NBA 2K3 is undoubtedly the GameCube’s most realistic basketball game. The 2003 update contains not only the addition of C–Stick passing, but also includes improvements to the passing mechanics themselves and tweaks the previously irritating percentage of shots that actually scored. Additionally SEGA — the US publishers of this all American title — has acquired an ESPN license featuring all the players of the NBA and some competent sportscaster commentary.
NBA 2K3 is steeped in an almost dour regard for the rules and practices of the sport of basketball. There are no somersaulting dunks, no outrageous steals and there’s definitely no smashing of the glass backboard. Instead, this game plays very much like the real thing — perhaps too much so.
NBA 2K3 is a genuine basketball simulator. The main Franchise mode sees you play not just an entire season, but also the off-season. You’ll train your team, trade your players and also scout for new talent. To hard-core B-ball fans this could well be riveting, but what if you just want a quick game?
Well, yes, there are modes that you let rush out on court, but bear in mind you’ll be playing a very straight-laced game of basketball. NBA 2K3 rewards only patience and perseverance. Aggressive defence is penalised, an officious shot timer and referee are ever present, and three-point shots and dunks just won’t go in unless you’ve set them up nicely.
In fact only about half your shots end up scoring (like in real life), emphasising the need to play cagily and using the entire court to stretch and open up the opposition. While this is obviously very competent as a recreation of the ebb and flow of the real game, it’s a style of play that ultimately lacks fun. Defence is an exercise in shadowing the opposition and attacking too often lacks pace and real satisfaction.
Whereas sports games normally overcome such drawbacks via multiplayer modes, because of its deep simulation style, this doesn’t apply here. If you’re after a well-polished and accurate basketball simulator for solo play only, then NBA 2K3 is a good choice, but most people will be better off going for NBA Street.