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 NBA Live 08 Draft Camp and Summer Camp.
With NBA Live’s struggles over the past decade, it’s easy to forget – or indeed, not be aware of – just how popular the brand once was. Although NBA 2K received positive reviews since its inception, NBA Live remained the best-selling NBA sim up until the 2009 season, when NBA 2K9 edged out NBA Live 09 in sales. Even then, NBA Live remained competitive and popular among basketball gamers, until the cancellation of NBA Elite 11 changed the course of the series. As such, these days it’s NBA 2K that’s prominent in pop culture and the cool brand among NBA players and gamers alike.
Around the time of NBA Live 08 however, it was EA Sports that was touting their relationship with NBA players, and bringing them in for events. In fact, during the development of NBA Live 08, EA held two events that served as mo-cap sessions and a source of promotional materials: the Draft Camp, and the Summer Camp. A quick Google search reveals that there isn’t much in the way of information about or media from those events, so I thought it’d be fun to chronicle them for Wayback Wednesday. Let’s take a look back…way back…
The Draft Camp, held on May 24th 2007, brought six prospects that were entering the 2007 Draft – Kevin Durant, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Julian Wright, and Brandan Wright – to the EA Canada studios in Burnaby. Once there, they were outfitted in motion capture suits and hit the mo-cap court, assisting the developers in getting their signature styles into NBA Live 08. They also filmed brief interviews in which they talked about their history with basketball video games, their experiences providing motion capture for NBA Live 08, and the concept of Go-To Moves, which was one of the key new features in the game.
Assets from the Draft Camp, including the interview clips and several photos, were made available to both media outlets and video game fansites such as ourselves. They came through to us after the Draft, but those of us who had been invited to attend the NBA Live 08 Community Day had already experienced the impact of EA Sports collaborating with those six soon-to-be rookies. Because they’d been signed on as mo-cap talent, they’d already been added to the build of the game that we got our hands on in late June. At that point, they were either in the Free Agents or on the teams expected to pick them. I remember Joakim Noah actually being on the Bulls’ roster.
It was already an awesome experience to be able to play the game before anyone else, but seeing those rookies in the game before they were drafted was also cool. During the Draft Camp, they also signed an exclusive NBA Live basketball jersey, which the developers put up as a prize for the tournament we played against each other. The tournament and the jersey were won by Mario (aka Clueminati) from the official EA forums, and when he joined us on the NLSC Podcast back in 2018, he mentioned that he still has it in his collection. We were all winners at that event though as EA took us to the 2007 Draft, where all six Draft Camp attendees went on to be lottery picks.
Later that year, on August 29th, EA Canada played host to the Summer Camp. The event was attended by Paul Pierce, Shawn Marion, Channing Frye, Delonte West, and Randy Foye. It was another motion capture session, and naturally, EA produced a short promotional video featuring behind-the-scenes footage. Once again, the video, along with a handful of photos from the event, were provided to fansites as well as online video game publications. Suffice to say it was a very different time in the community, long before the explosion of YouTube and focus on “influencers” who are now the ones that benefit from access to playtesting events and preview media.
Times have certainly changed in that regard, as have NBA Live’s fortunes. As for the players involved, Paul Pierce went on to win the 2008 NBA Championship with the Boston Celtics, while Shawn Marion and Corey Brewer were members of the 2011 Champion Dallas Mavericks. Kevin Durant was set to be the cover player of NBA Elite 11 (he previously appeared on the cover of NCAA March Madness 08), and of course won titles with the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and 2018. Along with Al Horford and Joakim Noah, who signed with the Los Angeles Clippers before the shut down, Durant is one of only three players from those two events that are still active.
To me, that emphasises how quickly time has flown, as it sometimes feels as though 2007 was only five or six years ago, rather than thirteen. Much has changed in that time: the players, NBA Live’s reputation and standing, and EA Sports’ approach to the community and people covering its game. Times will always change when it comes to who’s playing in the NBA, but as far as NBA Live is concerned, I’d love to see the game return to its former glory, and EA reach out beyond 2K YouTubers to spread the word and collect feedback. It’d be great to have that interaction again, not to mention see the stars of today associating with the NBA Live brand as they now do NBA 2K.
In the meantime, it feels like a waste to have the Draft Camp and Summer Camp videos on our YouTube channel without any context, and photos from those events sitting in my archives where they can’t be seen. To that end, I invite you to check them out below, where they can hopefully be preserved alongside these snippets of information about them. After all, I’d not only like to use my Wayback Wednesday features to profile and celebrate aspects of basketball gaming history, but also to preserve it. As future chapters in the history of the genre are written, hopefully we can do a better job of ensuring these time capsules don’t go missing and forgotten.