The Friday Five: 5 Unsuccessful Teams That Were Fun In Games

The Friday Five: 5 Unsuccessful Teams That Were Fun In Games

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 teams that were fun to use in video games, despite being unsuccessful in real life.

Unless you’re a diehard fan of them – or looking for a challenge – you’re probably not going to choose to play with a bad team in a video game. Mediocre teams can be more enjoyable as long as they have some talent at their disposal, but they’re generally not our first choice either. We tend to gravitate towards the teams with the top stars and talent, with whom we can win games and make spectacular plays. They’re far more appealing choices in franchise modes as well, since their deeper lineups facilitate a wider variety of trades, without having to completely gut the rotation.

Of course, many unsuccessful teams throughout the years have been much better on paper. Injuries may have derailed their season, or their players might’ve been a poor fit with no chemistry. Some years the competition is particularly tough, or they’re a young team that’s still developing. Whatever the case, these teams are actually fun and interesting to play with in video games, despite their lack of success in real life. In the hands of gamers, they can overachieve well beyond the most optimistic predictions. Here are five unsuccessful teams – which for the purposes of this list, means missing the Playoffs – that were exciting and intriguing options to play with in video games.

1. 2002 Los Angeles Clippers

Darius Miles Dunking in NBA Live 2002

Even though they’ve only missed the Playoffs twice in the past eleven seasons, the Los Angeles Clippers haven’t fully shaken their reputation as a perennial laughing stock. It doesn’t help that they’re in the Lakers’ shadow, but even putting that aside, they have had a lot of losing seasons since moving to Los Angeles. There were a few glimmers of hope over the years of course, and teams that were fun to watch despite being unsuccessful. For a couple of years in the early 2000s, the Clippers had some good young players, and appeared to be on the way up. They didn’t quite make it back to the postseason, but they were a team to consider using on the virtual hardwood.

If I had to pick a specific squad, I’d go with the 2002 Clippers. They’d just acquired Elton Brand from the Chicago Bulls, giving them a 20-and-10 player. Lamar Odom was a 6’10” forward who could play like a guard. Darius Miles was full of potential, and a great athlete before injuries took their toll. Quentin Richardson and Corey Maggette gave them depth on the wings, and they had solid point guards in Jeff McInnis, Keyon Dooling, and Earl Boykins. They’re a great team to run and gun with in the 2002 season video games, while trying to replicate Odom and Miles’ incredible alley-oop. This 39-43 squad were Lob City long before Chris Paul and Blake Griffin!

2. 2004 Chicago Bulls

Unsuccessful Teams: 2004 Chicago Bulls

The 2004 Chicago Bulls are not my favourite squad in real life. At 23-59, they sure weren’t the most successful Bulls team either, even ignoring the title years. To that end, the 2005 Bulls became a much more memorable squad just one year later. Still, there’s something really fascinating and fun about the highly unsuccessful 2004 Bulls. They bridge the gap between the lottery-bound teams of the early 2000s, and the later squads that rose back to relevance and competitiveness. There’s also the odd and sometimes overlooked return of Scottie Pippen. Pip was banged up, washed up, and though the Bulls paid him more than they ever had before, it was a sad farewell tour.

Scottie Pippen wasn’t the only past-his-prime veteran on that team. Kendall Gill was on that squad, while former Bull Corie Blount also joined the team for half a year. Beyond that, the roster was a mix of still-capable veterans such as Jalen Rose and Donyell Marshall, and promising young players including Jamal Crawford, Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, a rookie Kirk Hinrich, and Marcus Fizer. There are players who were much better in video games, like Eddie Robinson. It’s a weird mishmash of players who were too old, too injured, or not yet good enough, to be successful in reality. In video games however, this eclectic lineup can be surprisingly fun to use.

3. 2006 Philadelphia 76ers

Chris Webber on the 76ers (NBA Live 06)

Given the talent that was on their roster – and the state of the Eastern Conference at the time – the 2006 Philadelphia 76ers were disappointingly unsuccessful. The short-lived and often-forgotten duo of Allen Iverson and Chris Webber had fine seasons. Second year player Andre Iguodala had a solid campaign, and was the only 76er to start in all 82 games. Kyle Korver was among the top three-point shooters in the league. Samuel Dalembert gave them a strong rim protector, and there was talent on the bench in John Salmons, Matt Barnes, and rookie Lou Williams. With their two stars alone, missing the Playoffs with a 38-44 record was a great underachievement.

