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 the Europe Live jerseys in NBA Live 07.
A new season is now underway! Two games opened the 2021 NBA season, with the Nets defeating the Warriors, and the Clippers besting the defending champion Lakers. We’re obviously in for a lot of basketball, even with ten games being taken off the schedule to accommodate the later than usual tip-off. With the unveiling of this year’s City Edition jerseys, we’ll be seeing some creative (and divisive) uniform designs all season long. While alternate jerseys are far from a new concept, they’re definitely more prominent – and commonly worn – since Nike took over the NBA uniform deal.
Over a decade ago, alternate and special occasion jerseys were becoming far more common, but they weren’t worn as frequently. Indeed, some jerseys were only worn once a year, while a select few were only worn once. Some of these rare jerseys show up in video games, while many others have to be modded in. And then, there are the uniforms that are exclusive; not just to a single year, but a single title. Such is the case with the Europe Live jerseys that can be found in NBA Live 07. Let’s take a look back…way back…
First of all, what is – or rather was – Europe Live? Beginning in 2006, Europe Live was an NBA preseason event taking place in various European cities, in which teams held training camps and also faced off against local teams in exhibition games. As the name may suggest, the events were presented by EA Sports, who at the time had the best-selling NBA game on the market. Further events were held in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. The 2010 event stands out as being rather awkward in hindsight given the cancellation of NBA Elite 11, not to mention the rebranding. In any case, that’s what Europe Live was in a nutshell: an EA Sports-sponsored preseason event in Europe.
The four teams that took part in the first Europe Live event were the Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns, and Los Angeles Clippers. It wasn’t the first time that NBA teams had played squads from other leagues, but it was the first event of its kind. To celebrate the occasion, those four teams wore special versions of their regular jerseys, with trims inspired by the colours of the flags of the countries that were involved in the event. The Spurs’ jerseys had a trim inspired by the French flag. The Clippers’ trim, meanwhile, was inspired by the Russian flag. The Suns’ trim used Italy’s colours, while the 76ers added the colours of the Spanish flag to their uniform.
It was a nice idea, and most likely a profitable one, since replica Europe Live jerseys were naturally available for fans to buy. In my opinion, the jerseys did a great job of incorporating the flag-inspired trims into the regular design. I’d even go so far as to say that I prefer them to some of the old alternate jerseys and recent City uniforms that we’ve seen. Since they were the presenting the tour, EA Sports saw fit to include the Europe Live jerseys in the PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox version of NBA Live 07. It’s interesting that the Xbox 360 version missed out as it wasn’t released too long after the prior gen version, and did include other alternates from the 2007 season.
Of course, the jerseys didn’t appear in NBA 2K7, or any other title that year, as it was an EA Sports event. That makes the Europe Live jerseys a rare exclusive, as most jerseys appear in all NBA licensed games. Also, outside of modding, the Europe Live jerseys from the 2006 event haven’t appeared in any NBA Live game since 07. This isn’t altogether surprising as they were essentially bonus content based on a specific preseason tour, but it isn’t unheard of. Other obscure or short-lived uniforms have shown up in later games. One such example is the red Valentine’s Day jersey that the former New Orleans Hornets wore in 2007, which later appeared in NBA Live 10.
That’s not the only thing that makes the Europe Live jerseys in NBA Live 07 stand out as noteworthy, however. As I mentioned, the Europe Live events were also held in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010, and were still presented by EA Sports. Additionally, there were special uniforms worn during those other tours. The Timberwolves added a red trim to their jersey for the 2007 event, as you can see in this photo, or this video of their game against Efes Pilsen (David Blatt also makes an appearance in that game). You won’t see that jersey in NBA Live 08 though, nor the Grizzlies’ jersey that paid homage to the Spanish flag. They aren’t unlockable or hidden among the files, either.
This makes NBA Live 07 the only game to feature Europe Live jerseys during the lifespan of the tour. I don’t believe any official explanation has ever been given, but we can certainly speculate. My guess is that the developers simply didn’t think it was worth including such a specific alternate that wouldn’t be suitable in any context in the games, given that it was only worn during preseason exhibitions in real life. It may have been the NBA’s call, since they can be very strict about the content that’s included in licensed games, and they may not have seen the point. Maybe it wasn’t deemed special enough to recognise on the virtual hardwood after that first year.
Whatever the case may be, NBA Live 07 is the only time we’ve seen jerseys from the Europe Live tour officially included in a video game. That’s a rare positive distinction for a game that’s generally considered to be among the worst – if not the worst – in the NBA Live series. Personally, I believe it’s worth acknowledging the bright spots in otherwise poorly-received games. I feel it underscores how effort and thought does go into those titles, even if they didn’t turn out the way that any of us would’ve liked (the developers included). Despite their shortcomings, they might have a nifty feature or cool bonus content. The Europe Live jerseys in NBA Live 07 are an example of that.
Obviously, we’re not going to see these jerseys among the retros in future NBA 2K games. Truth be told, there probably isn’t too much demand for them in NBA Live, either. However, one of the things I’d like to see in NBA Live when (if?) it finally makes a comeback is a larger complement of retro jerseys. NBA Live 18 and 19 did a good job of representing all of the current uniforms in the seasons they were set, along with the classic jerseys that were being worn on retro nights that year. I missed having other authentic Hardwood Classic jerseys in the games however, and it’s one of those little details I’d like to see return. The Europe Live jerseys would be a fun throwback.
Beyond the interesting aesthetic of the Europe Live jerseys and the unique situation of them only ever appearing in NBA Live 07, they represent another important point in the history of basketball video games. They’re a reminder that NBA Live was once the premier brand of sim titles, sponsoring major events such as the Europe Live tour and the Draft. Even though NBA 2K was getting better reviews and gaining popularity, it wasn’t yet the pop culture juggernaut that it’s since become. The NBA Live brand was still huge, even if the preference of basketball gamers – at least on console, since 2K hadn’t come to PC yet – had started to turn. As I said, it was still the top-selling game.
All things considered, it’s probably more exciting to most fans that NBA teams are now paying tribute to their hometown through the City Edition jerseys – which are also starting to be accompanied by alternate court designs – than appealing to various international markets with preseason exclusive uniforms. Still, there’s something about them that’s nostalgic to me, even though it had nothing to do with my country. They’re a snapshot of what the NBA was doing at the time, as well as how NBA Live was still a prominent brand in basketball games. These are the things you’ll find, and the reminders that you’ll get, when you dust off old games for another look.