Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! This is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to basketball video games, the real NBA or another area of interest to our community, either as a list of five items or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.
BIG Moments have only been in two iterations of NBA Live to date, but I’m definitely hoping that the mode becomes a staple of the series, as it’s quickly become one of my favourite aspects of the game. I’m liking the improvements and additions that have been made in NBA Live 15, such as the hot spot challenges, scenarios where we’re invited to re-write history, and the wider variety of game situations. If there’s another element I’d like to see added to BIG Moments however, it would be historical challenges.
Now, this would be tricky to pull off, as it would require EA Sports to secure the likeness rights of various retired players. Additionally, the player that I’d most like to see represented in historical BIG Moments – Michael Jordan – is currently signed to an exclusive deal with Visual Concepts, which makes his inclusion in NBA Live impossible. However, let’s put all of that aside for a moment, and pretend that anything and everything is possible. With that in mind, here are the five historical BIG Moments that I’d like to see in NBA Live.
1. “The Shot”
I’ve decided to limit myself to just a couple of moments featuring Michael Jordan, and as you might imagine, it’s a tough list to narrow down. Some of MJ’s most memorable performances have also already been re-created spectacularly in NBA 2K11, so I’ve tried to keep that list in mind when making my selections. Having said that, I don’t think you can go past one of MJ’s most famous buzzer beaters: “The Shot” against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the decisive fifth game of their first round series in 1989.
I’d make this one a hot spot challenge, and for maximum points, you’d need to knock down the gamewinner from the same spot on the floor that his Airness did. I think you’d also need to have some authentic animations in the challenge, from MJ’s double pump in the air to his joyful leap and fist pumping celebration after the shot goes in. I’m assuming that all of these historical BIG Moments would have era-specific jerseys, courts, and other artwork, too.
Fun fact: then Bulls coach Doug Collins originally wanted the ball to go to Brad Sellers for that final shot, but Jordan was – to put it mildly – of the strong opinion that he should be the one to attempt it. History would suggest that MJ made the right call on that play, though perhaps as a bonus challenge, you could knock down the shot with Sellers instead. Maybe you could even earn a Trophy/Achievement for doing that: “Doug’s Redemption”.
2. “13 in 35”
This one’s a bit more recent, but nevertheless, it’s one of the most memorable performances in NBA history. Ten years ago – December 9th 2004, to be precise – Tracy McGrady scored an incredible 13 points in the final 35 seconds of the game, leading his Houston Rockets to an improbable comeback victory over the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs would go on to win the championship that year while the Rockets bowed out in the first round, but on that night, T-Mac reigned supreme.
Of course, replicating the four point play would require a bit of luck, as I don’t think that BIG Moments should rely on any canned situations. I know that’s worked out quite well for the historical content in WWE games, but that’s professional wrestling; the events that those games are replicating were scripted to begin with. Needless to say, there’d be very little room for error, as you’d need to knock down every shot with McGrady, get quick steals at the other end, and avoid fouling.
For anyone who’s a beginner on the sticks, it would be one tough BIG Moment to complete. Even for more experienced players, I expect that it would provide a worthy challenge. For the record, the run actually started with about 45 seconds or so left in the game, and you could arguably stretch that out to the full final minute to give gamers a little extra time to work with. Still, authenticity should be the name of the game, and it should be a difficult challenge. After all, it was an improbable victory, and a stretch of basketball that you’re not likely to see very often. Definitely a BIG Moment.
3. “Magic’s Junior Skyhook”/”Bird’s What-If?”
Magic Johnson’s junior/baby skyhook against the Boston Celtics in 1987 is one of the most iconic clutch shots in the history of the NBA Finals, as it led to the Los Angeles Lakers capturing their fourth championship of the 1980s. That alone makes it a worthy candidate for an historical BIG Moment challenge, but since the mode now offers challenges that re-write history, that famous game actually provides us with two Moments for the price of one.
