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.
For this week’s Friday Five, I was originally going to talk about some of my favourite trades or signings that I’ve made in basketball video games. However, most of the ones that spring immediately to mind are from my Chicago Bulls Dynasty game in NBA Live 06. With that in mind, I decided to save the topic of memorable deals for another day, and instead reminisce about what made that Bulls Dynasty so enjoyable for me.
As I’ve mentioned before, NBA Live 06 is one of my all-time favourite basketball video games, so I guess it’s only natural that my Bulls Dynasty became one of my all-time favourite basketball video game experiences. But what was it that held my interest, and made it such a fun Dynasty to play through? Without any further ado, here are five things that I loved about my Chicago Bulls Dynasty in NBA Live 06.
1. The Addition of Shawn Kemp
I started the Dynasty with the current roster update that I was maintaining at the time, which also included missing legends. I wanted to do something a little different, so I decided that I’d add Shawn Kemp to the Free Agent pool, reduce his ratings to account for his age and his decline, and pick him up to bolster my frontline. I ended up signing him to a two year contract, worth about $9 million.
There were a few reasons that I chose Shawn Kemp. He’s one of my all-time favourite non-Bulls players, as my cousin was a huge fan of his back in the 90s. Before his career was derailed by trades and off-court issues, he was easily one of the most exciting players in the league. Finally, he was also considering a comeback attempt around that time, and the Bulls were reportedly one of the teams that had some interest in offering him a tryout.
The real Shawn Kemp ultimately didn’t return to the NBA, but things worked out for his virtual counterpart. In the first season of my Dynasty, he averaged around 12 points and eight rebounds per game, becoming a valuable contributor on my championship winning squad. It was a departure from reality from day one, but it was my Dynasty, my fantasy…my virtual reality. It was fun to see one of my favourite players finally win a championship, even thought it was just in a video game.
2. Ben Gordon’s Injury
It might seem unusual to cite a major injury to one of my best players as a reason why I enjoyed my NBA Live 06 Dynasty so much, but honestly, it did make things a lot more fun and interesting. Ben Gordon missed 22 games with a broken hand, which forced me to make a couple of moves, try out a few different starting line-ups, and do my best to win games without him. It was definitely a challenge, as Gordon had the all-important Outside Scorer Freestyle Superstars ability, making him a potent offensive weapon in NBA Live 06.
As I said though, that made things fun and interesting. I ended up signing Latrell Sprewell, a free agent in both the game and in real life following his infamous contract dispute with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Spree’s numbers weren’t stellar, but he did end up averaging 11 points per game in 23 outings, which included six starts. He helped shoulder the scoring load, and still had his moments off the bench after Gordon’s hand healed and he returned to action.
Although Gordon’s was far and away the most significant injury during that first season, the injury bug did seem to bite everyone at some point. Luol Deng and Chris Duhon remained the healthiest, but both missed one game due to minor injuries. Several other key players appeared in 70-something games, and of course, Gordon was only available for 60. It all added to the challenge and realism of the experience, and to date it’s the only season where I’ve played every single game and not had at least one player appear in all 82 contests. It made the regular season an interesting ride, and certainly unique as far as my basketball gaming experiences are concerned.
3. Making the right moves
I’ve already mentioned my acquisition of Shawn Kemp and Latrell Sprewell. Adding those players to the mix not only helped me capture the virtual Larry O’Brien trophy, it also made my roster a lot more appealing and fun to play with. While I’m a diehard Chicago Bulls fan, the 2006 season wasn’t exactly their most memorable. They were still a rebuilding team, fresh off their first postseason appearance since the 1998 championship. They had some promising young players and a couple of capable veterans, but you couldn’t get too excited about their roster, nor their immediate future.
In the 2006 offseason, the real Bulls signed Ben Wallace to a four year, $60 million deal. I didn’t like the move when it was announced, and I really hated it by the time Wallace’s tenure in Chicago came to an end. In my version of the 2006 offseason, I used the Bulls’ cap space on Mike Dunleavy Jr. – who, funnily enough, has since joined the team in real life – and Chris Wilcox. Along the way, I also picked up Nick Collison, Trevor Ariza, Monta Ellis, and Danny Granger.
