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 promotion that put Jay-Z in NBA Live 07.
I’m sure that Jay-Z needs no introduction for basically everyone reading this. As a rapper, producer, and record executive, he’s considered one of the best and most influential names in his genre. He’s also proven himself to be a highly successful businessman, and as of 2019, is a billionaire. On top of that, he’s married to Beyoncé, making him half of one of the most prominent power couples in the entertainment industry. Again, this is all widely known, as is Jay-Z’s love of basketball and his involvement with the sport, as he formerly owned a stake in the Brooklyn Nets.
What you may not know is that Jay-Z has an interesting history with basketball video games. His songs have been featured on various soundtracks, and of course he was an executive producer on NBA 2K13 – a topic I’m sure I’ll discuss in a future Wayback Wednesday feature – but he was also playable in NBA Live 07. JaoSming covered this noteworthy appearance several years ago, but it’s a piece of basketball gaming trivia that still tends to be overlooked. With that in mind, let’s take a look back…way back…
Like most secret and special players in basketball video games, Jay-Z has superstar ratings in NBA Live 07. As Worthplaying noted, his player is a blend of some of his favourite stars from the mid 2000s. The virtual Jay-Z can dribble and run like Allen Iverson, get up and dunk like Baron Davis, and shoot threes like Peja Stojakovic, which means he can more than hold his own on the court. Once unlocked, he appears in the Free Agent Pool and can be placed on any team for use in Season and Dynasty mode. He also has his own squad – the S. Carter All-Stars – complete with custom jerseys and court. As you’d expect, the team is only available for exhibition play.
Sounds fun! So, how do you unlock him in NBA Live 07? Well, there’s the catch. Unlike most secret players, who can be unlocked by everybody once the code is revealed, the code to unlock Jay-Z was an exclusive bonus for gamers who bought a real pair of Reebok S. Carter Basketball IV shoes. Each code was unique and could only be used once, so unless you picked up a pair after they went on sale on October 11th 2006, you were out of luck. Although Reebok shoes and teams had appeared in NBA Live 06 on PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox, the code to unlock Jay-Z is exclusive to the Xbox 360 version of NBA Live 07, with no data for him left over on prior gen.
Given that our community has historically focused on the PC versions of basketball video games, it’s safe to say that not many people around these parts ended up being able to play with Jay-Z in NBA Live 07. With NBA Live 07 being poorly received, it’s possible that not many gamers who bought the S. Carter Basketball IVs actually redeemed the code. There are several NBA Live 07 videos on YouTube, but it doesn’t appear that anyone has uploaded any footage of themselves playing with Jay-Z and the S. Carter All-Stars. Additionally, as noted by Sole Collector, the S. Carter line itself wasn’t very successful following a promising first release in 2003.
That makes this promotion very much a relic of its time. It also stands as an example of how commercial tie-ins and promotions with sports video games are older than we may think. Recent games in the NBA 2K series have featured increased advertising and brand partnerships, such as the codes for additional VC that can be found in bags of Ruffles chips. Along with microtransactions, it’s seen as a more modern trend and a sign that gaming has gone down a bad path. While the latter may be true, promotions like this one demonstrate that such questionable practices aren’t a recent development. 2006 was also the year that brought us horse armour in Oblivion, after all!
I have mixed feelings about content like this. On one hand, it isn’t a huge deal as it isn’t core content. If unlocking the East and West All-Stars or the alternate jerseys required a separate purchase, then that would be a major problem. This is just a fun extra that a lot of gamers would probably get bored of very quickly. On the other hand, it’s annoying that the data is right there on the disc, but can only be accessed through purchasing the shoes. On-Disc DLC remains a contentious issue, and for good reason. NBA 2K would take a similar approach with the 2002 Kings and 1991 Warriors, two bonus retro teams that were pre-order exclusives in NBA 2K12.
In this instance, it was an unfortunate idea as neither NBA Live 07 nor the S. Carter Basketball IV were as successful as EA Sports and Reebok had hoped, and so the promotion didn’t generate much excitement. Once again, it’s questionable as to how many gamers actually got to enjoy the bonus content. It’s not a stretch to say that it largely went to waste, tucked away on the disc behind rare codes that are useless now, unless there still happens to be a few unused ones still in circulation. More likely, Jay-Z and the S. Carter All-Stars in NBA Live 07 are something that we’ll never get to see, aside from the screenshots that accompanied the announcement of the promotion.
It also serves as a time capsule for NBA Live’s relevance. When the promotion was announced, Jay-Z was quoted as saying “NBA Live has always been one of my favourite games and I’m excited to play the latest edition and to be a part of it.” These days, players and celebrities alike talk about growing up with NBA 2K, and their excitement in being involved with 2K’s brand. Jay-Z’s popularity and success has continued in the thirteen years since, but as NBA 2K13 demonstrated, his choice in hoops games has changed. Of course, when it comes to commercial tie-ins, it’s a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same on the virtual hardwood.