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 a list of what I believe are the five worst classic teams in NBA 2K.
Since being added as part of the Jordan Challenge back in NBA 2K11, classic teams have become a staple of the NBA 2K series. Although they aren’t necessarily a focal point of the games, it’s gotten to the point where they aren’t thought of as being bonus content, but an essential feature. The selection of classic teams has grown from ten Chicago Bulls squads and their opponents to a variety of memorable teams from the 60s through to the modern era. Squads include champions, their Finals opponents, and an assortment of other teams of note. We now even have All-Time teams to play with.
However, some of the classic teams are puzzling inclusions. That’s not to say they’re bad teams – it’s not as though Visual Concepts have seen fit to include the 1973 76ers or 2012 Bobcats – but they lack the appeal of other retro squads. In the case of some classic teams, the specific season has been an odd choice, or the loss of likeness rights and subsequent removal of players has rendered them far less appealing. Whatever the case may be, these classic teams are prime candidates to be removed, or replaced with more interesting squads whose rosters may be more complete. Without any further ado, here are my picks for the five worst classic teams in NBA 2K.
1. 1971 Atlanta Hawks
The 1971 Atlanta Hawks were originally a pretty cool addition to NBA 2K. Added as part of the NBA’s Greatest mode in NBA 2K12, they provided a challenge for the late, great “Pistol” Pete Maravich. In addition to Pistol Pete, the ’71 Hawks allowed for the inclusion of other noteworthy players including Lou Hudson, and the distinctive blue and green uniforms the team used to sport. It could be argued that it would’ve been preferable to feature one of Maravich’s New Orleans/Utah Jazz teams, or even the 1980 Boston Celtics (where Pistol Pete ended his career there alongside a rookie Larry Bird), but that Hawks team does provide a more interesting history lesson.
Unfortunately, Visual Concepts have lost the likeness rights to a few of the players from that squad since they were first included in NBA 2K. As a result, there are only five real players on the team as of NBA 2K18: Pete Maravich, Lou Hudson, Jerry Chambers, Jim Davis, and Len Chappell. In other words, the bare minimum for making it at all worthwhile to keep the team in the game. While it would be a shame for Pete Maravich not to have a squad playable in NBA 2K, it’s getting to the point where there are plenty of classic teams that could possibly be included instead. One of Pistol Pete’s later teams, if at all feasible, would be a welcome replacement.
2. 1985 Philadelphia 76ers
On the surface, adding the 1985 Philadelphia 76ers for Julius Erving’s challenge in NBA’s Greatest wasn’t a bad idea. It facilitated a matchup with the 1985 Milwaukee Bucks, a team that featured arguably underrated stars in Terry Cummings and Sidney Moncrief. Several players remained from their 1983 championship squad, including Dr J, Moses Malone, and Maurice Cheeks. The ’85 76ers won 58 games in the regular season, and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they fell to the defending champion Boston Celtics. In that respect, they were hardly an inappropriate choice to join the expanding ranks of classic teams in NBA 2K.
There is one very noteworthy omission from their roster, however: a rookie Charles Barkley. The absence of The Round Mound of Rebound sticks out like a sore thumb; even though he wasn’t posting All-NBA numbers in his rookie season, he did play in all 82 games, starting 60 of them. The ’83 championship team would’ve been a more sensible choice, especially as most of the key players were the same (and obviously licensed). As it stands, the team has been removed following the passing of Moses Malone, and in all fairness, it was better than not having a squad at all for The Doctor. It was nevertheless a strange choice, when the ’83 team would’ve been much better.
3. 2006 Memphis Grizzlies
I think it’s fair to say that pretty much everyone who isn’t a Memphis Grizzlies fan was puzzled and disappointed to hear that their 2006 squad would be added to the roster of classic teams in NBA 2K18. Of all the classic teams that fans wanted to see in the game, they were not on a lot of people’s lists. It’s not that they were a terrible team, but they weren’t a particularly significant one, either. They didn’t have the best record in team history at the time, nor were they the first Grizzlies team to make the postseason (those distinctions belong to their 2004 squad). They did finish fifth in the West – then their best place in the standings – but were swept in the first round.
Admittedly, the ’06 Grizzlies do have some star players and recognisable names. In addition to Pau Gasol, their roster included Eddie Jones, Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Bobby Jackson, Damon Stoudamire, Dahntay Jones, and Brian Cardinal. When you consider those players, however, you’ll notice that they’re either still in the league, or included as members of other more memorable classic teams. As such, it was clearly possible for 2K to cobble together an additional retro squad and inflate the number of new teams being added. I’d suggest that unorthodox choices for classic teams are both interesting and welcome, but in this case, it feels a bit contrived and pointless.
4. 2013 Memphis Grizzlies
If 2K has a goal to add classic teams for every franchise, then the 2013 Grizzlies are the best option for the Memphis-based club. Their 56 wins are a franchise best, and their loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals also marks their deepest postseason run. Tayshaun Prince is probably the most noteworthy absentee, which still leaves them with nine real players for a rotation that’s respectably close to being complete, at least when it comes to the key players. It helps that the squad is still quite recent in terms of classic teams, as everyone on their roster is still active. In the case of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, they’re even still playing for the team.
That’s basically my main complaint with the inclusion of the ’13 Memphis Grizzlies: on top of not really being significant enough in terms of NBA history, they’re just too recent. Including a team from the past five years or so feels a bit iffy unless they are of particular significance, such as the 2016 Golden State Warriors who went 73-9 (and even then, I feel it’s a bit pointless with so many players still active). Much like the 2006 Grizzlies, it feels like 2K was padding the numbers of new classic teams here, but if the goal was to give Memphis some retro representation, then it’s a little more understandable. At least they’re the best squad in team history to date.
5. 2014 Indiana Pacers
Speaking of squads from recent years that have found their way into the selection of classic teams, let’s wrap up this list with the 2014 Indiana Pacers. Once again, we are talking about one of the most successful squads in team history, at least outside of the ABA and Reggie Miller eras. In 2014, the Pacers finished first in the East with 56 wins, and seemed like they might have a shot at knocking off LeBron James and the Miami Heat, before succumbing to them in the Conference Finals for the second year in a row. They had a fine roster led by All-Star Paul George, and in the game, they only make use of two fictional placeholder players to complete their lineup.
With 2K unable to license Reggie Miller, any representation for the Pacers among the classic teams is going to have to come from their brief run as one of the top teams in the East a few seasons back. It’s not much of a consolation prize, though. Like the 2013 Grizzlies, they’re too recent, have too many active players, and were not nearly successful or interesting enough to truly feel like a classic team. I suppose it’s better to have them in the game than not, but unless you’re a Pacers fan, it’s difficult to get too excited about them. At the end of the day, the 2014 Indiana Pacers are a somewhat gloomy reminder that we don’t have Reggie Miller or any of his teams in NBA 2K.
What are some of your picks for the worst classic teams in NBA 2K? What are some of the teams that you wish were included instead? 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.