I've been a fan of the NBA 2K series since day one. September 9th, 1999, to be exact—the day the Sega Dreamcast was released in the US, and brought launch title 2K along with it. Though the game was met with good reviews, no one could have imagined that it would not just dethrone and, ultimately, destroy EA Sports' seemingly untouchable Live series, but also become one of the best-selling franchises in all of sports video gaming.
The latest iteration, NBA 2K14, is by all accounts the series' best yet, even if the improvement over last year's edition was minimal. But there's one substandard part of the game that gets on my nerves: The intro.
"Basketball, isn't easy....to be the best, you have to work the hardest...you have to chase what seems impossible....because giving up, is not an option, when you feel like you've reached your limit, it's only the beginning."
Unless you're the biggest fan of 2K14 coverboy LeBron James, it's hard to deny that his entire intro monologue—which he delivers, sweat-soaked, in a dark room, mean-mugging and rubbing his tattoo all the while—is packed with clichés and cheesy as hell. "When you reach your limit, you have to keep going"? Boy, 2K must have coaches and sports apparel brands kicking the dirt, wishing they had come up with that gold.
The 2K14 intro's hilarious infomercial-esque tone was made worse by the fact that last year's game, 2K13, featured one of the best 2K intros ever: It opens with the haunting piano of Jay Z's "Public Service Announcement," followed by Jay's "allow me to reintroduce myself" line—which is in the pantheon of all-time great hip-hop lines—before a digital Russell Westbrook throws down one of his trademark rim-rattling dunks as the song kicks into full gear.
Still, 2K13's intro isn't even the best in the series. So which one is? Well, with 15 intros in all, everyone's bound to have their own favorites. (This video collects the first seven intros of the NBA 2K series, if you want to see how they have evolved.) 2K11's full-on Chicago Bulls introduction is surely going to get a few votes. The original 2K intro, which at the time was innovative for featuring close-ups of 3-D player models in action (nearly all NBA games at the time used real-life footage for their intros), probably has sentimental value to many, though it didn't make my list. Rather, this is where I fall on the best, worst, and weirdest of the past 15 years.
Most creative: NBA 2K11
The aforementioned Bulls team introduction opener, where we, the gamers, step into the shoes of someone on Chicago's 1991 team (Stacy King? Will Perdue?) and follow Jordan out the tunnel for Game 1 of the '91 NBA Finals. Jordan even turns and asks "Are you ready?" before running out on the court—a chill moment, if ever there was one.
This intro also gains points for leading you straight into the tip-off of the game the very first time you load it.
Laziest: NBA 2K10
Just a black screen with a few seconds of audio commentary about Kobe's awesomeness before going into an image of Bryant from the box art. At least the keyboard tune is dramatic.
Most corporate: ESPN NBA 2K5
NBA 2K4 and 2K5 used the ESPN license (with 2K5 adding the "ESPN" in the title), and this sequence starts with what is essentially a giant ESPN logo intro.
Worst: NBA 2K14
Already explained plenty. That said, hearing a Nas track is nice.
Best: NBA 2K12
And here we go. NBA 2K12 gets my vote for best intro in series history. You can attribute my enthusiasm to the use of the iconic Kurtis Blow track "Basketball"—which, as this wonderful SB Nation oral history points out, was a seminal track that changed the music industry—as well as the action clips featuring NBA stars from different eras facing off. Chris Paul drives by Gary Payton and passes to Magic Johnson, who kicks it to a young Kareem (the Bucks one with the mini afro, not the bald Lakers version), who skyhooks a shot that gets rebounded by Bill Russell while Amar'e Stoudemire plays appropriately horrible defense. There is no way any basketball geek watched that without a wide grin on his or her face.