NBA Live Series (SNES)

The best basketball simulation games on the SNES
The best basketball simulation games on the SNES!

Ah, the NBA Live series. Anyone who grew up with a Super Nintendo and loved basketball back in the mid ’90s most likely would remember this franchise well. The first one, NBA Live ’95, came out on Halloween of 1994. NBA Live ’96 came out exactly one year later (Halloween 1995). NBA Live ’97 was released in December 1996 and the final entry, NBA Live ’98, made its way to the SNES in March of 1998. What made these games so special? GAMEPLAY. Never before did SNES owners enjoy such fast paced basketball in the traditional 5 on 5 sense. NBA Jam might be the king of arcade style basketball, but when it came to simulation, NBA Live ruled the roost.














Before NBA Live the pickings were pretty slim. I mean, these games weren’t bad for their time, but even as kids we knew there was something missing about them. Namely, SPEED. NCAA Basketball (October 1992) was certainly groundbreaking for its time, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Then came Bulls vs. Blazers and the NBA Playoffs (what a terrible title) in December 1992. Again, for its time it was something we played but man was it slow. Tecmo Super NBA Basketball (March 1993) was a step up and easily the best of the lot prior to NBA Live ’95. But even then it failed to replicate the excitement of the NBA. NBA Showdown (October 1993) was infamously known as NBA Slowdown. Finally, a year later EA Sports got it right when they unleashed NBA Live ’95.


Congrats to the Warriors for winning the 2017 Finals
Congrats to the Warriors for winning the 2017 Finals

The Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers this past Monday evening at the Oracle in Oakland, California, to secure their second championship in three years. Kevin Durant dominated the Cavs and Steph Curry was an afterthought despite averaging nearly a triple double. That’s how good KD was. It was great to witness and definitely put me in a basketball state of mind.

The scene in Oakland just yesterday. Wow
The scene in Oakland just yesterday. Wow

Yesterday the Warriors and their fans celebrated their Finals victory with a parade. Over one million people attended, according to estimates. Crazy.

Draymond Green trolling Cleveland like only he can
Draymond Green trolling Cleveland like only he can

The Cavs were a little petty with their celebration last year coming back from a 3-1 deficit. For their Halloween party they made “R.I.P.” cookies for Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. They also had a band named “3-1 Lead.” At the parade LeBron James wore an “Ultimate Warrior” t-shirt. Naturally, Draymond Green had to respond. He wore a “Quickie” shirt at the parade yesterday. This represents the Q (Quicken Loans Arena, where the Cavs call home) and the fact that it was a quick series with the Dubs winning 4 games to 1. Classic Draymond. Never change, my man. Never change.

Steph Curry, his dad Dell and his lovely wife, Ayesha
Steph Curry, his dad Dell and his lovely wife, Ayesha

Barring injury, I look forward to Cavs-Warriors Part IV next June. Jason, Freddy and Michael Myers would be proud [Don’t forget Capcom -Ed.]








Electronic Arts, better known as EA, created a monster with this first edition. How about that skyline there — what is this, Streets of Rage?!

The gorgeous city backdrop from Streets of Rage
The gorgeous city backdrop from Streets of Rage







Shaquille O’Neal that is. Your eyes do not deceive you. Shaq didn’t appear in the SNES versions of NBA Jam, but he’s here in all his 7 foot 1 inch glory.







Simulation-based, yes. But there’s a healthy amount of arcade style thrown in there as well. You can adjust various options to make it as arcade-like as you wish. It strikes a nice balance.







Player ratings are ranked out of 99. It was always fun to see how each player was scored in all the categories they had.







Veterans of the NBA Live games know the “secrets” of the numbers. For example, when it came to 3 point shots, 75 was the magic number. If you were rated 75 or better, you could hit a good percentage of your 3 point shots. 74 and under drops dramatically. So guys like Derrick McKey of the Indiana Pacers were screwed, but Mark Jackson and Haywoode Workman could nail a decent amount of their 3’s, despite being separated by just one point. The Milwaukee Bucks in NBA Live ’96 had a whopping six guys rated 77 or higher in 3’s, making them extremely dangerous beyond the arc.







