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 yet another list of five retro teams that I’d like to see added to NBA 2K.
As the title of this week’s column indicates, this is Part 4 in an ongoing series offering up suggestions for new retro teams to be added in future NBA 2K games. Reiterating a point I made in Parts 1, 2, and 3 of the series, with so many noteworthy teams in the game already – especially past champions, their opponents, and many other significant squads – the door is now open for some unorthodox but nevertheless interesting teams from years gone by. In some cases, the addition of these retro teams allows for a few more notable players to be included, enhancing MyTEAM and retro roster projects.
Once again, I’ll state that my opinion still stands regarding the retro teams mentioned in the previous three articles. I would still like to see those teams included, so these five new squads aren’t intended to replace my previous suggestions. Also, I’m making these suggestions under the assumption that most (if not all) of the major players can be licensed to appear, otherwise it would defeat the purpose of adding them to the game. Quite a few of the players from these teams are in the game already though, which means that some of these suggestions may indeed be feasible. Without any further ado, let’s get to another five retro teams that’d be fun to have in NBA 2K.
1. 1986 Houston Rockets
The ’86 Rockets are an NBA Finalist that we haven’t seen in NBA 2K yet, and are probably not that well-remembered. It makes sense as the team that defeated them – Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics – are not only remembered for winning championship number sixteen that year, but being the team that Michael Jordan scored a record 63 points against. As such, they’ve been included since NBA 2K11, where they were a part of the Jordan Challenge. The Rockets team that they defeated 4-2 in the Finals tends to be overlooked, probably because the Celtics’ three meetings with the Los Angeles Lakers during the decade are far more famous in NBA lore.
Bird’s Celtics also defeated the Rockets in 1981, a team led by Moses Malone. The 1986 squad is a little more interesting though, with a few more recognisable names. They had the Twin Towers of Hakeem Olajuwon (then still going by Akeem) and Ralph Sampson. Craig Ehlo, best known for his tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers, was in his third season. John Lucas, long-time coach and father of John Lucas III, was their point guard. Rodney McCray, who later won a title alongside MJ in 1993, also started for them. It’s nice having Sampson on the All-Time squad and Hakeem’s 1994 team in the game, but it’d be great to celebrate the Twin Towers’ best season as a duo.
2. 1993 Boston Celtics
With seventeen championship banners hanging in their rafters, the Boston Celtics have boasted several memorable teams. Some of the most noteworthy are already included among the retro teams in NBA 2K, but there are a few other squads that would be fun to play with. I listed the 2002 Celtics in Part 3, and in a similar vein, I’ll also suggest the 1993 team. That team had lost Larry Bird to retirement in the 1992 offseason, and the season also turned out to be Kevin McHale’s final campaign. The third member of the Celtics’ Big Three of the 80s, Robert Parish, would go on to play until 1997, but the 1993 season was his second to last playing in Boston.
In addition to having a link to the past, those Celtics also appeared to have a bright future, which is what makes them an interesting (and ultimately, tragic) squad. They had solid young players like Rick Fox, Sherman Douglas, and Dee Brown. Veteran forward Xavier McDaniel, not too far past his prime, was also on the roster. Their star however was the late Reggie Lewis, an All-Star the previous season who was coming into his own as the leader of the team. Tragically, 1993 would turn out to be his final season, as he passed away suddenly in July due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Including the team would be a fine tribute to a life lost too soon, and a big What If.
3. 1994 Chicago Bulls
Although I enjoyed playing through NBA’s Greatest in NBA 2K12, there were a few teams that seemed like odd choices. The 1985 Philadelphia 76ers for Julius Erving obviously stands out as one such team, as do the 1996 Chicago Bulls for Scottie Pippen. Sure, the Bulls won the championship and 72 games that season, with Pip playing a big role in that. Michael Jordan was the leader of that team though, and it wasn’t really Pippen’s best postseason of the championship years. He was clearly the star of the 1994 Chicago Bulls, which arguably should’ve been the squad used in NBA’s Greatest. There would’ve been less overlap with the Jordan Challenge, too.
I can understand why 2K went with the ’96 Bulls and SuperSonics for Pip’s challenge of course, as they were already in the game. It’s also fair to suggest that when it comes to retro Chicago Bulls teams, most gamers would prefer to play with squads that feature Michael Jordan. However, that 1994 team would be fun to play with. On top of being Pippen’s finest season, it was also a career year for Horace Grant and B.J. Armstrong. Toni Kukoc debuted, Bill Cartwright was in his last year with the Bulls, and Luc Longley, Steve Kerr, and Bill Wennington all joined the team. 1994 was Pippen’s time to shine, and I believe that team would make a fun addition to NBA 2K.
4. 1997 Atlanta Hawks
We’ve seen some wild offseasons over the years, but in my estimation, 1996 was one of the craziest. The biggest news was Shaquille O’Neal heading to the Los Angeles Lakers, probably followed by the Houston Rockets trading for Charles Barkley, but all around the league, teams were gearing up to take a shot at the champion Bulls. The Atlanta Hawks acquired Christian Laettner midway through the 1996 season, and with Steve Smith, Mookie Blaylock, Stacey Augmon, and Grant Long, won 46 games and made it to the second round, where they lost to the Orlando Magic. Not quite satisfied, the Hawks were among the teams intent on making some big moves in the offseason.
Their big signing was Dikembe Mutombo, who bolted from the Denver Nuggets. Mt Mutombo would win his second Defensive Player of the Year award in three seasons, and was an All-Star once again. Smith and Blaylock returned, though Augmon and Long were sent to the Detroit Pistons. Laettner also made his lone All-Star game that season, and the roster was rounded out by solid veterans including Tyrone Corbin, Jon Barry, and Ken Norman. They won 56 games but ended up with another 4-1 loss in the second round, this time to the eventual champion Bulls. A solid squad with one of my favourite jerseys from the era, they’d flesh out the selection of late 90s retro teams.
5. 2007 Washington Wizards
Let’s move along to a more recent team, though as an eleven year old squad, it’s still somewhat retro at this point. Long before LeBron James was locking horns with the Indiana Pacers and Lance Stephenson, The King had a heated rivalry with DeShawn Stevenson and the Washington Wizards of the mid 2000s. Although LeBron and his Cleveland Cavaliers always got the best of the team from DC, two of their three first round series went to six games, and there were some chippy moments. Since the 2007 Cavaliers are already among the retro teams in NBA 2K, I’d nominate the Wizards squad from the same season be added so that we can replay those clashes.
It’s kind of a toss-up because the 2006 and 2008 teams had better records and took the Cavs to six games, but 2007 was Gilbert Arenas’ last great season in the league, and it obviously lines up with the specific Cavs squad that’s already included. Agent Zero would absolutely have to be in the game to make their inclusion worthwhile, but he’s not the only name of note on the roster. Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson, and Antonio Daniels were also members of those Wizards. While I have a lot of nostalgia for the 90s, there are several squads from the mid 2000s that are worth adding, with an Arenas-led Wizards team definitely being among them.
What are some other retro teams that you’d like to see included in future NBA 2K games? Do any of the squads that I mentioned appeal to you? 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.