, Aaron McKie, and a rookie Jerome” Junk Yard Dog” Williams. If included in NBA 2K, they’d match up nicely with the 1997 Heat.
3. 1999 Houston Rockets
As previously noted, with so many championship teams, their opponents, and other noteworthy squads already included in NBA 2K, the door is now open to some more unorthodox choices for retro teams. I’ll admit to having an odd fascination with teams that feature all-time greats playing in different uniforms, which is why despite the fact I do wish it didn’t happen, I’m in favour of seeing one of Michael Jordan’s Wizards teams added to NBA 2K. In a similar vein, while it likewise stung to see MJ’s running mate Scottie Pippen in a different uniform, his lone year with the Houston Rockets made for a squad that I’d be interested in playing with in NBA 2K.
When it comes to the 1999 Rockets, the issue of Charles Barkley once again rears its head. Ideally, Visual Concepts would make the donation to the NBARPA in order to secure Sir Charles’ likeness rights, but even if they don’t, it’s not as though there aren’t already retro teams with noteworthy omissions. Even without Barkley, there’s the novelty of teaming Pippen up with Hakeem Olajuwon. That team also featured two notable rookies in Cuttino Mobley and Michael Dickerson, veterans Eddie Johnson and Antoine Carr, and a handful of other recognisable role players from the 90s. I’m also still a fan of those pinstripe Rockets jerseys, so it’d be an excuse to feature them.
4. 2001 Seattle SuperSonics
This probably sounds like a really strange suggestion, but it comes down to the same principle of seeing Hall of Famers on their less famous teams. In this case, that player is Patrick Ewing, who joined the Seattle SuperSonics following what was then the largest trade in NBA history. Ewing’s discontent in New York and trade demand after fifteen years as the face of the franchise was a huge story at the time, and it was weird to see him sporting the Sonics’ green uniforms after a decade and a half in the blue and orange of the Knicks. Again, the oddity of that image is a big reason why I’d be interested in seeing this unusual squad among NBA 2K’s retro teams.
Of course, Ewing wasn’t the only player of note on that team. Gary Payton was still around, and playing at an All-Star level. Although removed from his All-Star years, Vin Baker was also a member of the team, still putting up respectable numbers. A young Rashard Lewis was starting to blossom, and rookie Desmond Mason was the league’s Slam Dunk Champion that year. The roster was rounded out by capable players such as Brent Barry and Ruben Patterson, and familiar journeymen including Pervis Ellison. Their 44-38 record wasn’t good enough for a Playoff spot in a strong Western Conference, but with their roster, they’d be an interesting team to play with.
5. 2002 Boston Celtics
The 2008 NBA Finals featuring the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers was the first championship clash between the two storied rivals since 1987. It looked as though we might see a renewal of the rivalry six years prior to that however, when the Celtics broke a six year Playoff drought and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. The potential match-up is generally forgotten, not only because the New Jersey Nets defeated the Celtics and made the Finals instead, but the controversy of the Western Conference Finals series between the Lakers and Sacramento Kings understandably tends to overshadow everything else that happened in the 2002 Playoffs.
Nevertheless, the 2002 Celtics were just a couple of wins away from making it to the NBA Finals, potentially renewing the Lakers-Celtics rivalry after fifteen years as opposed to twenty-one. They were led by the young duo of Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker, who were both All-Stars that season. Other noteworthy players included Kenny Anderson, Rodney Rogers, Tony Delk, and Walter McCarty. Although the Celtics wouldn’t win title seventeen until they traded for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett five years later, the arguably overachieving 2002 team tipped off four straight Playoff appearances, and a return to relevance for the NBA’s winningest franchise.
That’s another five retro teams off my list; now it’s your turn. What are some other historical squads that you’d like to see added in future NBA 2K games? What’s your take on the retro teams that I’ve suggested so far? Have your say 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.