There is a lot of history associated with the NBA. Yes, the league itself has only been around for 65 years, but in that brief amount of time, there have been so many great players and teams that have graced the various hard courts around America. Unfortunately, though, so many younger basketball fans don't realize just how good these players were, and thankfully, the guys at 2K Sports are trying to educate the uniformed. We had a chance to sample the game's upcoming NBA's Greatest mode and were transported back to various periods and played with some of the best players to ever grace the sport.
For starters, the initial statement of being able to play as 15 of the greatest NBA players is a huge understatement. Yes, you do get to play as superstars like Bill Russell, Isiah Thomas, and Julius Irving, but you also get to play with or against more than 30 teams from different periods of history, all of which are represented as they were when the teams originally took to the court. Dr. J plays alongside the great Moses Malone; Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain team up and face off against my favorite player Pistol Pete and his '70s Hawks team; and so many other memorable names appear. So while there may be a focus on 15 of the greatest players ever; in fact, you're interacting with even more than that number.
NBA's Greatest mode works differently from Jordan Moments in last year's game. Rather than having to complete a game and achieve a certain stat goal, you just have to win. When you win with the NBA's Greatest team in question, you unlock both that team and your opposition in Exhibition mode.
Aesthetically, this is where the mode really shines. The team at Visual Concepts has gone a long way in offering an experience that matches those that actually took place. Our time with the mode had us playing three halves of basketball in three different periods of history. The first match had us taking control of Bill Russell's 1964-65 Celtics alongside Hondo and K.C. Jones as they battled it out against the Lakers who featured Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. From the moment the match loaded, it was if we were tossed into a time machine and were watching a broadcast from the 1960s. The black-and-white broadcast with plain white text overlay looked exactly as it would have back in the day. On top of that, even the look of the court, from the backboards to the scorer's table, were re-created to simulate the way it would have looked in that era. As we moved forward in time, our next visit was the 1980s and two different matches. The first was taking the bad-boy Pistons of 1989 and facing off against Jordan's Bulls; the other had the electrifying 76ers of the mid-'80s face off against the surprisingly strong Milwaukee Bucks. Both matches re-created the time frame superbly with short-shorts and a Pistons team that everyone really did love to hate.
While the commentary is still done by its current-day team, the commentators do a fantastic job of educating you as you play in regard to the history of the players on the court. As you play, you'll learn interesting tidbits of information, not only on the key NBA's Greatest players but also the other players that made up these squads. You might not know too much about Maurice Cheeks, but after playing with him on the 76ers team, you'll learn a bit about his struggles as a Chicago kid playing college basketball in a small town in Texas.
Not only does the commentary reflect on the players, but it also takes notice of other interesting bits of information regarding the time periods. Because there was no three-point line in the early part of the league, the commentators talk about it. They also make mention of how statistics like blocks weren't calculated and how a player like Bill Russell would have been the all-time stats leader if they were calculated. As an added bonus, the audio reflects the era. When playing in the 1960s, the audio replicates the mono radio sounds of the time, including obvious static, which adds to the nostalgia factor.
In all honesty, our time with the mode wasn't as long as we would have liked. Having played basketball and being able to have the chance to play as some of the teams we not only read about but actually watched on television was quite a treat. Thankfully, NBA 2K12 hits store shelves in October, and from what we've managed to play thus far, NBA's Greatest could be a mode that not only entertains fans of the sport but also educates them.