Basketball season is quickly approaching. With that comes another iteration of NBA 2K. This year’s entry, NBA 2K20, will bring some major changes to the formula, including the addition of WNBA players and a MyCareer story crafted by SpringHill Entertainment, the content company founded by LeBron James and his business manager Maverick Carter. Ahead of its September 6 launch, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about the basketball simulation game.
MyCareer has been an NBA 2K staple for a long time now. Each year, before you enter the day-to-day grind of practice, games, and exploring the neighborhood, you partake in a prologue story. This year’s storyline looks to have immense promise, thanks to both the production team behind it and a star-studded cast.
SpringHill Entertainment has been given creative control over the narrative. Dubbed “When the Lights Are Brightest,” your created character will have to navigate life both on and off the court en route to the NBA.
Along the way, your player will cross paths with characters played by Idris Elba, Rosario Dawson, Thomas Middleditch, Ernie Hudson, Jaleel White, and more. Current NBA stars such as Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Jayson Tatum, and Kemba Walker will play a role in the story, along with Maverick Carter.
Based on the trailer, Visual Concepts really focused on upping the cinematic look of the story cutscenes. It looks like a similar journey as Madden’s now-defunct Longshot mode.
“The story of ‘When the Lights Are Brightest’ in NBA 2K20 reflects the story of today’s modern athletes,” Carter said in a press release. “From dealing with the pressures of fame, demands on and off the court, and outside influences, athletes face a tremendous amount of obstacles.
SpringHill Entertainment exists to tell compelling stories and in this case, we were able to draw on our own experiences with LeBron and other athletes to create a narrative that’s authentic and a bit of a peek behind the curtain. Fans of NBA 2K20 are going to be amazed at the level of detail we were able to get to in this film.”
The Neighborhood will return in 2K20, and this time around you can set House Rules for pickup games you play on the blacktop.
On the court enhancements
The NBA 2K series, like other annual sports video games, sees incremental changes each year to the gameplay. NBA 2K20 is no different, but the changes outlined in a blog by developer Visual Concepts sound pretty substantial in some ways.
- Upgraded motion engine: Players should look more realistic in motion. This includes dribbling, weight transfers, and vast variations based on size and position. Visual Concepts has said that sprinting is more meaningful and consequential this year. When your stamina bar is low, it will flash yellow, causing you to slow down at a faster rate.
- Smarter ball handling: Visual Concepts has worked on making more realistic ball-handling moves. With that in mind, some star players, both past and present, will have Signature Dribble Styles. LeBron James’ well-known idle dribble, DeMar DeRozan’s wiggle and Magic Johnson’s unique speed dribbling are just a few examples. There will be 27 different ball handler styles in all, and you’ll get to choose one for your created player in MyCareer. Visual Concepts also says that ball handlers will be more aware of their surroundings, including when setting pick and rolls and differences between frontcourt and backcourt awareness.
- On-ball defense improvements: Visual Concepts calls this Read and React Defense. In one-on-one coverage, you’ll sometimes see an arrow under the ball handler, which tells you which direction the ball handler is favoring. The ball handler will also have a ring that will either be solid or fractured into lines. When it’s fractured, they’re vulnerable for a steal. Visual Concepts says these on-screen prompts combined with the improved motion engine will create more realistic one-on-one battles.
- New layup finishes: Gathering when driving towards the hoop has been improved by adding half-spins and cross-spins. You can also change your gather by redirecting the stick if needed. To balance things out, Visual Concepts has added hundreds of new blocks, fouls, and collision animations.
- Off-ball changes: Off-ball juke moves return on offensive, while off-ball collisions have been entirely reworked on defense. The same goes for setting screens. You can set screens quickly with the Set Screen button on offense, and defenders have more options when it comes to breaking away from screeners.
- AI improvements: A new “Dynamic Freelance” engine is said to make CPU players move more intelligently on the court without your direction. New play buttons let you execute quick plays alongside CPU teammates. You can even create a customized list of plays to assign to the play action buttons. On defense, CPU-controlled players should work better in transition.
