The Friday Five: 5 Most Missed Modes in Basketball Games

The Friday Five

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.

Earlier this week, we received some exciting news about upgrades to the franchise modes in NBA 2K17. MyGM and MyLEAGUE will include league expansion, both modes will feature all kinds of customisation options, and a standalone Playoffs mode is also being added to the game. After expressing my frustration at the prospect of a quiet preview season in this week’s Monday Tip-Off, it was definitely satisfying to see the previews for NBA 2K17 get underway with some very welcome news about the franchise modes, which I’ve traditionally been quite interested in.

While we’re still yet to learn anything about MyCAREER, 2K Pro-Am, or much else about NBA 2K17, I’m expecting another very solid release as far as game modes are concerned. Meanwhile, NBA Live has struggled to provide deep modes since its comeback with NBA Live 14. While LIVE Pro-Am was well-made with a lot of potential for further growth, generally speaking, modes remain a weakness for NBA Live. As I look ahead and hope for improvements in both titles, I can’t help but think about some of the modes that are greatly missed. I would suggest that many basketball gamers would welcome the return of these five modes.

1. Creating a Legend

LeBron James in Creating a Legend, one of two Career Modes in NBA 2K12

Ever since MyCAREER made its debut as My Player in NBA 2K10, basketball gamers have sought to use real NBA players in the mode. At one point, custom MyCAREER files for current and historical NBA players were quite popular. The addition of Creating a Legend did allow gamers to start single player careers with real players, though it lacked some of the depth of MyCAREER, which is why the aforementioned mods were created. Nevertheless, there was definitely a benefit in having two career modes, the same way it benefits NBA 2K to have two franchise modes with MyGM and MyLEAGUE today.

With the big changes that have been made to MyCAREER for the current generation, I feel that having a second single player career mode would also be beneficial in future games. Not everyone is a fan of the story-driven approach – I’ve certainly made no secret of the fact that I’m not enamoured with it – and the ability to immediately begin a more straightforward career mode with your MyPLAYER or a real NBA player would be most welcome. MyCAREER would likely remain the more popular mode overall, but I think that a lot of gamers would appreciate having the option.

2. NBA’s Greatest

Michael Jordan in NBA's Greatest in NBA 2K12

Appearing only in NBA 2K12, NBA’s Greatest is one of the most unique modes we’ve ever seen in a basketball video game. Not only did it expand the selection of classic teams in the game, challenging us to unlock them all by winning fifteen games, it also featured authentic, era-specific presentation. It would have been a lot of fun to simply play with those great teams of the past – even if a few players were missing for legal reasons – but enhancing the atmosphere with some authentic presentation really made NBA’s Greatest into something special.

We have an even larger selection of classic teams in NBA 2K16, but unfortunately, there’s no retro presentation. It’s not required to enjoy playing with those old teams, but it does add a little extra something. However, I would suggest that the bigger problem these days is that there’s no mode for the historical teams in NBA 2K. They can be entered into a custom MyLEAGUE, which is nice, but there’s no historically themed mode with its own challenges and content. Without modes like NBA’s Greatest, or the Jordan Challenge in NBA 2K11, retro teams have less meaning and purpose. It’d be great to play with them in their own dedicated mode again.

3. Team-Up Modes with NBA Players

adidas LIVE Run in NBA Live 10

NBA Live 16 and NBA 2K16 both did something nifty with their respective Pro-Am modes. LIVE Pro-Am opted for authentic Pro-Am venues and challenges involving NBA players, streetball rules, and separate modes for User vs. User and User vs. CPU multiplayer gameplay. Conversely, 2K Pro-Am opted for real NBA rules (but no NBA players), and complete team customisation for its online multiplayer action. Both modes involve users controlling the players they created for the game’s career mode, linking their progress and avoiding having to level up two separate players. There are merits to both approaches, and they seem to have been well-received.

The problem is, the presence of NBA players is kind of understated, and in the case of NBA 2K16, non-existent. While it makes sense for both Pro-Am modes to focus on controlling our own custom players, there is interest in not only playing against, but playing with actual NBA players. In other words, something similar to Online Team Play in NBA Live 08 and NBA Live 09, or the original form of LIVE Run (then called adidas LIVE Run) in NBA Live 10. I’m not suggesting that the current approach be scrapped, but I do believe there’s value in expanding both team-up modes by adding the ability to play with real NBA teams and players.

4. Playoffs Mode (in NBA Live)

NBA Finals Presentation in NBA Live 16

As I noted in my introduction, a standalone Playoffs mode is being added in NBA 2K17, so this now only applies to NBA Live. As I also mentioned, NBA Live’s modes are definitely a little light right now. While that means that a lot of work absolutely needs to be put into modes like Dynasty and Rising Star, bringing back a Playoffs mode would also be a good start. NBA Live 16 does feature Playoff atmosphere in its gameplay settings, which changes up the presentation noticeably, but it’s not quite the same as being able to set up your own custom postseason whenever you like.

This isn’t the first time that Playoffs mode has gone missing in the NBA Live series. When NBA Live 10 reintroduced it, the reaction was very positive. Again, there are times when basketball gamers do want to jump into the Playoffs without playing or simulating through a season first, while also being able to customise the brackets as desired. It’s been a staple of sports gaming for a long time, and should always be part of a basketball title’s selection of game modes. As we discussed in Episode #168 of the NLSC Podcast, it’s a mode that video makers would also likely get a lot of use out of, when making Playoff-themed mixes.

5. All-Star Weekend

Vince Carter in the NBA Live 2005 Dunk Contest

If there’s one mode on this list that I’m fairly confident everyone would like to see return, it’s a standalone All-Star Weekend. I realise that there are All-Star events in both games right now, with NBA 2K’s being more fleshed out with the dunk contest and three-point shootout, but it’s been years since we’ve had a standalone mode. While it’s great to have the All-Star Weekend integrated into the other game modes, as it should be, there’s definitely value in letting gamers take part in those events whenever they want, without having to start a new season and sim through to February.

After all, there are times when you’d like to hold your own dunk contest or three-point shootout, and a standalone All-Star Weekend mode allows you to do just that. The same goes for the Rising Stars Challenge and the All-Star Game, complete with their own special presentation. While the stakes obviously aren’t as high as the Playoffs, the All-Star Weekend remains an important event on the NBA calendar, and something that a lot of fans do still enjoy. It’s become a popular Wishlist item in recent years, and I would suggest that the series that adds it first will earn a lot of goodwill with basketball gamers. As it stands, we haven’t seen it since NBA Live 09.

You may be wondering why I didn’t mention roster customisation in NBA Live. While those tools could technically be classified as a “creation mode”, I’d personally label roster editing as a feature, or functionality; that’s another list, which I will be discussing soon. In the meantime, what are some of the modes that you miss and would like to see return in NBA Live or NBA 2K? Sound off in the comments below, and 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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July 24, 2016 1:56 am

I would like to see some variation of NBA James “Road Trip” where you have to beat every team on their homecourt on different difficulty levels. With keeped stats etc. Like in 2Ks MyTeam Domination-mode