Why is it that some of the things we love are also the most frustrating? The idea of a labor of love is all too true for most folks in one aspect of their lives. It can apply to dating, marriage, work, friendships, watching sports, social media, school, parenting; you get the point.

The list of lovably annoying activities is endless, and it can vary from person to person. But what I am here to tell you, the reader (yes, you), is that there is but one “joyful” endeavor that takes the cake in terms of infuriating infatuation.  No matter what you think is the most maddening piece of enjoyment is, it comes in a distant second to this emotional, brain-wrenching, often-inconceivable piece of “fun.”

Fucking NBA 2K.

This fucking game, man. I don’t fucking get it. I will never get it. It is IMPOSSIBLE to fucking understand! Has there ever been a more confounding video game ever conceived on the planet? Before you think…THE ANSWER IS NO.

Now, before everyone reads this and gets bloodshot red eyes of hatred, let me just preface this entire blog with this. I am by no means a snob of video games. I play when I can, and often it is titles that are years past their prime (i.e. I just beat the Witcher 3 and GOT THE MOST DEPRESSING ENDING POSSIBLE…but it hasn’t affected me personally, no.). I am also no slouch when it comes to video games. I am an average player in most regards; possibly slightly above average in a few titles downright dreadful in few others (we don’t talk about Bloodborne). The only game I currently have on my PS4 right now that is current is…2K20.

Now to the game at hand.

NBA 2K is a fine game. I enjoy it very much. I play it online with my friends quite a bit, whether it be 1v1, 2v2 or even…3v3 (yes it is an utter shit show almost all the time). The friends with whom I play, also vary in talent. The cast of characters who join me on the boiling cauldron of exasperation are as follows:

BUZZI: He is good at the game. Basically guaranteed 20+ points per game. Just good at video games in general
RITZ: The king of The Jungle. Also the king of the smack talk. Also very good.
STEVE: Lurker in the shadows. Thrives on the screens and defense. Can’t hit a three-point shot ever (according to himself)
TOMMY: HAS to be point guard. Pass first for sure, but camp often interferes
STANKO: Feast or famine…and let’s be real the competition is often leaving me leftovers
MCGINNITY: New to the game. No such thing as a bad shot in his mind.
RONAN: Any time he comes on it’s like Christmas morning

The gang of us play 2K nearly every other day, typically late afternoon or very late evening. A simple “👀” or “Games?” in the group chat sends everyone a scurrying like rats when the lights are turned on. We emerge from our basements of work and pick up the sticks, climb into the light of our TV screens and hear the magical “beep” of the PS4 turning on.

Now, everyone who plays the game KNOWS that there are certain instances that DEMAND phrases be mentioned. For example:

“The Jungle”

This is where Ritz lives. It is his domain. No player dares enter this carnivorous ravine of broken self-esteem unless he/she is ready to be battered. Normal people call this area “The Paint”, but that does not do it justice. In 2K it is The Jungle. There are random attacks of alley-oops from everywhere. Blocked shots are not the exception, but rather the expectation. The Jungle is where the deadly offensive rebound kick-out three originate. The Jungle is where a man’s metal is tested, and often twisted.

“He’s A Shooter!!!”

Whenever someone not that great takes a shot and is obviously going to knock it down.

“Eating Popcorn”

This is when someone is lagging. Either their Internet connection stinks, or Mrs. Simon is running electrical interference. The lagging usually involves the controlled player running into the stands, up the stairs, to the concessions where he buys buttery popcorn before teleporting back to a random place on the court.

QUICK STORY TIME

While this self-quarantine lifestyle I had to move back home for two weeks in between moving into a new apartment. I have not lived with my parents for an extended period of time in five years, so an adjustment was going to happen for sure.

Both my parents are working from home during this time, so an immediate change was that I could not be as loud or vocal when playing games. Another one was that the Internet connected was…well let’s just say it was slower than I was used to. Amazingly, I could still sign on and play, granted with more popcorn eating time.

The biggest problem was that whenever my parents used any of the microwaves in the house, the Wifi would become as choppy as the storm in The Perfect Storm (2000). There was a time I was playing and my parents were using the microwave to heat up some vegetables for dinner at like 5:15 (yes they eat very early). It was so bad that I literally could not do anything at all. The party chat was cutting in an out, and the only thing I could hear was my friends laughing at what was happening.

Eventually I was just booted from the game. The connection was so bad my PS4 and the servers were like NAHHHHH. I go upstairs frustrated and just wanting to spy on whatever my parents were scorching in the microwave. Low and behold, what do I see, but my parents having ordered a new microwave. They were literally testing a new microwave. Literally testing the power and if it worked. I could not believe it. I sent the picture to my friends who were still online, and I can only imagine the cackling that erupted.

