Without Jay-Z, no Dream Team in NBA 2K13

Courtesy of 2K Sports

The 1992 Dream Team is featured for the first time in the NBA 2K video game series.

In the past several years, Jason Argent, vice-president of marketing for 2K Sports, heard from fans of the NBA 2K series, through letters, online forums and social media, asking when the 1992 Dream Team would be in the game.

That opportunity didn't come about for 2K Sports until this year, when music mogul and Nets minority owner Jay-Z became the executive producer of NBA 2K13. During a media conference call on Tuesday, Argent said that Jay-Z influenced 2K Sports to strike a deal with USA Basketball and individually with Charles Barkley, who's not part of the National Basketball Retired Players Association. (Scottie Pippen isn't either, but he wasn't able to reach an agreement with 2K Sports.) Afterward, the video game company was allowed to return to the creative lab to incorporate the '92 Dream Team and 2012 Olympic squad into 2K13, which is on its finishing touches.

"The Dream Team wasn't going to happen this year for us without Jay's involvement and assistance upon doing it," Argent said, "and we're obviously very happy that he did that."

Argent said that while the realistic simulation aspect of 2K13 is most important to the franchise, he and his team have placed more of an emphasis on infusing more entertainment into the game to match the NBA's growth in that area. With 2K13, they wanted to take it even further, and that's why Jay-Z jumped on their radar.

"Obviously the core of the game is always what happens on the court, but we're trying to bring more of the truer picture of the NBA to what it is as an entertainment product," Argent said. "You've seen some of the things we've done in the past with our soundtracks and the bands, so when we sat down after launching last year's game, that was a primary directive for us, and we said, 'How do we do that?' We started to put that list together of things that helped achieve that, and Jay-Z kept rising to the top of that list."

Argent said that when 2K Sports first approached Jay-Z last fall, the popular rapper didn't just want to be involved; he wanted to play a legitimate role in the development of the game.

"He said, 'I want in, I love this game, I want to be involved. But if I'm involved, I want to be involved for real,'" Argent said. "So it's been a very solid collaborative effort. Primarily, our development team clearly knows what they're doing, but from a presentation standpoint -- music, art and culture -- that's obviously Jay's wheelhouse, so he's been able to add that."

Argent also said that Jay-Z being the minority owner of the Nets added more value to 2K series' legacy.

"That was part of the full package," Argent said. "From an authenticity standpoint, Jay loves the game of basketball. He clearly does as an honor of the Nets, and that's important to us from a credibility and authenticity standpoint. He's also added quite a bit to the game beyond presentation."

That starts with Jay-Z's hand-picked soundtrack for 2K13, which includes 24 tracks that are currently available on Spotify (they could eventually be sold on iTunes as part of an album). The rest of his personal touch will be announced in the coming weeks.

Here are 2K13's top-five most improved features:

  1. The Control Stick: For the first time ever, all dribble moves have been mapped to the right analog stick, as well as shooting, passing and post moves. There are around 50 authentic player moves in the game, all motion captured by real NBA players at 2K Sports' Visual Concepts studio in San Francisco.

  2. Dynamic Shot Generator: Shots are now dynamically created on the fly with collision physics created in real-time.

  3. Signature Skills: Each player has unique abilities that can alter the course of a game. They're modeled to impact the game in their own unique way, from Derrick Rose as a “Floor General" to Kevin Durant being "The Closer."

  4. Revamped Passing System: Improved fast-break passing gives players more control, where they can fire a bounce pass to a cutting teammate or go "Lob City" in transition.

  5. Kinect Ready (Xbox 360 only): Gamers can act as their team’s floor general by calling out plays and strategies using 2K13’s voice recognition. Even foul language can lead to a technical foul.

Overall, the attention to detail during game play in 2K13 is unbelievable. Here are several examples: signature sneakers worn by the top players; PA announcer calls, fan chants and arena sounds unique to each team; real overheard shots of the city and arena where the game is being played; reflections on the court from the lights and moving ads above the court; players sitting down by half court in their warmup uniform awaiting to sub in; authentic player pregame routines, like when LeBron James throws chalk in the air; and player reactions to contact, such as a guy putting a hand on his face after a hard foul there, and there's even some flopping.

The video game will be available for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 for a suggested retail price of $59.99. It will also be available on the Wii, PC and PlayStation Portable. In addition, the upcoming Nintendo Wii U system will carry the game.

When asked if there could be an actual video game matchup between the Dream Team and 2012 Olympic squad, Argent said, "I'll tell you what: We've got a lot of announcements we're making in the upcoming weeks, but I will say I like that idea."

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