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NBA 2K23 will deliver better AI players, new badges, and a slew of new advanced player controls

NBA 2K23 is set to release on September 9, 2022, and 2K developers are starting to publically talk about big changes coming to the premier basketball simulator, and major improvements coming in the next installment. Notable improvements coming to this year’s NBA 2K include an upgraded Pro Stick that will allow players to pull off more flashy dribble moves and emphatic dunks than ever before, more advanced AI teams that will react to your playstyle like real NBA teams, a new tiered badge system, and, of course, the option to hang on the rim post-dunk whenever you’d like.

NBA 2K23 is nearly here and it features gameplay enhancements that elevate the competitive intensity in all facets. The main pillar for us this year can be summed up with one word: Authenticity,” reads a release from the development team.

The first trailer for the title was released at the end of July.

NBA 2K23 | First Look Trailer | 2K

In a recent gameplay session with members of the media, the 2K development team showed off all of the major changes to gameplay that are being introduced or tweaked in the new title.

On the offensive side of the court

Devin Booker in NBA 2K23.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

With NBA 2K22, the development team was really focused on perfecting play on the defensive end of the court. But the ball is swinging back around this season, and there are a lot of improvements being brought to the offense.

The biggest news is new gesture combos being added to the Pro Stick controls. Players will now have access to a series of Pro Stick combos (called double throws and switchbacks) that will introduce a lot of new weapons for both shooting and ball handling.

For the past few years, NBA 2K has really been focused on shooting with the real-life game being dominated by a generation of 3-point shooters. But with slashers like Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and Jimmy Butler still making major waves and dominating games, the dev team knew they had to focus on taking the ball into the paint. For dunking, the metered skill dunks from NBA 2K22 (ability to force difficult dunks in traffic with a timed shot meter) return but expanded dunking controls let players dunk exactly how they want without accidentally firing off a skill dunk they weren’t expecting.

Devs have also added rim-hangs into the mix, so you can have your player stay on the rim after a thunderous dunk for a bit of style. On new-gen consoles, this feature is built with physics-based simulated for super realistic body movement. Be careful though — you can definitely get called for a technical foul if you hang on for too long.

Those Pro Stick gestures will also come in handy for slashers in the game to pull off euro-step and cradle layups around the basket. And now more physically strong players have unique animations that really relay how much they can power through weaker players and still get a bucket. There will also be lots of new dribble animations and size-up moves, although now there will be more accurate energy depletion attached to them so guards don’t spam dribble moves all day.

Longtime fans of the series will be happy to hear that shot meters are going to be customizable this year with five new shot meters to choose from, with 15 more that can be unlocked through Seasons over the coming year.

Time to play D

Draymond Green blocks Ja Morant in NBA 2K23.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

While defensive gameplay isn’t getting shaken up as much, there are still several changes coming. For on-ball defense, players will notice a new indicator on the ball handler when in guarding position — that’s a new defensive shading mechanic that allows defensive players to try and force ballhandlers one way or another.

“Great defenders can anticipate where the ball handler is attacking and will now be more clearly rewarded for it,” wrote the development team. “The shading system works for both on-ball defenders guarding the perimeter as well as the post and does a good job communicating to both the offense and defense why collisions resolve the way they do.”

Blocking is going to work about the same, but the team has made major overhauls to effectiveness to make blocks more realistic. “No more small guards pulling off LeBron James-level chase-down blocks like last year. You’ll also notice a distinct improvement in ball security for good dunkers.” wrote the team. Those smaller defenders will still be useful though with improved ball strip mechanics on drives.

Badge changes

Sue Bird on the court in NBA 2K23.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

To avoid players only using the most popular and powerful badges in MyPLAYER and MyTEAM modes, NBA 2K23 is introducing a four-tier badge system. More powerful badges will be rarer and more expensive to unlock, whereas seemingly less powerful badges will be common and easy to stack.

“The motive behind this change was to encourage players to make some tough choices when creating their badge recipes, make loadouts more valuable as a feature, and bring a better overall balance to the badge game in general,” wrote the devs.

Improved AI teams

The 2K dev team has improved AI players and coaches across the board this year, and it has been a major focus of this next installment. AI players will be able to read your habits and switch up their playstyle to match yours, make decisions passed on the basketball IQs of their real-life counterparts, and have a much better idea of what plays to run against you.

Similarly, the AI coaches will be adjusting defensive strategies, game tempo, and making substitutions at a much higher success rate this year.

“This year, on both ends of the court, you’ll see improved gameplay that should translate to more wins, and more seamless actions,” wrote the team. “We can’t wait for the community to experience this year’s gameplay, explore the all-new features, and discover a lot of the hidden things we’ve snuck into the game.”

NBA 2K23 will be released on current generation platforms such as PlayStation 5 and Xbox X|S, as well as previous generation systems such as PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Pro Xbox One X, Nintendo Switch, and Steam for PC on September 9, 2022.

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Sam Hill
Sam Hill is a journalist and the gaming guides editor at Digital Trends. He's also written tech guides for Input and has…
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