We Reminisce: Playing A Game Of NBA 2K1 10 Years Later

Every now and then, we all have to bring back our inner child. This weekend, my older sister hosted a small group of her friends for a weekend of socializing, relationship and wedding drama, and, of course, wine drinking. While I was perfectly willing to sit around and chit-chat with older, pretty girls, there came a point where I could no longer stand the useless blathering on – you know, why one girl’s wedding invitation was tasteful while another’s was a travesty.

Luckily, on Sunday morning, I received some backup. My sister’s best friend’s boyfriend, Kevin, showed up, which allowed me a chance to at least salvage a few hours of bro-time before the day was done. Kevin’s not too different from myself. We both like sports, and we both have our limits on how much “real world” drama we can actually stomach. So, when he asked me, “Do you, like, have an Xbox out here?” I jumped at the opportunity.

Because we were at my parents’ beach house, I had to half-heartedly tell him that no, we in fact didn’t. But seeing the disappointment in his eyes, I suddenly remembered that we did have a small room, affectionately nicknamed “The Padded Cell,” which houses old baseball gloves, dead basketballs, 1950s golf clubs, and most importantly, ancient video games.

Kevin was not ready to quit and neither was I. I led him down there and told him we had two options: Nintendo 64 or Sega Dreamcast. As much as I love N64, there’s something that’s not-so-antique about the thing. It’s timeless. I probably spent more time playing Super Smash Bros in college than I did studying, playing Xbox 360, hooking up with girls, and drinking combined, so there would be nothing nostalgic or special about running Kevin in a game of Smash or Mario Kart. The decision was made: we dusted off the old Dreamcast, grabbed two controllers, popped open the disk drive and saw the only game that ever mattered: NBA 2K1.

After struggling for a while to get a game from 2001 to work on an HD TV made in 2010, we saw the old Dreamcast logo pop up on the screen and we knew we were in business. As soon as NBA 2K1‘s epic opening montage started rolling, the memories started coming back to me. The great thing about this opening was that it uses real NBA footage. Travis Best streaks in for a lefty layup. Allen Iverson, who graces the game’s cover, crosses up a defender as the crowd cheers. The chilling opening sequence closes with Kobe jumping into Shaq‘s arms after the Lakers win their first championship.

The thinking behind using a life-like opening montage was that the game play would be equally as realistic. For 2001, this was actually true, with the exception of the bogus announcers who seemed to think that some NBA teams actually had a “rabbit’s foot” hanging in the locker room. But putting aside the fake announcing team, no game had managed to design such accurate facial features and body attributes like Jason Williams‘ tattoos or Rasheed Wallace‘s headband.

As we started playing, I was pleasantly surprised that Kevin was able to match me in both gaming acumen and knowledge of early 2000s NBA rosters. Choosing sides for game one, we settled on two mid-level teams we thought would match up well: the Warriors and the Pistons.

The player intros were really the straw that broke the camel’s back. They were epic. As each new player was introduced, we had to look at each other in bewilderment. “Wait, Antawn Jamison was on the Warriors?!” Or, “Oh my god, Jerry Stackhouse was still on the Pistons?” And then there was obligatory, “Iiiiiiiintroducing, the head coach, Dave Cowens!” Who knew?

Before the game started, we obviously had to fiddle with our rosters, not to mention jack the Game Tempo, Fastbreaks, and Crash Board meters up to 100 percent. Kevin eventually settled on a squad of Chucky Atkins, Stackhouse, Jerome “The Junkyard Dog” Williams, Corliss Williamson, and Ben Wallace. I thought that I could take advantage of a size mismatch, and used a bruising lineup of Erick Dampier, Danny Fortson, Jamison, Larry Hughes, and Mookie Blaylock at the point.

The gameplay and game speed surprised me for a 2001 offering. We both quickly remembered that the game favored your fastest guards, in this case Stackhouse and Hughes, who were your best at creating off the dribble. Yet, the game was pretty revolutionary in its team-oriented offense. Without even having to call out plays, the point guards and power forwards ran pick and rolls and give-and-gos, leading to many a ferocious jam. The fast breaks were abundant and Kevin quickly mastered the tactic of pulling up from the wing and draining devastating three-pointers in my eye… soon enough I was contemplating slamming the bulky Mad Catz controller on the floor.

