The Friday Five: 5 Roster Oddities 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. This week’s Five is a list of five oddities found in the rosters of various basketball games.

Whether you’re updating a basketball video game or simply playing it, the accuracy of the roster is probably going to be of great importance to you. Sometimes, that authenticity is limited or compromised by factors such as the roster cut-off date, lockouts, and a lack of licensing rights for specific players. Official roster updates have ultimately counteracted those first two issues, and unofficial updates can provide workarounds for the third. Furthermore, through consistent official updates and user customisation, questionable ratings don’t have to remain a problem for long, either.

Of course, even if certain issues can be easily resolved by official or unofficial means, basketball games have presented some unusual oddities in their default rosters over the years. Sometimes, unusual real life circumstances lead to inaccuracies, or create other interesting situations. In other cases, the game’s roster management functionality itself is cumbersome, or otherwise strange. Whatever the case may be, there have been a number of roster oddities in basketball video games over the years, and today I’m talking about what I feel are five of the most interesting and noteworthy examples.

1. Clyde Drexler, Sixth Man in NBA Live 95 PC

Houston Rockets' Default Roster in NBA Live 95

After capturing their first NBA championship in 1994, the Houston Rockets were looking to bolster their chances of going back-to-back in 1995. To that end, they traded Otis Thorpe for multi-time All-Star Clyde Drexler on February 14th, reuniting The Glide with former college teammate and fellow future Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon. Although the Rockets did win the 1995 championship, they became the lowest seeded team to do so, going 17-18 following the trade and finishing sixth in the West. Drexler did ultimately play a big part in that underdog run, putting up fine numbers while starting every game for Houston.

Well, every game but one. Clyde Drexler came off the bench in his very first game for the Rockets, their February 16th matchup with the Charlotte Hornets. After that, he replaced Vernon Maxwell in the starting lineup. However, when EA Sports were finalising the rosters for NBA Live 95, they must have figured his sixth man role would last longer than his debut, as that’s his position on the Rockets’ roster by default. At least that was a quick and painless fix; in the Super Nintendo version, with 1994 rosters and trades limited to the starting five in Season Mode, you’d need to trade Clyde Drexler for Vernon Maxwell to get him into the Rockets’ lineup.

2. Too Many M. Williams in NBA Live 09 PS2

Three M. Williams in the Roster of NBA Live 09 PS2

During the 2009 NBA season, four teams had an M. Williams on their roster. Mo Williams was in his first run with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Atlanta Hawks had Marvin Williams, and there were two players called Marcus Williams: one playing for the San Antonio Spurs, the other for the Golden State Warriors. In the default roster of NBA Live 09 on PlayStation 2, Mo and the two Marcus Williams were still on their former teams (the Bucks, Clippers, and Nets respectively). That was simply the result of the roster cut-off date, but there was a bigger problem. One of the Marcus Williams had Mo Williams’ face and portrait, as well as incorrect bio data.

The first problem stems from the pointer to Mo Williams’ art files. Mo’s first name is actually Maurice, and so his PLAYERPKG – the database value that matches the name of his face and portrait files –  is MAWILLI. Using that same naming convention, the two Marcus Williams would have the same value, thus they had to be given their own variant. That obviously didn’t happen with the Marcus who played for the Spurs and Clippers; he has his own stats and ratings, but Mo’s art. Also, despite being a 6’7″ forward, he’s a 6’3″ guard, the same as the other Marcus (who is otherwise correct). Funnily enough, all four M. Williams in the game are 72 Overall.

3. Brad Daugherty’s Extended NBA Career

Cleveland Cavaliers' Default Roster in NBA Live 96

Younger NBA fans and gamers may not be all that familiar with Brad Daugherty, though he does appear on the 1990 Cleveland Cavaliers in recent NBA 2K games. A college teammate of Michael Jordan, Daugherty was the first overall pick in 1986, a five-time All-Star, and at one point, the Cavs’ all-time leader in points and rebounds. However, his career ended abruptly in 1994 due to back injuries, and he kind of faded into obscurity. I actually remember a viewer email question on an old episode of NBA Action inquiring about his whereabouts, which was quite timely as the Cavs had just retired his jersey. I assume the question’s selection wasn’t a coincidence.

Although Daugherty didn’t play a single minute beyond the 1994 season, he wouldn’t officially retire until 1996, and remained on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ roster. As such, he appeared in NBA Live 95 and NBA Live 96. Despite being inactive, he was the third reserve off the bench in NBA Live 95 PC; interestingly, Gerald Wilkins was the seventh man in the rotation, despite also missing the entire 1995 season. When NBA Live 96 PC expanded the rosters to fourteen players with two inactive slots, Daugherty was on the injured reserve by default. The situation made sense – he was still under contract, after all – but it was still somewhat unusual, and unfortunate.

4. Kobe Bryant Starts in NBA Courtside

Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside

NBA history buffs will recall that although Kobe Bryant was voted in as an All-Star starter in his second season, at that point in his career he still regularly came off the bench for the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe started a total of seven out of the 150 regular season games he played in his first two seasons in the league, and none of the twenty Playoff games he appeared in during that span. You wouldn’t know that if all you had to go by was Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside for the Nintendo 64, in which Kobe was the starting point guard for the Lakers. I’m guessing the reason for this isn’t a mystery to anyone, as the game’s title provides a rather blatant clue.

Kobe was a star on the rise, and Left Field Productions made a sensible choice in snapping him up to endorse NBA Courtside and appear on the cover. Of course, their cover player couldn’t be coming off the bench, so into the starting five he went, while Nick Van Exel (also an All-Star in 1998) was relegated to the bench. Speaking of the game’s rosters, rumours persist that Kobe had a hand in assigning several of the player ratings, and that that’s the reason they’re not visible (another oddity for a sim game). It’s also alleged that he refused to allow any other players to use the moves he mo-capped, though given the tech of the era, it isn’t particularly noticeable if true.

5. Roster Editing Weirdness in NBA Full Court Press

Team Roster Editor in NBA Full Court Press

NBA Full Court Press was Microsoft’s forerunner to the Inside Drive series. Set during the 1997 season, Full Court Press had great presentation including commentary by Kevin Calabro, solid gameplay, and a couple of other nifty features, but overall it was an inferior product to NBA Live 97. Full Court Press also had a notably weird issue with its rosters. Was it the missing players? Not really; Shaquille O’Neal was exclusive to NBA Live, and EA’s game was still without Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, who were represented by Roster Players. Was it the rosters being a year behind? That was an outdated practice at that point, but it’s not that either.

Those are noteworthy problems in their own right, but the weirdest issue was with the way the game handled roster customisation. Although original players could be edited and renamed, lineup editing was really clunky, and involved copying and replacing players. This meant if you replaced a player in the lineup, it also affected the All-Star teams, and vice versa. Want to edit in MJ and replace Scottie Pippen as the Bulls’ starting shooting guard, moving Pip to small forward? MJ will also replace Pip on the East. Keep trying to make corrections from there, and you’ll only end up with several duplicates, and players on incorrect teams. Extremely messy, to say the very least.

Do you remember any of these roster oddities? What other strange issues do you recall in the default rosters of basketball video games, or any of the official roster updates for that matter? Comment 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.

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March 18, 2017 7:48 pm

Great read (as always). Didn’t know the Williams mess! Very funny. I hated that you couldn’t edit player jersey numbers on 2k6 (?). So I traded players multiple times until they had the right number 🙂