Ex-NBA forward plays NBA 2K14, shares his thoughts on the game


paul-shirley-conHow real is the new video game NBA 2K14? Speakeasy asked a former NBA player to check out the game and share his thoughts.

Shirley played a total of 18 games in the NBA throughout 3 seasons. He holds career averages of 1.8 ppg, 1.1 rpg and 6.7 mpg.

Shirley has been known for briefly maintaining an online journal while playing for the Phoenix Suns in 2004-05. His first journal dealt with a several-day-long road trip, while the second chronicled the Suns’ NBA Playoffs run. After their playoff elimination, the Suns did not re-sign him, as he rarely played in his twelfth man position. He was the author of a blog for ESPN.com entitled “My So-Called Career”.

Shirley was signed to a non-guaranteed contract by the Minnesota Timberwolves in early October, but was cut in training camp before the start of the 2006-07 season.

Shirley played power forward for thirteen different professional teams including the NBA teams the Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks, and the Chicago Bulls, as well as Panionios Athens of the Greek A1 League, Joventut Badalona, ViveMenorca, and Unicaja Malaga of the Spanish ACB League, and UNICS Kazan of the Russian Super League.

Below is Shirley’s take on NBA 2K14. Check it out.

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Now, before you get too excited: a note of caution. I was barely a real NBA player. I signed exactly zero multi-year contracts. I never started a game.

However, by some miracle, and even though I was never on a team for a full season, I was “in” an NBA-based video game. A couple of them, actually. And not only do I have a representative in the pixellated universe, I hold a particular distinction within a video game: I am the second-worst-rated player in NBA 2K7.

When people find out that I’ve been “in” a video game, they usually ask, “So do you, like, play with yourself all the time?” Ignoring the obvious joke, I admit that I don’t, and they look at me as if I have a shoe for a nose. I don’t blame them, because this is something that another version of me would find odd, too. If you had told me when I was 13 that I would one day be in a video game, I would have assumed that I’d do nothing besides play that video game.

It is possible that I don’t play as myself because the novelty has worn off. I’ve been in video games for a long time. I was a sophomore at Iowa State the first time it happened. In that edition – I suppose it would have been NCAA March Madness 1998 – I was blond (I am not blond) and, technically, it wasn’t “me” on the screen, because THE NCAA DOESN’T EXPLOIT ITS PLAYERS.

But there was one small problem: the game itself was about as much fun as eating a stale bagel. Not torture, but not something that will get you out of bed in the morning.

Which is probably why, before securing a copy of the Xbox edition of NBA 2K14 at a Los Angeles-area Gamestop, driving to the house of my friend, the writer and philanthropist Todd Gallagher, and playing a game of NBA 2K14 with him, it had been since college since I’d played any version of a five-on-five basketball video game.

My main criticism of NCAA 1998 (besides the developers’ myopia re: my hair color) centered around the gameplay. Sure, they’d done an admirable job on the arenas and the uniforms and there was that fairly bitchin’ Momentum meter. But the game resembled basketball in approximately no ways. The reason basketball is fun is that it is mostly reactive; you don’t plan things out, you just DO them. The first five-on-five basketball video games couldn’t simulate this; you tied yourself in knots trying to pass to the open guy.

As Todd and I cracked open NBA 2K14, I was worried that I was scarred by my previous encounters with five-on-five basketball games (and by the way their developers had treated me). But, buoying my concern was a measure of optimism; I was relatively confident that, because RAM and because graphic cards and because Moore’s Law, there was no way I wouldn’t have a good time.

And my, oh my, was I right!

To be worried.

As Todd noted, while we battled it out with Wilt Chamberlain’s Lakers and Bill Russell’s Celtics, the thing that makes for a good sports video game is the responsiveness of the game. Like in NBA Jam, like in Tecmo Super Bowl, like in Madden. Even in a game that’s not really a sports game: Street Fighter.

NBA2K14 is nothing if not unresponsive. The players move like their Nikes are made of nickels. Passes float when they should zip. There’s really no way to see the whole court.

And nor should there be. The secret to all those sports games we loved is the small number of degrees of freedom involved. There are a couple of options – the wide receiver is open or he’s not, you can kick Blanka or you can punch Blanka – and you make a decision.

A lot like basketball. The real kind.

Playing NBA 2K14 was like emptying a really nice dishwasher.  It’s great technology in the service of something that’s kind of dull no matter what. Now I have clean dishes/I made a lay-up! And there was the sense that if something went wrong, it would go really wrong: I dropped a plate/I ran out-of-bounds, again!

If you’re already a lover of five-on-five basketball games, then I suppose NBA 2K14 will do what it’s supposed to do for you: improve – if only marginally – on its predecessors. But if you’re like me, and you’re looking to simulate the explosiveness of LeBron James or Chris Paul, except on your couch, then you’re in for a disappointment.

So, unless your only goal is to see how they rendered Craig Ehlo’s face (pretty well), I’d recommend skipping NBA 2K14. And reporting to your nearest playground.

By Paul Shirley

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