It was do-or-die time. The 2016 Olympic team had hung around for far too long. The Dream Team was having too much difficulty in keeping up with the athleticism and shooting of Kevin Durant and his squad. So with four minutes left in the fourth, hanging on to a six-point lead, I called on the one man who will never be overmatched no matter who he’s playing against.
Michael Jordan subbed back into the game. He changed the flow immediately. He picked up Klay Thompson in the backcourt, then used an invisible springboard to put DeMarcus Cousins on a poster. Up eight.
Team USA got a bucket against the old, slow version of Larry Bird (love you, Larry), but I had MJ flying down the left sideline. A two-handed dunk against Carmelo, plus the foul. Over and over again, Jordan provided the response to every Team USA bucket for the next three minutes. His points were stunning each time.
Last month, 2K Senior Producer Rob Jones told me the developers of the game wanted to differentiate the superstars from the rest of the League. After six consecutive years of having Jordan be part of the game, they finally nailed it. In a matchup against the League’s current athletic freaks, the GOAT stood out by a mile. He’s couldn’t be stopped. Playing with him this year is a blast.
But there’s way more to this year’s game.
With Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith, Kevin Harlan, Chris Webber, Doris Burke, Steve Smith, Brent Barry, Greg Anthony, Clark Kellogg and David Aldridge featured throughout every game, it feels like a legit game during the NBA season. The production value is real.
The presentation starts with Ernie, Shaq and Kenny in the studio. They pop up right after you decide which teams are doing battle. Their banter and analysis is almost identical to Thursday nights, except it only lasts for a minute. 2K spent a lot of time making sure that each game feels both significant and different. That means that player introductions at Madison Square Garden aren’t the same as the pregame at Oracle Arena. The one constant in every arena before the game starts is Hall of Famer David Aldridge. He brings the wisdom and shows up on-screen, taking over for Doris Burke, who ran that the last two years.
All of this buildup takes three minutes. By the time Kevin Harlan and his rotating crew (Webber calls big games, Burke shows up for up-and-coming teams, Kellogg and Anthony return with the most consistency) start talking, you’re ready to get it going. The hype is palpable.
Along with improvements to gameplay and production value, MyCAREER is back with new tweaks.
The inclusion of Michael B. Jordan as your player’s mentor is fire. He helps you work out in the practice gym and appears in cut scenes. Dude can also shoot a little bit. But the biggest change in the mode is how much freedom you have now. Each day features a bunch of options for your player to go through. Events, meetings, hanging out with teammates, individual practice, team practice, shootaround in your private hanger (the headquarters spot is too tough this year), and of course, playing for your favorite NBA team.
If you care about getting better on the court or becoming a celebrity, either can happen in no time.
Gameplay is different this year, too. The AI is smarter. Going one-on-one won’t work most of the time. But when you figure out how to use a squad, winning by 20 becomes easy. There’s an emphasis on teamwork, perhaps a favor from the 2K team to combat the Warriors.
Don’t get me wrong, playing with Stephen Curry and them is fun, but damn, are they annoying to play against. Curry really does pull from anywhere. Durant sits and waits for open shots and makes all of them. Thompson and Draymond Green ride the coattails really well, picking apart mismatches and over-helps. The satisfaction of beating all of their shotmaking and swagger is so sweet.
And they can be beat, which is reassuring. It looks like the only guy that can’t lose in NBA 2K17 is His Airness. No problem with that.