I caught back up with Kevin to find out what he thought about this old-school gaming experience: “I’m thinking of how I would build the ideal team in 2K1, and I guess in a lot of ways it mirrors building an actual NBA team. You need one great guard and one great big man. You can hide role players at the other positions, but having a shooter and a defensive specialist are key.”

After re-acclimating ourselves to the controls, we quit and started up another game. This time, however, we pinned the Magic against the Rockets in a 2-on-2 game at Rucker Park — a new feature in this game. Kevin had a difficult decision to make: use Steve Francis and an aging Hakeem Olajuwon, or go with the pair that everyone remembers – Francis and Cuttino Mobley. He chose Cutty and Franchise and I went with Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill – a nice combo that had speed and could knock down shots with some consistency.

The 2-on-2 feature was fun, but because the players were still on a full-court, there was entirely too much open space and easy breakaways. We quit out, deciding we needed to do a little bit of socializing upstairs to try and not appear like complete freaks. Within a couple hours, however, we were back for more.

The second time around I chose wisely. I went with the Sacramento Kings, who at the time, were still at the peak of their powers. Mike Bibby, Doug Christie, Peja Stojakovic, Chris Webber, and Vlade Divac. No substitutions were made although I would have to call on Hedo Turkoglu later on. Kevin chose a good squad as well. He took the Charlotte Hornets, who, if you remember correctly, were going to the playoffs every year back then although not really going anywhere – sort of like what the Atlanta Hawks do nowadays.

I had my hands full trying to guard the combo of David Wesley and Baron Davis. BD was the best dunker we had played with, so we got a chance to see the whole range of dunks that Sega Sports had put into 2K1. Despite the game being particularly guard dominant, C-Webb was absolutely a beast. That is, until he left the game with a broken foot. Webber was visibly bigger and stronger than all the other players on the court, had a useful midrange jumper, and rebounded and slammed back anything within arm’s length. I had built up a sizeable third quarter advantage, but once the game decided to break Webber’s foot, the Hornets started to come back.

“I found the Hornets to be my most effective team,” said Kevin. “With David Wesley running the point, I had someone who could drive the lane and finish, but also knock down a three. I plugged a young Baron Davis in at the 2, and his dunking ability made him pretty unstoppable with the ball. Jamal Mashburn was about as good a 3 as you need in this game, didn’t do much to help but didn’t hurt either. Derrick Coleman was okay at the 4, his scoring was much needed at points but he was streaky. Elden Campbell at the 5 was pretty much all you would want in a video game center — blocks, boards, and powerful dunks.”

Little by little, Wesley and Davis chipped away at my lead. Suddenly, Campbell was grabbing offensive boards over Vlade and Webber’s lesser replacement, Lawrence Funderburke. Even Mashburn got into the scoring act. Up by one with eight seconds left, the game caused possibly the most fluke turnover in history, having the ball randomly bounce of a Kings’ player who was nowhere near the passing lane. On the next play, Baron drove by my whole team for a deuce, and for the first time since the first quarter, I found myself trailing by one.

I called timeout, settled my nerves, and tried to plan something out. I wanted Peja to take the game-winning shot, but I did not know which side of the court I’d be inbounding on, or what type of surprises the game would throw at me on this final possession. The ball went in to Christie, which I was not happy about. He did about three spin moves back towards the mid-court line, and I panicked. I whipped a turn-around baseball pass to Peja on the baseline, who threw up a quick jumper. It clanked on every piece of the rim and backboard, kind of like those full-court last-second heaves in the old NBA JAM. It didn’t fall, and I lost, 78-79. I buried my head in between the couch cushions in agony, shouting so loud that the whole house probably heard me.

Should Kevin have been hanging out with his girlfriend? Probably. Should I have been helping my sister host the party? Most likely. But was it great to bring back old memories by popping in a video game from 10 years ago to see how it stacked up to today’s games? Yes. Although the 2K franchise has undergone a ton of innovations over the last 10 years, particularly in 2006 when Sega Sports sold the series to 2K Sports, it still retains that realistic gameplay which made it incredibly popular in the first place.

Playing the old 2K1 was a fun diversion from the incessant real world girl-drama, but it also inspired us to take our talents outside, and play some real basketball with some of the other guests.

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