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Sports Saturday

NBA 2K21 review: Of course Bulls’ housecleaning was atop the to-do list

The latest version of the best sports-gaming franchise is far from perfect, but the storytelling and character development remain top notch ... unless you’re video-game Jim Boylen.

The back of the limo suddenly became uncomfortable.

In plopped video-game Jim Boylen, wearing an all-black shirt and suit with a navy blue tie. Definitely dressed for a funeral. Appropriate, considering minutes later it would be his own. Or at least the burial of his tenure as Bulls head coach.

New general manager Joe Cowley was then handed four options at that point: Fire cordially, fire bluntly, fire harshly, don’t fire.


Sorry video-game Jimbo, life isn’t fair. Even in the world of NBA 2K21.

So excuse the thumb sprain as I frantically moved the controller stick down to “fire harshly’’ before the game could somehow change its mind.

Looking like he crossed over from a mafia meeting in Grand Theft Auto V, video-game Boylen made sure to have the last word, responding, “If that’s how you feel, then I’ll be glad to go somewhere that respects what I bring to the table.’’

Good spirit.

And just like that, in one day on the job as maker of all decisions Bulls related, I accomplished what it took months for real-life executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas to realize – we needed a new head coach.

That remains the beauty of the NBA 2K franchise – the writing and realism it brings.

Whether it’s the MyGM/League mode or MyCareer, NBA 2K has the ability to pull you into the storyline. A realistic storyline like taking over the decision-making for the Bulls and cleaning house, or a fictional storyline like this year’s MyCareer.

In the latest version of MyCareer, the franchise hired on actor Djimon Hounsou to play the very wise coach/father figure, and Michael K. Williams to be the antagonist/family friend named Archie. Without playing spoiler, Archie was a close friend to your father, “The King,’’ but also has had some shady happenings in his past.

There lies the dilemma. Do you stick with the family friend, who is also trying to cash in on your rise to NBA stardom from high school to college to the NBA? Or is it a journey you want to take on your own, pulling away from your father’s legacy, as well as those that were clingers to his accomplishments?

Is it “Godfather 2?’’ No, but for a video game drama it’s as good as it gets.

It definitely outshines the sophomoric storyline they used in Madden 21.

But now the bad.

Graphically, NBA 2K is unchanged. If anything, it looks like it took a step back this season. The problem with grading sports games that have come out the last month is weighing the agenda. Both PlayStation and Xbox are coming out with new gaming systems this winter, so developers have had to prepare two versions of the same game to accommodate the upcoming upgrade.

Did that lead to cutting corners? Maybe.

Then under the category of “if it ain’t broke … “ 2K decided to mess with the shooting system, going with the Pro-Stick shooting option. Why? NBA 2K players have gotten used to the timing of the old shooting system over the years, and once a player has that it is a thing of beauty.

The early feedback from the Pro Stick option has not been stellar by any means. It kills the flow of what video game hoops brings, and that’s why 2K21 earns a solid B+.

Still, NBA 2K remains the “it” franchise in the sports gaming industry, and while ’21 has some flaws, the king is still the king.

Just don’t trust his friend, Archie.

Now, send Lauri Markkanen into the limo … we need to talk.