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 a post move that I’ve never been able to perform in NBA Live 2003.
There’s a distinct satisfaction that comes with mastering advanced moves in basketball video games. Whether it’s pulling off the Dream Shake, or performing a beautiful combination of dribbling moves that leaves a defender stumbling, developing superior skills on the sticks is supremely satisfying. Sometimes, however, there’s that one move that you’re just never able to perform. You’ve seen it in trailers and other people’s gameplay footage, but for whatever reason, you just can’t perform the move yourself. Alternatively, it may be a contextual animation that very rarely triggers, even when you appear to do everything correctly.
For me, my white whale of basketball gaming is a post move that can be seen in the introduction video of NBA Live 2003. Try as I might, I’ve never been able to perform it in all the years that I’ve had the game (which is to say, since late 2002). What is this elusive post move? Let’s take a look back…way back…
The move in question appears around forty seconds into NBA Live 2003’s intro video. Karl Malone backs down Pat Garrity in the high post, performs a drop step, and then fakes a shot. With Garrity out of position, The Mailman then performs an elegant-looking finger roll layup from a stationary start. It may not look like anything special now, especially since we’re talking about animations from 2002, but it’s always looked rather slick to me. It’s not as iconic as Karl Malone’s signature dunk, but it’s the kind of move that he’d make in the paint when he wasn’t throwing it down. For a better idea of what I’m talking about, just watch the NBA Live 2003 intro:
In all the years that I’ve owned NBA Live 2003, I’ve never been able to pull off that nifty looking finger roll following a drop step. Not in the PC version, and not on PlayStation 2, either. No matter what I’ve tried, I’ve never been able to get that animation to trigger. Breaking down the move in terms of the game’s controls, there shouldn’t be any complicated trick involved. It should just be a matter of backing down a defender, spinning towards the basket, tapping the Shoot button to perform a fake, and then pressing the Shoot button again while holding the stick towards the rim. Hopefully, the appropriate layup animation will then be triggered.
That’s easier said than done. In preparation for this article, I tried that method once again, in both Practice and a Play Now game. I found myself getting similar results to the ones I’ve always encountered in the past. Tapping the Shoot button in the paint almost always triggers a dunk or layup; with his dunk package, it’s usually a slam for Malone. Even if you do hit the sweet spot in the paint where a player will pick up his dribble with a shot fake, it usually triggers a dunk on the next move. The presence of a defender does make a difference, but it usually still results in a dunk or a different layup being triggered, assuming of course that the ball isn’t stripped.
I did have one attempt that resulted in a similar-looking finger roll layup, but it’s not quite the same move as what we see in the NBA Live 2003 intro. It’s also triggered while driving to the hoop after backing down a defender, rather than from a stationary start. Between the tendency of the game to automatically trigger one of the common dunk or layup animations upon tapping Shoot in the paint, as well as the CPU’s ability to easily strip the ball in post up situations, I didn’t have any more luck than I’ve had in the past in terms of replicating the post move and performing the layup. It remains a move that I just can’t seem to do.
Of course, it’s worth noting that the drop step itself also seems unique to the NBA Live 2003 intro. There isn’t actually a drop step move in the game’s controls; that move, along with the pro hop, wasn’t added until the following year in NBA Live 2004. The drop step move we see in the intro appears to be what causes The Mailman to pick up his dribble rather than the shot fake, but there’s no button to perform it. Releasing the back down button without holding left or right simply causes the player to square up to the basket again, while maintaining their dribble. Holding left or right before releasing the back down button results in a drive in that direction.
With that in mind, the reason I’ve never been able to perform the move may be that it’s actually impossible to do so. The clip used in the intro may have been taken from an earlier build of the game, in which it was still possible to perform a proper drop step and trigger a stationary finger roll layup. If that’s the case, it may reveal some interesting details about the development of NBA Live 2003. It could be that the pro hop/drop step button was originally intended to be implemented a year earlier, but was ultimately removed, perhaps because it wasn’t working properly. Alternatively, it may just be that animations were removed or dummied out, for similar reasons.
On the other hand, maybe there is something I’m overlooking. I’ll never claim to be the greatest basketball gamer in the world, and there certainly have been other moves here and there that I haven’t been able to pull off consistently. To that end, I’d be interested to hear if anyone has performed that exact move, and if so, how it’s done. It’d be fun to be able to perform it for the first time, all these years later. As it stands, it seems that you either have to be extremely lucky with the animation selection, or the move is impossible to perform in the final version of NBA Live 2003. Either way, it certainly still looks cool in the game’s intro.