Earlier this week we were invited down to the 2K offices in New York City to demo the new NBA 2K14 game mode: “LeBron Path to Greatness.” It was eye-opening not just for the gameplay, which we’ve already revealed, but for the circumstances they’ve created as you progress through the next seven seasons of LeBron James‘ Hall of Fame career.
The NBA 2K Franchise has tried variations of this before with NBA 2K12‘s NBA’s Greatest mode and My Player mode, but the “LeBron Path To Greatness” mode will be even more intoxicating for a number of different reasons, not the least of which is the incredible player movement within the league to create the most iconic match-ups over the next seven seasons of James’ career.
The “LeBron Path to Greatness” mode is divided along two parallel trajectories that follow James over the next seven years of his career. Between next season and 2019-2020, a lot can happen â€” and the game developers have packed tons of interesting lineups together.
The first path is the “Heat Dynasty,” where LeBron stays with the Heat after next season and attempts to win seven rings to surpass Michael Jordan‘s total. The next path, “Fantasy Journey” features a lot more games â€” both regular season match-ups and playoff games other than the Finals â€” you have to win in order to continue. But with the increase in games, come some incredible scenarios the writers of the game set up over the next seven years of LeBron’s career; even fictional players were designed to make it somehow harder for LeBron to step into the glare of history as the NBA’s GOAT.
Within both career timelines you have to win as LeBron James in order to move on to the next game and ensuing storyline. It’s plotted like an incredible movie. Within each game there are also mini-challenges to accrue stars (which give you points) while you march along LeBron’s path to greatness, but they’re still working out game-by-game benchmarks to reach. For now, after visiting the 2K offices, we got to see all the crazy match-ups they’ve created in both LeBron story arcs. A lot of the players on different teams in these fictional futures will certainly create debate among 2K fans, but the CBA savants may decry the various superstar-laden teams they’ve put together as not being fiscally possible. But hey, it’s a freakin’ video game, so try and suspend the intricate details of the CBA while you lapse into the world they’ve created. Enough background, lets get into it.
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LEBRON PATH TO GREATNESS: MIAMI DYNASTY
This is a lot shorter, since they focus on one game for each of the seven next seasons, but the storylines are very in-depth in order to explain when, what, why and where the Heat are facing a particular opponent. There are a lot of game 7’s in the NBA Finals naturally, but not every year ends like it did last season for Miami in real life.
The Houston Rockets become one of the best teams in the league, winning 36 of their last 40 games. Chandler Parsons becomes an all-star, Dwight Howard is back to his 2009 form when he led the Magic to the Finals and James Harden is one of the top three MVP candidates for the year. Of course, LeBron and the Heat face the Rockets in the 2014 NBA Finals and must defeat them in a pivotal Game 7 in Miami.
This is where it starts to get really interesting since 2013-14 follows the narratives that are already in place less than a month before real training camps start. But for this season, the Golden State Warriors have signed Omer Asik away from the Rockets, and they’ve dominated the league all season (GO ‘DUBS!). The Heat are faced with the unenviable task of playing the Warriors in Oakland in a Game 7 to clinch the title. Just picture Oracle Arena at the loudest it’s ever been; yes, louder than the spring of 2007 when they upset Dallas. You â€” playing with LeBron’s Heat team â€” must beat a Warriors team on a tear in their home arena during Game 7 to win LeBron’s next NBA title.
We actually played this game because it was so ridiculous, like a Los Angeles Lakers fever dream â€” minus LeBron â€” which has been speculated already this summer. Basically, the Lakers sign Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony and acquire Jose Calderon. LeBron’s Heat must face these All-Stars in a pivotal â€” what else? â€” Game 7 in Staples Center to capture the Larry O’Brien trophy. In the quarter we played for this iteration (how could be pass up seeing all those stars on the court), Love hit a three-pointer, a healthy Kobe Bryant hit a turnaround jumper that looked exquisite by closely duplicating his actual turnaround, ‘Melo banged for a layup in the lane and we shot the ball every time with LeBron to barely lose 16-15. Awesome stuff.
Suspend your disbelief for a second Wizards fans, but your team has become dynamic in this fictional season. Otto Porter, John Wall and Bradley Beal have become a force and LeBron and his Heat mates have to beat Washington in Miami in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. You read that right, the Wizards are back.
Kevin Durant has gotten flustered that he hasn’t captured a title yet and GM Sam Presti has brought in two-time DPOY Anthony Davis (!!!) as well as Indiana’s Roy Hibbert to team with Durant and Russell Westbrook to challenge the Heat dynasty. LeBron must win on the road in OKC in Game 7 of the NBA Finals to advance. Obviously, the low post belongs to the Thunder with these players involved, so it’s going to be tough to advance.
Derrick Rose has won the regular season MVP after Blake Griffin and Victor Oladipo join him in Chicago. The Heat must beat the Bulls in Game 7 with Rose at the peak of his powers and the new additions of Griffin and Oladipo. If you think this is the apogee of wishful thinking for NBA franchises during the LeBron Path to Greatness mode, then we must warn you that it hasn’t even started to get crazy yet.
The final game during the Heat Dynasty path, this is bizarre because the game developers realized a host of new faces will be in the NBA at this point as they battle to prevent James and the Heat from capturing yet another title. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve already beaten a pastiche of some of the NBA’s best. But now, LeBron will have to face his old 2011 rivals, the Dallas Mavericks. Dirk Nowtizki has retired, but Mark Cuban has restocked the Mavs with a bunch of new talents (fictional names apply here). Besides the fictional characters (you’ll see the names when it’s released), the Mavs lure Kobe Bryant out of retirement to battle his old rival while he tries to capture his seventh (?) NBA championship.
