The 5 best old-school basketball video games ever
A couple of days ago I was sitting down with one of the kids I mentor. We were playing a game of NBA 2K11 and we engaged in the proverbial trash talk. The kid, Matthew, is 12, so he’s full of confidence and has no idea what he’s talking about. That’s what I’m here for.
Anyway, his Boston Celtics were losing to my Oklahoma City Thunder (What? You thought I was going to let him win? I’m “mentoring” him, got to teach the young man some life lessons) and virtual Rajon Rondo proceeds to give virtual Russell Westbrook a hellacious crossover. Matthew proceeds to say the following:
Matthew – “Rondo’s crossover is the best in the game and in real life!”
Ed – “No sir, Tim Hardaway’s UTEP 2-Step is the greatest crossover in a game.”
Matthew – “What is the UTEP 2-Step?”
Ed – “……”
Thus I knew I had to write this post. See all of the young folks who read SLAM have no idea about the UTEP 2-Step, the automatic shot from Double Dribble, or the pre-cursor of NBA Jam. It is our job to educate as such; therefore, here are the top 5 greatest old-school basketball video games of all-time in no particular order.
*Selections were made based on games that were released in 2-D Nintendo. Sorry, I don’t consider NBA Jam, NBA Live, or Kobe Bryant’s Courtside old-school.
Hoops – Released in the U.S. back in 1989, I can remember playing this game to no end with friends and against the computer for hours on end. You could only play one-on-one, two-on-two, or around the world, but I can fondly remember my cousin playing cats for money in the game version of around the world. Once someone lost enough money, then folks would want to play “for real” around the world and win their money back….
My cousin never EVER got his money back.
Arch Rivals – The game that was billed by Midway/Acclaim as the “Basket Brawl” (envisioning Pistons/Pacers…) back in 1989, this game was the precursor to the legendary game that we all know and love as The NBA Jam. Plus, the game was sponsored by British Knights, and they were endorsers of Derrick Coleman and Xavier McDaniel. I honestly believe that they were the inspiration for the eight players on the game. Do you remember…
Blade: A crowd pleaser, Hammer: Rebound king, Lewis: Top shooter, Mohawk: Tough & mean, Moose: A real champ, Reggie: All-American, Tyrone: Defensive giant, Vinnie: A great player
Would you want to play against Mohawk and Tyrone?
However, the reason this game was beloved was because you could literally do whatever you wanted and anything could happen. You could punch players in the kidneys, you could slip on soda cans, you could shatter backboards, and you could even trip over the referee and make his pants fall down. I probably played this game for 239057 hours of my childhood.
Double Dribble – I’m sorry, but aside from the great Marvin Gaye singing the national anthem in the 1983 all-star game there might not be another patriotic rendition of two songs greater than the Star-Spangled Banner and the national anthem in Double Dribble. This game was great for a multitude of reasons:
1) The animations – There was nothing WORSE in playing this game if you went up for a dunk attempt and you heard the dreaded CLANGGGGGGGGG, and yet there was nothing sweeter than seeing your player hit the reverse dunk for 2-points.
2) The team names – Boston Frogs, New York Eagles, Chicago Ox, and L.A. Breakers. The Frogs? Really…I mean how about the Irish or something? That just cracks me up every single time.
3) The unstoppable shots – If you played this game long enough you would recognize that there were “hot spots” on the court that were pretty much automatic. When you played your friend who played a lot, then the game would be a heated battle. However, mess around and play someone who doesn’t know about the hot spot…and prepare to make someone infuriated. You could do the “jump out-of-bounds” three-pointer, the corner three from the bottom right-hand side, the “jump five-feet behind the opposing team’s three-point line and land on the free throw line of the opposing team” three-pointer. (I’ve seen fights break out from this one)
Lakers vs. Celtics and the NBA Playoffs – This one makes the cut because it laid the foundation for EA Sports successful run in basketball gaming, as the game evolved from Lakers/Celtics, to Bulls/Lakers, to Bulls/Blazers, to *cough* NBA Showdown *cough* to the present day NBA Live franchise. This was actually the first game to be endorsed by the NBA and you could actually play with the NBA stars, even one Michael Jordan. (The game would be the first “team” basketball video game to acquire full players’ names and rights without actually relying on the NBA players association.)
The greatest thing about this game, however, was by far the signature moves. Earlier you heard me preach the gospel of Tim Hardaway’s UTEP 2-Step (which baffles me that I cannot find the video-game move on these internets, if you want hits…I’d suggest someone upload it) however, there was another move that was just as fatal and devastating to all who were witness to it.
The Tom Chambers Double Pump Dunk, maybe the most diabolical basketball video game move of all-time. (Disclaimer: This is the Sega version.)
Jordan vs. Bird – Although EA’s crown jewel has been the evolution of Lakers vs. Celtics into the NBA Live franchise, their most iconic basketball game was the sequel to “One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird,” in the 1988 release “Jordan vs. Bird: One on One.”
You had the aerial king in “his airness” versus the long-range assassin in Bird going at it mano-e-mano in three classic game formats: One-on-one, a slam dunk contest, and a three-point contest.
Let me tell you something right now. You have not seen pimply-faced kids waste more time in life as they did when they tried to perfect the slam dunk contest on this game. The dunks were darn near impossible to pull off and then you had to pray that the judges would give you the same score. I can distinctly remember my cousin and his friend arguing relentlessly over who would be able to play with “The Jordan” for about 15 minutes for even getting the game started, however, I always remember feeling like Bird was the better player in the game.
These young cats don’t realize how good they’ve got it nowadays; they haven’t the slightest idea of a basketball game with indeterminable faces and unstoppable three-pointers. That’s the true essence of a basketball video game. 2K11 ain’t got nothing on Double Dribble.
Eddie Maisonet is a freelance sports writer, blogger and big-time hoops fan from Oklahoma who currently resides in Cincinnati. Keep up with Eddie at SLAMonline as well as his award-winning blog Ed The Sports Fan and on his Twitter.