Unfortunately, that roster just didn’t feel right, and it was difficult to give everyone adequate playing time. I swung a couple of deals and ended up with a generated rookie who was the fifth overall pick in the Draft, but that didn’t feel right either. After a lengthy hiatus from the Dynasty and NBA Live 06, I picked it up again and acquired Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver, whom the real Bulls had recently signed. The roster felt more balanced, and I enjoyed the connection to reality. As such, I completed the regular season, once again playing all 82 games on 12 minute quarters. Speaking of Year Two…
4. Shooting for records in the second season
During my first season, I did my best to keep things realistic. I didn’t really try for any records, big performances mostly happened organically, and as a result, I did lose a fair few games. Through a combination of the aforementioned injuries, and the resolution to play realistically and avoid utilising exploits as much as possible, I ended up going 48-34 in the regular season, before storming through the Playoffs with a 16-1 record. I swept the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals, with the lone loss coming against the Miami Heat in the second round.
However, once the second season was underway, and I’d made those sweeping changes to my lineup just a few weeks into the campaign…well, I decided that I’d relax a little on the realism here and there, to break up the monotony of the lengthy regular season. I also decided that I’d make Ben Gordon into a bona fide superstar, especially after he ended up being an All-Star snub come February. While I do have a lot of fun playing a sim style – as I did during the first season – I felt like a change of pace.
And so, Ben Gordon began his assault on the NBA, tallying a bunch of triple doubles and even four quadruple doubles, including one that came during a 92 point game. As Gordon’s big games piled up, so did the wins, and pretty soon I was taking aim at the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers’ record of 33 consecutive victories. When it was all said and done, I managed to win over 50 games straight, finishing with a record of 77-5. Realistic? No, but neither was the title in the first year. Whereas I enjoyed the challenge of overcoming adversity in that season, the challenge of the second season lay in the pursuit of excellence and dominance. I certainly wasn’t bored!
5. Maintaining a story thread, and keeping the save file
Actually, two story threads: the original, and the continuation. After I finished up with that first season and the thread was nominated for the Hall of Fame, I ultimately ended up returning to play through the second season a few years later, continuing the story in a new thread. I’m currently in the 2007 Playoffs, but I haven’t played NBA Live 06 in some time, as newer releases have come along and captured my interest. Of course, I still have the save files, so I could always pick up the Dynasty again sometime. If I do, I’ll be sure to write about it in the story thread.
Maintaining the story thread and sharing the experience with my fellow basketball gamers definitely prolonged my interest and enthusiasm, especially as I played through each and every game. Our stories section isn’t quite as active as it once was, but given how maintaining a thread served to enhance my enjoyment, I’d certainly be willing to pick it up again if I was to finish out the second season, and perhaps even play or sim a little beyond that. And you know what? As much as I’m enjoying NBA Live 15 and NBA 2K15, with this Dynasty game, I do actually have an incentive to at least consider playing some NBA Live 06 on the side.
Earlier on, I mentioned that I had some cap space to play with in the 2006 offseason. Well, as I come up on the 2007 offseason, I’ve cleared out even more cap room, and still have most of my key players under contract for at least one more season. Clearing that cap space wasn’t for nothing, either; LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, and a few other noteworthy stars are free agents, and NBA Live 06 doesn’t account for restricted free agency. The chance of winning back-to-back titles, combined with several interesting offseason scenarios, makes the prospect of revisiting the Dynasty – at least one last time – an enticing one.
Well, I’ve enjoyed reminiscing about one of my favourite Dynasty games, but that’s all for this week. What are some of your most memorable basketball gaming experiences? Share them in the comments section below, along with any other thoughts you may have on this week’s column. As always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum, too. Thanks for checking in, please join me again next Friday for another Five.