Wayback Wednesday: 20 Players With No Official Appearances in Games

Wayback Wednesday: 18 Players With No Official Appearances in Games

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. This week, I’m taking a look back at twenty NBA players that have made no official appearances in video games.

I have an ongoing series of Friday Five articles documenting players who appeared in more video games than real NBA contests. While a handful of those players did tally playing time in at least one NBA game while sometimes appearing in multiple titles, several of them only saw action on the virtual hardwood after being cut in real life while the game was still in production. This article is basically the opposite of that series, instead focusing on players that did make it to the NBA, but due to the timing of their stints, never made it into a video game’s official rosters.

I’d originally planned this as a counterpart series of Friday Five articles, but I’ve instead opted for a single article listing twenty noteworthy examples. To that point, I’ve tried to select players who had interesting stories, and/or multiple opportunities to make official appearances in video games. I’ve also focused on games from NBA Live 96 onwards, as those titles have included more comprehensive lineups thanks to inactive rosters and official updates. Official roster updates have also made this a far less likely phenomenon as the years have gone by. Let’s take a look back…way back…

Larry Sykes (1995)

Larry Sykes Created in NBA Live 96

Like a number of players on this list, Larry Sykes was in the NBA for what Basketball Reference has officially termed a “cup of coffee” (i.e. only one game). Sykes was signed by the Boston Celtics on November 8th 1995, and played one game a week later on the 15th. The 6’9″ power forward out of Xavier tallied one offensive and one defensive rebound in two minutes of a 12-point loss to the Utah Jazz, and was then cut on November 24th. As such, he wasn’t signed in time to be included in the earlier 1996 season releases, and was gone by the time a couple of the later releases finalised their rosters. It meant no official video game appearances, but he did reach the NBA.

Matt Steigenga (1997)

No Official Appearances by Matt Steigenga

Talk about good timing! Matt Steigenga was drafted by the two-time defending Chicago Bulls in the second round of the 1992 Draft, but wasn’t signed by the team until late in the 1997 season, when they needed to replace a couple of injured players during the Drive for Five. Steigenga played two regular season games for the Bulls, with his seven minutes against the Toronto Raptors producing a modest highlight reel capped off by an alley-oop dunk. He wasn’t on the Playoff roster – back then, teams could only take twelve active players into the postseason – but he nevertheless got a ring for his service. I’d suggest that outclasses a lack of video game appearances.

Ray Owes (1996-1997)

Ray Owes Had No Official Appearances in Video Games

There are a couple of things that I remember about Ray Owes, who played 57 games for the Golden State Warriors during the 1997 season. As I was collecting basketball cards at the time, I remember getting his card in various Fleer packs. I also remember that he played in the NBL, and actually spent most of his career here in Australia. He missed the cut for NBA Live 97 and other 1997 season titles, and with his return to the NBL in 1998, didn’t have another opportunity to be included in an NBA video game. Those 57 games – including one start – do make him stand out as he got more of a run than most players on this list, and it seemed like he might be around for longer.

Brett Szabo (1996-1997)

Brett Szabo Created in NBA Live 97

Despite their 15-67 record, the 1996-1997 Boston Celtics are rather memorable. This is due to their rash of injuries, and infamously tanking in an attempt to win the 1997 Draft Lottery in order to nab Tim Duncan. They didn’t succeed at the latter, but the former resulted in a depleted roster that ended up being filled out by a few players who had very short careers. One of those players was Brett Szabo. Undrafted in 1991, he played in the CBA and overseas before appearing in 70 games (starting in 24) for the ’97 Celtics. Sadly, Szabo and his old school goggles made no official appearances on the virtual hardwood, as his tenure began and ended too late for roster deadlines.

