Without a question or doubt, NBA 2K is a renowned sports game series that has dominated the virtual basketball scene for over 20 years.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the rise and fall of the franchise and delving deep into the games that made NBA 2K the best in its genre.
The Rise of NBA 2K
That’s what the 20-year-long running NBA 2K franchise was all about. Ever since its debut back in 1999 for the Sega Dreamcast with Sega Sports NBA 2K, no one expected to have such a serious basketball game that combined the same thrill and fun of the real-life counterpart.
It has long been the biggest rival of EA Games’ NBA Live for more than a decade especially back in the early 2000s when the emergence of sports simulator games began to blow up.
But due to 2K Games’ more realistic approach on the NBA than EA Games’ focus on fast-paced arcade hoop-em-up, the basketball gaming community simply preferred the 2K series for its true-to-source-material gameplay.
In fact, people loved NBA 2K so much more than NBA Live, EA Games had to cancel their release in 2010 and 2011 after 21 years of annual basketball game releases since Lakers vs Celtics and the NBA Playoffs back in 1989.
The NBA 2K series has reached its peak from 2010 to 2015, making it a benchmark game for the basketball league.
It was like there was no stopping them.
The Fall of a Champion
It wasn’t until 2016, the year NBA 2K17 was released, when fans began feeling something awfully suspicious about the game.
2K Games claimed they have yet innovated the genre with more immersion and better shooting mechanics but it just felt more of the same except it was buggier than 2K16.
Suddenly the game has added microtransactions to make purchases like shoes and other apparel despite making them an in-game grind just how it always was.
Players tolerated that and still thought it was a pretty decent game.
But the community sparked when NBA 2K18 came out and the MyCareer mode was unplayable without having to purchase microtransactions for small things like a haircut or even a tattoo.
The DLCs were overpriced too and it would only take a sucker to bite the pill.
The game once again felt recycled. Except for the free-roaming online game lobby that used to be crowded at first and then became empty the following months.
NBA 2K18 was a shame even if a gaming media like IGN gave it a high score. Fans knew the game was turning into a shameless cash grab.
Independent critics who gave it a low score was threatened by the personnel from 2K Games and demanded to raise the scores higher.
The community lost its respect.
And now here we are, with NBA 2K19—quite possibly the most downright unfinished game in the franchise. 2K Games proclaims it’s their greatest achievement but woke gamers knew they’re just recycling at this point and slapping microtransactions and lootboxes here and there.
Fans lost its respect for the game and its publisher even more after Belgium banned them for the usage of lootboxes as a form of gambling and 2K had the audacity of pleading gamers to fight against the rule of the Belgian government so they can put more microtransactions.
It was at this moment the community knew that the reign of the 2K Games was all over.
What used to be such an innovative and feel-good game that players have come to know and love has become another by-product of corporate greed capitalizing on the gamer’s passion for the franchise.
But not everything is grim about the series.
Today we’ll be looking at the greatest NBA 2K games that fans have cherished even to this day.
Presenting the Top 5 Best NBA 2K Games in the Series:
These will be in particular order, starting from where everything started it all.
5. SEGA Sports NBA 2K
Let’s take a blast from the past into 1999.
Ah yes, 1999. What a great year for basketball that was: The lockup, the 3-month halt on the NBA season but hey, jokes aside, it was great to see the twin towers Tim Duncan and David Robinson win their first championship for the San Antonio Spurs.
It was also a great year for the SEGA Dreamcast, introducing their flagship NBA game, SEGA Sports NBA 2K. It was the mark of a new rivalry between two companies over a similar genre.
EA Games did feel threatened by the true-to-source-material that NBA 2K put in that rivaled their own NBA Live 2000 a lot.
When SEGA closed its doors down, the 2K series was acquired by Take 2 Interactive and made its own branches, 2K Games and 2K Sports.
It was here that the start of a new dynasty for NBA games has begun.
4. NBA 2K10
Even though NBA 2K9 got good scores from the critics, the fans were displeased by the lack of content. It was just a straight-out NBA game with nothing else.
That was until NBA 2K10 showed up and it lit up the audience like a Christmas tree. It was packed with so much content and along with the release came the much-awaited MyCareer mode and Crew.
Finally, players would know what it’s like becoming a pro in the NBA as soon as they got drafted from the D-League.
It was the most addictive part in 2K10 as it was deeply engrossing and it was basically an RPG for NBA fans.
Crew was another awesome feature that felt like the crazy ode to the fan-favorite NBA Street series by EA Sports BIG but with a more realistic touch.
People forgave 2K Sports for NBA 2K9.
3. NBA 2K13
“Executive Produced by Jay-Z”, the cover back then wrote.
NBA 2K13 was the last main basketball game that focused on the PS3 and Xbox 360 era. Thankfully, 2K13 was a great last hurrah for the two consoles that would retire for the next generation.
The most prominent feature here is MyTeam mode—it had lootboxes but they were free and very exciting as every box was a reward.
The other cool feature about 2K13 was the added cutscenes to the ever-improving MyCareer mode which made things more believable than ever before.
Crew mode got a good revamp and with even crazier gameplay that made this entry a fun while.
It was through the Crew mechanics here that would go on to transform into Pan-Am mode later on in the series.
2. NBA 2K16
For the hardcore fans, this was the last good NBA 2K16 before the company got into the corporate greed.
Forget the Spike Lee story in the game. It was the return of Pro-Am that got the fans’ attention.
It came back with so much hype and that hype was satisfied with plenty of customizations and the ability to host tournaments.
Online mode was drastically fixed and the graphics just looked better than ever.
To a lot of players, this was the GOAT in the series, but you cannot agree more to our #1 NBA 2K game;
1. NBA 2K11
You loved it, we loved it. Everyone loved it. NBA 2K11 was considered the pinnacle, not only in the NBA series but in every other sports game at the time.
It was so good, it even got a nomination for Game of the Year—a nomination that sports games hardly earn.
What’s not to love about 2K11? Everything was so good even from the little things that turn out to be worth the time.
The much-improved MyCareer mode, Dunk Contests, 3-Point Shootouts, and, two of the biggest features, Situation and Jordan Challenge.
Situation was a scenario simulator where you can be able to practice how to clutch in a tight moment like a tie-ball game with 2 seconds on the clock and the ball is with you or having to block a fastbreak dunk by a Shooting Guard from behind.
Jordan Challenge was the cream of the crop in the game as it let you relive the best moments of the Michael Jordan era in the 90s, from the Flu Game to the Finals against their archnemesis, Utah Jazz.
Another great feature here was the ability to put Michael Jordan to whatever team you want him to be in and even lets you choose which MJ you want—the rookie, the peak, or the after-retirement.
You can even battle out MJ and the Chicago Bulls with the modern teams too.
It was also the biggest overhaul in the basketball mechanics that made this the brand-new benchmark for the future releases.
Incredibly accurate shot sticks, fluid animations, signature moves from players, and a more balanced shot ratio for 3-points.
2K Games really nailed this one and will be forever remembered as the very GOAT in the series. Nothing else will be able to topple it.
Whether you were new to basketball games or a long-time veteran, NBA 2K11 was just irreplaceable.
As much as we want to add more in the franchise, these 5 games were the innovators for the series.
Will 2K Games ever come back to its glory days and win the love of the fans who have left the series? Only time will tell.