Dribbling is even rated. 75 is once again the magic number. If you were a 75 or higher in dribbling then you can do the crossover dribble. Guys like Jeff Grayer got the short end of the stick with a 74. But Donyell Marshall, barely cracking 75, could perform the crossover dribble. The (then) Washington Bullets had six guys rated 75 or better.







Cavaliers vs. Warriors was a different look back in the mid ’90s…







Switch substitution to manual in the strategy option screen. Trust me. If you left “fatigue” on then be sure to monitor your guys’ stamina bars throughout the game. Like I said, you can customize it to be as arcade-like as you want.







Statistic guy? If you’re like me then you’ll appreciate the amount of facts these games threw at you. You can see everything from total games played to points per game and more. Remember, this was back when the internet wasn’t really a thing, so having these features made it feel like your very own basketball encyclopedia!







Curious about a guy’s field goal percentage? Check. Curious about his exact number of shots made and attempted? Check. This game had it all.


David mother f*cking Wood!
David mother f*cking Wood!

My brother was once a big basketball card collector in the early to mid 1990’s. One day he ripped open a fresh pack and out popped this curious little card. I remember us laughing at David Wood’s expression like it was the funniest thing we had ever seen. But I also became a David Wood fan that day. He was an end of the bench player who bounced from team to team. There was something incredibly endearing about his playing style, however. He was fierce, and although he lacked talent compared to his NBA contemporaries, David Wood could never be accused of not trying. Wood was the motherf*cking man!

We shall never forget
We shall never forget

The reason why I’m highlighting David Wood here is because he really was my favorite player in the NBA back in the mid ’90s. Some people were Jordan fans. Others, Patrick Ewing or Reggie Miller. But me? I was team David Wood all the way. Even back then I was rooting for the underdogs and a supporter of the obscure! I mean, look at those staggering statistics there. How did this guy never make a single NBA All-Star team?! Highway robbery.

Here’s a five minute highlight reel of David Wood. Some of the footage is grainy due to the age, but it’ll give you a sense of why so many NBA fans in the ’90s adopted him as a pet favorite. Dude was scrappy and 110% heart.








Cleveland gets on the board first with a nice little push shot.







David Wood attempts to answer back. A little strong there, my friend…







Chris Mills stuffs it home to end the first quarter.







Warriors are off to a hot start shooting 75% from the field. They’ve doubled up Cleveland. Let’s head to the second quarter.







David Wood nudges Bobby Phills (R.I.P.) out of bounds. Crafty bastard.













SENSATIONAL move by Mark Price!

MJ did it best
Michael Jordan did it best, though
Never gets old seeing MJ's switch of hands layup
Never gets old seeing MJ’s switch of hands layup







Battle of the Chris!













Mullin filled up the stat sheet at the half. But he had zero blocks. That’s now been taken care of. He even knocks down the 3 pointer in transition. Cold blooded Chris Mullin. Steph Curry would be proud.







David Wood was known to knock down the occasional 3. For a 6’9″ Power Forward at the time, it was rather uncommon (unlike in today’s NBA). Wood could stroke it from downtown!







Sloppy pass leads to a fast break monster jam.













Bobby Phills channels his inner JR Smith to end the quarter and keep the Cavs within striking distance. Even though NBA Live is more of a simulation based basketball game, you can make a lot of crazy running shots like such. It really blends the two (simulation and arcade) masterfully.













Trivia question is presented at halftime. The answer is revealed end of the third quarter. Some of the questions are tough enough to stump even the most knowledgeable of NBA fans.













David Wood times his leap perfectly to block Mark Price’s shot. Wood dribbles down the court and launches a 3 pointer. Hey Mullin, whatever you can do Wood can do better. OOF. Or maybe not. Wood’s 3 point rating, by the way, 74. One point shy of the magical mark. ROBBERY!







Fortunately, Mullin grabs the offensive rebound. Yo Wood, this is how it’s done. OOF. Or maybe not.







Critical basket by Mark Price puts the Cavs up by 3. 50-47. 30 seconds left. Game 7. Who’s going to save the day for the Dubs?







Latrell Sprewell makes eye contact with a streaking David Wood. Wood wants it. Sprewell passes the ball to Wood who then rises for the potential game tying 3 point shot…




















Luckily, Latrell Sprewell manages to steal the ball and launch a game tying 3 point shot with less than a second to go! We’re all tied up 50 a piece — it’s Overtime!