LEBRON PATH TO GREATNESS: FANTASTIC JOURNEY
The Miami Dynasty only had a game for each of LeBron’s next seven seasons. Despite this, not all of them are NBA Finals games. The biggest difference in “Fantastic Journey” is the fictional LeBron after the 2013-14 season; he opts-out of his contract with the Heat to test the free agency market. You are not going to believe where they send him, or what happens over the ensuing seven seasons. We’re still reeling after *witnessing* this firsthand. It’s also important to note that while the Miami Dynasty has only seven games and various in-game benchmarks to overcome, the Fantastic Journey segment is much longer and more detailed. We counted 36 games in total over his next seven seasons during Fantastic Journey with various hallmark moments during the regular season, playoffs and NBA Finals (e.g. LeBron becoming the fastest player in history to 25,000 points). Let’s get to it.
In this iteration, since LeBron hasn’t left Miami, the game developers had to spice up next season somehow because he’s still on the Heat. So they bring Allen Iverson out of retirement and he leads an undermanned 76ers team to the Eastern Conference Finals to battle James’ Heat. This Sixers team â€” much to the chagrin of a rebuilding Sam Hinkie â€” wins a lot of games. Then, if you advance as the Heat past the various regular season match-ups and AI’s blast from the past, you face OKC in Miami for the pivotal Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Oh, we’re just getting started.
Finally what we’ve all been waiting for: “The Decision 2.0!” LeBron decides to opt out and heads to…THE KNICKS!!!! As a New Yorker this had us grinning like a child. Not only does LeBron go to the Knicks, but Carmelo Anthony goes to the Bulls and Erik Spoelstra decides to coach the young nucleus in Cleveland. It gets so much crazier than this, too. You play on opening night in Madison Square Garden. You reach that 25,000 point plateau mentioned earlier. LeBron faces Spoelstra and the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, his old Heat teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the Eastern Conference Finals and finally, if you’ve kept progressing with LeBron in a Knicks uniform, you face off against the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2015 NBA Finals.
Chris Paul and Dwight Howard join LeBron in New York. Did you hear that sound? Yeah, it’s the entire isle of Manhattan screaming so loud it almost rocks past the East River into Long Island. The new “Big 3” start the season on a tear, and face the Bobcats (!!!) in their final regular season game with a record of 72-9. So many awesome touchtones within each fictional season, but that one stuck out. At the same time as the new Big 3 in New York, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade have joined Derrick Rose in Chicago for an equally impressive Big 3 in the Midwest. You have to defeat this stacked Chicago team in the Eastern Conference Finals Game 7. In the Finals, the Mavericks have signed supposedly the world’s greatest defensive stopper (fictional name) who matches up against LeBron in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals in Madison Square Garden. If this weren’t an alternate universe, we’d be worried about New York City imploding.
LeBron convinces Kobe Bryant to come out of retirement to join him, CP3 and D-12 for the upcoming season. The Knicks face a really good Detroit Pistons team (the rebounding triplets works?) in a game on the road in Detroit. We didn’t have enough time to see who they would face in the Finals this season, but there should be some mystery with the LeBron’s Path to Greatness, and he’s not going to reach the Finals every year…
LeBron goes back to Cleveland. Yup. He joins Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters in Cleveland as Wade and Kobe retire. In the Finals this season LeBron, Irving and Waiters lead the Cavs against “King John” and the Lakers. King John â€” as the game calls him â€” is John Trice a fictional foil to LeBron in the last three seasons of the game mode. “King John” and the Lakers battle the Cavs in Game 7 in Cleveland. Dan Gilbert is weeping in happiness at the thought. Big ups Akron.
The Cavs add Dwyane Wade (who comes out of retirement), and Royce White of all people (stay positive). They have to go against Paul George and the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals, but LeBron is injured before the Finals against Oklahoma City. Curious about the “injury,” we actually checked this Game 7 out. In the narrative, LeBron is told by doctors he can’t play, but he refuses to sit and takes the court. All of LeBron’s otherworldly skills have been diminished because of the fictional injury. Also, keep in mind that LeBron ages during this entire game mode so he’s not at the peak of his powers throughout all seven seasons in either story arc, regardless of health. Never is this more apparent than in this NBA Finals matchup between his Cavaliers and an OKC team with Durant still hungry for a title. We’re guessing this game is one of the hardest to advance past.
LeBron returns to the place where the title-winning all began, Miami, for a last attempt at glory. Miami adds Blake Griffin and Stephen Curry (!!!) to their roster. In the deciding Game 7 of the NBA Finals, LeBron’s new-look Heat go against his fictional nemesis “King John” and the Lakers again. But this time â€” in the final game of the Fantastic Journey â€” the Lakers are freakin’ stacked. Besides this made-up “King John,” they add Marc Gasol, Kevin Love, Damian Lillard and Ryan Anderson. Keep in mind that LeBron is in his late-30’s at this point and he just isn’t the dominating force he is right now in his prime. They lower Bron’s skill level (not a lot, but enough). In the final Game 7 on the road against the Lakers, you must take an older LeBron James all the way.
If you’re not excited about the LeBron James “Path to Greatness” mode then you might as well avoid the game altogether. It’s video game and NBA nerd heaven. We can’t wait until it comes out.
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