The Friday Five: 5 Times Basketball Games Had Fictional Content

The Friday Five: 5 Times Basketball Games Had Fictional Content

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 times that basketball games featured fictional content.

Authenticity is the name of the game when it comes to sim basketball titles. There are acceptable breaks from reality, of course. MyTEAM allows us to construct lineups that span multiple eras, with everyone in their prime and ignoring that some players have passed away. It’s a fantasy mode, after all. We can also choose to have classic teams from different eras square off, play with teams featuring all of the best players in club history, or even have a team face itself. Even in a sim game, there’s fun to be had doing things that can’t be done in real life.

Fictional content is something else altogether. It’s usually the mark of an arcade game, such as the Stickmen and other bonus teams in NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, or the inclusion of Mortal Kombat characters in the arcade version of NBA Jam Tournament Edition. Most of the fictional content in sim titles comes from our own modding and roster customisation. With that being said, there are some times when fictional content appeared in sim basketball games, beyond the obvious examples of Roster Players filling in for unlicensed names. From placeholders and bonus content to questionable design choices, here are five times that sim basketball games had fictional elements.

1. Jersey Contest Uniforms in NBA Live 09 & 10

Gold Standard Warriors Jersey in NBA Live 09

Whenever I go back and play an exhibition game in an old title, I gravitate towards using the alternate jerseys. It’s ironic, because one of my quibbles with the modern NBA is the overuse of special jerseys rather than teams primarily wearing traditional home and away uniforms! On the other hand, that may be why I’m drawn to using alternate jerseys in old games, because back then those secondary and celebratory uniforms felt special. Anyway, there’s one jersey in particular that I enjoy using in NBA Live 09 and NBA Live 10. That’s the Golden State Warriors’ “Gold Standard” secondary home jersey, which is pictured in the screenshot that you can see above.

It is, of course, a completely fictional jersey. As I recalled when I covered it in a Wayback Wednesday article, it’s the winning design from an NBA Live 08 custom jersey contest. One of the prizes for winning the contest was having the jersey appear in NBA Live 09, and the developers decided to keep it in NBA Live 10 as well. In all honesty, I still say the NLSC’s Pdub had a better entry, as did other participants. It’s a unique design though, and it’s a novelty to use. It’s also fairly unintrusive as far as fictional content is concerned, since you never have to wear it, and the CPU can’t automatically choose it. Fictional content like this makes for fun trivia if nothing else.

2. All-Star Teams (NBA in the Zone 98 & 99)

Fictional All-Stars in NBA in the Zone 98

Including the East and West All-Star teams in 5v5 basketball games is a practice that dates back to Lakers vs Celtics. Traditionally, the rosters are from the previous year’s All-Star Game, with modern games receiving updates once the current season’s teams are announced; in other words, a logical and straightforward approach to including the All-Star teams. Interestingly however, there have been a few sim games that featured completely fictional All-Star lineups. Two such examples are NBA in the Zone 98 and NBA in the Zone 99 by Konami. For whatever reason, the All-Star teams in those games are filled with a mixture of actual All-Stars, and journeymen role players.

Now, there is a silver lining here, and possible method to the madness. Those games are two of the rare titles that actually allow gamers to modify the All-Star lineups. This means that we’re not stuck with those ridiculous fictional lineups full of players who are decidedly not All-Stars, and indeed, arguably encourages us to choose our own teams. Still, it’s an odd design choice not to use the actual lineups as the default. When everything else about the game is aiming for realism and accuracy – as much as was possible at the time – the fictional All-Star rosters stick out like a sore thumb. Again, that may have been the point, but it’s certainly an unconventional approach.

3. MyCAREER Story Characters in the NBA

Marcus Young in NBA 2K19 MyCAREER

As you’re probably aware if you’re familiar with my commentary through articles and the NLSC Podcast, I have a love-hate relationship with MyCAREER stories. I can appreciate their production values and have enjoyed some of the better-written tales, but I’m critical of them when they’re poorly done and negatively impact the gameplay experience. A staple of several MyCAREER stories is the addition of fictional players to NBA rosters. This of course began with the very first tale, in which Jackson Ellis is the rival of the MyPLAYER protagonist. Your mileage may vary, but I’ve actually come to enjoy having Ellis as a recurring subplot in my NBA 2K14 MyCAREER.

Since then, we’ve seen other characters become fictional content in the rosters and gameplay of MyCAREER in NBA 2K. If you play through “The Way Back” in NBA 2K19, Corey Harris will be on the Los Angeles Lakers, while Marcus Young plays for the San Antonio Spurs. If you elect to skip the story and proceed directly to the NBA however, they won’t appear in your game. NBA 2K20 brought us Anderson Murray, a minor character who becomes your fictional teammate wherever you end up, even if you do bypass the introductory tale. Again, whether or not they ruin the experience is a matter of opinion, especially since your MyPLAYER is an equally fictional entity.

4. Fictional Rookies in Draft Do-Overs

Mock Do-Over Draft in NBA Live 07 Dynasty

There have been some great ideas in mediocre and subpar basketball games. To that point, even as NBA Live was really beginning to struggle in the mid 2000s, it was adding some creative features. Both versions of NBA Live 07 were disappointing in their own ways, but Dynasty mode did receive a nifty addition in the ability to hold the 2006 Draft again. Unfortunately there was no way to automatically reset the rest of the offseason moves – that wouldn’t happen until NBA 2K did it years later – but it was a fun option to have for franchise play. There was a catch, though. Not everyone who was picked in the 2006 Draft was signed and licensed to appear in NBA Live 07.

The obvious solution was to fill in the gaps with fictional rookies, and that’s exactly what the developers did. It wasn’t ideal for anyone who wanted real rosters, but then if that was your preference, you most likely wouldn’t be holding a do-over of the Draft in the first place! Additionally, since those fictional players were hidden in the roster database files, we were able to replace them with real draftees on PC. Ultimately, the appeal of the Draft Do-Over feature was to change the fate of the top prospects, so a handful of fictional rookies that would likely soon be free agents didn’t matter too much. Of course, it wasn’t the last time a basketball game had fictional freshmen…

5. Fictional Players in NBA 2K21 Current Gen At Launch

A Fictional Rookie in NBA 2K21 MyCAREER

NBA 2K21 is undoubtedly an unusual game, surrounded by unique circumstances. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down the NBA in the midst of the 2020 season, NBA 2K21 was the first game since NBA 2K12 to launch with the previous year’s rosters. Not only that, but due to the 2020 NBA Finals taking place in October, NBA 2K21 was released for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch, before the previous season had even concluded! It didn’t help that the game had a number of issues, but as much as anything else, it was tough to get excited about a brand new release for the 2021 season when the 2020 campaign hadn’t even finished yet.

In hindsight, the game should’ve been pushed back to coincide with the Next Gen release, in order to launch with updated offseason rosters. This would’ve allowed the inclusion of the Class of 2020 rookies, who hadn’t even been drafted when NBA 2K21 was released. As such, there’s a class of fictional rookies in their place, in order to have first year players in the game modes. Although they were eventually replaced by the real rookies, if you began a MyCAREER at launch – which you basically had to do in order to get on the grind ASAP – you’re stuck with them. It’s understandable given the circumstances, but again, it’s an argument in favour of delaying the game.

What other fictional content do you recall seeing in basketball video games? Do you enjoy it, or does it bother you? 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.

Support The NLSC on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Verified by MonsterInsights