They might just be one of the all-time great video game teams, though; at least when it comes to squads that were unsuccessful in reality. AI and C-Webb are a fun duo that can put points on the board. Iggy can dunk all over the competition, while Korver keeps the defense honest from range. The real 76ers may have underachieved, but you can easily overachieve with that roster. Additionally, though injuries forced him to retire in real life, Jamal Mashburn is on their roster in 2006 titles, as he began the year on their inactive list. He was still quite good before his injury woes ended his career, so you can put that phantom stint to great use for an even better virtual 2006 76ers.

4. 2007 New York Knicks

Unsuccessful Teams: 2007 Knicks

Let it be known that the 2007 New York Knicks, led by Isiah Thomas as both the coach and GM, were undoubtedly unsuccessful. They went 33-49, while paying Jerome James the big bucks to average 1.9 ppg and 1.6 rpg. What a signing! They could have had Brandon Roy or LaMarcus Aldridge, but they’d traded the second pick to the Bulls in the Eddy Curry deal; not that I’m complaining, mind you. Curry at least was still productive and healthy. Unfortunately, injuries limited Quentin Richardson and Jamal Crawford to appearing in only 49 and 59 games respectively. No Knick played in all 82 games in 2007, so it’s fair to say that injuries were an issue that year.

Steve Francis, who had been acquired from the Orlando Magic the previous season, only played 44 games. Pairing him with Stephon Marbury in the backcourt is one of the major draws of playing with the 2007 Knicks. It was a bold experiment that was unsuccessful in real life, but is a fun scenario for video games. The aforementioned Curry, Crawford, and Richardson are good players to have at your disposal, and the roster also includes David Lee, Nate Robinson, and Channing Frye. That’s more than enough talent to be competitive on the virtual hardwood, and far more successful without injuries and chemistry issues to stand in the way. Again, let it be known!

5. 2013 Minnesota Timberwolves

Andrei Kirilenko on the Timberwolves in NBA 2K13

This one might seem like an unorthodox choice, but if you’re playing NBA 2K13, you might want to give the 2013 Minnesota Timberwolves a try. With a record of 31-51, their season wasn’t anything to write home about. Of course, it didn’t help that Kevin Love only played 18 games. They were a .500 club in the games that Love played, and they can be even better in the hands of gamers. Speaking of keeping players healthy, Brandon Roy signed with the team as he looked to make a comeback after knee problems forced an early retirement. It unfortunately didn’t pan out, but if you’ve got an opening night roster, you can re-write history and have better luck with Roy.

Josh Howard is another player on the 2013 Timberwolves whose career was coming to an end due to injuries, but still rated highly enough in video games to be effective. Andrei Kirilenko was also on that team, and he’s still quite capable of posting 5×5 games. Ricky Rubio is there to run the point, and spam the flashy pass control with. Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea bolster the rotation at guard, and Derrick Williams was a promising young forward capable of producing highlights. They’re not the strongest team on paper, and would’ve likely been a low seed at best if healthy. As with these other unsuccessful teams though, in video games, they could achieve so much more.

What’s your take on these unsuccessful teams as far as being fun video game teams? What are some other teams that were unsuccessful in real life, but fun to play with on the virtual hardwood? Let me know 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.

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June 10, 2023 1:16 am

That Sixers team is so fun to use in the UBR. That Timberwolves team from 2K13 was pretty good as well. Another fun but unsuccessful team from 2K13 was the New Orleans Hornets. Anthony Davis was only a rookie, but is very capable on both ends of the floor. Knockdown three point shooters like Ryan Anderson, Austin Rivers, Eric Gordon. Robin Lopez was pretty decent as a big and Greivis Vasquez can also hit some shots. They’re one of my go-to teams whenever I play NBA 2K13 with default rosters.

Liv Morgan
Liv Morgan
June 10, 2023 10:28 am

I actually played as the Bulls on NBA Live 2004. I wasn’t very successful, but it was fun!