The 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament began in earnest yesterday. Of course, I picked Kansas—who won convincingly against lowly Texas Southern of the SWAC yesterday—to cut down the nets in New Orleans in a little over 2 weeks’ time, exorcising the demons of past trips to the Louisiana Superdome. With The Big Dance here, my memories always take me back to one of the best games I ever had on PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: College Hoops 2K8.
How I first came across this moment? I first came across the game in December 2007, while on the back end of my deployment to Iraq. One of my roommates had newly arrived and he brought his PlayStation 2 with him. One of the games he had was College Hoops 2K8.
What it meant to me then? I was no stranger to the 2K Sports College Hoops series. I was first introduced to it the year before with College Hoops 2K7. But College Hoops 2K8 was something different. It was the most authentic college basketball game I had played since EA Sports’ NCAA March Madness 2004. I was fascinated with the Legacy Mode, where I always choose the Career Legacy option and built up programs. I often started with small conference UL-Calcutta—the knock-off version of Centenary College—and rocked with that program for 3 years before moving on to a mid-major school and eventually a major and power conference school. I got lucky once and ended up with the Kansas job 15 seasons into the Career Legacy and I stayed in that role until the game forced retired me after 40 total seasons. I always found joy in playing the game though the recruiting dynamics sucked donkey balls.
What it means to me now? College Hoops 2K8 was the last of the 2K Sports offerings in the college basketball video games. They declined to seek the NCAA license for future games and then you had f’n Ed O’Bannon completely blow everything up. I kept the game on my PlayStation 3 until recently actually. It was part of the haul I gave away last summer prior to the move to Colombia. The rumor is that 2K Sports will re-enter the college basketball game area in a couple of years now that “name, image, and likeness” compensation is a real thing for the NCAA athletes. The new games will obviously have better graphics, better features…modern technology means more innovation. But I doubt that it will have that “it” factor that made College Hoops 2K8 unique. From Greg Gumbel and Clark Kellogg on the NCAA Tournament Selection Show to “Uncle” Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery calling the action to the authentic looks of the on-campus courts and neutral sites, I don’t think any edition going forward will match what it was like to have all of that in a college basketball video game.