The appeal of NBA 2K23 extends way beyond the court, just like the sport IRL

Why I love NBA 2K23 despite not really caring about basketball

(Image credit: 2K)

I love NBA 2K23 – but I’m not a basketball superfan. For me, its appeal extends far beyond shooting hoops and into the culture and fashion (specifically, sneakers) surrounding it. On the court, Visual Concepts and 2K’s coveted NBA series is the best in the biz. From its deft interpretations of the sport’s biggest stars, past and present – like Golden State’s ‘splash triplets’, Curry, Clay, and Poole; and perhaps the most iconic sportsperson of all time, Michael Jordan – to its in-game commentary, half-time performances, and courtside analysis; it really is the quintessential reimagining of the real deal. 

“However much you love FIFA or its tortured artist cousin eFootball, hand on heart it never looks true to the real thing. NBA 2K23 is different,” said Phil Iwaniuk in GamesRadar’s NBA 2K23 preview earlier this year, referencing the action on the hardwood. For me, the same can be said of the game’s quieter moments. And as such, it’s away from the actual basketball that I’ve found a home. 

Sneakerhead culture 

Why I love NBA 2K23 despite not really caring about basketball

Michael Jordan wearing the Air Jordan 3s in an NBA 2K23 trailer (Image credit: 2K Games)

You see, I’m a sneakerhead, and there is no sport in the world that overlaps with shoe culture quite as much as basketball. Over the last 10 years, the mainstream appeal of streetwear has skyrocketed, particularly among athletes, especially basketball players – to the point where analyzing the pre-match and off-court attire of the most famous stars has become as much a part of the game today as the game itself. 

The working-class, ground-level origins of streetwear closely reflect those of basketball – especially streetball, and the heady days of the AND1 early-2000s golden era – however, big-money sponsorships (i.e. Steph Curry’s recent Under Armour lifetime deal), player-specific silhouettes (e.g. the Air Jordan line), and high-profile collaborations (such as the late Virgil Abloh’s Off-White x Nike collection) have only accentuated the appeal (and resale value) of the latest kicks in the modern era. Mirroring the styles and looks of celebrities is hardly a new concept, but sneakerhead culture is now intrinsically linked with basketball – whether you enjoy the sport itself or not. 

I’m interested in seeing Jordan lift his first-ever Championship with the Chicago Bulls, wearing his now iconic ‘Black Infrared’ Air Jordan 6s.

Why I love NBA 2K23 despite not really caring about basketball

Devin Booker wearing Nike Kobe 4s in an NBA 2K23 trailer (Image credit: 2K Games)

In NBA 2K23, then, I’m not that fussed about dropping dimes like Scottie Pippen, dribbling like Kyrie, soaring like Mike, or nailing buzzing beaters in the style of Kobe or LeBron, but I am interested in the shoes. I’m interested in its The Last Dance-aping return of The Jordan Challenge and seeing the GOAT strut his stuff for North Carolina at the 1982 NCAA finals in a pair of battered blue and white Converse. I’m interested in seeing him lift his first-ever Championship with the Chicago Bulls, wearing his now iconic ‘Black Infrared’ Air Jordan 6s. I’m interested in seeing him clinch his five other titles in his Jordan 7s (1992), Jordan 8s (1993), Jordan 11s (1996), Jordan 12s (1997), and Jordan 14s (1998). I’m interested in chasing my own big money shoe deal in the present day’s MyCareer – starting out as a keen but average franchise player who tells the media he wants to be the next Larry Bird at the Celtics, but who secretly just wants to cop the Nike Kobe 6 Protro ‘Grinch’ colorway because, chef kiss, they’re just so beautiful on-foot.

Just like the real thing, cultivating your own brand is a key part of MyCareer in NBA 2K23, and brand endorsements out on the field are a surefire way to boost your income and popularity among fans. Naturally, in order to catch the eye of the biggest manufacturers and nail down the most lucrative contracts, you need to do a fair bit of actual basketballing. Nike, it turns out, isn’t interested in investing in talentless butterfingers, but it is willing to dip the quill for a player who’s ascertained 420,000 Fans, 6 Corporate Levels, and 10 Solo Players levels. The Jordan brand, on the other hand, is willing to talk after achieving 415,000 Fans, 9 Flashy Levels, and 9 Fashion Levels; while Adidas is looking for someone with 390,000 Fans, 8 Free Spirit Levels, and 10 Music Levels. All of this requires a fair bit of on-court grinding, but as such has me playing as though NBA 2K23 is an RPG and not a sports simulator.

