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 simulating to today in NBA Live 2000, in order to see how long virtual Vince Carter (and a few other stars) stick around.
Some nineteen years ago, my cousin and I spent an afternoon simulating way into the future in the brand new Franchise mode in NBA Live 2000. Back then, the year 2020 seemed so far away, and yet, we’re only four months away from the calendar flipping over into that futuristic annum. Keeping with the theme of Wayback Wednesday, I’ll quote a classic 1980s film by John Hughes and say that life moves pretty fast. Ferris Bueller was right on the money with that line, and one only has to look at the NBA to see how a couple of generations of stars have seemingly come and gone in a blink.
A name that still remains on an NBA roster all these years later is Vince Carter. The future Hall of Famer known as Vinsanity and Half-Man, Half-Amazing, has just re-signed with the Atlanta Hawks to play in his 22nd and final NBA season; a record that will see his career span four different decades. As the last player standing from the 90s, Vince Carter is also the last active player from NBA Live 2000 still in the league. Would virtual Vince stick around as long as his real life counterpart? What about some of the other stars? To answer that question, I’m simulating until today in NBA Live 2000’s Franchise mode! Let’s take a look back…way back…
There’s obviously going to be some revisionist and alternate history here. I’ll be using the default NBA Live 2000 rosters to simulate until today, so events such as Michael Jordan’s comeback with the Wizards won’t occur. Likewise, I won’t be editing any real Draft Classes into the game, so we won’t see superstars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant entering the league. Their roles will be filled by generated rookies, so we’ll just be taking a look at the virtual careers of stars like Vince Carter, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, and Tracy McGrady, as well as a few other stars from the 80s and 90s who were still active as of the 2000 season.
Our journey begins as the 2000 NBA season tips off in November 1999. Vince Carter was entering his second year with the Toronto Raptors, fresh off winning Rookie of the Year honours and a few months away from dazzling us in the dunk contest. In real life, it would be Shaq and Kobe who would lead the Los Angeles Lakers to their first championship since 1988. In this simulation, things went rather differently. A few of the results imitated real life as Vinsanity made his first All-Star team, Shaq was the Most Valuable Player, and Elton Brand was the Rookie of the Year. Apart from that however, the outcomes of the 2000 season greatly diverged from reality.
The Lakers were swept by the Phoenix Suns in the first round. In reality, the Suns did get a first round upset over the defending champion San Antonio Spurs due to a Tim Duncan injury. The Cleveland Cavaliers were somehow top of the East, but they were upset by Vince Carter and the Raptors, who were out in the second round at the hands of the Indiana Pacers. The New York Knicks made it to the Finals for the second year in a row, but fell to the underdog Suns who claimed their first NBA championship. A trade brought Stephon Marbury back to the Minnesota Timberwolves, while Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, Otis Thorpe, Sam Perkins, and Terry Porter all retired.
In this simulation, the exciting offseason of 2000 was very lacklustre. Tracy McGrady opted to stay in Toronto with Carter, while Tim Duncan and Grant Hill also stayed in San Antonio and Detroit respectively. There was plenty of activity during the season though, as the Portland Trail Blazers traded Scottie Pippen for Shareef Abdur-Rahim, the Chicago Bulls acquired Antonio McDyess, and the Dallas Mavericks traded a young Dirk Nowitzki to the Denver Nuggets. I controlled Seattle in the simulation, and signed Andrew Gaze for an extended NBA run. A healthy Grant Hill was the MVP, but it was the Golden State Warriors who surprised everyone by winning it all.
Over the next few years, a couple of players retired sooner than they did in real life. Others hung around a little longer, with Charles Barkley retiring in 2002 as a member of the Houston Rockets. Utah’s famous trio of Karl Malone, John Stockton, and Jeff Hornacek also retired that year, as did Reggie Miller; three years earlier than he did in reality. Chris Webber remained in Sacramento in 2001, but would eventually move on to Portland. Avery Johnson and Christian Laettner ended up on the Mavs and Wizards respectively, mirroring their real career paths. The Minnesota Timberwolves were led to the 2002 championship by Kevin Garnett, their first of several titles in the sim.
2002 was also the year that Vince Carter bolted for the Dallas Mavericks, where he would play for most of his career. Minnesota repeated in 2003, but Carter, along with Michael Finley and Steve Nash, won it all in 2004. By that point, Hall of Famers like Scottie Pippen and Hakeem Olajuwon had called it a day. The Dream retired with the Rockets, but lifetime Pacer Rik Smits ended his career with the Blazers in the sim. The Bulls traded Toni Kukoc in his final year in the league, which he spent with the Pacers. David Robinson retired in 2004 after being relegated to the bench, while Tim Duncan picked up his first MVP award.
