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NBA 2K16 Review: Nothin But Net

/ Oct 8th, 2015 No Comments

NBA 2K16 Review

In 2010, the NBA 2K series was in need of a boost. It had not reached a point of irrelevancy but was becoming repetitive. That’s when Michael Jordan virtually came out of retirement, and NBA 2K11 featured a legendary new game mode. It was the best game the franchise had offered, and it was exactly what NBA 2K needed.

There have been some highs and lows since then, but no basketball video game has achieved the same level of awe as NBA 2K11. Enter NBA 2K16. With an incredibly deep offering of game modes, smart on-court action and a smooth polish, NBA 2K16 is the best sports game to be released for new-gen consoles.

Inside the NBA 2K

In video games, the old adage “the best defense is a good offense” is often true, and that has mostly been the case with past NBA 2K titles. The on-court enhancements to NBA 2K16 mostly revolve around defensive abilities and AI. In the past, it was too easy to break down individual defenders in one-on-one situations. Now, the defense moves side to side with the ballhandler while teammates look to plug open lanes to the basket.

Additionally, defensive AI makes in-game adjustments based on the offense. Players with a hot hand will be guarded more tightly, and pick-and-roll plays are defended in a multitude of ways to reduce their effectiveness. All of this means players on offense will have to work harder for open shots and run plays effectively to break down the defense.

Meanwhile, games are presented in an ambitious broadcast-like style. Pre- and post-game and halftime reports are presented by virtual representations of TNT’s Inside the NBA crew sans Charles Barkley. Ernie Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal are joined by Kenny Smith this year, and the results are impressive. Although there are some occasional mishaps and boring bits, the analysis is mostly on point and can be genuinely funny. There are also on-court interviews and pre-recorded interview segments interspersed throughout games. These moments show an insane attention to detail, although they tend to take away from the intensity on the court.

A Spike Lee Joint

The most talked about addition to NBA 2K16 is the new version of MyCareer. To reenvision the single-player game mode, 2K brought in filmmaker and basketball fanatic Spike Lee, whose movie credits include Do The Right Thing and He Got Game. Of course, this means MyCareer, also titled Livin’ Da Dream this year, follows a more linear path. For better and for worse, MyCareer has a movie-like presentation, but Lee’s best filmmaking days are behind him.

Lee’s latest joint follows Frequency Vibrations, aka Freq, from his days as a five-star high school recruit in Brooklyn all the way through his rise to NBA prominence. Players must deal with tense situations regarding his family and career. Although the general plot is passable, dialogue is full of cliches and the mode begs players to care about characters they can’t relate to. Additionally, the story instantly loses credibility as players insert their created avatar in the role of Vibrations and it rushes his ascent to stardom. It is difficult to take the plot seriously when you see a bearded 6-foot-6-inch man playing high school basketball, or hear about Freq’s fame when he is averaging six minutes and two points per game.

NBA 2K16 MyCareer

Will Frequency Vibrations be a superstar?

Despite its issues, MyCareer is an impressive accomplishment in NBA 2K16. The story-driven direction reduces the monotony of grinding through NBA seasons, and off-court activities such as managing endorsements and training on days off are much more interactive. From buying clothes to stylizing your MyPlayer’s home court, there are plenty of ways to personalize the experience.

But the most intriguing aspect of MyCareer is the high school and college games. This brief period at the beginning of the story differs from the rest of NBA 2K16. High school and college atmospheres are recreated in ways that do not carry over to NBA arenas. It is extremely fun, and it is unfortunate that MyCareer is the only way to enjoy that school spirit, especially considering 2K licensed 10 college teams.

He Got Game

The word “my” is used a lot in NBA 2K16; there’s terms such as MyCareer, MyPlayer and MyTeam. But there’s much more to “my” in this year’s iteration because each user will feel like the game is truly theirs. From an extensive soundtrack to customizable teams, jerseys and courts, the game offers deep personalization options.

It starts with the ability to use your fully customizable MyPlayer in a variety of game modes. He can rise to fame in MyCareer or run a team from the front office in MyGM, but the best way to express yourself is through the new Pro-Am game mode. In this mode, players can walk on and compete with other MyPlayers in NBA-style five-on-five games or use an extensive suite of editing tools to create teams with friends complete with custom uniforms and courts. Unfortunately, this mode has been experiencing lag issues, but it has already improved since launch and 2K is promising it will live up to its full potential with future updates.


This could be us but you not playing 2K16.

If you want to dive into the deep customization tools, you can start a new MyGM save and relocate a franchise (maybe revive the Seattle Supersonics) or create a new MyLeague and rebrand an existing franchise. In order to fully customize your team, you will need to create images and upload them via, but you can also search through tons of shared content uploaded by other users. With a plethora of customization options, it is easy to lose track of time as you create the perfect jerseys and arenas.

All of this is in addition to returning game modes like MyTeam and MyPark, which have undergone their own set of enhancements.


NBA 2K16 is more than just a sports game. At times, it can be a straight-up sports sim, but it can also be a movie, an RPG and a card collecting game. NBA 2K16 reaches new levels of greatness thanks to major improvements to each of its elements, along with a penchant for customization. These types of changes should not be possible during a one-year development cycle, but NBA 2K16 pulled it off.

Editor's Choice Award

NBA 2K16 is an Editor’s Choice Award winner.

MyCareer has a flawed storyline, but that is essentially the game’s lone downfall, and the mode is still compelling enough to enjoy a playthrough. But what really sets NBA 2K16 apart is its ability to immerse players in a way that feels unique to them. Depending on how each individual plays the game, the experience can be completely different, and that is quite an achievement for a sports game.

NBA 2K16 was reviewed using a copy of the game for Xbox One provided by the publisher.


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Ryan Bloom

Ryan Bloom

Chief Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Ryan Bloom is a writer and avid gamer from Orange County. He received a B.A. in Communications with a minor in American Studies from California State University, Fullerton in 2010. Follow him on Twitter @BloomsTweets.
Ryan Bloom

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Gaming Illustrated RATING



Improvements on the defensive end make basketball gameplay more realistic and requires players to use strategy.


The broadcast-like presentation is accurate and impressive, but its insistence on recreating bad elements from TV slow down the pace.


With an impressive set of game modes and extensive personalization options, it will be difficult to top this year's version of NBA 2K.


Spike Lee's MyCareer is a major feature this year. The plot falls flat but it introduces interesting off-court activities.

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