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.
The NBA 2K series has done some fantastic things with historical content, beginning with the Jordan Challenge in NBA 2K11. Since then, we’ve seen several noteworthy teams added to the game, including twelve new retro squads last year in NBA 2K16. As of writing, there’s been no word about any new retro teams being added in NBA 2K17, but the league expansion blog did briefly mention the presence of historical teams, so we can rest assured that most (if not all) of the existing retro teams will be in this year’s release.
Moving forward, it will be interesting to see which other historical teams will be added to NBA 2K. Needless to say, securing likeness rights for all the players – or at least the major ones – is always going to be a stumbling block that keeps certain squads out of the game. Of course, that doesn’t stop us from wanting, wishing, and wondering what if. Since I’ve previously talked about retro teams that are highly unlikely to make the cut (and for good reason), this week I’m listing five retro teams that I would actually like to see included in a future NBA 2K game.
1. 1997 Houston Rockets
After the Chicago Bulls went 72-10 and won their fourth championship in 1996, a lot of teams made significant moves in the offseason. Shaquille O’Neal went to the Los Angeles Lakers, which would eventually lead to them ruling the roost early on in the new millennium. The Houston Rockets, only a season removed from winning back-to-back titles, were also keen to remain in the thick of the championship hunt. To try and counteract the Bulls’ big three, they dealt Robert Horry, Sam Cassell, Chucky Brown, and Mark Bryant to the Phoenix Suns for Hall of Fame power forward, Charles Barkley.
Due to a combination of age and injuries, the trio of Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, and Charles Barkley only had one outstanding season together, which was the 1997 campaign. It was still a memorable one though, as they won 57 games and made it to the Western Conference Finals, where they lost to the Utah Jazz in dramatic fashion. However, they produced some exciting moments of their own, such as Eddie Johnson’s gamewinning shot. All in all, I believe they’d be a fun team to play with. Of course, the main problem here is that Sir Charles is usually absent from basketball video games. Speaking of which…
2. 1993 Phoenix Suns
Charles Barkley’s Phoenix Suns from the 1993 season are probably on most people’s lists of retro teams they’d like to see in NBA 2K. While the run-and-gun Suns featuring Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Shawn Marion are probably fresher in most people’s minds – and of course, are already in the game – those ’93 Suns stand out as the most successful Phoenix squad, coming within two wins of an NBA championship. Considering the team they were facing, there’s certainly no shame in that. In addition to Sir Charles, that Suns team also boasted Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, and Cedric Ceballos.
While it was great to get the 1993 Charlotte Hornets into the game in NBA 2K12 to square off against the 1993 Chicago Bulls, the marquee match-up from that season was obviously the Bulls vs. the Suns; Jordan vs. Barkley. As with the 1997 Rockets though, the main problem here is that Charles Barkley is a long-time holdout when it comes to basketball video games. Even when he was added along with the rest of the Dream Team in NBA 2K13, he didn’t appear on any other historical squads (such as the 1985 Philadelphia 76ers). Now that he’s back in the game, will things be any different? Probably not, but I’d still like to see the ’93 Suns in NBA 2K one day.
3. 2002 or 2003 Washington Wizards
I know, I know. As a diehard Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls fan, I’m not supposed to acknowledge this part of his career. Like Bob Cousy’s brief comeback with the Cincinnati Royals, it never actually happened…right? Well, for better or worse, it did. And you know what? As tough as it was to see MJ in a different uniform, his comeback with the Washington Wizards did pique my interest. Several of his Chicago Bulls teams have been and still are represented in NBA 2K, which I obviously enjoy, but I’d actually kind of like to see one of his Wizards squads in there as well.
To be honest, I don’t really have a strong preference between the 2002 and 2003 Wizards teams. It depends on whether you’d prefer to team him up with Richard Hamilton, or Jerry Stackhouse and Larry Hughes. If I had to choose between the two, I’d probably opt for the 2003 squad, as it’s the slightly deeper team. If there needs to be an opponent from the same season to balance things out, I’d suggest the 2003 San Antonio Spurs. They were the champs, it was David Robinson’s final year, and Tim Duncan was the reigning MVP in his prime.
4. 1997 New York Knicks
A majority of the retro teams that have appeared in NBA 2K these past six years have been particularly significant, historically speaking. They’ve been champions, finalists, or at the very least, perennial powerhouses. They’re squads that absolutely should be in the game, but I also quite like the fact that a few unexpected retro teams were added in NBA 2K16, such as the Toronto Raptors and Portland Trail Blazers from the 2000 season, and the 2003 Dallas Mavericks. Those teams are still interesting in their own right, and it expands the roster of historical players in the game. I feel that the 1997 New York Knicks are an example of such a team.
Those ’97 Knicks may have bowed out in the second round, but they were certainly still a force that season. They won 57 games, finishing second in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference. They also had a very memorable seven game series with the Miami Heat. Some big offseason moves led to a lineup that included Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, Larry Johnson, Allan Houston, Chris Childs, John Starks, and Charlie Ward. I’d obviously like to see them be able to take on the 1997 Heat featuring Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Dan Majerle, and Jamal Mashburn. If it ever came to pass, I’d naturally want to try and re-create this highlight dunk.
5. 2004 Los Angeles Lakers
The phenomenon of “super teams” and long-tenured players jumping ship to other teams in search of a ring long predates Kevin Durant signing with the Golden State Warriors this offseason, or LeBron James and The Decision in 2010. An earlier example that springs immediately to mind is the 2004 Los Angeles Lakers. A season removed from winning three straight championships with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, the Lakers added Karl Malone and Gary Payton. Both legends took big pay cuts to go to Los Angeles, in the hopes that it would finally yield a championship.
I remember being very surprised at the time, as I figured that The Mailman would finish his career with the Utah Jazz. I was perhaps less surprised by Payton joining the Lakers as the Seattle Supersonics had already traded him to the Milwaukee Bucks the year prior, but I also thought that he would want more money. Those Lakers won 56 games, but ultimately fell to the Detroit Pistons 4-1 in the NBA Finals. Nevertheless, they were a captivating team throughout the 2004 season, boasting so much star power. It’s also the final season that Shaq and Kobe played together, and the season in which Derek Fisher pulled off this shot, so there’s definitely historical significance.
What are some of the retro teams that you’d like to see featured in future NBA 2K games? Let me know 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.