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 MJ: Creating a Legend in NBA 2K11.
NBA 2K11 remains a very highly regarded basketball video game, and for good reason. It was a milestone release in terms of its historical content, and for many gamers, its gameplay still holds up. I’ve talked about it a couple of times in previous Wayback Wednesday features, specifically discussing the inclusion of Michael Jordan, and my efforts to finally complete the Jordan Challenge. In passing, I’ve also mentioned the mode that could be unlocked either by completing the Jordan Challenge, or by punching in the code icanbe23; namely, MJ: Creating a Legend.
Notably different from the incarnations of Creating a Legend that appeared in subsequent NBA 2K games, it’s a mode that a lot of gamers probably didn’t spend too much time with. Indeed, some have probably forgotten about it, if they even realised it was in NBA 2K11 in the first place. Let’s take a look back…way back…
While gamers were obviously looking to NBA 2K11 to provide a quality sim-oriented experience for the 2011 season – and the game certainly delivered in that department – the big story during the preview season was the inclusion of Michael Jordan, who was also the game’s cover player. For the first time, we had proper historical teams out of the box, and in the Jordan Challenge, a special mode where we could re-live some of MJ’s greatest performances. The inclusion of the Jordan Challenge arguably overshadows a lot of the other good things in NBA 2K11, including the reward for completing all of its challenges, MJ: Creating a Legend.
It’s understandable, of course. While MJ: Creating a Legend was mentioned in previews of NBA 2K11, it arguably came across as something of a footnote. Naturally, the historical content and challenges that were available to play out of the box were far more appealing, and therefore the bigger selling points. The Jordan Challenge could be tough to complete, and its completion wasn’t necessary to access the classic teams for use in other modes. As such, it’s fair to suggest that not everyone bothered to complete all the challenges, or punch in the code to unlock MJ: Creating a Legend automatically. Even if they did, they may not have played it very much.
So, what was MJ: Creating a Legend? Essentially, it was a special version of My Player, starring Michael Jordan. Gamers assumed control of a rookie Michael Jordan, re-writing history by placing him on the team of their choice in the 2011 season, and then playing through his career. To that end, it was a way to keep celebrating His Airness once the Jordan Challenge had been completed. From the overarching theme of “How would MJ fare if he came into the league as a rookie today?”, to specific scenarios such as placing him on the Rockets, Trail Blazers, Bobcats, or Wizards, it appealed to the “What If?” speculation that we sports fans tend to love.
It was a fun idea, which is why I recently made the suggestion of revisiting it in a recent Friday Five article. While My Player in NBA 2K11 wasn’t anywhere near as comprehensive as the MyCAREER modes we’ve seen in NBA 2K since, it was still a relatively deep and robust experience. MJ: Creating a Legend boasted the same depth. As much as we like to see realism in basketball games, we also play them to create our own reality, to live out certain fantasies and hypothetical scenarios. The ability to play with and develop a young Michael Jordan in the current era, along with the novelty of seeing him on the team of your choice, was an appealing notion.
Still, the mode is somewhat forgotten these days. I would suggest that the nature of accessing MJ: Creating a Legend is definitely a factor here. By the time you’ve completed the Jordan Challenge, presumably while also playing through an Association and/or My Player game, you were probably feeling a little burned out on NBA 2K11. MJ: Creating a Legend could potentially be played for as long as a regular My Player career, demanding a big commitment if you wanted to see it through. Furthermore, not everyone is a fan of Michael Jordan, career modes in general, or the specific “What If?” scenarios that the mode facilitated.
Therefore, it’s not really surprising that it morphed into the far more generic Creating a Legend mode in NBA 2K12 and NBA 2K13. It still served as an alternative to My Career, instead providing gamers with the ability to assume control of the player of their choice. This approach had a much wider appeal, since the concept of being able to use a real player in My Player was an idea that a lot of gamers had expressed interest in. There was obviously a wider variety of interesting and challenging scenarios that could be set up, as Kenny previously demonstrated when he took control of Kwame Brown in NBA 2K13.
Of course, the inclusion of MJ: Creating a Legend in NBA 2K11 ultimately paved the way for future iterations of the mode. That’s not to sell the original concept short, as it was a fun idea, and managed to pack some extra content into what was already a great basketball video game. As I said in my aforementioned Friday Five article about retro basketball gaming ideas, it’s something that you might want to check out, if you’re revisiting NBA 2K11. If you’re just wondering how Michael Jordan would look in every NBA jersey circa 2011, though…well, this gallery might satisfy your interest.