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Wayback Wednesday: October 26th NBA Debuts

Michael Jordan palms the basketball in NBA Live 2003

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content.

The 2017 NBA season has just tipped off, with a couple of big names making their first appearances for new teams, and a few rookies making their league debut. While the start of a new season is a time to look forward to what will hopefully be another great year of basketball, it’s not uncommon to take the opportunity to look back on the debuts of all-time greats. If you look up “On This Date” lists for October and November, you’ll usually see the debuts of some of the biggest names in basketball history among the dates that are noted.

On this particular date – October 26th – Hall of Famers and 1992 Dream Team members Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, John Stockton, and Patrick Ewing all made their NBA debut; Jordan, Barkley, and Stockton in 1984, and Ewing in 1985. For this week’s Wayback Wednesday, I thought I’d share some screenshots of those players’ first appearances in basketball video games, as well as their last appearances as active NBA players. Of course, all four players appear in NBA 2K17, as members of the aforementioned Dream Team.

Let’s take a look back…way back…

Michael Jordan

First Appearance: Jordan vs. Bird: One on One
Last Appearance (Active Player): NBA Live 2003

Although he appeared in several EA games released in the late 80s and early 90s, debuting in 1988’s Jordan vs. Bird: One on One (the sequel to One on One: Dr J vs. Larry Bird), Michael Jordan never actually appeared in an NBA Live title during his time with the Chicago Bulls. The only time he appeared in NBA Live as an active player was during his two years with the Washington Wizards, where he ultimately concluded his legendary career.

Charles Barkley

First Appearance: Lakers vs. Celtics and the NBA Playoffs
Last Appearance (Active Player): NBA Live 2000

Like Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley was absent from a lot of basketball games released during the 90s. He made his debut in 1989’s Lakers vs. Celtics and the NBA Playoffs, the first game in the forerunner series to NBA Live. Sir Charles’ Philadelphia 76ers weren’t playable in the original version of Lakers vs. Celtics, but he was included as a member of the East All-Stars. The Sega Genesis version was updated with teams from the 1991 Playoffs, where Barkley also appeared on the Sixers. After finally appearing in the series in NBA Live 98, his last appearance as an active player was in NBA Live 2000, where he was also part of the Legends lineup.

John Stockton

First Appearance: Lakers vs. Celtics and the NBA Playoffs
Last Appearance (Active Player): NBA Live 2003

Unlike Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, John Stockton did not star in any of his own basketball games during the 90s, and was not a regular holdout in NBA titles. He first appeared in Lakers vs. Celtics, where oddly enough, he sported blonde hair. By the time he appeared in NBA Live 2003 during the final season of his career, his hair colour and even his signature short shorts were properly represented.

Patrick Ewing

First Appearance: Lakers vs. Celtics and the NBA Playoffs
Last Appearance (Active Player): NBA Live 2002

Patrick Ewing also made his first video game appearance in the original Lakers vs. Celtics. While most fans will remember him in a New York Knicks uniform, NBA Live 2002 preserves the strange image of him wearing an Orlando Magic jersey, where he wrapped up his career. The previous year featured him on the Seattle Supersonics, which was an equally unusual sight. Although his final appearance as an active player was in NBA Live 2002, Ewing was in the active rosters in NBA Live 2003, albeit in the Free Agent Pool.

It’s safe to say that video games have come a long way in the past couple of decades. The players who are making their debut in the 2017 season have a long road ahead of them if they want to be talked about in the same breath as these four greats, but if nothing else, when it comes to basketball video games, their first digital counterparts should certainly age a lot better. Of course, it will be interesting to see which ones will end up wearing different jerseys, when it’s all said and done.

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