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In NBA 2K23, MyNBA Eras Lets You Change Basketball History

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This year's MyNBA franchise mode builds for the future by altering the past.

A common complaint from those who play pretty much any annual sports sim is that the seasons-long mode is consistently left behind in favor of more microtransaction-heavy modes. You'd be hard-pressed to make such a claim for NBA 2K23's MyNBA mode. Like it's doing with the return of The Jordan Challenge, the team at Visual Concepts is hoping to execute on something that not only looks really exciting, but seemingly has no equal in the sports sim world.

MyNBA Eras gives players total control over the NBA across four decades of basketball, and the freedom to alter the sport's history and create their own alternate universes full of stars in new jerseys, never-before-seen rivalries, and wholly new dynasties that our world never saw.

While MyNBA is a mode fans of the series have come to expect in the game every year, MyNBA Eras adds a brand-new wrinkle to the mode that players probably didn't see coming. In it, you can start a franchise in one of four crucial years in NBA history: 1983, 1992, 2002, or the present day. While the mode will play much like you'd expect if you begin in 2022, choosing one of the other three eras is meant to be the real draw of this year's game.

These years weren't picked at random. They each represent a season immediately preceding NBA drafts that forever changed the sport. In 1983, you'll start a year before Michael Jordan was drafted. In 1992, you'll tip off one season before Shaq arrives to forever change how bigs play in the league. In 2002, you'll begin just before recent and modern stars such as LeBron James and Dwayne Wade made their debuts. The studio is calling these the Magic vs. Bird Era, the Jordan Era, and the Kobe Era, respectively.

In each case, you'll play out the season before one of these all-important drafts, then relive it yourself. You're not bound by the league's real history, so if you want to draft LeBron to the Celtics or trade up for Jordan as the Spurs, you're encouraged to do it. Like The Jordan Challenge, each era will include its own visual flourishes faithful to the decade it's mimicking, like grainy broadcasts and simplistic on-screen stats and scores when you're running the court as Larry Bird in 1984. As The Jordan Challenge doesn't extend into the new millennium, the 2000s-era presentation is exclusive to this mode--and may give you a rush of NBA 2K3 nostalgia.

As you play out seasons, you'll be resetting NBA history books. Maybe Jordan doesn't retire for two years in the middle of his run for six NBA titles. Does he win two more? Maybe he was never on the Bulls at all. It's the sort of stuff that sports fans daydream about often, and for what seems like the first time in sports game history, it's now playable.

Not only will each era look different on the court, they'll look different in the menus.
Not only will each era look different on the court, they'll look different in the menus.

Like in the typical MyNBA mode, you can keep it realistic and execute fair trades for the players you want to move, or you can turn off CPU trade logic and move players around the league like you're redecorating your kitchen. I was really impressed with The Jordan Challenge's attention to detail, like the way the rulebooks and players' playing styles will be accurate to their respective times, and that stuff will be on display here too.

Should you play a season in which a team relocated, like the Seattle SuperSonics, you'll see them adopt their new name, logo, and jerseys in Oklahoma City, or you can stop the move entirely and keep Seattle's long-gone franchise where they once were. If you want to expand the league or move teams to totally new cities, you can do those things too. While NBA 2K could maybe never be an open-world game, MyNBA seems intent to capture the spirit of the video game sandbox in a way I didn't know this genre was capable of.

The same is said of the rulebooks. When the game's officiating is primed to change, you can enact the changes or ignore them, meaning you could bring the 1980s' more punchy style into modernity if you're tired of all the flopping. Uniforms and courts will change through the years too, which arguably makes playing from 1983 the most rewarding of the eras--assuming you'll wind up playing through another four decades of the sport and witness the drastic changes. Each era will even include its own commentary team. The wonderful Kevin Harlan is thankfully always involved, but he'll be joined by era-appropriate color commentators like Clark Kellog, Greg Anthony, and Mike Fratello.

The funniest feature I learned about MyNBA Eras also best illustrates the team's attention to detail: The length of players' shorts will, like rulebooks, logos, and division alignments, change through the years. From the short-shorts of the '80s to the Iverson-era long, baggy shorts to today's style landing somewhere in between, players will look the part whether they're playing through the Reagan, Clinton, or Bush years and beyond.

When I saw the level of detail that went into The Jordan Challenge earlier this month, I felt NBA 2K23 was already looking like a contender for sports game of the year based on that preview alone. Learning about MyNBA Eras has only made me more expectant of that outcome. All of this praise comes with the huge caveat that I haven't played the game myself yet, and therefore all of the goodwill fostered in these cool top-level mode details could be undone by broken on-court gameplay I'll find out about later. But the thrill of sports is expecting big things with each new season, and NBA 2K23 looks built to make a championship run.

Mark Delaney on Google+

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Mark Delaney

Mark is an editor at GameSpot. He writes reviews, guides, and other articles, and focuses largely on the horror and sports genres in video games, TV, and movies.

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