NBA Street: The Forgotten Gem That’s Better Than 2K
NBA Street wasn’t just any basketball game; it was the franchise to end all basketball games. The iconic NBA Street Vol. 2 released nearly two decades ago, but still has more personality, better gameplay, and captures the spirit of basketball better than any of the recent 2K games.
While NBA Street lacked photorealistic graphics and technical power, it focused on something more timeless; not showcasing basketball as a sport, but displaying it as an art form.
The rules were simple: 3-on-3 to 21 points, 1s and 2s only. And this is streetball rules, meaning no fouls, no goaltending, and the use of flashy, ridiculous basketball handling-moves (90 percent of which would probably be a “carry” in traditional NBA rules) were encouraged — they were the ethos of the game in fact.
NBA Street didn’t want players to come away with the sterile, mechanical version of basketball that the 2K games rehash every year. They wanted players to see the sport as an exhilarating experience, a cultural lynchpin, and a modern-day myth.
NBA Street Vol. 2 Development
NBA Street Vol. 2 was created by a bunch of Canadians who were more obsessed with hockey than basketball. But EA’s Vancouver team was fixated on the culture of streetball.
The music, history, and respect for NYC courts like West Fourth Street Courts a.k.a. “The Cage,” or Rucker Park at 155th Street in Harlem was on full display in NBA Street Vol. 2
The Vancouver team’s fascination with streetball culture elevated the game well-above anything else out at the time. They even recruited real-life streetball emcee Bobbito Garcia a.k.a. DJ Cucumber Slice to provide commentary for the game.
Garcia would yell out nonsense phrases to backup the insanity of the streetball moves you just pulled off.
“IT’S A PIZZA SLICE WITH NO CRUST!” – Bobbito Garcia
They also created one of the dopest video game soundtracks that features hip-hop legends like Pete Rock & CL Smooth to production from Just Blaze.
NBA Street Vol. 2 is the greatest basketball game ever created, but it’s not where the series ended.
NBA Street Vol. 3 and Homecourt
While some fans argue this is where the series started to trend downwards, there’s still no shortage of fun to be had in NBA Street Vol. 3 and Homecourt.
If you owned a GameCube as I did, you could even choose Mario, Peach, and Luigi as characters. To this day I can’t comprehend the fact that I was crossing Allen Iverson with Mario and lobbing an alley-oop to Shaq for the slam.
This brings up the point of Gamebreakers, which were greatly improved in Vol 3., and is still one of the greatest features in any video game to this date. When you hit enough tricks or crazy dunks, you unlocked Gamebreaker mode.
Time would slow down and you’d be taken into a euphoric, out-of-body experience where you’d pull off unfathomable basketball moves.
Just imagine you’re in an anti-gravity chamber, and Vince Carter throws the ball off your forehead, jumps up, goes through his legs, spins around, lobs the ball up for Princess Peach who catches it, and throws it off the backboard before slamming it down and breaking the hydraulics system.
That’s the NBA Street franchise in a nutshell.
Then in 2007, the final game in the NBA Street franchise released, Homecourt. While Homecourt gets the most flak from fans — not for being bad but for simply not living up to the other two games — it’s still an incredible game.
Homecourt introduced the double dunk feature where if you timed a dunk right, you could pick it up with your legs, throw it up and slam it down again. And double dunks became triple dunks in Gamebreaker mode.
It’s an awesome game and a great way to close out an iconic franchise.
Final Thoughts (And Fuck 2K)
To this day gamers beg EA to bring back NBA Street. But with EA being voted one of the worst companies in America in the past decade, they don’t have the best track record with listening to fans.
Regardless, the NBA Street franchise is something special, it shows the beauty behind basketball.
With 2K dominating the video game basketball market there probably isn’t much hope for this series to return. But one thing’s for sure, these decades-old games will always be better than whatever trite, uninspired trash 2k is rehashing.
“Basketball isn’t a game. It’s an art form.” – Kyrie Irving