Sports fans love the NBA for its style and speed. Unlike most other sports, the game moves at a fast pace. Offensive drives quickly turn over to defense and vice versa. And though there’s now an emphasis on three-pointers, the league is still home to flashy and creative players who grind their way to the hoop the old-fashioned way.

    Now that the US has started to roll out sports betting on a state-by-state basis, the fan experience is expanding for many NBA diehards. In the past, only those in areas like Vegas could wager on point spreads and futures. Today, that range has diversified greatly to meet the interests of more fans. From updated parlay picks on Oddschecker to deep dives from leading analysts, betting content is highly accessible. 

    Still, many fans bet on the NBA as only one part of their total fan lifestyle. Another hugely popular way to enjoy basketball is via video games. Similar to FIFA and the NFL, the NBA has a long-running partnership with a video game developer (2K Studios) to produce games that mirror the name, likeness, and image of its top players, venues, and even coaches.

    With over forty years of releases, there are quite a few NBA and NBA-adjacent projects to wade through. If you’re looking for the best of the best, then keep reading below. We’ve collected the best NBA video games ever released.

    NBA Street Vol. 2

    The original NBA Jam introduced a brand-new format that many basketball fans were already familiar with: three-on-three, street-style basketball. It quickly became a hit for players—but the second installation took things to new heights by introducing a few different legends. 

    Rosters included greats like Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Magic Johnson, and more. Similarly, the career mode was a fantastic addition that offered more depth to the street-style format, along with the ‘Street School’, a virtual place for players to level up.

    NBA Jam

    Similar to NBA Street, NBA Jam was a watershed release when it first hit the markets in 1993. The key ingredient for developers was fast gameplay that mirrors the actual pace of basketball games and an over-the-top emphasis on moves like dunks. Instead of relying on actual physics, the game introduced highly exaggerated moves—all while including real-life players from actual NBA rosters. 

    The series proved so popular that it kept on releasing new projects up until 2011, first under Midway Games, then Acclaim, and finally EA Sports. The latter released the last NBA Jam in 2011. However, none met the hype of the original release, which has been listed in multiple publications as one of the best sports video games ever published.

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    NBA 2K1

    Now, let’s move on to more hardboiled takes on the NBA: its 2K series. These closely follow real-life player stats and team developments, allowing players to step into the shoes of their top players. Back in 2000, the NBA landed an early hit with its 2K1—which remains one of the highest-rated basketball games of all time. 

    Not only was the gameplay solid, but it offered a hugely realistic emphasis on more heady elements of the game, including management and franchise modes. It marked a watershed moment for basketball players to be able to manage teams similar to Football Manager.

    NBA 2K11

    In 2K11, developers decided to add in Michael Jordan, flipping this new concept on its head by allowing them to play as the Bulls during the height of the Jordan era. This was huge for players who remembered the era but didn’t have a satisfying video game to remember the Bulls’ rise.

    On top of this feature, players were also treated to huge advances in gameplay, which added an extra dose of realism to the physics and mechanics of the game. It marked the start of a brand new era of immersion in basketball simulations of the 2010s.

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