"NBA 2K12" is about the closest fans can get to a virtual time capsule. From Jerry West draining jumpers like only The Logo can, to Wilt Chamberlain posting up Dwight Howard in the paint and throwing one down in Superman's face, it's where legends (complete with afros and short shorts) take on the best ballers of today in games where amazing not only happens but is actually controlled by basketball fans looking to talk a little junk with every Michael Jordan jam.
"It's fun to see myself still relevant in the game, and more than that, it's educational to the kids who never saw me play," Jordan tells me over the phone as we talk "2K12" and his influence over the final product. "With what the 2K guys have done, they're able to utilize my skills in the game against today's players. I think it will be cool for consumers to interact that way.
"That's one of the things that I thought was important and why I wanted to get involved in the game. I wanted to show the relevance between yesterday's players to today."
And for fans, that means we get to see what it would look like for Mike to take flight against the likes of LeBron, then hit rewind and watch it again (and again if you're in Cleveland).
In fact, everything about His Airness is captured with such realism, such authenticity, the only thing missing is the ability to import his character into "MLB 2K11."
Maybe next year.
Jon Robinson: How much influence did you have over your character's look and skill set in the game?
Michael Jordan: I didn't want them to put me in there if it didn't look like myself, and I didn't want them to put stats that weren't my stats. The guys at 2K are very smart, so they know a lot of things about the game of basketball, and obviously, the things that I've done to the game and the way that I played. I wanted my character to be as close to the way I played as possible, so that it's not something that's false-promoted. I wanted something real.
Jon Robinson: They have everything from your dunks and fadeaway to your swagger on the court. What did you think the first time you saw it in motion? It's a long way from "One on One: Jordan vs. Bird."
Michael Jordan: [laughs] Yeah, it is, it's a long way from the first game I was in, but it just shows you the technology that's evolved over the years. The fact that they can come as close as they have to the way that I played the game, my tendencies, my tongue out, my pants being short, my running technique, my fadeaway ... all the things I've done that they've been able to illustrate in the game just shows how technology has evolved.
Jon Robinson: Does it make you laugh to see the rookie Jordan in the game with the short shorts and the hair compared to the older years with the bald head and the longer shorts?
Michael Jordan: Believe me, I get that from my kids all the time. [laughs] The short shorts and the hair and all that stuff, it's somewhat fun. I'm not embarrassed by it. It was me. That's how I was when I played the game.
Jon Robinson: The hook to "NBA 2K12" is the inclusion of 15 legends and their teams playing against some of the best competition of their day. Your Bulls are matched up against the '92-93 Hornets in the game. Why do you think that's a fun matchup for gamers?
Michael Jordan: If gamers don't know about these teams, they are hopefully going to get an education about the past. Teams that were good that they may not know of now. The Hornets had a real good basketball team and we had to go through them. They had a real good bench and some good players like Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson. It's not like I just played against Bird or Malone or Barkley or Ewing. We played against other teams too, and it's important to give these guys an identity, as well.
Jon Robinson: Are you disappointed that Charles Barkley isn't represented in the game as one of the 15 legends?
Michael Jordan: I am disappointed he's not in the game. I think people would love to see how much smaller he was compared to how he is now. [laughs] The impact he had on the league being only 6-4, 6-5, and the impact he had at the power forward position is going to be missed.
Jon Robinson: Are you glad Scottie Pippen made the list of 15? A lot of people still only see him as your sidekick. Do you think he deserves to be on a Top 15 list of influential players like this?
Michael Jordan: Yeah, I'm very glad. When you think about what he's done, he was a part of every team where I won. He was an important part of that and people tend to forget that. You would never have seen Michael Jordan win a championship without Scottie Pippen and Scottie Pippen never won a championship without Michael Jordan. So the two of us are a tandem and he definitely stands up as one of the elite players to ever play the game. He's in my top five. He's on my team. If I had to pick five players to build a team, he's my small forward.
Jon Robinson: In the game, just like real life, you have that knack to hit the big shot at the most critical moments. What is it about your personality that made you such a cold-blooded player at the end of games? What makes a person clutch?
Michael Jordan: I'm pretty good with a basketball and I always felt that my skill level was something that I really practiced on and I perfected to a point that I felt confident about it. It's a confidence I have about myself, and if you ask me today, I still have it. That's something I just don't get rid of. I worked hard to get it, I believe in it, and it always came with no regrets.