Nothing beats a Game 7 Overtime.







Absolutely ruthless, that Mark Price. 53-50 Cavs.







Mullin answers! Tied at 53 a piece.







Victor Alexander tries to scoop the ball off to a wide open cutting David Wood, but sadly Big Vic is too slow, resulting in a critical turnover.







Remember that play earlier where Wood nudges the Cavs player out of bounds? Deja vu! Wood was always one scrappy son of a gun.































REDEMPTION! This time Big Vic reacted faster and made the connection with David Wood for the clutch game tying reverse jam!







Nothing beats a Game 7 DOUBLE Overtime.







ZOINKS! Mark Price blows the layup! Fatigue has set in. Those legs aren’t as light as they were in the first quarter. Hey, just ask Kyrie Irving…







Massive dunks both ways to tie it up 61 all.













Hardaway with the vision and excellent deep pass to a wide open streaking Chris Mullin for the clutch go ahead 3 pointer in transition! This is another aspect that the NBA Live games nailed down. Other SNES basketball games struggle with the passing game. They often result in annoying turnovers and it was practically impossible to make a long pass like you just saw here. These little details go a long way and really separate NBA Live from the pack.







Kyrie Irving is much better but man Mark Price had some game. Big 3 point shot here to put the Cavs up by two with less than 30 seconds to go!







David Wood for the tie!? … Nope.







Hardaway, the smallest guy on the court, with the big offensive rebound and game tying layup! Tim Hardaway was sick back in the day.













Hardaway with the heads up defense!













David Wood gets a shot, literally, at redemption. Nothing but net!













Warriors win 68-66 in Double Overtime! Mark Price might have won the Player of the Game award, but the Warriors win the war.







Player stats can also be viewed.







Bloody hell, Wood had a bad shooting game but hey, he made them when they counted the most!








Every NBA game back in the ’90s had their own free throw system. Nobody did it better than EA Sports with their NBA Live franchise. A crossbar appears on the screen and your job is to center both basketballs in the middle as best as you can. The speed of the ball traveling is dependent on your player’s free throw rating. The higher his rating, the slower the ball travels. The lower his rating, the faster.







Failure to align the balls closely in the middle results in bricks. The best part of this gimmick? The away team’s basketballs in the cross section become clear circles with white outlines. And the home player can madly tap buttons to cause the fans in the free throw background to wave their arms around. It’s such a small detail but one that my brother and I loved back in the day. It truly brings forth the meaning of “home court advantage.” Brilliant.







Ratings were based off their actual performance from the free throw line that season of 1994-1995. I have to say, though, that Chris Mullin was robbed. He shot 87.8% on the season but EA gave him a free throw rating of 87. Round that sucker up to 88, would ya?! Talk about stingy :P







Nothing like a pure swish. Love the way the net either sways to the side or straight up. By the way, NBA Live ’96 has the best sound effects in the series. For some reason, the other entries are a bit muted.


'96 introduced create a player
’96 introduced create a player

For my money, NBA Live ’96 is the best of the lot. NBA Live ’95 started the groundwork, but NBA Live ’96 refined the foundation. This included crossover dribbles, a create a player mode, trading players and so forth.














Going from top left to bottom right: NBA Live ’95, ’96, ’97 and ’98. Notice that the Boston Garden looks the most different in NBA Live ’95. I actually like the look and aesthetic of NBA Live ’95 the best. But ’96 captured the magic of the series in general. ’97 and ’98 are great too, but feel more like afterthoughts milking the cow. It’s interesting to note that Hitmen Productions developed ’95 and ’96, not EA Sports (they were the publisher instead). NuFx developed ’97 and Tiertex Design Studios developed ’98. ’97 added a half-court 2 on 2 and 3 on 3 mode, for what that’s worth.


Hello, Dennis Rodman
Hello, Dennis Rodman
Sometimes you get caught up around the hoop
Sometimes you get caught up around the hoop
This doesn't look like it'll end well...
This doesn’t look like it’ll end well…
Whoa what!
Whoa, what?
Take that, Worm!
Take that, Worm!


