Basketball is a sport that any child in America has played at one point or another. It was one of the key sports in gym classes across the country, and only continues to grow because of its accessibility.
All you need is a ball and a basket.
If you’re like me, however, you’ll soon realize that you aren’t that great at basketball.
Despite this, you try and emulate Michael Jordan with the tongue hanging out, or, for kids today, throwing up three goggles after nailing a bucket. Still, at the end of the day, we may not have a future in the NBA.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the game we love.
For us who can’t play it well on the court, there’s the virtual world. Over the years, basketball video games have gone from simple one vs. one games to games that trick you into your brain into thinking you’re watching a real game on TV.
But what are the best basketball games of all time?
NBA Inside Drive 2002
This series may still be around if it wasn’t an Xbox exclusive during its lifespan.
It provided the best graphics for any NBA game of the generation, incredibly realistic player motions and shot animations, and was an all-around fun game to play.
Every player, team and arenas from the NBA were licensed in the game, and you were able to control everything about your favorite team. There was even the option to apply real-time coaching strategies without stopping the action.
NBA Live 2003
EA Sports changed the game – literally – with the release of NBA Live 2003. The studio introduced the “Freestyle Control” stick that allowed players to move the right analog stick, and perform different skill moves.
On defense, it allowed better guarding of the ball.
The authentic shoes, great soundtrack that was certified platinum, and the fun gameplay made NBA Live 2003 a must have for any basketball fan.
Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside
If you owned a Nintendo 64, this was the basketball game to own.
The visuals were great for the generation it came from, and the gameplay was as good as any sports game out there. The animations were smooth, and players looked and felt like they really were in the game.
Though recent installments have improved on what NBA 2k13 started, this is one of the best games of the 2k franchise. The MyPlayer mode was fantastic, and the nicely detailed GM Mode gave players hours of joy.
Oh yea, the “Shoe Creator” was a pretty great addition. And don’t worry, this won’t be the last installment from the 2k series on this list.
Though it wasn’t the start of the franchise that would become the top basketball series of all-time, NBA 2k1 showed that the franchise was going to be a major player.
This was the first game that allowed online play via “SegaNet” on the Sega Dreamcast.
There were also legendary players from the 1970’s and 1980’s available to play as well as the introduction of a “Street Ball” mode.
NBA Live 95
This was the NBA game that changed it all in the 90’s.
From the arena atmosphere to the ambient noises that make you think of basketball like the sound of a ball hitting nothing but net, NBA Live 95 brought forth the franchise to new heights.
The camera angle, great graphics with smooth animations and the realistic gameplay made this game one of the very best of the 90’s.
NBA Jam (The Original)
NBA Jam was an arcade and home console staple of the 1990’s.
It’s the ultimate pick up and play basketball game that can be enjoyed by everyone, even if they’ve never played a basketball game in their life.
The commentary exclaiming “Boom-shaka-laka” after a major dunk is one of the most exciting moments in sports games. There were nets catching on fire, half-court dunks and even on-court power ups that allowed you to play any way you’d like.
NCAA Basketball 2010
It’s a real shame that this franchise died because the final installment was the absolute best there was. The game offered everything college basketball fans loved.
Players were able to upgrade facilities in order to improve recruiting, take part in a variety of tournaments and build up a legendary program.
It was also the first, and only, sports game to offer players the choice between different broadcast presentations for games. Both CBS and ESPN licenses were acquired for this purpose, and it really felt like you were in a real college basketball season.
It may be the most recent release from 2k Sports, but NBA 2k17 is clearly the best the franchise has ever offered.
Extremely deep game modes and great creation suite that allows the creation of custom teams, shoes, players, etc. has you spending hours upon hours of time in this game before even stepping on the court.
From a GM mode that can change how the game plays with each passing season to an online league to enjoy with friends, there is something for everyone in NBA 2k17 which has it deserving of the number two spot on the list.
NBA Street V.2
Face it, you were reading this list to see where this game would fall. The original was a great game in its own right, but V.2 took everything about it and made it better.
The main mode called “Be a Legend” is as fun as it gets. Creating a player, building a great team and become a street legend is one of the most fun modes in any sports game, let alone a basketball game.
Do you agree with our list? Let us know what your favorite basketball game of all time is.