Teach a shoe dog new tricks 

Why I love NBA 2K23 despite not really caring about basketball

(Image credit: 2K)

Which strikes at the heart of what I enjoy most about NBA 2K23: I see it as a story generator, beyond its technical capabilities and realistic reflection of its real-world source material. I’m delighted for all the keen basketball fans (and, admittedly, a wee bit jealous) who are reveling in the subtle tweaks their favorite series’ latest installment has brought to the table: the finely-tuned adjustments to famous players’ movements, traits, and skill sets; the smarter AI; the most refined interpretation of the sport from the TV studio to the locker room, the court, the boardroom and back again. 

But it’s the wider cultural stuff – the aspect of the game that I enjoy in the real world – that’s sunk its hooks into me. Marilyn Monroe once said: “Give the girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world”. I’ll be sure to quote her when I’m lifting my first NBA 2K23 Championship, sponsored by Nike with my own line of sneakers.

For more athletic action, check out our best sports games you can play right now.

Joe Donnelly

Features Writer, GamesRadar+

Joe is a Features Writer at GamesRadar+. With over five years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.

TECH NEWS RELATED

God of War Ragnarok players agree: this Berserker boss fight is "absolutely atrocious"

Svipdagr the Cold can get in the bin along with her sisters

View more: God of War Ragnarok players agree: this Berserker boss fight is "absolutely atrocious"

How to evolve Applin into Appletun in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet

Screenshot by Gamepur There is no shortage of useful Dragon Pokémon that you can find in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. From the legendary rideable Koraidon and Miraidon to the mainstays in the series with the Dragonite evolution line, you can find a good Dragon to join your team in ...

View more: How to evolve Applin into Appletun in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet

How to get Bloody Tokens in World of Warcraft: Dragonflight

As the Dragon Isles emerge from the mists in World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, new currencies are also arriving. Some new currencies, such as Bloody Tokens, are only available under certain circumstances while traveling across the Dragon Isles. Here’s how to find Bloody Tokens within Dragonflight. Finding Bloody Tokens in ...

View more: How to get Bloody Tokens in World of Warcraft: Dragonflight

Type or Die Codes (December 2022)

Image via Type or Die In Type of Die, you want to build up blocks by typing in as many long-word answers as possible and avoid getting caught by the rising lava. The more blocks you can build and the further you can survive in the competition, the more ...

View more: Type or Die Codes (December 2022)

Best Alchemy Specialization in Dragonflight – WoW Alchemy Guide

Screenshot by Pro Game Guides Professions have undergone a serious overhaul in World of Warcraft with the Dragonflight expansion. Alchemy, Engineering, and the rest now have specializations, much like expansions long since passed. Dependent on the profession, players can specialize in three to four specs by investing Knowledge Points. ...

View more: Best Alchemy Specialization in Dragonflight – WoW Alchemy Guide

How to make a Crossbow Arbalest in Valheim

Screenshot by Pro Game Guides The Arbalest is a ranged weapon that functions as a crossbow in Valheim’s Midland update. Arbalests also feature decent Pierce and Knockback damage, thus making it a good pick for boss fights. That said, here’s our guide on how to make an Arbalest in ...

View more: How to make a Crossbow Arbalest in Valheim

Fortnite Chapter 4 Season 1: Every New Change You Need to Know - IGN

Fortnite Chapter 4 Season 1 started off with another galactic event that had everyone rebuilding the new Fortnite Island. Here's everything you need to know about the new Fortnite chapter and battlepass including Doomslayer, Geralt of Rivia, and more!

View more: Fortnite Chapter 4 Season 1: Every New Change You Need to Know - IGN

PSA: Remember to safeguard your armor slots before the new Destiny 2 season starts tomorrow

'Pregnant' smuggler caught after 200 CPUs are found in her prosthetic belly

After more than 5 years, Nvidia’s GTX 1060 is no longer Steam’s most-used GPU

Microsoft games like Starfield will cost $70 starting next year

Callisto Protocol devs say “damn clerical error” caused PC frame rate issues

Disney Dreamlight Valley "Missions In Uncharted Space" Update Patch Notes Are Now Live

Grab 4 Cool Steam Games For Just $4, Including An Awesome 3D Metroidvania

Get 8 Steam Deck Games For $10 With The New Play On The Go Bundle

The Witcher 3 Next-Gen Patch Fixes Its Most Famous In-Joke

How to complete the Mythic Blade Collection Challenge in Pokémon Go

Overwatch 2 Changes Season 2 Battle Pass to Unlock New Hero Faster

How to get the Shockwave Hammer in Fortnite

Microsoft’s price hike on Xbox games will apply to PC, Steam

OTHER TECH NEWS

Top Car News Car News