On Tuesday, October 11, both EA Sports and 2K Sports will release their newest basketball video games: EA will drop NBA Elite 11, and 2K will present NBA 2K11. If you’re a basketball fan and a gamer, you know the deal. EA came first, dropping games all the way back to the Sega Genesis days (anyone remember Live 95?), but 2K arrived in 1999, and has made steady inroads ever since. Each fall, both games drop, and gamers spend hours and days and weeks not only playing the games, but also arguing over which game is better.
This year is no different, and even though we’re a couple of weeks out from either game dropping, both companies have invaded Manhattan this week to show off their wares. (For whatever it’s worth, I haven’t played the full version of either game yet, so I’m withholding judgment. Once I’ve had a chance to play both I’ll blog about them here.)
Earlier today I went over to EA’s Triple Double Event space near Herald Square that’s set up for the launch of Elite 11. It’s basically a huge pop-up shop where everything’s free, and it’s open all weekend. They’ve got old games, NBA Jams, even a barber in case you need a fresh cut.
As far as Elite, EA thinks this game is so advanced from their longtime NBA Live series that they dropped the Live name. I played the demo game the last two nights and at least from a controls perspective it’s very different than Live, with the two joysticks controlling everything, from dribbling to passing. I found the dribbling very intuitive, but the other stuff is taking some adjusting on my part.
This afternoon, EA had current SLAM cover dude (and last year’s NBA Live cover-er) Dwight Howard in their house, so I swung by to catch up with him…
SLAM: Did you play a lot of video games growing up?
DWIGHT: Yeah, I used to have a whole set-up in the basement.
SLAM: What was your game back then?
DWIGHT: I played Live. We also played Madden, but the big game was Live.
SLAM: Who was your team back then?
DWIGHT: The Lakers and the Knicks. This was on Live 97. As I got older it didn’t matter.
SLAM: Do you still play games now?
DWIGHT: Mm-hmm, all the time.
DWIGHT: At night before I go to bed, I’ll play for like an hour, just chill.
SLAM: I do the same thing and my wife doesn’t get it.
DWIGHT: She’s like, Don’t do it?
SLAM: Well, it’s more like she doesn’t understand why I like to play video games, and I had to explain that’s how I relax.
DWIGHT: Yeah, you just play. I play sometimes to get myself to sleep, to get away from whatever I’m doing. Maybe I’ll go online, play a game against somebody.
SLAM: Do you go on and play against random people?
DWIGHT: I do play against some friends, but I like playing online against random folks. I haven’t done it lately because they’ll be cheating, and then if they’re losing they quit the game, so it’s not fun.
SLAM: Do you have the headset on? Do you talk to people?
DWIGHT: I do. Half the time they don’t know, so I don’t really say nothing.
SLAM: Do you play with the Magic?
DWIGHT: Yeah, any time I’m playing basketball I play with the Magic. If I’m playing Madden, I’ll play with any team that has a fast quarterback so you can roll out, or any team that has a new running back.
SLAM: Have you played the new Elite?
DWIGHT: I haven’t played the new Elite. I know it’s very different, from having the real faces to the controls being very different — everything’s on the left side, and I’m used to the right side. But it sounds cool.
SLAM: You ready to get back to basketball?
DWIGHT: Training camp starts Tuesday. We have media day on Monday. I’m very excited. Our team has been working extremely hard in the offseason. We’ve been in the gym together working out, and everybody’s been doing whatever we needed to do to get ready for the season.
SLAM: What have you personally done to get ready for the season?
DWIGHT: I trained every day, twice a day. In the morning there’s weights and track stuff, and at night I work on post moves and shooting.
SLAM: You’ve obviously let yourself go this summer, let your body fall out of shape.
DWIGHT: (Laughs) Who me? Nah. I mean, I took a little time off, but in the process of taking time off I always made sure I kept my body right — push-ups, sit-ups. I didn’t want to get out of shape.
SLAM: How many push-ups do you do?
DWIGHT: We start off doing 100 a day, then 200 a day, then get up to 400. Same with sit-ups. We just do it all day.
SLAM: Are you tired of people asking you about LeBron and the Heat?
DWIGHT: It’s nothing against those guys, and those guys are all great players, but when you hear something over and over and over again, it’s a turn off, because there are other teams and players in the NBA. If you focus on one team it will work against you. I’m more concerned with what we do as a team when we play Miami. We could beat Miami four times but lose the rest of the games. So we’re focused on playing everybody. They’re going to be a good team, but our main goal is to win a championship. Everything we do is geared toward getting to the Finals and winning.
SLAM: I talked to LeBron a couple of weeks ago and he said he thought the reason Boston made the Finals last season was that they were the most consistent team in the East.
DWIGHT: Yeah, they were, they were very consistent and they picked it up toward the end of the season. Any time you have a team like Boston, you know that they’re always going to be at the top or around the top every year, because they have veterans and they know how to win. That’s why they went to the Finals, because they were consistent and they played hard.
SLAM: How does the Orlando Magic get to the Finals this season?
DWIGHT: Just being consistent. Being physical, tough. I don’t think there’s a team that’s forgotten about us. Every team is looking forward to playing the Magic and they know we’re a tough team. Other people may have forgotten about our team, which is cool, because we’ve always been underdogs, underestimated. That doesn’t really matter. We don’t play to prove ourselves to people, we play to win a championship.