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 part nine in a series of lists of retro teams that I’d like to see added to NBA 2K.
While I was mulling over ideas for Part 8 of this series on retro teams I’d like to see in future NBA 2K games, I ended up with enough squads for Parts 9, 10, and 11 as well. Originally, I intended to space those articles out over the next few months so as not to run the topic into the ground, but since we’re on the heels of submitting our Wishlists for NBA 2K20 and NBA Live 20, I’m still in the mood to talk about content that I’d like to see. Besides, I had fun capturing the necessary screenshots and I’m eager to put them to use, so for this week at least, I’m going back to back with Part 9.
As with the previous lists, I’m exploring some unorthodox ideas for retro teams, as the squads that have been added in recent years go beyond the obvious choices of former champions, their opponents, and other teams with notable success. Once again, I must also emphasise that the latest list of suggestions doesn’t override or cancel out any of my previous suggestions; they’re just more teams that I’d like to see included in future games. As always, these suggestions are being made under the assumption that all of the necessary players, or at least an ample amount of them, will be licensed. Without any further ado, here are five more retro teams to consider!
1. 1988 Dallas Mavericks
When I first got into the NBA back in the 90s, the Dallas Mavericks were a mainstay in the league’s basement. They endured a 71-loss season in 1993, and aside from their first round loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in 1990, went the entire decade without a postseason appearance or a winning record. As such, I came to know them as a team that wasn’t good, hadn’t been good for a long time, and wasn’t expected to be any good year in and year out. They’d pick up some talented players from time to time – their 1995 squad is one I’ve mentioned as one of the retro teams that I’d like to see – but success continued to elude them until Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash came along.
That wasn’t their first taste of success in the NBA, however. An expansion team that entered the league in 1980, the Mavericks improved each of their first three years in the league, and made the Playoffs in each of the next five seasons. They set what was then a club record with 55 wins in 1987, but it was their 1988 squad that had the most success. With a roster that included Mark Aguirre, Rolando Blackman, Derek Harper, Sam Perkins, Detlef Schrempf, and Sixth Man of the Year Roy Tarpley, they won 53 games and then took the champion Los Angeles Lakers to seven games in the Western Conference Finals. As it stands, their starting five is already on the All-Time squad.
2. 1992 Miami Heat
Following on from last week, I have another team from 1992: the Miami Heat. I must note that if you want to play with them in NBA 2K on PC – or indeed, any team from the 1992 season – you can do so using the mod that Stildo33 created. With that being said, I’m also nominating them as a squad I’d like to see among NBA 2K’s retro teams by default. Like the aforementioned Mavericks, the Heat were an expansion team that came along in the 80s – in their case, 1988 – and it took them three seasons before they made their first Playoff appearance. As you’ve undoubtedly figured out (especially if you’ve quickly done the maths), that milestone was achieved by their 1992 squad.
They were a very young team, with veteran point guard Jon Sundvold being the only player with more than three years experience. Their top scorer was Glen Rice, still a few years away from being an All-Star, but already a deadly shooter. Steve Smith, then a rookie, chipped in with scoring and playmaking. Grant Long, Rony Seikaly, Bimbo Coles, Brian Shaw, Kevin Edwards, and Willie Burton, are among the other key players on their roster. Unfortunately for them, they ran into the Chicago Bulls in the first round. They were swept and Michael Jordan put up some amazing numbers against them, but that young Heat team put up a good fight in the decisive third game.
3. 1998 Cleveland Cavaliers
Anyone who knows the history of the Cleveland Cavaliers will be aware of the strong teams they fielded in the late 80s and early 90s. Behind the efforts of All-Stars Mark Price and Brad Daugherty, they had three 50+ win seasons and took Jordan’s Bulls to six games in the 1992 Eastern Conference Finals. Much has been said about both of LeBron James’ stints with the team, which produced five NBA Finals appearances between them, and a drought-breaking championship in 2016 after coming back from a 3-1 deficit. However, not much focus is given to the era between 1995 and 2003; the time between their first period of sustained notoriety, and the arrival of LeBron.
Needless to say, there is a reason for that. That era includes quite a few seasons in the league’s basement, and a rather ugly style of play under Mike Fratello. Think the Grit & Grind Memphis Grizzlies, only with even less flair. Things started to look up in the 1998 season though, when the team acquired All-Star Shawn Kemp in a blockbuster trade. Surrounding Kemp were Wesley Person, Bob Sura, and a quartet of promising rookies: Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Derek Anderson, Brevin Knight, and Cedric Henderson. They won 47 games, but then the lockout happened, Kemp gained weight, and their bright future never came to be. They’d be a fun team to play with in NBA 2K, though.
4. 2001 Milwaukee Bucks
Original NBA 2K cover player Allen Iverson’s 2001 Philadelphia 76ers are among the retro teams in recent games, and for good reason. They were the first Sixers squad to top 50 wins since Charles Barkley’s 1990 team, and handed the dominant Los Angeles Lakers their only loss of the 2001 postseason. Before their epic clash with the Lakers, AI and his 76ers locked horns with the Milwaukee Bucks, who were led by fellow Class of 1996 alum Ray Allen. Both teams were in the lottery from 1992-1998, their young stars lifting them as the decade drew to a close. It seemed only appropriate that they would meet in the Eastern Conference Finals for a memorable seven game series.
Aside from Allen, that Bucks team featured some familiar names. Packing a scoring punch alongside Allen was 1995 first overall pick Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson. Sam Cassell and Jason Caffey had won titles with the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls respectively, while Scott Williams had been part of Chicago’s first threepeat. Their backcourt featured Lindsey Hunter and playground legend Rafer Alston, while their frontcourt was bolstered by veteran Jerome Kersey and a young prototypical modern stretch four, Tim Thomas. Michael Redd barely played as a rookie, but he’s there, too. It’s a good team, and it would be a lot of fun re-creating their clash with the 76ers.
5. 2014 San Antonio Spurs
I’ve focused on a lot of unorthodox choices in these lists, so let’s wrap up Part 9 with a more conventional suggestion. The last San Antonio Spurs championship team to date, it not only saw Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili add another ring to their collection, but also served as the breakout party for Kawhi Leonard. That may be a sore spot for Spurs fans, though, given the ugly divorce that took place this past offseason. It’s probably not easy to see Parker in a Charlotte Hornets jersey, either. At the very least they’ll always have 2014, as well as four other championships beginning with the 1999 season. For close to thirty years now, they’ve remained relevant.
The Spurs’ loss to the Miami Heat in 2013 was a crushing one, as they were a couple of plays away from winning it all in six games that year. If not for missed free throws and some heroics by Ray Allen, they would have been aiming to defend their crown in 2014. As it stands, they came back with a vengeance following the loss, and took care of business in five games. I really enjoyed watching Aussie Patty Mills just light it up in Game 5, and even went out and bought his jersey afterwards. In many ways, that title marked the end of an era; not just for the Spurs, but for the NBA as well. For that, they should be among 2K’s retro teams, where they can take on the 2013 Heat.
I still have retro teams to suggest, but they’ll have to wait for the next instalment in this series. In the meantime, what are some of the retro teams that you’d like to see added to NBA 2K? Do any of the retro teams that I mentioned here appeal to you? Have your say in the comments 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.