Greatest Basketball Video Games of All Time


Video games have been around for about five decades now, though they looked a lot different back at the beginning. Early sports games included Pong, a supposed digital recreation of table tennis, though two white lines moving up and down either side of a screen to hit a white square was hardly a realistic representation of a fast-paced paddle game.

Today, you can find video games covering just about every genre imaginable. If you enjoy pretending to be a firefighter, the Firefighter FD18 will be right up your street. If you love animals, then Planet Zoo is the game for you. Similarly, there are millions of people that play video slots online, often taking advantage of free spin promotions thanks to the wide variety of themes and genres offered by casinos.

Basketball fans are also covered, with dozens of video games being released in the last few decades, each letting players shoot some hoops in one way or another. Some of these titles have been slam dunks, while others have been flops.

Here are some of the greatest basketball video games of all time.

One on One: Dr. J vs Larry Bird

Released way back in 1983 for the Apple II and Commodore 64 by Electronic Arts, One on One: Dr J vs Larry Bird was one of the first basketball video games ever made. It was a far cry from modern 2K games though, as it didn't allow you to play in full games.

As the name suggests, you took part in one-on-one competitions, playing as Dr. J or Larry Bird, two of the biggest NBA stars at the time of the game's release.

The graphics were impressive for the time. Basketball games before it had players that looked like stick figures moving around some lines, while One on One: Dr. J vs Larry Bird had playable characters that actually looked like people on an actual basketball court.

Skilled players that mastered the controls could perform trick shots like slam dunks that were so good they broke the backboard.

NBA Basketball

Another basketball game that actually resembled the sport it was supposed to depict was the 1980 title, NBA Basketball. It was the first officially licensed NBA game but had no NBA teams or players, with players only able to choose between "Home" and "Visitors", depicted as red and green respectively.

The players had a rather strange design, being split at the waist as though their legs were independent of their bodies.

Despite these odd characteristics, it was fun to play and quite revolutionary for its time.


Released in 1993, NBA Jam was one of the first games to begin to resemble the format we know today. Courts actually looked like courts, with wooden planks and painted lines and even a crowd to watch and cheer you on.

It was available to play in arcades, as well as on the Nintendo SNES, Sega Genesis and other home consoles, offering one of the most fun basketball video game experiences to date.

NBA Live 03

A key feature in all modern NBA games is the freestyle moves that you can control using one of the sticks on your controller. This feels like something that has always been a part of basketball video games, but it actually didn’t make its first appearance until October 2002 when EA Canada released NBA Live 03 for PlayStation 2, Gamecube, Xbox, and PC.

It took a lot of practice to master, but the hard work and dedication paid off.

Nearly a decade on from NBA Jam, graphics were lightyears ahead by now. Games looked a lot more realistic, with true 3D graphics, players that resembled their real-life counterparts, and spectators in the bleachers that actually moved around.

NBA Street Vol. 2

Released just a few months later, NBA Street Vol. 2 is a game with a whole different vibe. It swapped the NBA-sanctioned courts for outdoor urban courts and professional NBA players to talented amateurs that just play for fun.

This was paired with some quality hip hop tracks that made the perfect soundtrack to a street basketball game.

EA made the NBA Street games around the same time that it made FIFA Street, which did a similar thing for soccer. They were incredibly popular concepts at the time, but the company decided not to continue making new versions. This is a shame as modern features and physics would be really fun in NBA Street.

NCAA Basketball 10

NCAA Basketball 10 was the last standalone college basketball video game to be released. Like with NBA Street Vol. 2, many fans are disappointed in this fact as the concept brings some variety to the basketball video game landscape.

In the game, there were 325 different Division 1 colleges to choose from, creating a lot more variety than in NBA titles. 64 historic teams were also planned for inclusion in the release, but they were removed from the game prior to its release.

NCAA Basketball 10 also included features we can find in basketball games today, including the Dynasty Mode, which let you build and develop your own team.

This final college basketball video game was released in November 2009 and was available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

NBA 2K11

NBA 2K11 is now ten years old, but it remains one of the best basketball video games because it was based almost entirely around Michael Jordan. The marketing of the game really hyped it, something that often leads to many disappointed fans. However, that wasn’t the case, and NBA 2K11 managed to impress almost everyone.

It featured several of Jordan’s classic teams, including the 1997-98 Utah Jazz, 1985-86 Boston Celtics, and the 1991-92 Portland Trail Blazers.

The game made a big leap in graphics quality when compared to previous releases and laid the foundations for features that are now staples in sports video games, such as including historic players and teams, Association Mode, and major improvements to MyPlayer mode.

As well as featuring classic Jordan teams, NBA 2K11 also included the Jordan Challenge feature. This mode saw players recreating 10 of Michael Jordan’s most memorable achievements on the court, scoring at least 69 points in a single game and netting six or more three-pointers during the first half of a game.

Success in this mode unlocked famous Jordan shoes that could then be used in other modes.

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