After misfiring with NBA Elite 11, followed by a one-year sabbatical to reassess the franchise, EA Sports is bringing back the traditional NBA Live video game for the upcoming season (featuring Cleveland Cavalier Kyrie Irving on the cover). We’ve had some exclusive, behind-the-scenes access and it looks like it’ll be tremendous, a return to form for the series.
To celebrate the return of this once glorious game, let’s take a look back at the 15 most dominant players in Live history. Anyone who’s played the game knows there are certain players who are so good they’re nearly unstoppable. On another note, doesn’t everyone have that one friend who only plays as THIS PLAYER the ENTIRE game, and even though both of you know it, he somehow manages to put together a 50-60 point game shooting only with this player? (Eddie, I’m talking about you… My best friend and roommate Eddie is this guy. He only plays as Kobe, and somehow accomplishes the rare feat of playing Kobe more minutes in a game than Mike D’Antoni. There are no breaks for video game Kobe if Eddie is playing. There is also no winning. But somehow Ed manages to break through countless double-teams for a midrange jump shot.)
So, with NBA Live 14 making its comeback this year, let’s reminisce on the 15 most unstoppable players in the game since 2000. (The Live franchise started all the way back in 1994, but rosters were not full, you couldn’t trade bench players, and finally I was too young to remember anyone pre-21st Century. So that’s why I’m starting in 2000. Sorry, Reggie Miller and friends.)
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15. PAU GASOL
NBA Live 2005
In a weird twist, the Memphis Grizzlies had one of the highest ratings in this game and were spearheaded by the big Spaniard. He was a man underneath the hoop, scoring at will and blocking almost everything the offense put up. At this point in video game history, mastering winning skills was easy. Just throw the joystick around and your player would spin all the way through the lane and dunk. Over and over. But with Gasol, it was like running into a brick wall if you went down the lane. He turned the Grizzlies into one of the game’s best teams.
14. CHRIS WEBBER
NBA Live 2003
Playing for the Sacramento Kings, C-Webb was a beast in real life (24.5 ppg, 10.1 rpg and 4.8 apg) but was somehow even more dominant in NBA Live 2003. As a big man with remarkable athleticism, above-average dribbling and shooting skills and excellent passing, Webber was nearly unstoppable in the game as he was seemingly two steps ahead of the opposing big man. (I was the eighth grade equivalent to C-Webb 2003, before slowly turning into Eric Snow, and my budding AUU career was over. The sadness.)
13. SHAWN MARION
NBA Live 06
Ok, what to say about his jump shot… Listen, I don’t know exactly how to describe his near underhand-semi toss shot from the field, but the man they called “The Matrix” was nearly unstoppable in this game. Any fast break or drive into the lane ended with a powerful dunk. He even made the occasional three (apparently getting the benefit of the doubt from the games producers). He was a beast on the defensive side of the ball as well. With a 91 overall rating, Shawn Marion was a force in 2006.
12. YAO MING
NBA Live 09
Not only does being 7-6 have its benefits in real life basketball, but it also entails that you make any shot within the paint in NBA Live. No one could block him in-game, and even if you kept him off the blocks he made some midrange jumpers. Playing against Yao, whose character often laid the ball in or had a very basic dunk, was the most frustrating player of the 2009 game. Coming off back-to-back 20-plus point seasons the previous two years, Ming was seemingly 10 feet tall in NBA Live.
11. GILBERT ARENAS
NBA Live 08
After averaging 29 points and then 28 points in 2007, the creators of NBA Live named Agent Zero the 2008 cover athlete. People forget how dominant he was in real life (Remember, he was a pretty good player before he threatened to kill his teammate during a poker game… and had knee surgery and became one of the biggest dead-weight contracts in NBA history), and he was even better in the game. Even the computer controlled Arenas was unstoppable; the only hope you had of stopping him was preventing him from getting the ball because he had seemingly unlimited range. They also chose to give him super-athletic jumping ability so if he decided to drive to the hoop, he usually threw it down in your face while you screamed at the TV “That’s impossible!” (what, only I did that?)
10. CARMELO ANTHONY
NBA Live 10
Although he was the cover athlete in the NBA Live 2005 edition, ‘Melo reached his apex in the 2010 version of the game. As an almost “LeBron Lite,” Carmelo was too big to guard on the drive, and had the added ability of being reliable shooter from downtown. Also, in video games, individual defense isn’t a requirement, making Anthony the ideal player as he chose to solely focus on offense. (Which is exactly what he has done for the Olympic Team. One has to wonder if Coach K played a little NBA Live beforehand. Put Carmelo with talented 2-way players and I guarantee a title.) At 6-8 with a guard’s dribbling ability, Anthony scored at will every time he touched the ball.
