Wayback Wednesday: 2K Pro-Am Predicts Future Designs

Wayback Wednesday: 2K Pro-Am Predicts Future Designs

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m taking a look back at some designs in 2K Pro-Am that seemingly predicted the future.

Allowing gamers to customise the branding for their 2K Pro-Am squad has had mixed results. It’s a fantastic idea that enhances the mode, inviting creative designs. For less mature members of the community however, it’s encouraged edgy shock humour and creative workarounds of the profanity filter. When NLSC THRILLHO was active in the 2K Pro-Am scene, it was always a roll of the dice as far as the designs we’d see whenever we loaded into a road game. No, we weren’t tearfully offended, but we did roll our eyes at immature humour that rendered our screenshots and clips unusable.

Mind you, sometimes the edgelord jokes and images that bypassed the content filter were the least of our worries. Again, we’d just roll our eyes, scoff, and then get down to business. That wasn’t as easy with the messy designs that were such an eyesore that it was disorienting trying to keep up with the action, as players blended into the court and similar jersey colours made it difficult to tell teammates from opponents. To that point though, some of those designs that we encountered in 2K Pro-Am in NBA 2K16 and 2K17 predicted the future of NBA branding! Let’s take a look back…way back…

The Removal of Traditional Home & Away Colours

Clashing Blue Jerseys in 2K Pro-Am (NBA 2K17)

One of the biggest changes that came with Nike getting the NBA uniform contract in 2017 was the overhaul to jersey nomenclature and assignments. “Home” and “away” jersey designations are no more, with teams freely picking whether they wear white or coloured jerseys irrespective of where the game is being played. This has resulted in games where both teams are wearing coloured jerseys; an interesting look, but it can clash. It certainly did in 2K Pro-Am, where gamers ignored the old standards and the advice of a pop-up during jersey creation, opting for colours over whites at home. If they picked blue – especially a shade close to ours – we were in for a confusing game!

Loud Courts

2K Pro-Am Designs Predicted the In-Season Tournament Courts

I’m talking loud in a design sense, not the volume of the crowd. The latter is great; the former, not so much! “Loud” is certainly how I’d describe the In-Season Tournament courts, and indeed when I first saw them, my mind immediately flashed back to some of the gaudy designs I’d encountered in so many sessions of 2K Pro-Am. Eschewing the regular hardwood for more colourful surfaces was definitely a choice, especially when combined with both teams wearing coloured jerseys. Good design sensibilities aside, matching jersey and court colours made players blend into the floor. Combine that with wearing the same colours as our road jerseys for maximum frustration!

Downright Strange Jerseys

Glitched Jerseys in 2K Pro-Am (NBA 2K17)

That’s the NLSC squad in NBA 2K17, but those aren’t out jerseys. The fact that we’re wearing them is the result of a glitch – one that was thankfully resolved – that resulted in sporting the away jerseys of the last team that you faced at home in your next road game. I captured a handful of screenshots demonstrating the glitch, but this one stands out because that jersey really is something. It did offer a glimpse of the future, as we have seen some messy designs, such as the Brooklyn Nets’ 2024 City jersey. Alright, it’s not quite as messy as 2K Pro-Am designs like this one, but it’s still reminiscent of jerseys where the attempt at creativity has left us wishing they’d opted for blandness.

What Is That Colour Scheme?

What Is That Colour Scheme?

Again, the “predictions” made by 2K Pro-Am squad designs may be exaggerations of what was coming in the future, but there’s still an element of truth here. From some of the City Edition courts and jerseys adopting unusual colour schemes to bewildering re-brands like the one the Utah Jazz went with in 2022, we’ve been left wondering just what teams were thinking. This squad’s floor is a perfect example of a colour scheme with no rhyme or reason, plus a coloured home jersey to boot (one that matched our road jersey, no less). Given the team’s name and the adolescent humour strewn about their home arena though, they clearly weren’t taking 2K Pro-Am all that seriously.

