After spending some quality time with the basketball video game "NBA 2K11," two things seem clear:
(a) Playing as any of the game's eight different versions of cover athlete Michael Jordan -- alongside historical Chicago Bulls teammates like Scottie Pippen and (seriously!) Orlando Woolridge -- is good;
(b) Playing against said versions of his Airness can be better.
Well, provided you're not a Jordan fan.
Here's the hook with "NBA 2K11" -- the title lets you be like Mike, playing through recreated Jordan career moments like the 1991 NBA Finals, the "double nickel" game at Madison Square Garden and a scoring tete-a-tete against Dominique Wilkins. On the virtual floor, Jordan is both authentic-looking -- from his tongue to his Nikes -- and authentic-playing, possibly the most dominant video game athlete since Tecmo Bo Jackson. It's fun to torment poor Craig Ehlo, and easy to throw down on Patrick Ewing.
Only what if you're a Cleveland fan? Or a New Yorker? What if you're a -- sacrilege, we know -- a Jordan hater?
Not to worry. The game covers that, too. "NBA 2K11" also includes some of Jordan's primary rivals, like the 1991 Los Angeles Lakers, the 1995 New York Knicks and the 1986 Boston Celtics. All of the classic squads are playable, which means instead of reliving history, you can rewrite it.
As the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons, I used Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman to foul Jordan early, often and hard. No handshakes for the 1991 Bulls -- and no title, either. As the 1996 Seattle Sonics, I kept the ball out of Jordan's hands and in the windmill-jamming, still-svelte mitts of Shawn Kemp. As the 1992 Portland Trailblazers, I had Jordan on my team, courtesy of an in-game roster manager trade that pretended
Greg Oden Sam Bowie never happened.
Needless to say, that season's Finals turned out a little differently.
Indeed, "NBA 2K11" works equally well as both Jordan relic and voodoo doll, a way to get a measure of delayed digital revenge for all the years No. 23 ran roughshod over the championship hopes and dreams of everyone else in professional basketball. Really want to stick it to Jordan? Here's my advice: cut his in-game ratings in half, then trade him to the Washington Wizards. Now that's payback.