NBA Live was a slam dunk
NBA Live was a slam dunk

The NBA Live series on the SNES is often regarded as the finest simulation basketball titles of the 16-bit era. And rightfully so. Talko from GameFan fame gave NBA Live ’95 a whopping 98% score. He called it unquestionably the best sports game he had ever played. Super Play rated it 84%. Some folks go back and back on whether they like the NBA Jam or NBA Live series better, but it’s a bit like comparing burgers and pizzas. Both are excellent; it just depends on your mood.


These games hold up well
Basketball done damn right

I have such fond memories of the NBA Live games. They played great back then, and still to this day they hold up remarkably fine. The new isometric perspective brings the action full throttle like never before seen. You can finally throw baseball passes and execute fast breaks properly, just like you see in the pros. Best of all, NBA Live added a turbo button (not unlike NBA Jam) which allows a speed burst to add some spice to the gameplay. Previous SNES basketball titles had no turbo option, making them a bit clunky to play and penetration in the paint proved to be difficult. Not the case here. It really brought a new sense of life to the way we viewed basketball games. There’s never a moment of slowdown and although NBA Live is more simulation-based, there is a great mix of arcade action as well. It’s a near perfect marriage of the two.

Rock on, NBA Live. Rock on
Rock on, NBA Live. Rock on

You can’t go wrong with any entry from this series. But if I had to recommend just one, I’d definitely go with NBA Live ’96. I still occasionally replay it these days from time to time. As far as sports games go on the Super Nintendo, this is one of the very best. It’s simply a ton of fun and has aged remarkably well. Yes, it’s a little too easy to hit shots, and you probably shouldn’t be able to make so many 3 pointers fading away, but it’s all part of the charm. Maybe it won’t convert non basketball enthusiasts, but basketball aficionados are sure to be in NBA heaven here.

NBA Live overall score: 9.5

Double Gold Award
Double Gold Award








Remembering 9/11 and Coach Butler

15 years... wow. 15 years
15 years… wow. 15 years

Today is 9/11. September 11, 2016. 16 years ago there was no significance to September 11. But that all changed 15 years ago when terrorists attacked the Twin Towers and changed American history forever. My heart and prayers go out to all the brave men and women who ever served or is currently serving our country. And to all the families who were affected by the 9/11 tragedy.

Below is a detailed experience of my weeks leading up to September 11, 2001, the day itself, and the day after. In short, it could be summed up by the following:

Some days you’ll always remember.

Some teachers you never forget.


2001 was a thrilling and pivotal year for me. The first half saw the final days of my high school career. Senior Prom, Picnic, Mosh Pit, Grad Night, Graduation, etc. Exciting times. Meanwhile, I was awaiting college with bated breath. The second half of 2001 I began my freshmen year at University, ecstatic to break away from the chains of my high school past, ready to turn the page and start a new chapter.

I’ll never forget freshmen year, but in particular, I’ll never forget that first semester.

One day changed that semester for the worse.

But one man changed it for the better.


My brother Kevin is two years my senior. We carpooled, arriving on campus bright and early at 7:30. He showed me around — the buildings my classes were in, the library, and all the other ‘hot spots.’

The buzz in the air on campus that morning was incredibly palpable. To THIS day I can still feel  it rattling in my bones. The frat boys were out in full force already scanning the masses for new recruits. A sea of humanity stretched on as far as the eye could see. The freshmen were easily discernible from the others. I was not the exception to the rule. We were fresh meat; wide-eyed newbies either anxious or eager, maybe both, to get the ball rolling.

My very first class was Beginning Acting 8:30 sharp. My four other classes were Beginning Basketball, Public Speaking, English and Math.

I loved all my classes, but one rose above the rest: Beginning Basketball. Mondays and Wednesdays 10:30 to 11:45.



First day of basketball class I showed up 15 minutes early. Two guys were already chilling up in the bleachers, one of whom I hadn’t seen since junior high — 5+ years! Alex introduced me to his buddy Jon, and while Alex and I caught up on the past half decade of our lives, more bodies started filling the bleachers.


It wasn’t long before everyone was settled in, talking excitedly about getting our game on, about how we would take the other to school. Break ankles with the killer crossover. The tallest guy in the class joked about how he’d dunk on each of us before the semester was over. Michael Jordan, on the verge of his second NBA comeback, was also the talk of the town. We were simply a bunch of basketball-loving 18, 19 year old puppies. Other than two girls, it was a total sausage fest. Everyone was living the moment up, except for this mysterious guy off in the corner — hood draped over his head, ball in hand. You could tell ballin’ was his life. For some reason, it was an image that stuck.