Cool Departures From Standard Designs

Golden Bulls in NBA 2K16 2K Pro-Am

So, look. Some of the designs that we’ve seen after Nike got the uniform contract back in 2017 have ranged from weird to bland to downright bad. If nothing else, it feels as though the number of what used to be alternate jerseys has become inflated for every team, in the name of selling more merch. However, there have been some cool City Edition jerseys that combine elements of previous designs, or are otherwise creative. One 2K Pro-Am squad in NBA 2K16 brought us this golden Bulls branding. The logo and number placement on the front is a little plain, but I like the gradient effect and redesigned court. It definitely reminds me of some of the better City Edition designs.

City Edition Designs With Familiar Colours

Celtic Pride Court in NBA 2K16

While some City Edition courts and jerseys have stepped outside a team’s usual colour scheme in creative ways, I appreciate the designs that remix a club’s primary colours for a new look. Some 2K Pro-Am squads have clearly sought to pay homage to their favourite teams – or at least, the squad owner and creator’s favourite team – and that has resulted in designs similar to the alternate floors we’d come to see in the not too distant future. This Celtic Pride squad provided a great example, swapping around some colours, switching in a partial logo at centre court, replacing the parquet with a traditional floor, and adopting green and black home jerseys with a camouflage print.

Not Even the NBA Finals Is Safe

Warriors NBA Finals Court in 2K Pro-Am (NBA 2K16)

Tradition alone is not a compelling reason to keep doing something, often standing in the way of a necessary change just because “that’s how it’s always been done”. With that being said, traditions can be good and important to uphold, as they underscore the significance of an event. To that end, teams wearing out-of-the-box special jerseys in NBA Finals games instead of their primary uniforms with more traditional designs strikes me as tacky and commercial. 2K Pro-Am squads that used the NBA Finals logo as part of their floor designs predicted that the biggest games of the year would provide a canvas for artistic projects. Granted, the one pictured here wasn’t too bad.

Slogans & Hashtags

Court Slogan in 2K Pro-Am Designs (NBA 2K16)

These days, NBA teams have their own official hashtags for engagement on social media, which usually also pops up a custom emoji (incidentally, I once looked up the cost of that, and yeah, it’s way out of our budget!). The practice, which began in 2016, often uses a fanbase nickname or team slogan for each hashtag. To that point, the above squad – whose name we don’t need to spotlight – predicted the social media trend by displaying “Our Court, Our House” on their virtual hardwood. Furthermore, slogans like the Miami Heat’s “Heat Culture” have actually been featured on their City court designs, proving that this NBA 2K16 Pro-Am squad was ahead of their time.


2K Pro-Am Designs Predicted More Advertising in NBA Branding (NBA 2K16)

Aside from the YouTube TV partnership in the current NBA Finals logo, the NBA hasn’t gone all out placing advertisements on courts. It’s more or less restricted to dornas and other such areas, as has long been the case. Of course, we now have the sponsorship patches on jerseys, and there’s been controversy with the entities that have gained arena naming rights. 2K Pro-Am gamers choosing to feature ads in their court and jerseys designs – unpaid, I would presume – doesn’t seem as far-fetched for the NBA as it once did! I’ll admit that it was kind of funny to see though, if only because some Australian brands and products were featured by squads in Oceania.

The first two iterations of 2K Pro-Am were undoubtedly the peak of the mode, before elitism, gatekeeping, and meta-gaming pulled the online scene down into a mire of toxicity. Even if some designs were better than others, and more than a couple left us rolling our eyes and feeling like the oldest people on the server, we were nevertheless intrigued to see what our fellow gamers came up with. Looking back on the early days of 2K Pro-Am now, it’s interesting to notice these designs that seemingly predicted the future of NBA branding. Like the purported foreshadowing in so many Simpsons episodes, they’re obviously just coincidences, but still eerily prophetic in hindsight.

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