The best of all time: Michael Jordan in video games

Although in sports terms it hardly admits of discussion, the presence of Michael Jordan in video games has not always been fortunate: we review it.

The premiere of the documentary on Netflix The Last Dance, recalling the last triumphant season of the Chicago Bulls of the 90s, has made us remember one of the greatest moments in the history of the sport, and one of its most legendary protagonists: Michael Jordan. His Airness, how could it be otherwise, has had a major presence in video games, but unfortunately it has not always been in great titles, something that obviously, little should matter to him. Today we have to look back to remember the appearances of one of the greatest sportsmen ever in video games, being quite broad since, of course, it extends from the very 80s to the present day.

The difficult 80s: from collective mediocrity to the Bad Boys

Despite the fact that Electronic Arts had great success with basketball in the 90s, curiously, its relationship with Michael Jordan is not very prolific, for reasons that we will see later, but it was precisely a video game by the Canadian company Jordan's debut. This is Jordan vs Bird: One on One, a game that, as its name suggests, did not have much to scratch beyond playing duels between our protagonist and the Celtics legend. It would arrive in 1988 as a sequel to Dr. J. vs. Bird – in that year Julius Erving was already retired – and it originally appeared on Commodore 64 and MS-DOS, later being ported to other platforms such as NES, Game Boy or even Mega Drive, but always with very negative reviews.

The best of all time: Michael Jordan in video games

After finally getting rid of the Detroit Pistons that would set him apart from collective success, he would also do better with the series "vs", which brought together the great teams of the late 80s and early 90s under the name of the final of the corresponding NBA, being called, for example, Lakers vs. Celtics or Bulls vs. Lakers. Also developed by EA, those games already offered us full 5-on-5 matches, and it started being exclusive to Mega Drive, one more reason to understand the great success of the Sega console in the North American market. However, Bulls vs Blazers would already arrive at Super Nintendo, and this franchise has several curiosities related to licenses. First, because it was the first to show the logos of the NBA franchises on the court, and also because it was the last appearance in a Charles Barkley video game, since for whatever reasons, it has always refused to appear in one.

Bulls Vs Blazers

The 1992 Barcelona Olympics were a milestone in our country, an organizational success that was surely helped by the arrival of the greatest team of all time, not only basketball, but surely any sport: the United States team, popularly known as Dream Team. Namely: Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, and of course, Michael Jordan, formed, among others, the largest pleiad of stars that has ever met. Such was its popularity that it even had its own video game, Team USA Basketball, also exclusive to Mega Drive, and with some of the best teams in the world available, although not those that participated in those Olympics, since for example, Yugoslavia appears, since at that time divided into several nations after the Balkan War.

Touching the sky … although not in video games

By now Jordan was almost a legend, so the search for exclusive contracts with some video game companies kept him away from the NBA Live and NBA Jam series. In fact, in the case of NBA Live, it would be necessary to wait for the arrival of PlayStation to discover in the squad of the Bulls a player named Player 99, who in the absence of a license, acted as Michael Jordan in the video game. That said, he tried his luck with very diverse titles and incidentally, not very fortunate, such as Michael Jordan In Flight (1993, DOS), Space Jam (1997), based on the movie of the same name and released for PlayStation, Sega Saturn and TWO, ​​and the most curious: Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City, being the first video game in which Ami Hennig had a leading role. It was not sports in fact, it was an action platform in which MJ had to rescue the participants of a charity match organized by Scottie Pippen, kidnapped by an evil scientist. Although the game did not have a great reception precisely, Jordan himself would later confess that his children enjoyed it so much that he got to sign a ball to Hennig with the message "To Amy, good game".

Chaos in the Windy City

In the second half of the 90s would come the second, but not definitive retirement of Jordan, to return to the Washington Wizards, the team of which he was one of the owners. With this he would reappear in a video game, in this case NBA Live 2000, curiously the first time he made an appearance in a game in the EA saga, and did so with a shirt that was not that of the Bulls – it would also appear on NBA Street-. But by then EA already had very serious competition from the NBA 2K franchise, making its debut on the IP of 2K Games – then Sega – in NBA 2K2, released in 2001.

After his final retirement, this time yes, we made a leap until 2010 until we reached NBA 2K11, one of the most remembered and loved by the players. With Jordan on the cover, that game included a game mode called Jordan Challenges where to remember the best performances of the legend of the Bulls: the 63 points against the Celtics, the 6 triples in the finals against the Blazers, the famous Flu Game – fever game – in the 1996 finals against Utah … After this fantastic installment, in general, he would also be one of the three protagonists of the NBA 2K12 cover, being able to choose a cover with himself, Magic Johnson or Larry Bird.

Jordan Challenges

Thus we come to today, where Jordan is already habitual not only of the NBA 2K franchise, but also of its arcade side, NBA Playgrounds. It is already frequent to see him in historical teams, such as several squads of the Bulls who "championed" in the 90s and in the most mediocre of the 80s, where he made his debut surrounded by second or third row players. He is also one of the most sought-after players in My Team mode with several versions in NBA 2K20: from an Amethyst from his early days to an Opal Galaxy commemorative version of the All-Star.

About author

Chris Watson is a gaming expert and writer. He has loved video games since childhood and has been writing about them for over 15 years. Chris has worked for major gaming magazines where he reviewed new games and wrote strategy guides. He started his own gaming website to share insider tips and in-depth commentary about his favorite games. When he's not gaming or writing, Chris enjoys travel and hiking. His passion is helping other gamers master new games.

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