Everyone was talking about what an easy class this would be. Oh how wrong were we…

Then, at 10:30 sharp, the double doors swung open violently. A tall, lanky fella-in-a-suit with a whistle wrapped around his neck, made his way to the center of the court. He walked with a hardened purpose and swagger, conveying the thought that this was one bad apple not to be messed with. Although most of us had piped down, a few guys were still yappin’.

The clamor was interrupted by a loud, sharp, sudden whistle sound that cut through the entire gymnasium. You could hear a pin drop as a thunderous silence fell over the entire gym.

He froze us with his icy stare, scanning each of us as if to make quick mental notes. His eyes looked like burning coals, darting from student to student like a thief running in the night. We sat there quietly anticipating his next course of action, like wounded animals astutely watching the voracious lion’s every move.

And his first proclamation came as swiftly as the whistle went.



I almost shot up out of my seat! Some were slow to get down, as if to play it cool. When we all finally congregated at the center of the basketball court, with us on one side, him on the other, I figured it must have looked like a scene out of a hoops film.


My imagination had already ran away, y’see.

That's what Coach Butler really said
That’s what Coach Butler really said


Alex shot me a glance as if to say, “Is this fool for real?”


None of us had any idea what we got ourselves into.

“So gentleman,” Coach paused in recognition of the two girls obscured in the crowd. “And ladies…”



He paused and waited. Those 10 seconds felt like 10 weeks. Coach had completely marked his territory. This guy was unlike any professor I’d ever had, ever.

Finally he glanced at his watch.

 he announced. “Leave your bags here, the gym will be locked. Let’s take a little stroll outside.”

As he led the way, we quietly shuffled along. After that crazy speech, who knew what was in store for today, or the rest of the semester for that matter.

And on that chilly Wednesday morning, Coach ordered us to start running. Who does this guy think he is? But I knew better, so I kept my trap shut. But not Alex’s friend Jon, who had the nerve and gall to ask “For how long?”


5 minutes in, Coach had put his iron-clad stamp on the semester.


A few groans broke out as we reluctantly began a light jog. All around us students were walking to class, grabbing a bite to eat, or chilling on the benches by the trees. I initially felt like a victim. But then I came to realize, running around campus on just my second day of college, what a SURREAL experience this was. I always try to see the glass half-full, y’see. But my side started to ache not before long, and just as soon, my epiphany began to fade.


Finally, thankfully, mercifully, he whistled us in. We walked over, many of us panting and gasping for air. “I see it’s gonna be a long semester,” Coach said despondingly. “Get used to this. We’re gonna run run run RUN RUN. And then we’re gonna… by God, run some more! Alright, everyone back to the gym!”


Back inside, he passed out the course sheets. “In your hands you now hold the ten commandments of Beginning Basketball. If you cannot meet these standards, I suggest you drop my course pronto. Starting Monday, the REAL class begins. You thought today was tough?” He shook his head. “Get some rest, boys and girls.”

And just like that, he walked out of the gym. POOF.

We were left stranded, holding his “contract” in a state of both exhaustion and trepidation. And that’s when the quote of the year was uttered by the tallest player in the class:


I laughed. And then thought to myself: “Yeah, and we’re the Brown Shirts.”

Suddenly, I was no longer laughing.


10:20 AM. Sitting in the bleachers waiting for Hit, er, Coach, I noticed class was smaller today. It turned out six people dropped, including one of the two girls.

At precisely 10:30, Coach Butler came power walking in the gym. This time he had with him a clipboard. And not one soul was yappin’.

Coach blew his whistle.




Coach had us start out on defense, explaining the proper defensive stance, ball and body whistle drills and the like.


“Move your feet! Bend those knees! One hand guards the passing lane, the other protects the crossover dribble!”



After a grueling workout, he lined us up against the wall. I knew this could only mean one thing and one thing only…

Son of a bitch. Burpee's cousin
Son of a bitch. Burpee’s cousin



Run up to each marker one at a time, bend over and touch the line with your finger, run back, touch that line again, and progress to the next marker. Repeat until the entire gym is covered.