Nate Driggers (1996-1997)

Nate Driggers Created in NBA Live 97

With the amount of jerseys they’ve retired, it’s no surprise that the Celtics have had players sporting some “unconventional” numbers. Twelve players have worn number 27 for the Celtics – most recently Daniel Theis – and in the aforementioned 1997 season, that honour went to Nate Driggers. He’s notably the only NBA player to date to come out of the University of Montevallo in Alabama, where he set many school records including becoming their all-time leading scorer. He played 15 games for the Celtics in 1997, with his November signing being too late for inclusion in any of the video games. On a sad note, he’s currently serving prison time for selling stolen guns.

Steve Hamer (1996-1997)

Steve Hamer Had No Official Appearances in Video Games

The third player who spent their only NBA season with the injury-riddled Celtics of 1997 is Steve Hamer. He was actually Boston’s second round Draft pick in 1996, being taken 38th overall. Normally, this would make him far more likely to appear in video games compared to other players on this list. However, as he wasn’t signed until October, he joined the team too late to make any official appearances in 1997 season titles. Sometimes in old games, Draftees were added in anticipation of making the roster, and their signing was snuck in after the deadline if the game hadn’t yet gone gold. As a second round pick, it’s likely that no one anticipated Hamer latching on.

Michael McDonald (1998)

Michael McDonald Created in NBA Live 98

This is a particularly interesting example, because it depends on your definition of official video game appearances. Michael McDonald was drafted by the Warriors in 1995, and later dealt to Toronto in the B.J. Armstrong trade. As such, he’s one of the unlockable rookies in Edit Player in the 16-bit versions of NBA Live 96. To that end, he’s sort of in the game, but doesn’t appear unless you go out of your way to create him. You might not ever do that of course, as he wouldn’t make his NBA debut until January 1998, playing one game for the Charlotte Hornets (coincidentally becoming B.J. Armstrong’s teammate). He’s not in NBA Live 98 or any other games, though.

LaMark Baker (1999)

LaMark Baker Created in NBA Live 99

As you’ve probably noticed, I’m running through these examples in chronological order. That brings us to a quartet of players that had very brief stints in the lockout-shortened 1999 season, none of which resulted in official appearances in any video games. First up is LaMark Baker, also simply listed as Mark Baker on Basketball Reference. Undrafted out of Ohio State back in 1992, Baker signed with the Toronto Raptors and played one minute in the second game of their abbreviated 50-game schedule. He tallied one turnover in that game, and was released a couple of weeks later. As such, he had no official appearances in NBA Live 99 PC’s roster updates.

Tyson Wheeler (1999)

Tyson Wheeler Had No Official Appearances in Video Games

Drafted 47th Overall by the Raptors in 1998, Tyson Wheeler was traded to the Denver Nuggets along with Chauncey Billups in the deal that also sent Bobby Jackson to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Debuting a couple of days after the aforementioned Mark Baker, Wheeler likewise appeared in only one game before being cut on the same day, February 19th. Wheeler’s three minutes went a little better as he hit his only field goal attempt (a three) and one of two free throws to score four points to go along with two assists. Gone before he could make NBA Live 99’s roster update, I remember him for his nickname “Wheels”, and my cousin making the pun that it was “wheel-y” original.

Jonathan Kerner (1999)

Jonathan Kerner Created in NBA Live 99

Interestingly, despite not being cut in late February like LaMark Baker and Tyson Wheeler, Jonathan Kerner wasn’t added to NBA Live 99 by the official patch. He only played one game for the Orlando Magic during the lockout season, but managed to sign on with the Wizards during the 1999 offseason. He was waived before he could make the cut for NBA Live 2000, and although he signed with the Knicks in October 2000 and made it through training camp, it was too late for him to be included in the PlayStation version of NBA Live 2001. By the time the rosters for the PlayStation 2 and PC versions of NBA Live 2001 were finalised, he’d been released by the Knicks.

