How Good Was NBA Live 2005?

When I was a kid, my parents bought my sister and I one of the best gifts a child could ever receive: A Nintendo 64. I do not remember ever receiving a gift that brought me as much joy as that N64.

We played Tony Hawk Pro Skater every day and my parents had no clue what an N64 really was, so they never got us the very important tool called a “Memory Card”. That meant we would never be able to save our progress. That also meant we would start from the beginning of each game every single time. But that was never an issue, we just loved playing. 

We played Tony Hawk the most, but Madden ’99 was a close second. Being a Jacksonville Jaguars fan at this time (and all times for the record), the game was extra amazing since these were the golden years for the team. It was so cool to me to play the video game as my favorite players in real life, and this began my obsession with sports video games that I still have.

That obsession was in part due to the fact my parents didn’t let us play “shooting games,” but you know I still secretly rented Golden Eye and Perfect Dark from Blockbuster. Since I wasn't overly rebellious, I stuck to sports games mostly.

My parents eventually upgraded our N64 to an Xbox in 2005 and I could not believe the difference. My parents bought us Madden 2005 and one other game that, in my opinion, changed my life and many other lives (I am sure): NBA Live 2005.

If you were lucky enough to play this game as a child, you know what I’m talking about.

I know what you’re thinking, “Isn’t 2k way better than NBA Live?” Now? Yes. Then? NOOOO WAYY. At that time there were some 2k loyalists, but EA Sports and NBA Live knew what they were doing when they released this edition in 2005. 2K runs the basketball video game market now, but in 2005 there was only one game that mattered, and it was NBA Live. The intro alone is worthy of high praise and crtical acclaim:

BLACK SCREEN

“EA Sports…It’s in the Game.”

**Enter MC Lyte (the voice of a generation)**

“It’s EA Sports Baby. NBA Live, 2005. MC Lyte. Mad Funk. What y'all ready for? 2 double 0 five here we go now!”

(Please take a few minutes to watch it, please.)

Clip after clip of animated big boys throwing down big dunks, the game looked phenomenal and it played even better. It was smooth, easy to understand. My one knock on the game was that if you pressed the “layup” button, no matter where you were on the court, your player would do an effortless-looking finger roll.

Accidentally hit the button after the inbounds? Effortless full court finger roll. 90 foot, underhanded lob, soars through the air - turnover. I never made a single full-court finger roll. That is literally the only thing wrong with this game.

The soundtrack? Flawless. I still remember every song in the game. When you bought the game it included a CD copy of the soundtrack. With most sports video games I would mute the tv and play music on my CD player, but with NBA Live 2005, I would never dare mute the dangerous and hypnotic beats the game offered.

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As a boy, these tracks made me feel tough. What else could you ask for? These songs pumped up an entire generation and my prayer is that some boys were smarter than me and saved that bonus CD of excellent bangers. I hope they know what they have and play these songs often, lest they be forgotten. One thing is certain, I will never forget. Thank you, MC Lyte. Thank you.

Yes the soundtrack was amazing, but what made this game so cool was the All-Star Weekend mode. You could do everything from play in the All-Star game itself to the Slam Dunk Contest. The dunk contest mode is what made me want to quit school the most. You could do windmill, reverse, 360 dunks. You could throw the ball off the shot clock, bring it between the legs and put your elbow in the rim.

And my personal favorite, you could start at half court, alley-oop it off the back board, do a front-hand spring into a two handed throw down. 

Now we can play 2k MyCareer mode and basically play a video game through the lens of a movie script. 2k is amazing and the story is engaging, but what NBA Live did in 2005 was change the way we viewed sports video games. NBA Live gave players the ability to do things they wished they could do in real life. This is true with any game really, but being able to kick a basketball at the shot clock, do a 360 windmill and dunk a basketball was and is cool. Even if it wasn’t really me doing it, still cool.

Also, you could create a player with any attributes that you wanted. My go-to player was the 5” PG from the University of Florida that was 99 overall in every category. There was always a category for “Injury” and I never knew whether to make it 99 or 0 overall. I never knew because it could mean, “I’m so good at getting hurt” or maybe “I’m good at being healthy”. But, if I put zero overall it was weird because everything else was 99 overall and injury would be 0.

Is that implying, “I guarantee I will suffer a season ending injury” or “I will literally never get hurt I promise.”?  It’s impossible to know. One thing was certain though, come All-Star Weekend, my player was invited to be in the All-Star game, 3pt Contest and Dunk Contest, and since my player always had my actual name - I myself was part of the NBA All-Star Weekend. Many dreams achieved.

Also, young Nuggets Melo, braids and all, is on the cover of this game. This is beautiful. He is beautiful. Full of hopes, full of dreams.

There is so much to like, but most of all NBA Live 2005 was a major step for sports video games. The graphics were amazing, gameplay smooth and you could slow-motion dunk in a contest against Vince Carter. This game was groundbreaking and every basketball game since owes a debt of gratitude to NBA Live 2005. 

Thank you of making us think, but more importantly, thank you for making us dunk.

Jimmy DevineComment