by Adam Figman | @afigman

NBA 2K12 was released in early October of 2011. A miserable lockout was looming, and the threat of basketball fans spending an NBA-less winter/spring seemed terrifyingly real. But the atmosphere only made the video game’s release more exciting—screw it, I’ll create my own bball franchise!—and the company capitalized further by tying a legend-based theme into the gameplay, directly connecting to the throwback coverage that was being shown on NBATV on a nightly basis at the time.

Of course, the lockout would eventually come to a close, heeding the spotlight to the League’s current superstars and giving way to one of the best NBA seasons in recent memory. And the 2K folks have responded accordingly, adapting a “pass the torch” theme for this year’s iteration of the popular game. That’s evident in the cover—former cover stars Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird have been succeeded by Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose [see slide 4 above]. A variety of legends—including Money himself—will still be included in the game in some capacity or another, but the specific capacity has not been made public just yet.

This past Tuesday, I was fortunate enough to preview 2K13 for a few minutes; though the entire game was not made available, I was able to sample a few of the new features and play one full regulation game to try ‘em out. There are plenty of surprises still under wraps—we’ll have more on those in the coming weeks and in SLAM 162—but in the meantime, here are a few take-aways from our quick session with the game.

• I was immediately curious about Jay-Z’s involvement. A rapper as the executive producer of a video game? Seems strange. But yeah, as one of the bigger mysteries surrounding the release, the exact nature of Hov’s affiliation is being kept secretive for the time being. We do know the Brooklyn-raised rapper picked out the songs on the soundtrack, the tracklist of which 2K has already released.

• As far as I know, bounce passing has never really been a big element of basketball video games—most of the passes thrown are just automatically chest passes, probably because they’re just an easier way to move the rock from point A to point B. Anyway, by pressing the pass button and another button—the left trigger button on Xbox 360, not sure about other systems—you can easily make a bounce pass to a teammate. It might sound a little unnecessary, but at certain points during an offensive set, like in the midst of a pick-and-roll, it’s a nice option to have.

• Speaking of pick-and-rolls, holding down one button automatically creates a P-and-R set on offense, and a little icon actually pops up to let you know which way (and when) you should start curling around the pick.

• There are some minor changes in the way players in the game make physical contact with one another, too. In the past, when a couple of guys collided, it’d always lead to the same kind of running-into-a-wall type of encounter—now the dudes bounce off one another in a less awkward, more realistic manner.

• Those of you who are into Nike’s new Nike+ technology have plenty to look forward to. Occasionally, instead of the standard post-play replay, the color of the screen changes slightly and the replay takes place in slow motion while measuring the player’s vertical leap using Nike+, and eventually freezes to show an image like this. Again, cool stuff.

• One new feature is called “Signature Skills”, which displays icons that can be activated using the D-pad (and in the menu when the game is paused) that describe the different, you know, signature skills each player has. Needless to say, a guy like LeBron has a variety of signature skill icons to his name, while others don’t have so many, if any at all.

• The game is also Xbox Kinect ready, but probably not in the way you’d expect. It doesn’t use the Kinect technology in a way that requires you to stand up or perform any physical action, but instead utilizes voice activation, allowing a user to verbally dictate plays, call timeout, and act out other coach-like manuevers. Just be careful: swearing at the machine could result in a technical foul.

• Lastly, whenever it is that Nintendo releases Wii U—a new gaming console that’ll reportedly drop at some point during 2012′s fourth quarter—2K13 will be playable on it.

And that’s all we got for now. Once again, be on the lookout for more details in the next few weeks, and be sure to pick up SLAM 162—available on newsstands this September—for a full review. The game will be in North American stores on October 2 and out worldwide October 5.