I’ve played so much of the NBA 2K series, to a point that should probably be embarrassing. (Point of comparison: I’ve probably spent about 10x more time playing basketball video games than watching actual basketball over the past few years.)
The thing that sucks the vast majority of my time is “The Association” mode, where you take control of an NBA franchise and try to lead it to championships. It’s so damn addictive: Whether you’re actually playing some of the games or just doing the GM work, it has a fantastic “just one more” feeling to it.
I also have sunk many hours into the MyCareer mode, which puts you in charge of a career for a specific player, asking you to do off-ball tasks like set picks and fill passing lanes. It’s an interesting idea that would be endlessly fun if it wasn’t such a time-sink to make significant progress. There’s a lot of variety: a “MyCareer” as a three-point specialist 2-guard plays vastly different from one as a bruising, defensive center.
And — the thing that’s most important to most people buying the game — the NBA2K games have fun pure gameplay. The controls polished, quick, and responsive. The engine is sharp and realistic (my dad once asked me what channel I was watching when I was playing). The presentation is unmatched, even if it’s inevitable that you’ll hear the same announcing quips a hundred million times.
But it’s The Association mode that I keep coming back to. Here are some of my favorite ways to simulate fantasy versions of the NBA:
- The Wizards
Probably the one I do the most. It’s fun to play as the Wizards and to come up with wacky, unrealistic trades, and see what happens. John Wall, Brad Beal, and two firsts for Kevin Durant? Yup.
- The Scrubs
You can also concoct ridiculous scenarios with the NBA fantasy draft mode, drafting your initial roster. Taking awful players is actually a pretty easy way to get good within five or six years. It’s basically tanking. Do some heavy scouting and draft a scoring-focused rookie with high potential. Don’t spend any money on free agents, just keep going with high draft picks until you have a beastly starting line-up.
- The Rookies
Draft all rookies from this past draft and see how long it takes you to have a championship caliber team. The answer is usually not too long because the rookies are all slightly overrated (except in the case of Anthony Bennett, where they’re VASTLY overrated).
- The Fogeys
Draft all old guys. This one is usually an interesting challenge, as you have to figure out how to leverage players at the right time to grab younger assets or, more often, picks.
- The Positionals
Draft a team where every player is the same position. This doesn’t really work anymore if you do a lot of simming, but this used to be a way to break the NBA2K simming system. Back in 2K12 or maybe 2K11, you could draft a team of all point guards, and you would just completely crush, for some reason. I had Jason Kidd starting at center and averaging like 10 boards a game.
- The Ultra-Star
Create your own players and try to do max out one guy. I make the hero a 7’5” ultra-star who has his stats maxed out, with the rest of the players playing defense and passing him the ball. He averaged about 75 points a game, peaking at 119.
- The Dan
Maybe the most challenging of all. Take an unathletic, white, unskilled, 5’7″ guy as a rookie and try to craft him into a productive NBA player. I like trying this in Association mode almost as much as in MyCareer because it goes more quickly and I get to control more of how much he plays and what the team around him does.