You see, that skyhook wasn’t actually the end of the game. Whenever it’s shown in retrospectives, you usually see the shot with Chick Hearn’s legendary voice calling the action, followed by the Lakers celebrating the victory. However, before the game was in the proverbial refrigerator and the Larry O’Brien trophy in the hands of Magic, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and company, Larry Bird had a chance to win the game with a good look at the basket for a three-pointer that rimmed out. There but for an unkind rim goes a possible fourth ring for Larry Legend, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish.
Therefore, I think you have to include two BIG Moments here: replicate history by making the hook shot with Magic and then holding off the Celtics, or re-write history by either making the defensive stop with the Celtics and sealing the game, or make the three with Bird to nullify Magic’s basket. I know I’m only supposed to be picking five Moments, but these are two sides of the same coin, and I think it’d be fun to represent both the reality and the what-if.
4. “Larry Legend vs. Nique”
Dominique Wilkins had two famous duels during the 1988 season; unfortunately for The Human Highlight Film, he came out on the losing end of both. The first was the infamous Slam Dunk Contest showdown with Michael Jordan, while the second was a scoring battle with Larry Bird in Game 7 of the Atlanta Hawks’ second round series against the Boston Celtics. The two legends went back and forth in the final quarter, but even though Nique came out on top in points, it was Bird’s Celtics who moved on to the Eastern Conference Finals.
You’d have to start this BIG Moment at the beginning of the fourth quarter, which opened with the Celtics leading 84-82. Bird finished with 34 points on 62.5% shooting, while Wilkins shot 57.6% and scored a game high 47. Both teams scored 34 points in the period, for a final score of 118-116. Such an intense back and forth duel would be perfect for a quarter-long BIG Moments challenge; in addition to reaching 34 or more points with Bird, you could also be tasked with holding Wilkins to no more than 47.
Given the closeness of the game, and the fact that the player with the higher point total did not come out on top, it’s another good candidate for a what-if/re-write history scenario: score 47 or more with Nique while re-writing history and getting the win, perhaps also ensuring that Bird doesn’t top 34 points. In any case, it’s a clash that’s worthy of a BIG Moment. NBA Finals games tend to be more memorable by default, and record setting performances also stick in our minds, but as far as second round series are concerned, it’s a game worth remembering and re-playing.
5. “The Flu Game”
You probably knew that I was going to finish with another one of Michael Jordan’s legendary games, and this is the one I’ve chosen. I did go back and forth on this one, not only because there are so many worthy candidates to choose from, but also because it’s a game that has already been replicated in NBA 2K11’s Jordan Challenge. However, it is one of my all-time favourite games, one that I believe is worth watching – or indeed, re-playing in a video game – over and over again.
I wanted to pick a performance that would work as a full game challenge, a rarity in BIG Moments, but something that was done in NBA Live 14 with Magic Johnson. If a full game is too much, then the second half would certainly suffice. To that end, it was between “The Flu Game” and Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals for this spot, because to me, both stand as shining examples of Michael Jordan’s greatness. The gusty performance, or the storybook ending…it’s a difficult choice. As it stands, Game 6 stands as my honourable mention.
But yes, I ultimately chose “The Flu Game”. In addition to simply finding it inspirational – even on a bad day, MJ was the best player on the floor and led his team to victory in a pivotal Game 5 – it lends itself well to a varied BIG Moments challenge. Jordan’s all-around numbers were a little better in “The Flu Game” than Game 6 of the 1998 Finals, as he tallied 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and three steals, and also knocked down the game-sealing three-pointer. Match the stats, win the game, hit the three from the designated hot spot…that’s a well-rounded BIG Moment, and would do proper justice to one of Michael Jordan’s greatest games.
These are just five of my personal picks, as there have been so many great moments and performances throughout NBA history, all of which would make for some fun BIG Moments to play in NBA Live. Which memorable games and moments would you pick? Let me know in the comments below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum. In the meantime, that’s all for this week. Thanks for checking in, please join me again next Friday for another Five.