NBA 2K17 succeeds by touching a spot on the backboard most other sports games can’t jump up and reach. Even when it feels too grindy or misses a step, it provides diverse options and singular moments of basketball gameplay bliss that are hard to top.

The NBA 2K series as a whole works for me because it excites me as an NBA super fan. It’s a game that celebrates the athletes, taps into the excitement of a big-time dunk, and allows me to customize who I want to be on the court. Sometimes I get flustered by a floaty pass or thrown off by a player like Kevin Durant or Andrew Wiggins looking far too skinny, but then I’ll hit a deep three with Steph Curry that makes the fans at Oracle Arena go ballistic and I’m all-in again.
The same concept applies to just about every facet of NBA 2K17. I’m not in love with the grind of MyCareer mode, but the amount of options at my disposal in MyGM means I don’t care if I spend one more minute in MyCareer. On the court, some smart new tweaks let you get an extra boost to the accuracy of your jump shots by pulling straight down on the right stick, but you can also just press the “shoot” button if that doesn’t feel comfortable. In addition, you can now use the right stick to go for more varied steal attempts, or you can just continue to press the steal button. Again, it’s all about options and NBA 2K17 provides plenty of them.

Killer Crossovers

Allen Iverson’s recent induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame feels all too perfect, as NBA 2K17’s focus on chaining together crossovers and spins seems like an homage to the signature style of its former longtime cover athlete. In previous NBA 2K games I often felt stuck in animations and not in control at all times, but now it’s much easier to string together dribbling maneuvers and put together a sequence that can leave defenders behind. This same type of flow carries over to shooting, where for the first time it feels like I have an ability to pull up off the dribble and really play in the space between the three-point line and the paint.
This idea of pace and space is all-important in an NBA video game. The added area creates more unique opportunities to score, and that leads to things like more creative passing, more fouls, and more scrambling on defense. The loopy passing that crops up here and there is especially frustrating because it interrupts some chances to really zip the ball around the perimeter to the open man for an open jump shot. The same can be said for some AI players still not quite running the right lanes during a fast break.

Shooters like J.J. Redick and Damian Lillard feel especially terrifying this season.

On some level, though, the passing not always being pinpoint-accurate does perhaps save the defense. Shooters like J.J. Redick and Damian Lillard feel especially terrifying this season, and the AI is even smart enough to step back and make sure to get both feet behind the line for a three-pointer rather than a long two-point shot. On top of that, now that rebounds can be tipped out rather than just corralled, I’ve even seen instances where DeAndre Jordan tips a rebound back towards an open J.J. Redick for a wide-open three ball.
I also need to mention that the shooting mechanics have been tweaked so all “green” or perfect releases lead to made baskets. In the past, “green” didn’t always mean the shot would be successful, which could be confusing as there was no clear reason why getting a perfect release mattered. So thank you for clearing that up, 2K.

Having this level of control all over the court is great, except when that control then vanishes. I can’t control how much heat to put on a pass; I can’t control how long it takes players at times to get in position to start a play; and I can’t control moments where I’m pushed 10 feet away from the ball handler on defense just because some random big man pushed me backwards under the rim. When things like that happen there’s no recourse, so the outcomes can sometimes feel unfair.

The commentary remains the best and most varied in the sports genre.

All of the action on the court is highlighted by commentary that remains the best and most varied in the sports genre. David Aldridge is now roaming the sidelines, and Greg Anthony and Kevin Harlan are joined by a rotating crew of new announcers, such as Chris Webber, Clark Kellogg, Doris Burke, Brent Barry, and Steve Smith. However, having this amount of variety doesn’t come without some flaws. Chris Webber sounds like he’s eating his microphone at times, and Steve Smith is sort of boring. But Doris Burke and Brent Barry really shine.
The audio also falters a bit when it comes to the in-arena experience. There was a big focus on making each arena sound unique this season, but adding some unique sounds doesn’t cure everything. The rims sound different in the arenas, as well as the buzzers, but the ambiance is still off overall. To point to one example, it’d be that the crowds simply don’t sound excited enough or angry enough depending on the moment.

Micro Management 2K17

MyCareer is mostly carefree and non-linear this year, which is a positive coming off Spike Lee’s handcuffing story mode in NBA 2K16. However, when the focus isn’t on the basketball, that’s when MyCareer still loses me. MyCareer is, as always, built on grinding out points you can put towards leveling up your player. The problem is, going to “mandatory” practices and sponsorship events is mundane – and not being able to skip through cutscenes only adds another level to the grind. If I could just play the games and focus on getting closer with my teammates on the court, I would care a lot more about sticking with it.

And I say that because the same love I have for the normal gameplay also goes for MyCareer. My AI teammates have been much more useful this year than in the past, and it feels great when you get on the same page as your main friend and teammate in the story, Justice Young, who is played well by Michael B. Jordan.
Moving beyond MyCareer, I go full basketball nerd when it comes to MyGM because the options really are close to limitless here. You can now expand the NBA to 36 teams if you want, and this comes with all the perks of building an arena and naming your team. The mode goes so much further than that as well by providing draft pick protections, a detailed way to handle your substitution patterns, and incorporating a multitude of highly specific details that are appreciated by my inner general manager.

The trade engine in place is mostly solid as well. Some players like Rudy Gobert are not quite valued as they should be, but most other big names like LeBron James or top-flight rookies like Ben Simmons come with high price tags. When starting your MyGM you don’t even have to start from the present day. You have the option to go back to before this year’s draft and decide to pass on Ben Simmons and select Brandon Ingram or even Dragan Bender as the top pick in the draft. When the real NBA season begins you will also be able to start your MyGM mode at the current date. This means if the Hawks get off to a 10-0 start you will be able to select the Hawks and begin your MyGM mode with a 10-0 record. In short, it’s really to a point now where you can customize MyGM mode to a dizzying degree.

...And seriously, it’s amazing the option to “pick swap” is something that’s included in a NBA video game in 2016 – thanks, Nets and Celtics.

Finally, the online portion of NBA 2K17 has been stable so far. MyPark suffers from a bit of input lag here and there, and the MyTeam auction house can be a bit slow at peak hours, but in comparison to previous NBA 2K games where entire modes were broken for days or weeks after release, this has been a very successful launch. Furthermore, while there is no big new online feature, MyLeague has been expanded upon to feature something that more closely resembles (but can't quite match) the online franchise modes in games like MLB The Show and Madden NFL.
The Verdict

NBA 2K17 is another rock-solid game in the franchise. It features worthwhile updates to the dribbling and shooting mechanics, and backs up those improvements off the court in ways that make me care about managing my team. All in all, I know NBA 2K17 will be in my gaming rotation for many months to come.