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Thursday, August 16, 2012
How 'NBA 2K' can use its Team USA license

By Zach McCann

Jordan, Bird & Johnson
"NBA 2K13" will be the Dream Team's first appearance in a video game since the Sega Genesis.
When 2K Sports announced its acquisition of the USA Basketball license, it was unclear how the license would be used beyond playing an exhibition game between the 1992 Dream Team and the 2012 U.S. squad. All Jason Argent, 2K's head of marketing, would say is that there would be more announcements before the game comes out Oct. 2.

With the deal finalizing so recently, it's doubtful there is time to incorporate the Dream Team into many game modes. But here are a few ideas.

1. Beat the Dream Team with every NBA team

What's great about video games is they don't always have to be realistic. I once scored 124 points with Jameer Nelson in a historic, record-breaking performance. One time, I even racked up 11 assists with Kobe Bryant. Anything can happen in video games.

So let's see how current NBA teams, with modern training technologies, 20 years of evolution and the imagination of video games, stack up against the Dream Team. In real life, it may be hard for the Charlotte Bobcats to beat anybody, but in "NBA 2K13," it's not completely ludicrous for the Cats to defeat the Dream Team at least once. We want these game modes to be a challenge.

This mode would be great because not only does it allow gamers to use every team in the game, it allows them to intensely scout the Dream Team and find the best ways to attack it.

2. Isiah's Revenge

The Dream Team infamously didn't include Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas at the request of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, who both agreed to play under the stipulation that Thomas not be on the team. Thomas, however, certainly deserved to be on the squad; even at 31, he was the league's best point guard.

Instead of Thomas sitting quietly at home, let's provide Thomas with the next-best American players and see if he can take down the Dream Team. The "B-team" won't be as good as the Dream Team, but it's still a competitive squad.

Isaiah Thomas and Michael Jordan
Isiah Thomas wasn't on the Dream Team at the request of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
We'll start with a young LSU prospect named Shaquille O’Neal, who the Dream Team passed on for Christian Laettner. O'Neal tore up the league as a rookie in the 1992-93 season, averaging 23.4 points and 13.8 rebounds, so there's little doubt he would help offset the Dream Team's size. He might even be better than Patrick Ewing and David Robinson.

Joining O'Neal in the frontcourt will be Dennis Rodman (keeping up the team's bad-boy image), Shawn Kemp (perhaps the most athletic player on the floor) and Larry Nance (a little old at the time but a skilled big). On the perimeter, Thomas' team will be stocked with shooters: Tim Hardaway (just entering his prime), Jeff Hornacek (coming off his best season at 43.9 percent from 3-point range), Joe Dumars (Thomas' teammate with plenty of leftover disdain for the Bulls and Knicks) and Mark Price (a capable backup). Add forwards James Worthy (his career was winding down, but he could be the young team's veteran presence), Larry Johnson (the No. 1 pick in the 1991 NBA draft) and Otis Thorpe (the team is going to need fouls), and you have a pretty good squad. Almost every one of these players was included in "NBA 2K12" on classic teams.

PG: Isiah Thomas, Mark Price
SG: Tim Hardaway, Joe Dumars, Jeff Hornacek
SF: James Worthy, Larry Johnson
PF: Shawn Kemp, Dennis Rodman
C: Shaquille O’Neal, Larry Nance, Otis Thorpe

Thomas' team may be overmatched at every position, but don’t discount the power of spite.

3. Replaying the ultimate scrimmage: Magic vs. Michael

Many have called the Dream Team intrasquad scrimmage at Monte Carlo the greatest, most competitive collection of basketball talent ever assembled on one floor. The game, played in an empty gym three days before the 1992 Olympics, had it all -- an epic comeback, a close finish, constant trash talk and Laettner getting dunked on.

It was the first time other players really let the gloves off with Magic Johnson, who was making his comeback after being diagnosed with HIV. He and Jordan went at it, with Jordan responding to Magic's complaints with "This is the '90s!"

Jordan's team featured Larry Bird, Pippen, Karl Malone and Ewing. Joining Johnson were Chris Mullin, Laettner, Charles Barkley and Robinson.

Perhaps 2K sports can make a call to NBA TV, which released the documentary "The Dream Team." The film showed the first video tape of that scrimmage, complete with audio of Magic and Michael going at it. Wouldn't it be great to play it out in "NBA 2K13"?

4. FIBA World Championship

Carmelo Anthony
Despite a mild scare from Spain, this year's U.S. basketball team coasted through the Olympics.
It's probably a game mode that will be in a future version of the game, perhaps even in "NBA 2K14," despite it being a licensing nightmare. FIBA would be an attractive draw to basketball fans, because international basketball has been largely left out of video games. It would be fun to take control of a team like Lithuania or Russia and try to upset the Americans.

But if you're playing as the Dream Team, this sounds boring. It's like having a fantasy draft and letting one team pick the first 12 players.

There's a reason everyone is excited about matching up the Dream Team and the 2012 U.S. basketball team in "NBA 2K13": No other country is worthy of comparison. Nobody can beat us but ourselves! If that doesn’t sum up what being an American is all about, I don’t know what does.