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NBA 2K9: An Endorsement, and a Reflection on Building a Better Team

NBA 2K9 is the best basketball video game I've ever played. In college, I played a lot with EA's Live series, both on desktop and console. One legendary game, a friend and I shot 32-35 from the field, including 24 threes... in the first half... with the Houston Rockets, which meant Yao was 3-4 from beyond the arc. Such were basketball video games. But you can't get away with such shenanigans anymore.

I'm running a franchise with the Bobcats, and I'm treating it as if Michael Jordan was fired yesterday and they hired me today. My first few moves were designed to get contract flexibility and even more sheer athleticism. I traded away Sean May, Jason Richardson, Nazr Mohammed, Jermareo Davidson, and every draft pick at my disposal to end up with Rudy Gay, DeShawn Stephenson, and Hakeem Warrick. Keep in mind that every player has a defined role that he believes he should be playing, and if he doesn't play in that role, with the minutes promised him, that's bad times for everyone involved. However, with only Warrick pouting a bit, my starting lineup is Felton, Stephenson, G-Force, Gay, and Okafor. Warrick, Carroll, Augustin, and Hollins come off the bench.

In games past, this team would be unstoppable. Everyone except Okafor would have been able to shoot threes with reasonable efficiency, they would have been able to fast break the opposition to death, they all would have been able to defend on ball, and everyone but Felton would have blocked plenty of shots. Instead, I find that Gay, Okafor, Warrick, and Hollins are on the small side for their positions and are liable to be backed down on the block. Nobody is a reliable three point shooter, though Gay is closest to the label. And my rebounding is spotty. Thus, I got blown out by Cleveland, lost a shootout in Madison Square Garden, barely squeaked by Miami, and was behind to New Orleans until Tyson Chandler got in foul trouble, leaving Gay unchecked to take over the game.

It's shocking how well this game mirrors real life pressures on roster construction, and I think my moves within the game illustrate how I think real NBA teams must build their rosters if they want to win a championship.

First, the trades. Like I said, I threw everything I had into getting Rudy Gay. If I recall correctly, the final deal was something along the lines of Gay and Warrick for J-Rich, May, and both draft picks this year. Later, I packaged away Mohammed and Davidson in a three way trade for Stephenson that also involved Marvin Williams going to Washington.

ANYWAY, the point of all this maneuvering was to get a player I could build a champion around: Rudy Gay. The Bobcats don't have that right now, and they haven't made any serious attempts at acquiring such a player. I could have waited until the draft to try my luck, but instead I made Memphis the Godfather offer. Once Gay was on board, it was time to complete the supporting cast, since Okafor and Wallace are excellent in that role. Stephenson is perfect because he's a defensive stopper, and does everything else reasonably well, including running point when I can't deal with Augustin's lack of defense anymore.

The NBA is a sellout league. By that, I mean it's okay, even reasonable, to sell out every other resource to get that one transcendent player who can take a team to the playoffs by himself. Gerald Wallace can't do it. Emeka can't do it. Richardson can't do it. God bless 'em, but Raymond Felton and DJ Augustin can't do it. So where does that leave us?

Rudy Gay can do it. He upped his scoring over the course of last season, and he'll likely get better again this year. It's looking more and more like he'll be a perennial All Star who can play behind the arc or on the block or on the run.

He's far from a lock to be one of the league's pillars over the next decade, but he is one of those guys who certainly could follow the Paul Pierce career path, in the sense that respect for his game might rise and fall like the tides, but he'll always produce, and in the right situation he'll be an MVP candidate.

In NBA 2K9, and in the real life NBA, that's worth selling out the likes of DJ Augustin, Raymond Felton, Jason Richardson, and even Gerald Wallace or Emeka Okafor, because they aren't going to be the main parts of a championship team in the current state of things, anyway.