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 lists five questions that remain unanswered in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER, and considers some possible explanations.
Having completed a season for the ages in Year 2 of my NBA 2K19 MyCAREER, I’m ready to move on from the mode in NBA 2K20. Since writing that Monday Tip-Off article, I have played a few games in Year 3 to see what the roster is like. It’s been interesting, but the possibility of a threepeat hasn’t been enough of an incentive to play many more games, or even try simulating most of the season. As the NBA 2K20 demo and full game loom on the horizon, I feel done with NBA 2K19 as a whole, let alone a mode where I’ve finally achieved a sense of closure.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I can’t reflect on my experiences with MyCAREER, and the concepts that it’s explored this generation. For example, I admittedly have a love-hate relationship with the story-driven approach. I believe it has its problems, but it’s also been creative and at times thought-provoking. It’s invited various theories, and even suggests the possibility of its own cinematic universe. Before I close the book on MyCAREER, I’d like to discuss some unexplained aspects of the story in NBA 2K19. Note that these unanswered questions didn’t ruin the experience in my opinion, so this is just me having some fun with plot holes and other oddities.
1. Who do the other characters play for if you skip The Prelude?
One of the best changes in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER was the ability to bypass The Prelude after playing through it once. It made creating additional MyPLAYERs and trying out other builds far less tedious, at the cost of forfeiting the opportunity to earn VC and MyPOINTS before tipping off your NBA career. Although the post-Prelude story elements do assume that you played through it even when it’s skipped, there are a couple of differences. If you play through The Prelude, Corey Harris and Marcus Young appear on the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs respectively. If you skip it, they don’t appear in the league, though they will still send you text messages.
This brings us to the first of our unanswered questions: who do they play for if you end up skipping The Prelude? The straightforward answer is “no one”, but that’s also a boring suggestion. I’ll go a step further and suggest that Marcus Young is back in the G-League, battling the likes of Jackson Ellis and ATM. No doubt his cocky attitude rubbed Gregg Popovich the wrong way, leading to the Spurs cutting him loose. As for Corey Harris, it seems unlikely that a player of his magnitude and maturity would find himself in the G-League, so my suggestion is that he suffered an unfortunate injury, not unlike the one that derailed Ellis’ career following the 2014 season.
2. What happens to your clothes from The Prelude?
Although I’m reliably informed that NBA 2K is more than a Barbie dress-up game, a lot of different options for clothing and cosmetic items are available for our players. Go figure. Anyway, during the course of The Prelude in NBA 2K19, A.I. is seen in a number of different outfits, his wardrobe changing according to the scene. By the time we reach the NBA, our player should have a closet full of Fort Wayne Mad Ants gear, a few different hats and singlets, and some other clothing. That isn’t the case, though. Aside from any pre-order bonuses, the NBA side of MyCAREER begins with your player standing in The Neighborhood with only a very familiar outfit on their back.
It’s not the first time the MyPLAYER character has lost their entire wardrobe, and I guarantee it won’t be the last. From our perspective, there’s no mystery. If we have a few outfits to switch between right away, we won’t be as inclined to spend some VC on new clothes, meaning we’re less likely to buy VC in order to have more to ration between cosmetic items and attribute upgrades. If we’re looking for some in-universe explanations to unanswered questions, then I’d suggest that it’s the expense of The Neighborhood. That MyCOURT apartment can’t be cheap, so clearly A.I. had to sell off his wardrobe in order to make rent, at least until his NBA salary starts rolling in.
3. When did NBA 2K8 get an arcade release?
If you’re not an old head like me, you may not have a lot of fond memories of arcades. There was a time when they were extremely popular of course, and a lot of the games we enjoyed on home computers and consoles were either in arcades first, or designed according to similar principles (such as limited continues after a Game Over). Several hoops games made their debuts in arcades before the home market, most famously Arch Rivals and NBA Jam – basically creating and defining what’s come to be known as the arcade basketball genre – and a few Konami titles including Double Dribble, and Run and Gun (later ported to the Super Nintendo as NBA Give ‘n Go).
Sim titles like NBA Live and NBA 2K weren’t made for the arcades, though. As such, the existence of an NBA 2K8 arcade cabinet, discovered by A.I. and Corey Harris on a night out when the former is playing in China, is one of the unanswered questions raised during The Prelude; at least if we’re comparing it to the real history of NBA 2K. Obviously there’s some creative license at play here, but for what it’s worth, home games have been made available in arcades, in a reversal of the usual process. The PlayChoice-10 was an arcade machine that featured up to 10 (out of a possible 52) NES games. In this reality, we can assume that Take-Two did the same thing with 2K.
4. Where did the nickname AI come from?
Since NBA 2K16, our MyPLAYER characters have had some…interesting names. It began with “Frequency Vibrations”, which along with the “Friend of Freq” stuff was stupid, but it was at least explained during the story. “The President of Basketball”, or “Pres” for short, wasn’t much better (and the “Presidential Pardon” scene after fouls got old really quick), but it was a suitably cocky moniker in a generic sort of way. As terrible as the tale in NBA 2K18 was, “D.J.” at least fit the character’s ridiculous back story. And then NBA 2K19 brought us A.I.; normal enough considering that a lot of players are referred to by their initials, but they aren’t necessarily the initials we’ll use.
Therein lays the problem. I’m guessing since NBA 2K19 was the 20th Anniversary of NBA 2K, it was a nod to the series’ first cover player, Allen Iverson. However, unless I missed something – and I did play through the story twice, once on PS4 and again on PC – there’s no in-universe explanation. There are no references to A.I. being a fan of Allen Iverson (only the Lakers), and unless you pick the appropriate Archetype, you won’t be playing like him. It could feasibly stand for Artificial Intelligence, but there’s nothing that supports that either. So, you know what? I say it stands for “An Idiot”, for the way A.I. gets tricked and believes he’s simply entitled to a spot in the NBA.
5. Why are you a rookie two years in a row?
The biggest plot hole in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER, and therefore the most salient of all the unanswered questions in the story, is how you manage to still be a rookie in the 2019 season after playing one game in 2018. There is actually commentary triggered late in the season that acknowledges the unusual situation, but no explanation is ever offered. Somehow, the game with the Lakers didn’t count, allowing you to contend for 2019 Rookie of the Year honours. That’s a logical design choice as it would be quite annoying if you couldn’t vie for the trophy – consider how hard it was to do so in the abbreviated rookie season in NBA 2K15 – but it makes no sense at all in-universe.
Frankly, I don’t know how to reconcile this one. With all of the other unanswered questions – except perhaps A.I.’s nickname – it’s possible to suggest something that’s at least plausible, even if it’s snarky. Even controversial situations where a player has debuted a season later than they should have and still been considered a rookie – such as Blake Griffin and Ben Simmons – are technically correct. In hindsight, The Prelude should’ve ended with you signing with an NBA team, and facing Marcus Young in the first game of the 2019 season. Let’s assume Adam Silver is reinventing the wheel, like naming a starting five Player of the Month, or changing uniform nomenclature.
What’s your take on these unanswered questions? Or indeed, did I miss something in NBA 2K19’s story that explained them? 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.