Trevor Winter (1999)

Trevor Winter Created in NBA Live 99

The fourth and final player from the infamous 1999 season, Trevor Winter played in just one game for the Minnesota Timberwolves. A local prospect from the University of Minnesota, the former Golden Gopher made his lone NBA appearance on March 16th, racking up three rebounds and five fouls in just five minutes. His 36 fouls per 36 minutes is an NBA record he shares with two players from the 1950s, though they only played a single minute to his five. Winter’s record was also by design, as he was instructed to Hack-a-Shaq in the Timberwolves’ loss to the Lakers. It’s a claim to fame for Trevor Winter, but unfortunately an appearance in an NBA video game is not.

Jason Miskiri (1999)

Jason Miskiri Created in NBA Live 2000

Chalk up Jason Miskiri as another player with one game played in the NBA. He was signed too late to appear in NBA Live 2000, and released before he had a chance to appear in any future titles. Miskiri, an undrafted point guard out of George Mason who became the first Guyanese NBA player, played two minutes in the Charlotte Hornets’ season opener on November 2nd, 1999. He tallied one assist and two fouls in three minutes of playing time, and was cut less than a week later on November 8th. He later played for the Greenville Groove in the National Basketball Development League’s inaugural season, and spent three years in the NBDL (now the G League).

Dedric Willoughby (1999-2000)

Dedric Willoughby Created in NBA Live 2000

In the wake of The Last Dance, the struggling, rebuilding Chicago Bulls weren’t any more fun to play with than they were to watch. I can recall many of the players on those squads, but Dedric Willoughby is one that arguably flies under the radar. It doesn’t help that he has no official appearances in video games, having been signed right around the beginning of the season. Dedric played 25 games for the Bulls including one start. A knee injury ultimately cut his career short, but he’s notable for his connection to Tim Floyd. He played for Floyd at the University of New Orleans, at Iowa State after transferring two years later, and then once more in Chicago.

Rick Hughes (1999)

Rick Hughes Created in NBA Live 2000

During the 2000 season, the Dallas Mavericks were on the cusp of becoming one of the top teams in the West, after a decade of doldrums. They made a run at the Playoffs that year, which included signing Dennis Rodman for his last NBA stint. Rodman wasn’t included in NBA Live 2000, nor was another power forward that played for the team earlier in the year: Rick Hughes. Undrafted in 1996, Hughes played a couple of years in Europe before signing with Dallas in November 1999, seeing decent minutes in 21 games before being released in January. Also, while he never played in the D-League, he had stints with clubs that eventually became NBA developmental teams.

Geno Carlisle (2004)

Geno Carlisle Created in NBA Live 2005

You can’t say that Geno Carlisle was lacking in confidence! While playing college ball at Northwestern, he once declared that “the only player in Chicago who is better than me is Michael Jordan”. Carlisle’s career didn’t quite live up to that boast, but he did end up playing in the NBA, giving him the advantage against his father Clarence, who was drafted by the Pistons in 1973 but never played a game. Geno’s month-long stint with the Trail Blazers from November to December 2004 came after the release of NBA Live 2005 and ESPN NBA 2K5, so while he can take pride in making it to the big time, he can’t boast about an official appearance on the virtual hardwood.

Brandin Knight (2005)

Brandin Knight Had No Official Appearances in Video Games

Not to be confused with Brandon Knight, who debuted some six years later, Brandin Knight played one game for the Houston Rockets in 2005. The brother of 12-year NBA journeyman Brevin Knight, Brandin signed a 10-day contract in January 2005, but was waived four days later after registering a DNP following his lone appearance. In his three minutes playing for the Rockets, the younger Knight had one assist, and missed one three-pointer. By the time of his brief NBA stint, NBA Live 2005, ESPN NBA 2K5, and other 2005 season releases had long since been released. As official roster updates were rare and usually for PC only, he has no video game appearances.

Alex Scales (2005)

Alex Scales Created in NBA Live 06

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Alex Scales went undrafted in 2000, and when he finally made it to the league in November 2005, he only played in one game before he was cut a couple of weeks later. Scales therefore missed the cut for NBA Live 06 and NBA 2K6, but at least made it further than he had the previous two seasons. Signed late in 2003 and 2004, and released before the season began, he also missed out on being included in NBA Live 2004/ESPN Basketball, and NBA Live 2005/ESPN NBA 2K5. For the record, Scales’ lone minute playing for the Spurs in 2005 is one of the briefest NBA appearances, officially clocking in at nine seconds.

