For reference, here’s the 15 legends and teams that NBA 2K12 had (with additional HOFers on each team in brackets):
- Bill Russell – 1965 Celtics (Sam Jones, Tom Heinsohn, John Havlicek) vs 1965 Lakers (Jerry West, Elgin Baylor)
- Oscar Robertson – 1971 Bucks (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Dandridge) vs 1971 Hawks (Pete Maravich)
- Jerry West – 1971 Lakers (Elgin Baylor, Gail Goodrich, Wilt Chamberlain) vs 1971 Bucks (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson)
- Wilt Chamberlain – 1972 Lakers (Jerry West, Gail Goodrich) vs 1972 Knicks (Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Earl Monroe, Bill Bradley, Dave Debusschere)
- Dr J – 1985 76ers (Moses Malone, Maurice Cheeks, Charles Barkley) vs 1985 Bucks (Sidney Moncrief)
- Larry Bird – 1986 Celtics (Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, Bill Walton) vs 1986 Hawks (Dominique Wilkins)
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 1987 Lakers (Magic Johnson, James Worthy) vs 1987 Celtics (Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, Bill Walton)
- Isiah Thomas – 1989 Pistons (Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman) vs 1989 Bulls (Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen)
- Magic Johnson – 1991 Lakers (James Worthy) vs 1991 Trailblazers (Clyde Drexler, Drazen Petrovic)
- Scottie Pippen – 1993 Bulls (Michael Jordan) vs 1993 Hornets (Alonzo Mourning)
- Hakeem Olajuwon – 1994 Rockets vs 1994 Nuggets (Dikembe Mutombo)
- Patrick Ewing – 1995 Knicks vs 1995 Magic (Shaq)
- Michael Jordan – 1996 Bulls (Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman) vs 1996 Sonics (Gary Payton)
- Karl Malone – 1998 Jazz (John Stockton) vs 1998 Lakers (Shaq, Kobe Bryant)
- John Stockton – 1998 Jazz (Karl Malone) vs 1998 Spurs (David Robinson, Tim Duncan)
How 2K12 chose their 15 players is interesting to me – I mean they mostly got it right except for the off inclusion of Patrick Ewing who I don’t think anybody besides hardcore Knicks fans would really include as a top 15 player all time. Using the 1985 76ers is also an odd inclusion but it’s most likely because they wanted to get Charles Barkley in (but eventually couldn’t due to licensing issues) – the 1983 version is almost better in every way.
So here’s what I would change to get it up to speed to 2019 (and assuming I have all the licenses of every NBA legend including notoriously Charles Barkley who has been reluctant to include himself in NBA games for years)
- Bill Russell – 1960 Celtics (Sam Jones, Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, Bill Sharman) vs 1960 Hawks (Bob Pettit, Cliff Hagan) – I chose the 1960 team because it gives us Cousy and Sharman and we get to see the perennially underrated Bob Pettit as well
- Oscar Robertson – 1971 Bucks (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Dandridge) vs 1971 Hawks (Pete Maravich) – I have no problems with keeping this matchup the same
- Wilt Chamberlain – 1967 76ers (Chet Walker, Hal Greer, Billy Cunningham) vs 1967 Warriors (Rick Barry, Nate Thurmond) – not only is this Wilt’s best team but we get a whopping 5 new HOFers because of it! Have no idea why 2K didn’t use this team in 2K12.
- Jerry West – 1970 Lakers (Elgin Baylor, Gail Goodrich, Wilt Chamberlain) vs 1970 Knicks (Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Dave Debusschere, Bill Bradley) – Why not the 1972 version? because I want to keep Elgin Baylor that’s why
- Dr J – 1983 76ers (Moses Malone, Bobby Jones, Maurice Cheeks) vs 1983 Bucks (Sidney Moncrief, Bob Lanier, Marques Johnson) – The 1983 version is strictly better than the 1985 version and gives us Bobby Jones as well. Same with the Bucks we get 2 extra HOFers there too.
- Larry Bird – 1986 Celtics (Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, Bill Walton) vs 1986 Rockets (Hakeem Olajuwon, Ralph Sampson) – changing the Hawks to the Rockets, sorry Dominique and sorry Hakeem you’re not headlining a spot anymore
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 1985 Lakers (Magic Johnson, Bob McAdoo, Jamaal Wilkes) vs 1985 Celtics (Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson) – It makes sense for this to be the 1985 Lakers because it’s Kareem’s favorite Showtime team and the one he won Finals MVP with, and also gets us McAdoo and Wilkes as well.
- Magic Johnson – 1988 Lakers (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy) vs 1988 Pistons (Isiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Joe Dumars, Adrian Dantley) – Sorry Isiah I demoted you from headline status but you still get a secondary role as Magic’s opponent
- Michael Jordan – 1993 Bulls (Scottie Pippen) vs 1993 Suns (Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson) – This is when MJ was at his peak – and we just gotta include a Barkley team so this is it
- Karl Malone – 1998 Jazz (John Stockton) vs 1998 Spurs (David Robinson, Tim Duncan) – keeping this one more or less as is
Removed Patrick Ewing, demoted Hakeem, Isiah, Stockton and Pippen to make way for:
11. John Havlicek – 1976 Celtics (Dave Cowens, Jo Jo White) vs 1976 Bullets (Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Dave Bing) – we get a whopping 5 new HOFers to play with in this matchup!
12. Shaq – 2001 Lakers (Kobe Bryant) vs 2001 76ers (Allen Iverson, Dikembe Mutombo) – this is clearly the best team of the Shaq-Kobe Lakers and we get the ever popular Iverson here as well
13. Kobe Bryant – 2008 Lakers (Pau Gasol) vs 2008 Celtics (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo) – we get an extra 5 HoFers added in this matchup as well
14. Lebron James – 2013 Heat (Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen) vs 2013 Spurs (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard) – we get probably the best matchup between the two leading dynasties of the era and a whopping 8 HoFers playing in this matchup!
15. Stephen Curry – 2018 Warriors (Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green) vs 2018 Rockets (James Harden, Chris Paul) – the Rockets were the toughest matchup for the Warriors Dynasty (sorry Cavs) and this way we get a good 6 HoFers out of it. Sorry KD I put Curry as the headliner because he was the de facto leader of the dynasty.
That’s the 15 teams I would choose for the next ‘Legends’ showcase I think these are better choices and add considerably more depth and more HoF talent for players to play with