Pardon me while I climb up on my digital soapbox and start ranting for a moment.
That’s right, it’s that time of year again, when I take aim at the NBA 2K series and Charles Barkley in hopes they finally fix one of the more egregious exclusions in video-game history. For almost as long as the Phoenix Suns have missed the playoffs, I’ve been on a personal crusade to see the 1992-93 team appear in a version of the game.
The reason? It’s quite simple. The greatest team in franchise history, based on extensive research I did years ago while working for the team, has only ever appeared in one video game on one platform since their magical run. The game was NBA Showdown ‘94 - a game about as memorable as Alex Stivrins — Google him — and it was only in the Super Nintendo version.
That is a digital fate more becoming of the cocaine-fueled 1986-87 team or the Michael Beasley-led team from the oughts than it is a team who captured the Valley’s imagination and who was the talk of the NBA.
It’s not like including classic teams is out of the realm of what the NBA 2K franchise does. Heck, they’ve immortalized such memorable teams as the 2006-07 Memphis Grizzlies. Yeah, that’s right, a team that got swept in the first round. Not to mention the 1989-90 Cavaliers, the 1984-85 Bucks and other teams no one, especially people of video game-playing age, remember.
So how did we get here? How did we get to a world where our beloved Purple Gang from Phoenix can’t find a new digital life in a video game, despite reboots and remakes being all the rage? I mean hell, Murphy Brown is getting a remake, so why not a 62-win NBA Finals team who starred the NBA MVP.
The answer comes down to this: Barkley won’t allow his likeness to appear in the game. The reason? Money. But not in the way you think.
The Round Mound of Rebound doesn’t want the cash for himself, he wants it to go to the retired players.
“The reason I am not on 2K is because they would not give me money. They make a lot of money on that game,” Barkley told SI.com in 2016. “What I said to them was we as players have not done enough for the retired players association. We told the 2K people that our job is to take care of the older players. I don’t even want any money. I said, ‘Let’s come up with an amount of money for you to give to the retired players union.’ They said, ‘Well we get all the guys the same.’ And I said, ‘Well, we ain’t all the same.’ I told them they make a gazillon dollars on that game. They said, ‘Well we are not going to do that [give money].’ So I’m not giving them the right to use my license until they come up with a fair number. I’m not trying to be a pig or greedy. They should donate the money to the retired players. If they would give a million dollars a year to the retired players union, they can use my likeness.”
It’s a noble gesture, and one I’m all for. While guys like Barkley, Jordan and other stars of the era are set for life, some of their lesser-known teammates don’t share the same luxury. What a leader and star like Barkley was tasked with during his playing days was leading his guys and helping them succeed. It’s great to see that it’s an old habit that hasn’t gone away.
Which brings us to NBA 2K. Why not just do what’s right and pay some amount to the Retired Players Union? It only seems fair, as they are using many retired players from rosters throughout history. Why not take whatever would have been offered to Barkley for his inclusion and pay it there?
This is the closest to an answer I could find.
“Some players don’t want to do it because they have no interest in the gaming space for a variety of philosophical reasons,” @Ronnie2K said to For The Win. “We would honestly want everybody that we could have in the game to the best of our abilities.”
So the reason for childhood dreams dying? That’s right — money and big business. While adult life is riddled with things like that, our video games, an escape, shouldn’t be. It’s time for NBA 2K and Barkley to come to an agreement. Give us our 1992-93 Suns. If not, I’ll see you here again next year for another installment.