Gerald Fitch (2005-2006)

Gerald Fitch Created in NBA Live 06

Simply making it to the NBA is an accomplishment, and winning a championship – even as a seldom-used reserve – would undoubtedly be a special experience. Gerald Fitch accomplished the first goal as he played 18 games (including one start) for the eventual 2006 Champion Miami Heat, but missed out on the second as he was traded at the deadline for Derek Anderson. He doesn’t appear in NBA Live 06 or NBA 2K6, and had also missed the cut for the 2005 titles when his 2004 preseason stint with the Wizards ended with his release. A similar situation arose in October 2007 when Fitch signed with the Pistons, but he was cut again and isn’t in NBA Live 08 or NBA 2K8.

Mike Hall (2007)

Mike Hall Had No Official Appearances in Video Games

An NBA Developmental League call-up midway through the 2007 season, Mike Hall played two games for the Washington Wizards. Originally signed to a 10-day contract to help fill in when Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler were injured, he was signed for the rest of the year in March, but didn’t play again after April 15th. Hall wouldn’t be officially waived until October 2007, but nevertheless wasn’t included in NBA Live 08 or NBA 2K8, either as an inactive player on the Wizards or as a Free Agent. He’s since had a long career in Europe, though none of those stints ended up landing him official appearances in any of the NBA 2K games that featured Euroleague teams.

Renaldo Major (2007)

Renaldo Major Created in NBA Live 07

Four players scored five points in their lone NBA game. The first was the late Blaine Denning back in 1953; a little too early for video game appearances! Next was Ryan Robertson in 2000 (I’ll come back to him), followed by Ratko Varda – who had more video game appearances than NBA games – in 2002. The fourth is Renaldo Major, who signed a 10-day contract with the Golden State Warriors in January 2007. NBA Live 07 and NBA 2K7 had long been out by then, and he was also gone before he could be added in any official updates. Incidentally, among “cups of coffee”, he has the third most minutes (27), and is tied for the second most field goal attempts (10).

As far as I’m aware, these twenty NBA players have never made official appearances in any video games. Admittedly I’m missing updates for a couple of titles that I picked up years later, but I’m confident that they didn’t appear outside of community-made rosters. Indeed, I remember creating some of them myself over the years, and I’m sure others will recall them, too. This isn’t a definitive list, so feel free to share any players that you remember. The absence of these players from video games isn’t as significant as that of superstars like Michael Jordan, but they still have interesting stories to tell. They weren’t around long enough to be in games, but they still made it to the big time.

Noteworthy Non-Examples

Mark Bradtke Created in NBA Live 97

While I was researching this article, I came up with a few names that I had to strike off for one reason or another. The first is Mark Bradtke, an Australian legend who played for the 76ers during the 1997 season, but signed too late to be included in any games. He was, however, featured as a member of the Boomers back in Team USA Basketball. Andy Panko was cut by the Lakers in 2000 before he could be added to any 2001 season titles, but is in NBA 2K14 due to the inclusion of Euroleague teams. Oliver Lafayette had a “cup of coffee” with the Celtics, and was added in the NBA Live 10 roster updates. He also appeared in the Euroleague rosters in NBA 2K.

Following further research, I also had to remove a few other players. Lazaro Borrell played for the SuperSonics in 2000, after becoming the second player to defect from Cuba to pursue an NBA career. He was included in the Patrick Ewing trade before being cut, and can be found in NBA Live 2001 for PS1. Ryan Robertson rode the bench for the Sacramento Kings for almost the entire 2000 season before tallying the fourth highest minutes played and fifth most points in their regular season finale. He’s not found in any versions of NBA Live 2000, but he is on Sacramento’s roster in the original NBA 2K. These differing rosters between versions are also a relic of the past.

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