I was eating popcorn the worst I ever have in 2K because my parents were testing the popcorn button on their brand new microwave.


“Guard Me”

DISCLAIMER: This usually means there is no guarding or defense happening at all. When there is a player vs. player battle in an online game, there is obviously some built in individual competition. “Guard Me” is usually the first line of trash talk that is followed immediately by a very hardy “MHHHMMM” from the teammate of the dominating player. “Guard Me” can be stated at any moment of the game, whether it be the first basket of the game, or the final game-winning basket.

“Grundle”

Basically, who is getting the grundle. It is a taunt to those who have no conviction about who they want to match up with in the pregame menu. It is also said in game when a player won’t attack the paint or enter The Jungle; i.e. the controlled player does not want the grundle that The Jungle brings with it.

It should be noted that one can also give the grundle. Dunking on someone is giving them the grundle. Placing lock down defense one someone is giving them the grundle. Giving an emphatic block is giving someone the grundle.

“NO NO NO”

There is a rule to this phrase. You MUST utter the “NO NO NO” in the voice of Dikembe Mutombo. There has the be the gravelly texture to it, no if, ands or buts. “NO NO NO” is not limited to when Mutombo plays, it can be for any block.


QUICK STORY TIME


Ritz is a married man. His lovely and incredibly (like remarkably) patient wife Mo was on a Zoom conference call with co-workers during the most beloved time of Day Time Games, or DTG for short. In a true lapse of judgement, it was decided that the All-Time Hawks were to be played with, which means that Ritz could play as Mutombo himself. Now, here is where I illuminate the fact that Ritz can be animated on the headset.

I think we can all see where this is going.

Playing as the one and only Mutombo, Ritz released an emphatic “NO NO NO” from deep in his core. His bellow left echoes throughout his home, reverberating along the walls, even shaking the wind chimes by the front door. In the midst of his own bliss, Ritz did not realize this amplified howl of satisfaction and bliss made its way onto the Zoom call of his hard-working spouse.

The rest is told from the trustworthy words of Mo; her co-workers were bamboozled by the sound that came from her living room. They did not hear words, only the grunting lunacy of a mad man who was finger-wagging himself into high-heaven. Mo had to apologize to her co-workers, and one can only imagine the hand-on-hip “Who did I marry?” side-eye that she gave to Ritz upon sauntering out to the den.


Obviously, anyone who has played 2K uses those phrases above. They are in the universal dictionary of the game. There are other phrases often said, but not as original. A few follow below:

“WHY!?”
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”
“WHY DID YOU STOP RUNNING?!”
“WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT SHIT?!”
“SHOOOOTTTT IT!”
“I didn’t call for it. I swear, I didn’t call for it.”
“Tom Chambers sucks.”

Playing 2K is about playing with friends and screaming out some of the aforementioned phrases. When the “👀” or “games?” is send in the group chat, the inkling rises until all the peer pressure finally engulfs you. But once you get into the game, once you have the tip-off, there is one universal thought: “Why the hell do I play this game?”

2K is SO INFURIATING. The AI is just beyond stupid at times, and a certain player by the name of Carmelo Anthony is the worst of the worst.

This exact scenario happened twice: team down by three, last possession. Melo has chance to to tie it with a legit good look, BUT INSTEAD HE DRIBBLES IN TO TAKE A LAYUP. For goodness gracious sake Melo, have some basketball IQ would you?

The AI is just a disaster. If you allow the computer to play as the point guard, you are going to have to deal with a hollow ball because of all the dribbling. If you are on a fast break and think “hey, that AI will keep running out to the open corner,” they will undoubtedly cut it into the paint which results in a dumb ass shot. If you think there is no shot of an alley-oop happening, they will DEFINITELY call for one and put up some hogwash.

There are so many annoying things about the AI. When the computer controlled players just dribble the ball for 15 seconds when you are calling for it; When on a fast break and YOU KNOW it’s gonna be a bad shot taken by an AI but they ignore the fact you are calling for a pass; When the computer controlled post player decides it’d be cool to hang out at the top of the key or on the perimeter rather than being down low; When 2K just arbitrarily decides when to call three seconds in the paint (sometimes you have enough time to write out a scientific theory while other times you can’t even blink).