9. ALLEN IVERSON
NBA Live 07
The Answer. That’s the only way to really describe this year’s version of A.I. After averaging 33.0 ppg in 2005, the creators faced the daunting task of making a 6-0 point guard unstoppable. This to me shows just how remarkable it was that he scored at such a high amount in real life — he was so good, at such a small size, that they practically HAD to make him a capable long range shooter just to get him a high enough grade in the game. In the end, Iverson was unstoppable scoring from long range, or getting to the hoop where he often took the bump and made some crazy “only in video games” type of layup shot. He also had some of the quickest hands on defense.
8. STEVE NASH
NBA Live 2005
The man simply didn’t miss. After winning the MVP award in real life in 2005 (and 2006) Nash was given the ability to make any shot from long range. There isn’t much to say about this one because he simply connected on every alley-oop and made anything past half-court. In his face? Still going in. Looking back at it now, I’m confident there were 2-3 instances where I even fouled him and he made a 4-point play, something that is a rarity in real life, and is the almost non-existent in video game basketball. The Canadian was impossible to guard.
7. KEVIN GARNETT
NBA Live 2005
The highest-rated player in this year’s game, Garnett was coming off a season in which he averaged 22 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and had nearly five assists a game and was the NBA MVP. He was rewarded by being created as a 6-11 small forward in this version of the game. Apparently struggling to make him as lifelike as possible, Live chose to make him faster, stronger, and a better shooter/dribbler then every other big man in the game (Which is pretty much exactly what Garnett was in real life). A dominating figure to play as or against.
6. DWYANE WADE
NBA Live 10
Wade was just as good as a video game character as he was in real life, which was pretty good. After scoring over 30 ppg (and winning the NBA scoring title), Wade was rewarded with cheat-code levels of talent in the game. Any guard who can finish in real life is typically impossible to stop on the drive in the game, but Wade took it up a notch. From the post all the way beyond the arc, Wade scored where he wanted, whenever he wanted. He also blocked shots like Shaq, making him a threat on either end of the court.
5. VINCE CARTER
NBA Live 07
Playing in NJ with Jason Kidd (a tough omission from the list), Carter is/was one of the all-time greats in NBA Live. The prototype for super-athletic guards with range, Live made him unstoppable on offense. Like Carmelo Anthony, video games take less into consideration how much a player dislikes playing defense (Carter makes ‘Melo look like a Defensive POY by the way) and given Vince was capable of scoring on anybody in real life, needless to say he was somehow even more remarkable in Live. My all-time favorite player, the NJN version of Carter could not be stopped from any part of the court, his elegant bearded figure the highlight of 2007.
4. TRACY McGRADY
NBA Live 07
Tracy McGrady, distant cousin of Vince Carter, is essentially a taller-version of Carter in NBA Live. After averaging 32, 28, 25 and 24 points from 2002-2006 with Orlando and Houston, T-Mac looked unstoppable in his second year in Houston. NBA Live agreed, naming McGrady the cover athlete and giving him super human athletic ability to go with deadly three-point shooting. Everything I said on Carter applies to T-Mac, with Tracy being 6-8 at shooting guard, allowing him at least three inches on whichever player normally went against him.
You could also make the case that the McGrady of NBA Live 2001-03 deserves to be on here as he was a one-man arsenal, capable of beating entire teams by himself.
3. LeBRON JAMES
NBA Live 09
The final three could make it for any year on the game, as they have been unstoppable since they entered the league. But to pick one year, let’s go with LeBron circa his last year in Cleveland. He was coming off a 30-point season (scoring title) and was second in DPOY as well. Unstoppable in real life, the game had no choice but to make him somehow more unstoppable in the game. Do we really need to go into detail about this? Your only hope of stopping him was to double-team him off the dribble and hope the computer shot it from three (his most glaring weakness… where he was still above average).
2. KOBE BRYANT
NBA Live 2004
Listen, to be honest with you, I don’t know which year to pick for Kobe. He has been the best player (or number two) since 2001. Pick a year and put it here if you want. Kobe was a 97 (the highest rated) in this year’s game, but he’s unstoppable in every year’s version. Off-balance midrange jumper? No problem. What puts him above LeBron, to me, is he is a tad bit better from three (which I am rewarding more than LeBron’s overall height, size and athleticism benefits). The Black Mamba aka Vino is one of the all-time greatest in real life and in NBA Live.
1. SHAQUILLE O’NEAL
NBA Live 2003
Pick a year, any year (even the dreaded Shaqtus Phoenix Suns version). Shaq, all 7-1, 300-plus pounds of him, is the most impossible player to guard in NBA Live. Unless you’re tied or up two with under a minute to go, he’s the ideal player because the computer rarely fouls him. When you’re taller and larger (in real life or the game), how do you expect to be stopped? In fact, my favorite thing to do in Live was build a team around O’Neal, trade for three-point marksmen, spend a quarter pick-n-rolling Shaq, and then spend the rest of the game having him load up on assists by passing out of every double-team. The computer never went after Shaq on defense either, as Shaq was always available to smack a driving guard’s shot out of bounds. The most powerful player of our generation, Shaquille O’Neal takes the top spot on the list.
Who do you think are the most unstoppable players in NBA Live?
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