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 another selection of players that I remember primarily because of video games.
In a couple of previous Wayback Wednesday features, I recalled some of the players that stick in my mind in large part thanks to basketball gaming. Making roster updates for NBA Live is unquestionably a factor here, as I ended up spending a lot of time looking at names, researching players to create them and edit their ratings, or simply moving them around from team to team. After I stopped making rosters, I found that I was far less familiar with players at the end of the bench, and even some of the lesser-known rotation players on basement teams.
That’s led to me being able to remember benchwarmers and other somewhat obscure players from the 90s and 2000s much easier than I can name certain current players. I expect that will change somewhat now that my current roster update for NBA 2K11 is taking shape, but growing up with basketball games has embedded a number of role players from yesteryear in my memory. I figured this would become an ongoing series when I posted the first article last year, and indeed, I have another list to share with you all today. Let’s take a look back…way back…
NBA Live 96 PC was the first hoops game I owned. Although I’d played NBA Live 95 on Super Nintendo before, it was a frequent rental and not part of my collection until years later. Because NBA Live 96 PC allowed me to scroll through the entire league’s rosters with ease, it’s helped me to remember a lot of players from that era. By default, the Houston Rockets are the first team you see on the Set Rosters screen, and one of their players is Eldridge Recasner. His name jumped out at me, and I continued to notice it as he remained in the NBA through 2002. These days he can be found on Twitter, and I have to say that I quite enjoy his takes on basketball.
Another player I remember courtesy of NBA Live 96 PC – yes, that’s a recurring theme with this series – is Terrence Rencher. A rookie point guard for the Heat (later traded to the Suns) in the 1996 season, Rencher’s NBA career came to an end in February that year. As such, he became a player that I’d frequently overwrite when I was making roster updates, once I discovered Tim’s editor. He had a portrait in which he was wearing a Heat jersey, so I preferred to replace him with new members of Miami’s roster whenever possible. He may not have had a memorable NBA career, but Terrence Rencher is a name that’s stuck in my mind thanks to video games.
Although he was drafted by the Nuggets in 1987, Ronnie Grandison was cut before the season began. He didn’t debut until the following season, playing 72 games for the Celtics. He wouldn’t be included in a video game until NBA Live 96 (where funnily enough, he has incorrect Draft info). A member of the Heat in the default roster, he ended up playing for the Hawks and the Knicks before the season was done. He was gone after that, and like Terrence Rencher, became an ideal player to be overwritten with a new player for the Heat due to his portrait. Grandison’s NBA career was short and unremarkable, but he’s still a lot better than another Ronnie we could mention.
This is the second time I’ve mentioned Walter Herrmann in one of my articles, and the reason I remember him is the same reason I talked about him the first time around. Herrmann was often oddly overrated in NBA Live’s rosters, particularly in NBA Live 08 where he was a baffling 83 Overall. Judging by a comment on that article and other responses when his name has come up over the years, I’m not the only one to remember him for his inflated ratings. His hairstyle also stood out in any game that properly represented his long, flowing locks. Although he played only three seasons and was out of the NBA by 2009, he’s still on the free agents in NBA 2K11.
A Topps trading card introduced me to Mario Bennett, which led me to recognise him on the Phoenix Suns’ roster in NBA Live 96 PC. Bennett didn’t have a particularly noteworthy NBA career, appearing in just 68 games across four seasons, playing for four different teams along the way. It’s his stint with the Bulls that’s led to me being able to remember him all these years later. When I updated NBA Live 96 PC for the lockout-shortened 1999 season, I started a season with the Bulls squad that he was briefly part of. It took me all of one game to realise that playing a season with them was going to be a real slog, and I quit. It’s also why I remember Kornel David!
Considering that Basketball Reference lists some obscure nicknames for players, I was surprised to see Olumide Oyedeji wasn’t ever known as Double Oh. It would’ve been right up there with Andrei Kirilenko’s AK-47 moniker, as that not only matches Oyedeji’s initials, but also his jersey number of double zero. Anyway, hailing from Nigeria, Oyedeji obviously has a rather distinctive name, and I remember him lurking at the bottom of the SuperSonics’ and Magic’s rosters for a few years in the early 2000s. He’s also a free agent in NBA Live 2004, making him one of many players to remain active in video games after his time in the real NBA had come to an end.
A journeyman who spent fourteen years in the league, Aaron Williams is perhaps best remembered for his stint with the New Jersey Nets in the early to mid 2000s. It’s where he enjoyed his biggest role and put up the best numbers of his career, being a key member of the rotation on the Nets’ two NBA Finalist squads. As I was making roster updates during that period, I was familiar with most of the players on every team to some degree. However, I also remember Williams for always being one of the first players in the database, after the developers began ordering returning veterans alphabetically by their first name. Once Aaron McKie retired, Williams sat at the top.
I found Junior Harrington so memorable that I wrote an entire Wayback Wednesday article about his unusual career on the virtual hardwood! The short version is that his three year NBA career alternated with years spent playing elsewhere, resulting in him being in the default roster of NBA Live the season after an NBA stint, but never in the game when he was actually in the league. This meant I was always creating him in roster updates, and then didn’t need to use him when he was actually available. With all due respect to Harrington, he’s more memorable for that than anything he did in the real NBA, so I definitely remember him primarily thanks to basketball gaming.
When Dee4Three mentioned Ansu Sesay on the NLSC Podcast as one of the players he remembered for putting up some unlikely numbers in a video game, it jogged my memory as well. Sesay, who had a brief four year career in the NBA, didn’t ever torch me for an unrealistic amount of points, but I sure remember his name from working on roster updates for various NBA Live games. On top of his distinctive name, he was in and out of the rotation, so he was one of those players I was constantly moving to and from the injured reserve, or one of the bottom two active roster spots. It really is funny the players that stick in your head and you can still remember years later.
Over the years, there have been some lively discussions in the NBA & Basketball section of the NLSC Forum. It’s interesting to go back and see which players some of us pegged to be the next breakout stars. Anthony Randolph was one such player I remember a lot of people being very high on. He didn’t pan out quite that way, as he was out of the league before he turned 25. Before that happened, he became one of my teammates in NBA 2K13’s MyCAREER, the first year I really got into that mode. He fared a lot better there, seeing decent minutes and helping me to rack up a number of assists in my rookie season. On the virtual hardwood, he was far more memorable.
Do any of these players ring a bell? Who are some other players that you remember that I haven’t mentioned in any of my lists as yet? Let me know in the comments section below, and stay tuned for Part 4, no doubt coming at some point in the not too distant future!