Despite the absolute lack of any consistency from the computer operated players, playing 2K is still a very enjoyable experience (for the most part). The game’s lack of realism is part of what makes it so appealing. Where else would Dirk Nowitzki take running layup from the three point line? Where else would passes happen that simply phase through a players body and happenstance puts it the hands of the awaiting big man? Where else would the “operation run toward baseline that cut in sharply for baseline drive” play work every single time?

Only in 2K.


Personally speaking, I have not touched any “my player” mode in 2K for YEARS because the story is always too convoluted and the dialogue is more simplistic than my own dictionary skills. The only way to play 2K is online, with friends, whether it be in match ups…or in an online league!

Ritz is the commissioner of the RBL, The Reeeeeem Basketball League, which features four of us who did our own fantasy draft and played through a shortened season. It is a ton of fun going through the 29 games, playing every team once then testing our metal in the postseason. Regrettably…the Indiana Pacers (myself) did not make it out of the first round BC LEBRON JAMES IN UNSTOPPABLE. I am not good enough to beat him. Plain and simple.

Whether or not you are talented at the game, the key with 2K is to spice things up and keep it from getting stale. My friends and I started out playing with the normal teams, experiencing the highs of playing with the talent of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the lows of watching Luguentz Dort hurl up shots for the Oklahoma City Thunder. DORT DORT DORT DORT!

We then upgraded to play with the all-time teams…which led to a lot of new developments. This is where the “NO NO NO” Mutombo erupted into being. This is where we discovered that Oscar Robertson is very good at basketball…and when Buzzi plays at him it is just unfair. Also Jerry Lucas is the greatest knockdown three-point shooter of all-time.

More importantly, Ben Wallace became a jump shooting specialist when played by Ronan. Wilt Chamberlin is the lankiest, most impossible AI to contain and arguably the only foil to Ritz in The Jungle. And let us not forget…that Tony Allen (yes that Tony Allen of the Grizzlies) is on Memphis’ all-time team. AMAZING. When we discovered this, I wish we recorded Ritz giving his immediate take. It was an all-time rant. Nothing against Tony Allen…but I mean…that’s scrapping the barrel in terms of legacy selections, no?

But most importantly with the 2K20 all-time teams, The Reeeeeem learned that Elton Brand is lethal from beyond the arc. Yes. That Elton Brand on the Los Angeles Clippers.

A three-point shooter you ask? Why yes, only naturally. It started when Steve and I played as the Clippers against Buzzi and Ritz, who were the Dallas Mavericks. Somehow the third and fourth best players in this scenario could not get a win. Our game plan was to endlessly feed Brand who decided it was best to lurk in the corners at all times. Now, 2K may say he is a D+ three-point shooter (a 59 rating according to multiple online sources), but from personal experience I can assure you he is much better than that! Trust Steve and I when we say that when he takes 26 shots in a game, he is rather effective.

I can not tell you the pure relief that happened when the Clippers took down the Mavericks. But from all the chaos those multiple match-ups brought, there are a few tidbits that can be glimmered.

1.) James Donaldson is a large, large man
2.) Bob McAdoo does not take shots at all unless it’s on the fast break
3.) This version of Blake Griffin does not have a jump shot
4.) Elton Brand is knockdown three-point shooter. He also loves to foul. A lot.
5.) The back-up point guard for the Los Angeles Clippers is World B. Free. Yes that is a name and yes he is an all-time player. He appeared in one all-star game.


I have mentioned a few times how Ritz and Buzzi often play with each other, which is the stupidest thing that we continuously let happen. The pair are the two most talented at the game of 2K compared everyone else in our friend group.

Buzzi can score anytime and anywhere, specially with a powerful or shifty point guard; if you give him Oscar Robertson, Damian Lillard or John Wall…well go grab some alcohol because that is the only way you’ll be able to deal with whats about to unfold.

Ritz, the king of The Jungle, is a walking double-double juggernaut. He could play with anyone (even Big Z on Cleveland) against anyone (Shaq on the Magic for example) and still come away with a 22 point, 12 rebound, 4 assist, 3 block game. Ritz is a lock for a double-double, and is often on a triple-double watch. Do NOT let him play as Anthony Davis because you will have a bad, bad, bad time.

Just to illustrate how good Buzzi and Ritz are together, there was a game where they score 90 points together. NINETY points, in standard six minute quarter, all-star difficulty mode. 90 points. Nine. Zero. Write those two numbers together, no space in between and that is what Ritz and Buzzi scored.

HERE IS THE PROOF

Buzzi playing as Dame Lillard and Ritz as Bill Walton. I mean that is just absurd. Poor T-Si and McGinninty. They didn’t stand a chance. No defense what so ever.