We never touched a basketball that morning. After class in the locker room, a few of the guys were bitchin’.

“What the fuck, I didn’t sign up for aerobics!”

“How long is he gonna keep this up? When are we gonna play some games?”

“This shit ain’t funny. We suppose to be playing BASKETBALL, not fucking run!”


Deep down I respected Coach for his toughness. In a way, I even admired him. But you pick your battles, and I didn’t see any good to play devil’s advocate for Coach, so I quietly changed as they jawed back and forth. I left to English class on two very sore legs.


Today we ran and practiced our defense again. Then, Coach added in some teamwork drills. We formed four teams of six. The objective? Repeatedly throw a basketball off the backboard and never let it touch the ground. The catch? Everyone had to be constantly running in motion. The jumping, the running, and the TIMING — the ability of your teammates to give you a good bounce, as well as vice versa, plays a huge role in how much success your team will have.


Then we ran a “weaving motion pass” system. Four lines with one person in each row weaving in their two lanes, passing the rock back and forth. Relatively easy, right? Sure… ’til Coach demanded it be done at breakneck speed! MADNESS.



One full week in the semester, we hadn’t played one lousy game yet, let alone take one stinkin’ shot. Even I was starting to wonder when could we get some games going. Before we left the gym that day Coach seemed to have read our minds.

“Starting Monday, we will begin playing basketball games.”

We let out a semi-mock celebratory cheer.


And once again he left the gym, leaving us alone to chew over the magnitude of another infamous proclamation.


We started the day off with suicides, did a motion-weave pass drill, and then the games were finally on. 24 players in all, four teams of six. 5-on-5 games, so each team had a sub. The schedule was simple: run and work on drills for the first half hour. The final 45 minutes were spent playing three games 15 minutes a piece.


Remember that mysterious hooded baller? Coach selected random captains today — of which I was one. I had the 1st “draft pick” and selected Denny, “the mysterious baller.” He was one of the top three overall players in the class. He dribbled like a Globetrotter, passed like Magic Johnson and was quick like Allen Iverson.

Alex was my 3rd round pick. Bros before hos! Actually, that one girl was pretty damn good. I mean, FOR A GIRL.

[Oh no you dih-ent! -Ed.]

Seriously, she had game. She was taken before Alex!

It was a great day. Our conditioning was improving, and now we were finally playing some ball. My legs were adjusting to the rigorous routine and no longer ached after a class as they did before.

I loved all my classes, especially Beginning Acting and Basketball. So far, college was sweet. I broke away from my high school crowd. I made new friends. Classes were cool. Girls were cute. Life was good.

But less than 24 hours later, that would all change in the blink of an eye.


Just a mere two weeks after I started college, the joy and excitement of a new beginning took a backseat to the most horrific tragedy to hit the US in recent memory.

I remember waking up, going downstairs and turning on the TV. The Twin Towers were engulfed in flames. Endless billows of smoke devoured the morning sky. At first I thought it was a movie, but then I spotted the news logo on the screen. This was no movie. This was real.

That morning Kevin and I drove solemnly to school, listening to the radio. We heard the cries and the chaos unravel. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before.


We arrived on campus around 8 and went straight to the University library; to the floor where they had a television playing the morning news. Everyone was watching the horrific tragedy unfold. I remember just looking around the room and seeing the horrified faces, sad ones and angry ones… images you can’t ever forget.




My first class that fateful morning was Beginning Acting with Laura Smith at 8:30. We didn’t act that day.

It was a small class (only 13 students). One of them was missing. It was Becky, who moved from New York the previous summer. Amber, a close friend of Becky’s, informed us that her family was directly affected. It hit me like a ton of bricks. It reminded how our small problems are really just that: small. While we’re fussing over a bad date last Friday night, or how we were sniped on eBay, the Becky Slaters of the world had family dying in New York.

Laura sat in front of us staring at the ground in dead silence… we waited for what seemed like an eternity. Finally she looked up at us, shook her head and we spent the entire period talking about 9/11.

Math was next, and it was more of the same. We didn’t work, we talked.

Around noon, the entire University cancelled all classes for the remainder of that day. It was sheer chaos as suddenly the campus was ransack with students all rushing to the parking lots. Some acted as though our campus was next in line for terrorist attack. It was surreal as hell… an unforgettable scene… the kind you wake up to on certain mornings.

