The Friday Five: 5 Basketball Video Game Myths

Another Friday is upon us, so it’s time for a new edition of The Friday Five! If this is your first time reading The Friday Five and you’re wondering what it’s all about, it’s a feature that I post every Friday in which I talk about a variety of topics related to basketball video games, the real NBA and other areas of interest, providing my thoughts as either a list of five items or presenting them in Top 5 countdown format.

Last week I posted a countdown of the Top 5 Easter Eggs in basketball video games, so for this week’s Friday Five I’m taking a look at five basketball video game myths. Rumours and video games go hand in hand thanks to the presence of actual hidden content, the tendency for gaming publications to indulge in April Fools’ gags, trolls intentionally spreading misinformation and simple misunderstandings. Basketball games are no different, so let’s separate fact from fiction and debunk five basketball video games myths.

1. All-Star Weekend content is available in the PC version of NBA 2K13

This is obviously a very recent one, but that’s all the more reason to put it first and foremost on this list to answer what has been a frequently asked question. The short answer is, no, it’s not. The All-Star Weekend content is only available to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 users who either pre-ordered the game and received a code to download it at launch, or picked up the DLC when it was made available to everyone through the Xbox Live Marketplace and PlayStation Network Store back in January.

This myth persists for a few reasons, not the least of which being that PC users would like it to be true, even if the content leaves something to be desired according to many console users. As far as the “proof” that’s been offered up, fake screenshots have been posted showing the dunk contest’s Guitar Hero-like interface displaying PC gamepad buttons. Comparisons with previews of the content in the Xbox 360 version have easily debunked them.

These fake screens were also accompanied by vague promises that the method of unlocking the content may be revealed in time, if everyone asked nicely enough. This should be a red flag whenever you’re dealing with a video game rumour; if the rumour is true, there will be hard evidence and a proven method that works for everyone. This saga about the ability to obtain the Triforce in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a good example of such a hoax.

There are actually remnants of the All-Star Weekend content in NBA 2K13 PC, but they definitely do not make up playable game modes. These files are leftovers after the game was ported from the console versions, which are also lacking all of the necessary files since the All-Star content does require over 100 MB of data to be downloaded. No, the DLC files for 360 and PS3 do not work with the PC version and no, 2K Sports are not planning to eventually release the DLC on the PC platform. If you’re playing NBA 2K13 on PC and are after the All-Star Weekend content, you are out of luck.

2. The dunk contest is unlockable in various games

While we’re on the subject of All-Star Weekend content, a rumour that has often made the rounds over the years is that the dunk contest is unlockable in various games that most definitely do not advertise it as a feature. If a code isn’t involved, it’s usually said that achieving a certain milestone in-game or winning the championship in one of the game’s season modes will do the trick.

Simply put, the dunk contest is nowhere to be found in games where it is not advertised as a readily available feature (or in NBA 2K13’s case, accessible via downloadable content). In addition to trying out all of the supposed methods of unlocking a dunk contest in those games, plenty of people have gone looking for it in the games’ files and found nothing. At most there may be vague references to a dunk contest feature that was ultimately scrapped, but offhand I can’t recall any games where we unearthed even that much in our investigations.

Of course, logic basically shoots this one down before we even go snooping through any game files. A feature like the dunk contest simply involves too much programming and is too big of a selling point to quietly tuck away in a manner that may result in a lot of players never even experiencing it. When EA Sports added the All-Star Weekend in NBA Live 2005, they were sure to promote it and feature it prominently in the game’s introduction. A feature like that is not going to be hidden, so chalk this up as another myth.

3. Michael Jordan and various others are among NBA Jam’s hidden players

NBA Jam is a game full of secrets and hidden players, so over the years there have naturally been rumours that Michael Jordan and several other players, celebrities or video game characters are also present. It would be awesome if these rumours were true but sadly, they are a myth. All of the hidden players in the NBA Jam games have been discovered and revealed, and the codes to access them are readily available.

There are some interesting stories here, though. Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley appeared in early versions of NBA Jam, but were removed from later versions due to changing circumstances regarding their likeness rights. Michael Jordan retains control of his image separate to the NBA license and Gary Payton didn’t make the cut, however MJ and The Glove do appear in a special version of the original game that’s available in only a handful of machines. Mortal Kombat’s Sub-Zero and Scorpion appear in some arcade versions but were removed from other releases as the NBA wasn’t keen on their inclusion.

