The NBA playoffs are in their latter stages now as the conference finals continue to progress. The defending champions, and now the team with the best regular-season record of all time (73 wins in 82 games), the Golden State Warriors, are on the ropes against the Oklahoma City Thunder, while the Toronto Raptors have evened their series against the heavily favored Cleveland Cavaliers. Meanwhile, this Los Angeles Lakers fan sat through a miserable regular season: the worst in Lakers history, and the last in the illustrious career of guard Kobe Bryant.
Bryant is arguably the closest player to Michael Jordan the NBA has seen since Jordan's second (and final) retirement in 2003. He entered the league in 1996 and won five championships in L.A., from 2000-2002 and 2009-2010. Injuries massively reduced his effectiveness in the final seasons of his career, but he left the basketball world on a high note, scoring 60 points in his final NBA game in April.
Kobe won't be on the court next year, but he will live on in the excellent NBA 2K series. The Legend Edition of NBA 2K17 features Kobe on the cover, a position held by none other than Jordan last year. The Legend Edition comes with a wealth of Kobe-related content, both physical and digital, but as of yet there hasn't been any indication that the game will include a dedicated mode. However, a precedent has already been set in this regard, and a good one at that: in NBA 2K11, a game which again featured Jordan on the cover, 2K included two popular Jordan-themed game modes.
The first was the "Jordan Challenge," a series of ten iconic moments from Jordan's career wherein players were challenged to match his accomplishments or surpass them. Completing the "Jordan Challenge" (or using a cheat code) unlocked the second mode, "MJ: Creating a Legend," where players were given the opportunity to take control of a rookie Michael Jordan and place him on any modern roster of their choosing, then play out his entire career. In addition, all the old Chicago Bulls rosters, along with those of the teams they faced in the "Jordan Challenge," were made playable in other game modes.
These game modes resonated with fans, and even though the number of classic team rosters offered with each subsequent installment has continued to grow, they remain memorable. When I consider all of this, and Kobe's recent retirement, I come to a simple conclusion: I want to see a "Kobe Challenge" in NBA 2K17. I mean, it feels like a no-brainer: the third-highest scorer in NBA history and an icon has just left the game; why not give fans and all players the chance to relive his best moments and use some great classic teams in the process?
And to be sure, there are plenty of moments to choose from: Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals, his 48-point game against Sacramento in the 2001 playoffs, his 81-point game against Toronto in 2006 (the second-most points scored in a single game in NBA history), his 62 against Dallas in three quarters during the same season, the 2010 Finals, his last game this year...the list goes on and on. Considering that most of the advertising for the game has centered on Kobe--as the above promotional video demonstrates--I would be genuinely surprised if there isn't some sort of gameplay addition for him this year, whether it be some classic teams (I keep waiting for that 2009-2010 Lakers team...), an entire game mode, or both.
NBA 2K16 was a strong offering, and another reason to believe that the NBA 2K series might be the best sports game franchise on the market. Considering how passionate and talented the 2K team is, a "Kobe Challenge" mode seems like the perfect addition to this year's iteration, and perhaps the chance to take an already great game and make it legendary.