If I can toot my own horn for just a moment, I think I do the best job at containing Buzzi. Not saying it is every time, but of anyone human vs. human match up, I think I hold my own defensively better than most. But with that being said, there is a play that can not be stopped. Mike Ritz has perfected the hail mary outlet pass. I don’t know how he channels his inner Doug Flutie so often, but often Buzzi is the Gerard Phelan receiving it and laying it up and in. It is infuriating.

It doesn’t matter what mode of 2K online we are playing. Buzzi and Ritz will “MHHHMMMM” their way to victory almost all the time. It’s beating them the one time out of 10 that keeps bringing everyone back. That allure. That fleeting feeling.


From playing across the modernized teams, as well as the all-time teams. I will end this essay with just a few more things we have learned while attempting to understand 2K.

1.) Tom Chambers of the Phoenix Suns all-time team does not do…anything. At all. His blond hair is wasteful space.
2.) Dirk Nowitzki is SOOOOO frustrating to have as an AI
3.) When a human player does not play as Shaq…FOR SOME REASON THE BIG ARISTOTLE JUST SITS AT THE TOP OF THE KEY AND DOESN’T GO IN THE POST. I would LOVE to find a way to just have a post player shuttle from to block to block. I know there are smart plays where you can run a play for them, but never EVER should a dominant post player should leave the lane area.
4.) Lebron James is good at basketball. That is all.
5.) Michael Jordan is good at basketball as well…but it is possible to not excel with him.


QUICK STORY TIME


I preface this by apologizing to McGinnity.

I was playing with McGinnity once and we were the all-time Chicago Bulls. A very good team. Like, arguably the best. We were going up against Buzzi and Ritz (again why these two are always paired…I have no idea), and well…things did not go well. It was a blowout, and MJ went 1-for-15 from the floor. McGinnity was Jordan. He went 1-for-15 from the floor with MJ.

After that game ended, McGinnity was booted out of the online locker room…and I may have made a remarkably rude comment about how he just went 1-for-15 with Michael Jordan (again, this is not the professor at Iona College, this is the one that won six titles) and that he would be kicked out of any locker room if he had a game like that with anyone…nonetheless it being Michael F’n Jordan.

I don’t usually talk trash, so the reaction from everyone else in the party was one of shock and also “you know facts are facts.”


Alright, back to the list of things that are true about playing 2K online.

6. Brook Lopez is the stating center for the Brooklyn Nets all-time team. Brook. Lopez. Not a bad player, but on the all-time team! It is often a crazy concept to see him match up against the likes of Bill Russell or Mark Eaton.
7. Mark Eaton on the Utah Jazz team may be the largest center of all-time. He is described as a “glass-cleaning lockdown” type of player, and boy-oh-boy does he live up to it.
8. You have to respect Joel Embiid’s three-point shot. Have to. Ritz will remind you about it every single time he can. I made the grave mistake of allowing him to take an open one at the start of the game…and that taunt did not work. He made one, then another, and now “You GOTTA” respect his shot.
9. Julius Irving will dunk over anyone at any time. He would probably be on the all-time “all-cool” team, and his ability to throw it down only helps that.
10. Dwight Powell of the modern day Dallas Mavericks is the most underrated 2K player in the game. He simply does not have bad games. He hits everything. He grabs every rebound. He is a monster.
11. Fat Lever of the all-time Denver Nuggets team is, well, difficult to play with. (FAT FAT FAT).
12. Ben Simmons is SO TALL!!! Playing against a bulky point guard is near impossible in 2K. Once they get in the lane it is just a dunk contest. Nonstop. Over anyone at anytime. Like with Lebron James, sure. I get it. But Ben Simmons is basically Dr. J athleticism combined with the power of Shaq.


2K. Games.

No matter how many times you log on and receive the seemingly unlimited about of invites, there is no way to wrap your head around this game. How people play this game on a professional level for money is mind blowing to me. It’s impossible.

2K itself doesn’t bring me back. It is the friends that I play it with. It is the absurd memories and catch phrases that are born from the absurdity that appears on the court. It seems like every two weeks Ritz comes up with some new jingle, or someone on the chat unleashes a vulgar venting that has everyone crying of laughter.

Looking past all of the AI headaches, animation glitches, and unknowable secrets of the game, 2K has provided some of the funniest moments during the past two-plus months of self-quarantine life. It has been part of the resurgence of Day Time Games, and for that I am truly grateful. Haven’t felt this connected to my friends since we were all in college.

But remember all this…for all the happiness it brings…nobody can understand 2K. And I don’t think it is meant to be, and that’s the beauty of it.

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