Shaq and Kobe were able to patch up their differences in this simulation, as Shaq re-signed with the Lakers in 2004 and played the rest of his career alongside Kobe in Los Angeles. They wouldn’t win a single title however, leaving Shaq to retire ring-less in 2011. Sean Elliott, Glen Rice, Larry Johnson, and Isaiah Rider all continued to play until 2005. Baron Davis joined the Spurs in 2000, and spent the rest of his career in San Antonio. Allen Iverson and Ray Allen spent most of their careers with the 76ers and Bucks respectively, though AI would retire with the Detroit Pistons – funnily enough joining them for the 2009 season – while Allen finished up with the Cavs.
Though he never won a championship, Kobe picked up several MVP awards. He and Tim Duncan were always in the thick of the MVP race, if not the championship hunt. Despite losing Vince Carter, T-Mac was able to lead the Raptors to the title in 2005. Jason Kidd, who went on to play for the Hawks after being traded for Jason Terry, retired as a Buck in 2008. That same season, Kobe was the MVP and Garnett was the Defensive Player of the Year, actually mirroring a real result (though KG was still in Minnesota here). The Sonics won in 2008 rather than leaving Seattle for Oklahoma City to become the Thunder, but the Timberwolves were back on top in 2009.
Boston let Paul Pierce go to the Wizards in free agency, and traded Antoine Walker to the Warriors. Derek Fisher ended up in New York, where he did play and later coach. Allan Houston retired in 2010 as did Joe Smith, the latter after being an integral part of the Timberwolves’ dynasty rather than bouncing around the league. Elton Brand, now with the Phoenix Suns, picked up back-to-back MVP awards in 2010 and 2011. The Sonics made it back to the NBA Finals a couple of times, though they were swept by the Boston Celtics in 2011 despite the departure of Pierce and Walker. The Suns were champions again in 2012, edging the Celtics in a hard-fought seven game series.
Anthony Oxford became the first generated player to win the MVP award in 2012. That year also marked the next chapter in Vince Carter’s career, as the Mavericks traded him to the New York Knicks. It turned out to be an excellent move for him, as after re-signing with the Knicks for three years in the offseason, they went on to beat the Suns in the 2013 NBA Finals; the 40th anniversary of New York’s last title. Other changes that year included the Bulls finally parting ways with Ron Artest, while T-Mac was traded to Dallas. Unfortunately the Knicks couldn’t go back-to-back in 2014, losing to the Grizzlies who in this reality are still located in Vancouver.
Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan retired in 2014, having played their entire careers for the Timberwolves and Spurs respectively. It’s funny that in this simulation, it was KG who enjoyed being a part of multiple championships, especially as Duncan was the cover player of NBA Live 2000! T-Mac also retired, while Allen Iverson and Ray Allen had retired a year earlier. Dirk Nowitzki was still hanging around, as I signed both him and Jermaine O’Neal to three year deals. Jason Williams retired in Miami (albeit without a ring), and although he didn’t show up on the Retired Players list, Vince Carter also called it a day after the 2014 loss, retiring earlier than in real life.
By 2016, generated players were winning all the season awards. Mike Bibby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, and Ricky Davis continued to play until the middle of the decade. Paul Pierce and Baron Davis retired in 2016, leaving very few real players in the league. Somehow, the Sacramento Kings won an astonishing 80 games in the 2017 season, also winning the first of three consecutive titles. It was the only threepeat in the entire simulation, with none of the champions between 2000 and 2019 matching the real life result. Ron Artest, now with the Lakers, retired in 2017. Jonathan Bender retired the same offseason, along with Larry Hughes and Jermaine O’Neal.
The three real players left standing were Kobe Bryant (still with the Lakers), Corey Maggette, and Al Harrington. Maggette had played his entire career for the Magic and Harrington had been a lifetime Pacer, but both went to the New Jersey Nets in 2018. Kobe established a record with 22 seasons in the league, all with the Lakers. Maggette hung it up after one season with the Nets, leaving Harrington as the sole real player after spending a 21st and final season in the NBA with the Bucks. In the end, a player from the 90s had made it through to 2019, but it wasn’t Vince Carter. As such, the real Carter has outlasted his virtual self, and everyone else in NBA Live 2000!
It’s incredible to think about what Vince Carter is set to accomplish this season. For a couple of years in the early 2000s, it looked as though his career would be marred or even cut short by injuries. They ultimately proved to be minor blips however, as he has continued to contribute to various teams for over two decades, and despite being in his 40s he can still pull off some impressive dunks! We may not have predicted it some sixteen years ago, and even NBA Live 2000 pegged him to retire around the 2014 season, but here he is, on the cusp of setting records for longevity. I realise it’s a corny expression, but it truly will be the end of an era when he finally calls it a career.
Overall, NBA Live 2000 did a decent job of replicating the lengthy careers of a few players who were active in 1999. A few retired significantly earlier or later, ended up on different teams, or enjoyed longer tenures with the teams they started on, but there were some fun coincidences with players signing with or getting traded to teams that they did play for at some point in real life. Once again, it’s funny to think that 2020 felt so far in the future, simulating all those seasons one afternoon in the year 2000! The results were just as crazy this time around, but they couldn’t predict that Carter would still be playing today. As they say, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.