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Whether you’re a basketball enthusiast, Chicago Bulls fan, or simply enjoyed “The Last Dance,” NBA 2K23 has something for you.
The newest edition of the popular video game, which hits shelves Friday, Sept. 9, features a fresh spin on an old game mode. Originally debuted in 2K11, the “Jordan Challenge” will return this year, allowing users to play out 15 iconic moments from Michael Jordan’s basketball career themselves.
“It was a passion project,” VP of NBA Development at 2K and Visual Concepts Entertainment Erick Boenisch said on the Bulls Talk Podcast.
The result is new and improved in more ways than one.
Not only have five Jordan-specific challenges been added for users to relive, 2K developers also pored over the ancillary components of the game experience. Each challenge features broadcast elements specific to that moment’s time period — from video filters to recreate the television feel of the 1980s and 1990s, to in-arena advertisements that mirror the era’s corporate sponsors. There are also pre-challenge interviews with key figures from Jordan’s career, including Phil Jackson, Dennis Rodman and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar.
Developers even tracked down old Bulls public address announcer Ray Clay to record his full introductory set, complete with “Sirius” by the Alan Parsons Project.
The goal, Boenisch says, is to entertain and educate a segment of basketball fans that didn’t get to experience Jordan’s career for themselves.
“In 2K23, we have an entire new generation of NBA fans playing our 2K video game,” Boenisch said. “And the difference with this generation is, these kids didn’t grow up watching Michael play. They’ve never seen him play live. They’ve seen the clips, they’ve seen his tongue hang out on dunks, the free-throw line (dunk). Their recollection of him is very different from, at least mine. This was a great chance for us to retell the history of the greatest basketball player of all time to that whole new generation of fans.”
Here are the 15 moments NBA 2K23 players will have access to upon purchasing the game:
2. 1984 Team USA Scrimmage: Before traveling to Los Angeles for the 1984 Olympics, a Team USA squad headlined by Jordan played a handful of exhibition games. The one depicted here was the most significant, a matchup against a team featuring NBA stars Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas and Kevin McHale at the Hoosier Dome that shattered the American attendance record for a basketball game at the time with 67,596 fans.
3. ‘God Disguised as Michael Jordan’ (1986): A 22-year-old Jordan truly arrived on the NBA stage at this moment, in Game 2 of a first-round series against the mighty Boston Celtics. Despite the Bulls falling in double-overtime, Jordan dropped 63 points, which is still the NBA’s single-game playoff scoring record. It prompted Larry Bird to refer to the Bulls superstar as “God disguised as Michael Jordan.”
4. NBA All-Star Game (1988): The first of Jordan’s three career All-Star MVPs. Suited up alongside Bird, Thomas, Dominique Wilkins and Moses Malone, Jordan scored 40 points on 17-for-23 shooting in a win over a Western Conference squad starring Magic Johnson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Karl Malone.
5. ‘The Shot’ (1989): Tied 2-2 and facing a do-or-die Game 5 — on the road — against the heavily-favored Cleveland Cavaliers, Jordan rose up and drained a buzzer-beating jumper over Craig Ehlo to send the Bulls to the second round of the playoffs. That swish marked the last of Jordan’s 44 points for the evening, and the shot combined with his leaping fist-pump afterwards endures to this day as one of his most iconic moments.
6. Hawks at Bulls (1990): One of many head-to-head battles between Jordan and Dominique Wilkins. Jordan averaged 31.6 points in games against Wilkins in his career, winning 27 of 45 matchups.
7. A career night in Cleveland (1990): In leading the Bulls to a 117-113 road win over the Cavaliers on March 28, 1990, Jordan posted career-highs in points (69) and rebounds (18) that both endured through the rest of his career.
8. ‘The Jordan Rules’ (1990): A chance to battle it out with the “Bad Boy Pistons,” the greatest rival of Jordan’s NBA career, in Game 3 of the 1990 Eastern Conference finals. In this challenge, keep an eye out for unconventional defensive tactics like hand-checking and illegal body hits. This was the infamous strategy employed by the Pistons to slow down Jordan in his younger years, and is recreated in the game to convey the physicality of old-school basketball.
9. NBA Finals Game 5, 1991: The Bulls, led by a 27-year-old Jordan, finally ascend to the NBA’s mountaintop with a Finals-clinching victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
10. The Shrug (1992): Another one of Jordan’s most memorable snapshots. After draining an NBA record six 3-pointers in the first half of Game 1 of the 1992 Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers, all the Bulls superstar could do was shrug his shoulders, in awe of even his own greatness.
11. The Double Nickel (1995): In just his fifth game back from his baseball hiatus, Jordan dropped 55 points at Madison Square Garden against Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks. A grand re-entry.
12. NBA Finals Game 6, 1996: Not only did a win over the Seattle SuperSonics in this game clinch perhaps the greatest team season in NBA history, it also wrapped a heavyweight matchup with Gary Payton — a Hall-of-Fame guard and legendary defender that Jordan still found a way to eke out.
13. ‘The Flu Game’ (1997): Was it bad pizza? A hangover? Or truly the flu? It hardly matters now, as Jordan’s 38-point performance while battling illness in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals is as iconic as it gets. The Bulls would close out the Utah Jazz to claim their fifth title in seven years one game later.
14. Passing the torch (1997): A chance to square off with a young Kobe Bryant in Bryant’s second NBA season. The Lakers star scored 33 points off the bench in a stellar performance, but Jordan dropped 36 in a 21-point Bulls victory, reminding all who was the master and who the padawan.
15. ‘The Last Dance’ (1998): Jordan’s last act as a Chicago Bull befit his GOAT status. Trailing 86-85 with just over 20 seconds to play, Jordan swatted a steal out of the hands of Karl Malone, then dribbled back the other way to drain a dagger over a sprawled Bryon Russell to put Chicago ahead 87-86 and, moments later, clinch their dynasty’s sixth and final championship.
With apologies to Wizards fans, that’s all folks.
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