NBA 2K11 drew mass-market attention by putting Michael Jordan on its cover, but his appearance on the box highlighted the mode that sold many gamers on the title: “The Jordan Challenge,” in which players could relive ten classic moments from Jordan’s storied career (both as #23 and as #45). This year, 2K Sports is expanding that history lesson with 14 additional NBA legends in the “NBA’s Greatest” mode in NBA 2K12. So far, that includes the three cover athletes — Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson — as well as Julius “Dr. J” Erving and Kareem “Roger Murdock” Abdul-Jabbar.
The NBA 2K series has reigned supreme in the simulation basketball world for many years, but it wasn’t until last year’s entry that the franchise officially hit the big time, joining EA Sports’ Madden NFL brand in the realm of cultural phenomena beyond the digital world. “We’ve transcended the whole videogame space, and we’ve kind of become this conversation that’s weaved into NBA culture,” said Jason Argent, VP of marketing for 2K Sports, in a telephone interview this afternoon.
As you complete this year’s 15 challenges (one for each NBA great), you’ll unlock the teams involved for use in the game — and that’s against any available team. Argent talked about the mode as a way to fuel and settle the age-old debates that every sports fan has participated in, the ones in which people claim that today’s champions couldn’t hold a candle to the legendary teams of yore (or vice versa).
2K isn’t stopping at revisiting the classic moments themselves, or merely the teams and players that participated in them. They’re recreating the look and feel of the experiences in the game, right down to the pre-1990s NBA fashion style (i.e., short shorts and long socks). When playing an NBA’s Greatest moment that originally took place in the 1980s, it will look in NBA 2K12 like a television broadcast from that era, complete with old-school camera angles and rudimentary statistical overlays. Venues are in, too; if Larry Bird’s challenge is a home game, it will go down at the old Boston Garden. This all took “a lot of work,” said Argent, but it was a “labor of love” for 2K.
NBA 2K12 is set for release on October 4, 2011. Let’s bring out those debates in the comments: who, do you think, are the other ten NBA legends included in NBA’s Greatest?