10 best NBA video games of all time

Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images
Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images /
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7. NBA 2k1

I had mentioned in the intro that I bought a Sega Dreamcast solely to play the NBA 2k games. And it’s true! On Christmas morning, I ripped open my gifts to reveal a brand-new special-edition Sega Sports Sega Dreamcast that came with NFL 2k and NBA 2k. I had seen videos, I had read magazine articles and now, finally, I was going to get to play it. I wasn’t disappointed. Basketball video games had fallen on hard times in the years following NBA Jam and NBA Live 95 (more on both later). The NBA Live series had lost a lot of its luster in the adaptation to 3D and neither the Nintendo 64 nor Sony Playstation had given games much to get excited about in the genre.

Enter the NBA 2k series. Developed by the team known as Visual Concepts, a former Electronic Arts property most known for their work on the Madden series, NBA 2k took the unbelievable power of the Dreamcast and gave users their first truly great basketball game in years.

While NBA 2k was a little rough around the edges, the following year’s installment (NBA 2k1) showed everyone that Sega had a legit franchise on their hands. While NBA 2k dazzled with its stellar graphics and smooth gameplay, NBA 2k1 took the franchise to new levels with huge staple features. The new Association and General Manager modes gave players more control than ever over teams and offered players new and exciting ways to play through an 82-game season as their favorite team. Best of all, the modes allowed players to go through multiple seasons (10, to be exact), the first time a game offered the chance to play multiple seasons. In an instant, the genre of NBA video games was revolutionized. We could finally channel our inner Sam Hinkie and build for the future, stockpile draft picks, develop young players. Sure, the draft mechanism was crude and each of the automatically generic draft-eligible players featured ridiculous mash-up names like Arvydas McGrady but we didn’t care.

This was a whole new world.

In addition to the franchise modes, NBA 2k1 also introduced a brand-new street mode that allowed players to play games in well-known parks across the country including the famed Rucker Park. This gave NBA 2k1 not only the best simulation of NBA basketball but also a game mode more in the realm of arcade-style/NBA Jam. EA would take this concept and make it their own with the NBA Street series (more on them soon).

NBA 2k1 is also important for offering the first online multiplayer feature of the series. For the first time ever users could easily jump online and play their friends or challenge strangers across the world. Leaderboards kept track of your wins, losses (and disconnects!).

NBA 2k1 is far from the best of the NBA 2k series but it’s arguably the most revolutionary introducing several features and modes that are the backbone of the NBA 2k series and the genre today.