There are also modded versions of NBA Jam out there that add players like Michael Jordan and videos of those hacks can be found on YouTube. Users who don’t read the descriptions or aren’t aware of the stories behind the players who appear in some versions and not others may mistakenly assume that they are indeed readily available in all versions of the (unmodified) game.

In giving some behind the scenes information on the series, Mark Turmell has revealed one rumour to be true – his bias as a Detroit Pistons fan meant that the Chicago Bulls were more likely to miss clutch shots against the Pistons – but the rumours surrounding MJ and other supposed hidden players can be put down to misunderstandings and perhaps a touch of wishful thinking. His Airness would have made a pretty cool hidden player, but as with the dunk contest he’d be an even better selling point for the game, so it’s another rumour that’s unlikely to be true upon reflection.

4. You can break the backboards in NBA Live

It’s something that’s appeared in a lot of our Wishlists over the years, but never in any of the games. I think it’s safe to say that many of us have tried our best since NBA Live 95 though, with every powerful dunker at our disposal. You can shatter backboards in the original NBA Jam, as well as EA’s 2010 reboot and NBA Jam: On Fire Edition. The original NBA Street even kept track of “busted rims” and other basketball games have included broken backboards, however you won’t see any glass flying in NBA Live.

It’s quite possible that the NBA has put the kibosh on it at some point, declaring it OK for arcade oriented titles like NBA Jam and NBA Street but inappropriate for sim oriented titles that attempt to realistically depict a league in which a backboard hasn’t been shattered or pulled down for quite some time now. Alternatively, the developers at EA Sports may themselves feel it’s out of place for that very reason, or technological challenges may not make it worthwhile to try to implement.

Whatever the case may be, it’s never been possible to break the backboards in NBA Live and anyone who claims otherwise is perpetuating a myth. As far as I’m aware it’s never been possible in NBA 2K either, though if I’m mistaken please feel free to correct me in the comments below.

5. Certain historical players aren’t included due to laziness and/or ignorance

We wrap things up with a slightly different kind of myth, one regarding the approach to the development of basketball video games. Calling developers “lazy”, “stupid” and so forth is a fairly uninspired stock critique to begin with, but when it comes to games with historical content that omits certain players, be they an all-time great or a benchwarmer, those cries are definitely way off the mark.

Due to the presence of the Jordan Challenge, NBA’s Greatest, the Legends Showcase DLC and most recently the 1992 Dream Team, we’ve seen this accusation come up a lot during the last few years. “The teams are incomplete! Why did they remove Player X? How can they not include Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller? Fail, 2K!”

The failure here is not on 2K’s part. Rather, it’s the failure some gamers have to understand that developers cannot include former NBA players whose likeness rights they have not secured. Period. Certain players may demand too much money or simply aren’t interested in taking part. Likeness rights expire and for one of the aforementioned reasons, a new deal may not end up being signed. Given Jim Brown’s lawsuit, even including placeholders implied to be standing in for those missing players is a bad idea these days.

To be frank, what 2K has been able to do with the historical content over the past few years is very impressive, even considering that they haven’t been able to secure everyone’s likeness rights for one reason or another. The idea to implement these features has obviously fallen through in years past, as I noted when discussing a certain Easter Egg in NBA Live 08, so they’ve done well to make it a reality. When it comes to the content involving former NBA players, the situation with absentees certainly doesn’t come down to an unwillingness to include them or ignorance of their existence. Legally, it just can’t be done.

The situation with current players not being included in the official roster updates and all the conflicting and contradictory explanations as to why they’re being left out, on the other hand? For now, that one remains a mystery.

That’s going to do it for this week’s Friday Five. As always, I hope you found it entertaining and given this week’s topic, suitably informative. Needless to say, myths and rumours will live on, but hopefully this article can serve as a reference for people looking for answers on those issues. Thanks for reading, feel free to leave a comment below and take the discussion to the NLSC Forum, and be sure to check in next week for another Five.

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March 1, 2013 10:39 pm

“but inappropriate for sim oriented titles that attempt to realistically depict a league in which a backboard hasn’t been shattered or pulled down for quite some time now”
oooooo really now