Video games have gone through many iterations over the years. From the early days where two lines went up and down on a screen, hitting a digitized ball back and forth to now seeing lifelike characters in movie-style productions.
No genre has seen the effects of video games on its day-to-day culture more than sports. The earliest known video game, Tennis for Two, which was released in 1958, was a simple tennis game that had users select the angle of the racket and press a button that would then return it to the other player.
From the 1950s to the early ‘80s, video games weren't played (for the most part) in individual homes, but in large arcades similar to what you see at places like Chuck E. Cheese and Dave & Busters. Then, in the early ‘80s, games started to evolve when Atari, a company founded by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, really began to take off in America.
Though Atari was founded in 1977, it took a while to become a staple in households. Even though most people today have heard of Atari, they were not the first system to receive a license from the NBA to produce video games. The first NBA license sports game was Mattel’s Basketball on the Intellivision platform.
It was one of the first simulation basketball games, and it would lay the framework for the basketball games we see today. But, of course, there have been other basketball games throughout the years from One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird, Double Dribble, BasketBrawl a game where you could punch and kick other players on the court (yes, it was a real game) and of course Lakers vs. Celtics created by EA Sports.
The same company that would go on to make the NBA Live franchise that dominated basketball video games for over a decade; from 1989 to 1999, EA’s NBA Live cornered the market until the video game platform Sega jumped in with its franchise NBA 2K in 1999.
How NBA 2K has influenced the Houston Rockets and the NBA
Like every team in the NBA, the Rockets have been part of the 2K franchise from the beginning. Players like Hakeem Olajuwon...
and Steve Francis.
As you know, gameplay and graphics have improved a lot over the years. In the early years, 2K was just a game and not part of the NBA culture, as 2K and NBA Live went back and forth for 10 years. After NBA Live took a hiatus following NBA Live 2010 (it would later try a comeback four years later), 2K became the defacto basketball game on the market.
Players started becoming more involved outside of just being on the cover. James Harden, at the time a Houston Rocket, was the first-ever Rocket to grace the cover of the 2K basketball franchise.
Players would also become more interested in their ratings and if their video game counterparts matched how they looked in real life. So to show how integrated 2K is into today's NBA, all you have to do is check out some of the biggest stars' reactions to their ratings.
don't hear a single lie— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) August 17, 2021
Here is LeBron James on if stars like Kevin Durant and Steph Curry should be only a 96 rating.
Nah should be 99! ♂️— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 18, 2021
The current Rockets players had had plenty to say about their rating and how their 2K faces don't exactly match how they look. Players like Kevin Porter Jr. and Jae'Sean Tate made their disagreement clear when the game first came out.
A 77? Carry on , You got rookies rank higher than me? Can you validate that?— Scoot (@Kevinporterjr) August 20, 2021
Jae'Sean Tate not only had a subpar rating, but his face scan wasn't precisely accurate.
This looks like an actor playing Tate in a movie. Unfortunately, Rockets rookie Alperen Sengun did not fare much better.
It has gotten so big now that 2K made it an annual event in which they release players' ratings like the College Football rankings show. Players have even gotten to the point now they campaign during the year to have their 2K rating raised after a good game.
The influence on fans has also shown, especially when it comes to trades and even how fast a team should improve on the court. Some fans who make trades on 2K seem to think teams would make those same trades in real life. For instance, trading John Wall for Oklahoma City Thunder 2022 first-round pick and Al Horford is a trade that the Thunder ACTUALLY ACCEPTS on the game.
If GM Rafael Stone attempted this trade in real life, the Thunder probably wouldn't accept any more of his phone calls, but the ease at which transactions happen on the video game has distorted some people's take when it comes to trades in real life.
Rockets fans were upset when Jalen Green, the Rockets’ second overall pick in last year's draft, only had a 79 rating. NBA 2K has integrated itself into the basketball culture like no other sports game ever has. From its NBA 2K league, which now has drafts, playoffs, and a championship game, while 2K My player is a full-time job now for a lot of its players where they make real money by playing in tournaments and designing merchandise 2K is its universe.
No one knows what the future holds, especially for the Rockets in the video game franchise. Questions like will there be another Rocket player to grace the cover anytime soon and will they ever fix Tate’s not so flattering face scan will hopefully be answered in the future. Still, one thing is for sure, NBA 2K has changed basketball forever.