2 weeks into college, things were going about as well as you could hope for. But in one morning, the world was turned upside down.


When I entered the gym that morning, I found the bleachers already filled with my classmates. It was a somber scene. Some were reading the paper, others were talking in a very subdued manner. We were still confused, still angry, and still trying to cope in our own ways. I went over to Alex and Jon, who were both silently staring down at the gym below them. I looked over at Denny. No basketball in hand. No one was in the mood to play ball at a time like this, not even him.


I remember sitting the 3rd row up, seat number 130. It was now 10:31. No sign of Coach yet. I couldn’t help but stare at the entrance, waiting for Coach to come through. He’s ALWAYS on time — 10:30 sharp. Maybe 10:29. But right now, no one knew where he was.

Where was he?
Where was Coach?

We waited and waited. 10 minutes went by. Still no Coach. I kept staring at the double doors, waiting… hoping… for Coach to walk through.

Now it was 10:42. No sign of Coach. Uncharacteristic of the man, we started speculating. I pondered whether or not Coach had any family in New York. For that matter, did he have a family at all? What did I know about Coach, anyway? I realized: Nothing. Coach was like a robot. We knew nothing of his personal life, and only knew of him as the black Adolf Hitler.

I was lost in my thoughts until the doors flung open at 10:45. A hush fell over the crowd. Coach came in with a whistle tied around his neck and clipboard in hand. He showed no emotion other than his usual stern self. He walked over to the cabinet, removed a set of keys from his pocket, unlocked the cabinet and brought out a rack of basketballs. Then he walked to the center of the court, looked up at his players sitting high in the bleachers above him, and waited.

10 very tense seconds of silence commenced…


Up in the bleachers we looked at each other, all curious what Coach would say first. How would he address the tragedy? Why was he 15 minutes late? I remember thinking, “We’re about to finally see a human side to Coach.”

All eyes were on him. We waited for him to say something… anything. But he only stared back at us, a blank slate devoid of any emotion.

Finally, Coach broke the silence.



And like the voice of God raining down on us, all twenty four Beginning Basketball players stood up and lumbered on down. Descending the stairway, my mind was racing. What’s going to happen? By the time I reached the court I decided on one thing:

Hey, cut Coach some slack.

He just wants us face-to-face, coz he’s a straight shooter like that.

He’s going to address the 9/11 tragedy right here, right now.

He never did.

“Rios, Westbrook, Adams and Myers — you’re leaders,” he bellowed. He jotted some notes on his clipboard. His expression didn’t change from the stoic look that he always wore.

And that was that. Fresh off the tragedy of 9/11, how could anyone play basketball at a time like this? Staring blankly at one another in disbelief, none of us budged. Had Coach no heart? Had the man no soul? I looked at him in stony silence. Busy scribbling notes on his clipboard, he carried on as if nothing ever happened. What’s his problem? I was searching desperately for a reason to justify his actions, or lack thereof. The guy I respected, admired and even believed in. Perhaps the others were right. Coach was nothing more than a cold-blooded ruthless power drunk bastard.

Seeing our reluctance to start, Coach applied just the right touch of care and incentive:


And for the next hour we played basketball. No one went full-speed. How could we? Our minds and hearts were elsewhere. A place with more pressing matter than a silly game of a round bouncing ball.

But then… a funny thing happened.

To call it a miracle would be a definite stretch of the imagination. Or maybe not. But it was nothing short of a magical feeling that morning.

About halfway through the games, we started having fun. The simple execution of a give and go. The satisfaction of swishing a 3. The feeling of joy off assisting your teammate with a perfectly timed wrap-around pass.


Suddenly we played harder. We shouted out basketball team terminology like “Screen left!” and “I got ball!” We ran as though our lives depended on it. We shared the rock and switched from zone defense to man-to-man. The games became competitive. Fast. Furious.


And as we ran up and down the court that morning like a bunch of carefree ten-year-olds, I looked up at the bleachers and saw Coach sitting there.

I saw something I would never forget.

Coach Butler was beaming
Coach Butler was beaming

And then it hit me.

I understood now.

Everyone deals with tragedy and grief in their own unique way.

Some people eat.

Some focus on material possessions.

Some cry and mourn.

