The Friday Five: 5 Unstoppable Moves in Basketball Video Games

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.

As basketball video games have evolved and become more advanced, we basketball gamers have had to hone our skills and develop new strategies to enjoy continued success on the virtual hardwood. What worked so well in early basketball games usually isn’t as effective now that developers have more sophisticated technology in terms of artificial intelligence, player physics, and so on.

However, one constant throughout the years is that there’s usually a move or two in every basketball game that is very difficult to guard against and can usually be readily exploited when you absolutely need to score. This week, I’m taking a look at what I feel are five of the most unstoppable moves in basketball video games.

1. Dunks in NBA 2K13 (and NBA Live 14, to a lesser extent)

Michael Jordan dunks in NBA 2K13

Dunks are very high percentage shots in real life, so it’s only natural that they’re close to being guaranteed points in basketball video games as well. However, they’re practically unstoppable in NBA 2K13, as the game did not allow for dunks to be blocked. As such, unless there’s enough contact to prevent a dunk attempt in the first place, or it just happens to miss (either due to a foul or a low dunk rating), Sprint plus Shoot equals Two Points in NBA 2K13.

It is possible to block dunks in NBA Live 14, but the game does tend to favour the offensive player when it comes to their chances of successfully throwing it down. In particular, if you go back up for the dunk after grabbing an offensive rebound, you’re pretty much guaranteed to score. This isn’t completely unrealistic of course as we certainly do see it happening when big men crash the offensive glass, but it could stand to be tuned a little in NBA Live 15, ideally through gameplay sliders.

2. Layups under the basket in NBA Live

Kobe Bryant with the reverse in NBA Live 2005

It’s common knowledge in basketball that the closer you are to the hoop, the higher the percentage of your shot attempt. When it comes to virtual basketball, the same principle applies, resulting in a tried and true strategy: when you absolutely need to score points, take it inside rather than relying on your timing on the shoot button from midrange or the perimeter. Those of us who like to play a sim-oriented style will mix things up throughout the game, but when the score is close, and especially when the CPU isn’t playing fair, the paint is where we want to be on offense.

In certain games in the NBA Live series, notably the last few that were released on PC, PlayStation 2 and the original Xbox, one shot in the paint ruled supreme: the layup under the basket. Getting the ball deep in the post and hitting the Dunk/Layup button to perform an up-and-under reverse layup underneath the basket was generally a safe way to score two points. The shot could be blocked, but more often than not it was an effective way of eluding the defense when you really needed a bucket.

3. Pro-Hops in NBA Live 2004

Kobe Bryant with the pro-hop in NBA Live 2004

The first game in the NBA Live series to allow the pro-hop to be manually triggered was NBA Live 2004. It was a welcome expansion of the offensive controls, but just as the can opener was invented decades after tin cans came onto the scene, a slider to control the effectiveness of the pro-hop wasn’t implemented until a year later in NBA Live 2005. Needless to say, the pro-hop was therefore a very effective method of getting to the hoop, a little more so than it should have been.

That said, the pro-hop didn’t always guarantee a basket or an unimpeded path to the rim in NBA Live 2004. When triggered too far out or into the body of a well-positioned defender, it was certainly possible to end up in an inopportune spot on the floor, obviously picking up your dribble at the same time. Even if you did get to the hoop, your shot could also still miss or be blocked. However, once you mastered the timing and the best spots on the floor to trigger it from, players with a high enough dribbling rating to perform a pro-hop could use it to get into the paint and score in bunches.

4. Tom Chambers’ Signature Dunk in Lakers vs. Celtics

Tom Chambers' signature dunk in Lakers vs. Celtics

Younger NBA fans might not be all that familiar with Tom Chambers, a capable power forward who scored over 20,000 points and made four All-Star appearances during the course of a respectable sixteen year career in the league. If you grew up watching the NBA in the 80s and 90s however, you’re probably very familiar with his dunk over current Golden State Warriors’ head coach Mark Jackson, since it appeared in pretty much every NBA Home Video release that featured a compilation of memorable slams.

That play led to Tom Chambers having one of the most unstoppable moves in a basketball video game, namely a double pump dunk in Lakers vs. Celtics and the NBA Playoffs. The first game in EA’s NBA Playoffs series, the forerunner to NBA Live, Lakers vs. Celtics actually boasted signature moves for various star players, from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook to Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan jam. Chambers’ dunk was perhaps the most deadly weapon in the game however, as demonstrated in this video. He may not be mentioned all that often these days, but old school basketball gamers will definitely remember Tom Chambers for his aerial assault in Lakers vs. Celtics.

5. Outside Scorer Freestyle Superstars moves in NBA Live 06

James Harden goes behind the back in NBA Live 06

I’ve mentioned them before and I’m sure that they’ll come up again in future Friday Fives, but the fact of the matter is you simply can’t neglect to mention the Outside Scorer Freestyle Superstars moves in NBA Live 06 when you’re talking about unstoppable moves in basketball video games. The moveset was also available in NBA Live 07, and NBA Live 08 PC utilised some Freestyle Superstars moves as well, but they were much easier to perform and very powerful in NBA Live 06.

While I’ll still defend Freestyle Superstars as a good idea that didn’t quite pan out – it was a legitimate attempt to try to differentiate stars from regular players and a step towards signature moves – some of the movesets certainly facilitated cheesy play. Ironically, the most effective moves in the Outside Scorer repertoire were the ones performed in the paint, such as the double clutch and behind-the-back layups. They provided the user with a very high percentage shot and an effective means of scoring when the CPU’s comeback logic was in full swing. If one of those Outside Scorer layups actually failed to drop, you knew you were in for a furious finish to pull out the victory. Most of the time however, the defense was at your mercy.

That’s all from me this week. What are some of the other unstoppable moves in basketball video games that you can think of? Let me know in the comments below and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! Thanks for checking in, please join me again next Friday for another Five.

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March 29, 2014 9:48 am

Load page, F3, “Spin”, 0 of 0.

Tisk tisk Andrew, spin spin dunk

April 1, 2014 1:06 pm

That lay-up under the basket is a sure-thing for me during the Live 2004 days. Normally I’d run a full-court man-to-man defense and just after I score, the player that defends the inbound play can also deflect the inbound pass and instantly score a layup.