Virtual basketball, unlike real basketball, is not locked out. And the top basketball video game for the last 10-plus years is featuring some of the all-time greats for its cover after successfully integrating Michael Jordan into the game last year.
Yes, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird will have their own covers to go along with Jordan for NBA 2K12, set to be released October 4.
I doubt the league's ban on having any association with the players during the lockout has anything to do with 2K Sports' decision to go with retired players (albeit very deserving legends) on the cover of this year's edition of the game. With EA Sports still trying to solve the Andrew Bynum Jesus problem from NBA Elite 11, NBA 2K11 cornered the market (not that it had not already since it is widely regarded as the best basketball and even sports video game franchise).
Since the lockout is in full effect and pretty much everyone believes it will eat up at least some part of the season, going out and buying NBA 2K12 and simulating the season might be as close as you get. Of course, you could also just update the stats on NBA2K11 using your XBox Live account and save yourself the $60.
That means, 2K Sports is going to have to come up with something different to satisfy NBA fans in the new version of the game.
Last year's big feature was adding Michael Jordan's greatest games and allowing players to recreate his most memorable performances -- including the Flu Game in 1997 and his 62-point outburst against the Celtics in the 1986 Playoffs. That seemed to please fans.
I would expect similar scenarios and features in the new game. See if you can pull off the Bird Steal against the Pistons in the Boston Garden or Magic's Baby Sky Hook. I would also imagine it will be fun to pit the 1986 Celtics against Jordan's 1997 Bulls and the other great teams 2K Sports will be sure to include in 2K12.
The NBPA and the NBA have likely already agreed to appear in this game. You won't be getting randomly named players for non-existent teams like you might in the pre-licensing days. I do not think even the lockout will prevent the players from showing up in this game -- NBA2K13, might be another matter though.
With the league in lockout, shouldn't 2K Sports give us gamers other modes to try?
How about Classics League Mode? Instead of playing a Dynasty or Season Mode with the current teams, you play it with a classic league. Imagine taking over the 1980 Lakers and trying to win the title against the 1992 Bulls and the 1984 Celtics. Or do the hybrid and try to take a current team, like... I don't know... the 2010 Heat and try to win the Classics Championship.
Why not try Lockout Mode? Take over David Stern or Billy Hunter and try to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. If that doesn't sound too tantalizing, why not take a Players Association team led by Derek Fisher, J.R. Smith, Chris Paul and "coach" Billy Hunter against an NBA team led by Michael Jordan, Pat Riley and Joe Dumars with "coach" David Stern? 2K Sports already offers players the ability to be play the Jordan Brand team. Another special team to play could not hurt so much.
2K Sports could always work to get the licensing to allow teams to play Euroleague teams so they can have Deron Williams playing for Besiktas. WNBA Mode can't be too far behind.
NBA 2K12 might be the only NBA basketball we see for a while. At least it is a pretty good simulation of it.
Photo via DIMEMag.com.