Back when the NBA video game world was expanding into giving you an actual NBA experience, the limitations of games reached beyond whatever the technology allowed.
While NBA Live 95 was revolutionizing the overall expansion of NBA video games with a 30-degree angle, instant replay and the ability to trade players, it was being hampered with the exclusion of the league’s biggest star. Michael Jordan, among others, would not allow his likeness to be sold with these games. EA Sports cleverly went around these legal issues by inserting “Player 23” onto the Bulls, and wouldn’t you know it that he seemed to have the exact same look and abilities of a certain global icon.
It was something that you could work with and pretend he was actually in the game. But for many young teenagers such as myself, it was ultimately a disappointment when you fired up the Sega Genesis, went to the rosters after first inserting each yearly installment and seeing Player 23 defending you from fully embracing the pixilated NBA experience.
Last year, NBA 2K11 revolutionized the basketball gaming world for seemingly the 11th straight year. They worked out a deal with Jordan and put him on the cover of the game. Not only was he on the cover, he was in the game as his old self. You could play through 10 different moments of his career and each version of MJ was a bit different from the other, in order to simulate the feeling of playing with him in 1986 as opposed to using the 1998 version.
2K Sports gave us what all of the people playing basketball games in the 90s never got to do. We were able to be Jordan.
This year, they’ve announced that Larry Bird and Magic Johnson will be on the covers as well. And even though they’re still being coy with the new features of this year’s installment of the best basketball gaming franchise of all time, a lot of people are hoping they give you the same experience with Magic and Bird that they did in last year’s game and Jordan.
If we’re given the option to play through 10 moments of Magic and Bird’s careers, here are the moments I’m hoping we get to run through.
For Magic’s accomplishments:
- Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals. Running out Magic as center and having him play all over the court throughout his first title-clinching game of his career.
- Game 6 of the 1982 NBA Finals. Record a triple double while playing against the Philadelphia 76ers to win the championship.
- Game 3 of the 1984 NBA Finals. Record at least 21 assists against the Celtics and win the game.
- Game 6 of the 1985 NBA Finals. Close out the Boston Celtics on their home floor to win the NBA title.
- Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals. This is the game with the famous hook shot by Magic to win the game and control the series against the Celtics.
- Game 6 of the 1987 NBA Finals. Close out the Boston Celtics for the second time by getting at least 16 points and 19 assists.
- Game 7 of the 1988 Western Conference Finals. Record at least 24 points, 9 rebounds and 11 assists while securing the win against the Mavericks.
- Game 7 of the 1988 NBA Finals. Close out the Pistons for the repeat by getting at least 19 points and 14 assists.
- 1992 All-Star Game. Get to play in his sendoff game after being allowed to play following his sudden retirement.
For Bird’s accomplishments:
- Game 7 of the 1981 Eastern Conference Finals. After being down 3-1 in the series, the Celtics won two straight games to force Game 7. Close out the Sixers in Game 7 to move onto the Finals.
- Game 6 of the 1981 NBA Finals. Score 26 points and grab 13 rebounds with Bird to close out the Rockets and win his first NBA title.
- Game 7 against the Knicks in the 1984 playoffs. Record 43 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists while closing out Bernard King and the Knicks.
- Game 5 of the 1984 NBA Finals. Score 34 points and grab 17 rebounds to beat the Los Angeles Lakers and take a 3-2 lead in the Finals.
- 1985 regular season game against the Hawks. Score 60 points while watching for the Hawks’ bench players to celebrate in astonishment.
- 1986 regular season game against the Blazers. Score 47 points, record 14 rebounds and dish out 11 assists while they have Bird shooting primarily with his left hand.
- Game 6 of the 1986 NBA Finals. Put up 29 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists to knock off the Houston Rockets.
- Game 7 against the Hawks in the 1988 playoffs. Score at least 34 points to beat the hot shooting Dominique Wilkins.
- Game 5 against the Pacers in the 1991 playoffs. With a hobbled Bird, score 32 points to outduel Chuck Person and the Pacers.
If you’ll notice, I left a spot open for each player by only providing nine games. Hopefully there is a way to include the gold medal game of the Dream Team’s march through the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. They will probably have the rights to most of, if not, all of the players from that team.
That would be a fun way of expanding on the new legacy 2K Sports gave us last year by turning Player 23 into what every basketball game aficionado had been craving for the better part of two decades.