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NBA 2K11

Michael Jordan would not be amused.

I've just spent the better part of an hour unintentionally desecrating his name. See, I picked up NBA 2K11 today. And the moment I popped the disc in, I was suddenly smack-dab in the middle of Game 1 of the 1991 NBA Finals, controlling MJ's Bulls against the Los Angeles Lakers.

It did not go well.

I promise I didn't do it on purpose. I mean, I wouldn't put it past me. I'm a lifelong Utah Jazz fan, and I'd sooner eat my John Stockton jerseys than help Michael Jordan do anything. (Yes, it's been 12 years since the Bulls beat the Jazz in the Finals. For the second time. And I'm still bitter.)

This is simply what NBA 2K11 requires of you. No tutorial, no introduction, no explanation of game modes. Just a brief cutscene of His Airness and suddenly you're watching the announcement of the starting lineups. A moment after that you're tipping off.

A few visual cues and instructions help you along, but for the most part you're forced to learn on the fly. Either that or 2K Sports expects that everyone who buys this year's version has played the series before and knows the controls. As for me, I haven't played a 2K basketball title since 2005.

Let's just say my Michael wasn't exactly himself.

(In fact, announcer Kevin Harlan told me exactly that. Thanks for rubbing it in, Kevin.)

 

Michael Jordan

I can't really blame him, though. Harlan's commentary is part of 2K11's sparkling presentation, including fluid animations, crisp in-game stat graphics, and quick instant replays.

None of that matters if you can't ball, though. And at first, my performance would have rivaled Jordan's baseball career. Long outlet passes on the fast break? Forget them. The A.I. defense sticks a paw into every passing lane at just the right moment. Easy layups? Not gonna happen. Defensive positioning is vital; if an opponent is between you and the basket, you'll get swatted. And hitting the sprint button in close quarters just means you're begging for an offensive foul.

Once you get accustomed, however, 2K11 starts to shine. Teammates cut to the basket intelligently, making it easy to dish the rock from the post for a layup. A high screen will almost always get you an open midrange jumper. And the shot stick feels natural, letting you release step-back fadeaways, running floaters in the lane, and spin moves depending on your location relative to the basket.

MJ

That's not to say I actually made the shots I took. By the time I started figuring this stuff out, Magic's Lakers had opened up a double-digit lead on me. And while my MJ finished with 25 points, most came in the fourth quarter when it was too late.

So history stayed unchanged. (The Lakers really did win Game 1 of the '91 Finals, before the Bulls swept the next four games for the championship.) And Michael was surely displeased. Well, I'm sorry, Michael. I let you down.

(Meh. He'll get over it. Jerk.)