ESPN NBA Basketball
System: X-Box
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Visual Concepts
Released: October 2003
Genre: Basketball
Capabilities: Memory
Unit, Custom Soundtracks, X-Box Live Online Multi-Player, Communicator Headset, Friends List, Downloadable Content, Leaderboards

Review Written: August 8, 2004

***Just a note, this was my first and only review I wrote while intoxicated, so please excuse any incoherent ramblings you run into***

NBA 2K3 was the cream of the crop as far as basketball simulations go, it was the fricking Coke of basketball, the McDonalds of Barkley. It went all the way baby! Sega perfected it with that 2K3, sure it had its tiny miniscule flaws that all other sports titles have (low 3pt conversion ratio), but they were forgivable. With the game having a new name for the 2004 season to enforce Sega’s ESPN integration, it looked like things couldn’t have been getting any better!


Sega did the impossible and royally screwed up on what I once thought was a problem-free franchise. What did Sega do to turn off its hardcore basketball fans? Let’s take a looksee as Robert Redford would say.

The game went from the glorified simulation that it was before to an arcade-esque dunkfest. Seriously, the amount of blocks per game was quadrupled from 2K3, and they added this little ‘swoosh’ effect whenever a block happened to exaggerate it. And whenever a dunk occurred, they gave it an over-the-hill type feel where it felt like Shaq was pigging out at the White Castle buffet. It just completely ruined the authentic feel of the NBA.

Sega did other crap to screw around with this franchise like making the camera angles un-customizable. Yes, un-customizable, like trying to deck a robot with MR12LV Rocket Launcher. Now can you dig that, a booya! Now I use to like playing with that horizontal view, ala the classic old-school Tecmo Bowl games from the NES days, but Sega said fit like Goliath shooting the bull that we have to work things there way and finally adapt all us paranoid gamers to get us use to the standard overhead view. After being forced to play enough games under this mandatory camera, I finally adapted to Sega’s silly ways and decided to buy myself a pack of Dots as a reward. Nice good gumdrop taste I tells ‘ya!

Flat-out as ’75 Corvette tire, this game just wasn’t fun to play anymore. It felt like I was playing Sega’s series at an arcade, and it just ruined the experience for me. Sega had its own Street mode for that **** and it worked fine in that mode, as there were new score limits implemented like a true game of 21 finally being able to be played. All the new high-impact blocks and dunks worked great for that mode, but had no place in simulation play. Sega has done thee wrong. You should go spank thou’s butt with a paddle 85 times while listening to Hanson’s horrible ‘mmbop’ song so you drive yourself crazy (ala SNL) and never have to make a basketball game as worse as this again.

The one thing they did improve upon the last game was the ratio of trifectas. Finally, if ya shot an open three, there was a reasonable 8/10 chance that it would go in, that is of course if you took a shot with a great beyond-the-arc shooter like Reggie Miller or Biddie. Don’t go trying to shoot one with Yao Meng like he’s trying to catch a sale on Pennzole (sp?) at your local Val-U-Mart or else expect a flop and a half like Bill cheating on Miss Electra!

Sega did introduce one extremely (lemonade) new innovative mode in ESPN NBA and that was 24/7 where you took a created baller and had him tour the country going up against random pros in one-on-one contests in order to increase his stats. Beat an opponent and you gain the ability to add him to your contact list so you can invite him over to Perkin’s so Runinruder can cook you two a 5-star special while you guys make amends and team up to take on other two man combos across the nation. This mode was simply the corn dog **** as the silly arcade gameplay crap actually mended well in this gameplay mode, and your attributes went up and once you finished this mode you were able to draft your created baller into the NBA. For you lucky PS2 ho-bags, this meant you can actually take your 24/7 baller and compete with other fellow gamers in one-on-one bouts online.

Speaking of online play, I really can’t explain much on the issue as I never played it online. I watched my friend take his 24/7 baller online in PS2, but as you all know, Sony is the devil like Krispy Kreme donuts is to Hot Wheels (wheels awayyyy-yeahhhhh). According to my pal (where’s my royalty Universal!?) the online play was pretty much lag-free and the leader boards and usual roster updates worked fine and dandy, but the Xbox was the way to go due to obvious graphical superiority as the player faces were all modeled off their real life NBA counterparts (Olwakandi gonna eat 16 burritos in the marathon y’all).

The soundtrack was random rap crap that I can give two and a half rat’s butt on a Irish pole about. B-ball is the only genre where rap music soundtracks are justified, so there you have it. They replace the awesome color commentator from 2K3 with that one Frazier guy from ESPN doing the commentating duties. He sounds as generic as an 25 cent can of Our Family soda.

Replay Value didn’t matter a single hoot. The game wasn’t fun to play, save for 24/7 and Street mode, but those two only hold up for as long as a case of some stellar Bud Light can last you. Sega gave their NFL and NHL franchises some cool Crib, and Skybox unlock features, respectively, but they gave jackrabbit crap and a tool to NBA. All we have here is a silly **choose your unlock option here** menu. You guys are just lucky you have the ABA ball here as a cheat so Dr. J doesn’t have to go all 2 Live Crew on your tooshies!

In the end, ESPN NBA Basketball is not a good game, avoid it like the plague of Justin Timberlake and Anna Nicole Smith on their much neglected honeymoon in Vatican City! Stick with NBA 2K3, or better yet, upgrade to ESPN College Hoops as it has a much better Legacy mode, and it plays like ESPN NBA SHOULD HAVE!!! Now can you dig that, suckafish!?!?!?


Score: 5/10

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