- Badges and Takeover: Roughly 80 badges will be available in NBA 2K20, including exclusive Neighborhood badges. Takeover moves also return, but Visual Concepts has recalibrated the abilities for balance.
The WNBA arrives
In a stellar move, NBA 2K20 will include all 12 WNBA teams and more than 140 WNBA players. WNBA teams can be selected in exhibition games and season mode. Visual Concepts created realistic animations and play styles to be authentic to the WNBA game.
MyTeam, the card-collecting mode with micro-transactions, will receive some notable changes in NBA 2K20. Most critically, new Evo cards that can be “leveled up” when it comes to player ratings and badges. From the jump, you’ll get to choose one of five Evo cards: Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Derrick Rose, or Hakeen Olajuwon.
The 3v3 Triple Threat mode has been reimagined, especially when it comes to the single-player mode. Each time you queue up a game, you’ll play a new team randomly assembled by the cards available at that time. Triple Threat prize pools have also improved to dole out top-tier free agents when winning and goodies as you cross milestones. When playing online, you’ll get to use a slot machine between games. Match two gems out of three and you’ll get bonus MTP. Hitting the jackpot (matching all three) gets you some sweet goodies. Jackpots will change every few weeks, according to Visual Concepts.
MyTeam will emphasize playing daily thanks to login rewards that range from free packs to tokens to MyTeam points. You’ll have the chance to get even more freebies by earning Prize Wheel spins.
Yes, MyTeam embraces a gambling aesthetic with slot machines and prize wheels. This could prove to be controversial when it comes to micro-transactions. At the very least, it does seem like a sizable amount of content can be earned without spending real money.
MyTeam will also have Limited Time Events each day with special rewards and The Agenda, a list of objectives to complete within a set time window that will net you even more rewards.
NBA 2K20 player ratings have been released, with LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard standing a cut above the rest at 97 overall each. New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson has an 81 overall, the highest overall rating for a rookie since NBA 2K11. For a full list of player ratings, check here.
NBA 2K20 demo
PS4, Xbox One, and Switch users can get a head start in MyCareer mode by downloading the free demo. Available now, the demo takes you through the player creation process and then lets you play a rematch of the NBA Finals pitting the Toronto Raptors against the Golden State Warriors. Your created character will transfer to the full game.
Los Angeles Lakers superstar Anthony Davis is the cover athlete for the standard and Digital Deluxe editions of NBA 2K20. Recently retired Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade appears on the cover of the Legend edition. Davis was previously on the ensemble cover used in NBA 2K16.
Release date, editions, and pre-order bonuses
NBA 2K20 launches September 6 on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC. It comes in three editions: Standard, Digital Deluxe, and Legend.
Pre-ordering the standard edition nets you 5,000 Virtual Currency, 5,000 MyTeam points, 5 MyCareer skill boosts, a MyPlayer clothing capsule, 10 MyTeam League Packs (one per week after launch), 5 MyTeam Heat Check Packs (one per week when the NBA season starts).
- Xbox One:
The Digital Deluxe edition ($80) comes with 35,000 Virtual Currency, 10,000 MyTeam Points, 10 MyCareer skill boosts, MyPlayer clothing capsule, 10 MyTeam League Packs (one per week), 10 MyTeam Heat Check Packs (one per week once the season tips off), one Sapphire MyTeam Cover Athlete Card.
- Xbox One:
The Legend edition ($100) includes 100,000 Virtual Currency, 50,000 MyTeam Points, 20 MyCareer skill boosts, MyPlayer clothing capsule, apparel collection, and shoe collection, 20 MyTeam League Packs (one per week), 20 MyTeam Heat Check Packs (one per week when the NBA season starts), 5 MyTeam Theme Packs, a pair of Sapphire MyTeam Cover Athlete cards.
- Xbox One:
- NBA 2K20 review: Double dribble
- The best PS4 games, from The Surge 2 to Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
- The best Xbox One games (November 2019)
- The best Nintendo Switch games
- The best Xbox 360 games of all time