Others play basketball.

Every professor I had that semester took the day after 9/11 off, but not Coach Butler. Rather, he did things his own way.

Looking back… I’d say… it was the right way.



That morning I came to realize playing basketball with your friends can be therapeutic. In the locker room that afternoon (as it came to be), the mood was less somber, despite the reality of the situation being very much the same. You can’t always change the reality, but you can ALWAYS choose how to REACT to it. Indirectly, or maybe directly, Coach taught me that.

It was the first time I saw Coach smile. It was also one of the very few times. He never did bring up 9/11, and I’m sure he had his reasons. The rest of the semester proceeded exactly how we started. He was the boss. We the grasshoppers. He accepted nothing less than max effort, he was rough, and he was tough. And for that I have mad respect for him.

I aced the class and finished with a 3.871 GPA that semester.

A year later, Fall 2002, I returned to the same gym I’d poured buckets of sweat on. It was the first week of school. I was a sophomore now, and although I wasn’t registered for Beginning Basketball, I thought I check it out anyway.

Coach was surprised to see me that morning.

“I thought I got rid of you. You’re coming back for more?”

Coach was friendlier with me than before. I chalked it up to my passing his course, and possibly, in the process earning his respect man to man. I made three “special guest appearances” during that first month. I did the same drills, ran around campus and I played ball with those new guys. Just for fun. But once my school work load piled on, I never went back.

In the Spring of 2003, I was walking through the crowd on campus when I noticed a man on a bicycle quickly coming my way. It was Coach Butler! I figured he wouldn’t notice me, or if he did, that he wouldn’t bother to say hello. Imagine my surprise when he called me out in the crowd. We talked for 5 minutes. It made me proud to know that I had, without a shadow of a doubt, earned his respect.

The next time I ran into Coach it wasn’t long thereafter.

It was the very next semester in fact. Fall 2003. My tradition was every Friday I went to the University gym to play pickup ball. One day who else but Coach Butler and his friends were playing. Coach told me to join in. Next thing I know, I’m in a 5-on-5 game with and against Coach and his friends. His friends were YOKED. Talk about being thrown into the fire!

At the end of a hard fought game, Coach came up to me, shook my hand and told me something I’ll always remember:

“Nice game. You held your own.”

Noting the gleam in his eye, like that of a proud uncle, I simply nodded as we shook hands.

Then, we parted ways.

And that was the last time I ever saw him.



Many years later I caught in theatres COACH CARTER, starring Samuel L. Jackson, with a guest appearance by the lovely Ashanti. It surprised me how eerily similar the movie was to my own experience with Coach Butler.

Go see my movie, bitch!
Go see my movie, bitch!


Beginning Basketball with Coach Butler was one of the best classes I ever took. At the time, I thought he was merely teaching the fundamentals of basketball. Nothing more. It was only later that I realized… all along he was teaching me about life.


NBA Give ‘N Go (SNES)

Pub: Konami | Dev: KCEO | Nov. '95 | 16 MEGS
Pub: Konami | Dev: KCEO | Nov. ’95 | 16 MEGS

One of the thrills of growing up during the mid ’90s were all the awesome arcade games just waiting for you to plop a quarter in. And the longing hopes and dreams that one day soon the spirit and essence of your favorite arcade title would receive a respectable enough translation on your 16-bit console of choice. They never captured the arcade original perfectly, but the best ports brought home a piece of the arcade. Sometimes you didn’t have to wait very long. Other times, it would be years later. Such was the case for NBA Give ‘N Go. Was it worth the wait? Strap on your squeaky sneakers and let’s take a look.


THE arcade game for basketball junkies
THE arcade game for basketball junkies

… there was Run ‘N Gun. It was loud, in your face and full of that early-mid ’90s arcade wonder. Walk into any arcade hall more than 20 years ago and you would be bombarded by dazzling lights and ear-crunching sound effects all vying for your quarter’s attention. Right in the thick of the Golden Fighting Game era, Konami released a basketball game that emphasized action and fun over strategy and simulation (although it certainly had some of that too, especially when compared to NBA Jam). My brother, friends and I immediately fell in love with it. And we were counting down the days until it would be ported over for either the Sega Genesis or the Super Nintendo. Our wish came true but unfortunately, no sooner than two plus years later.

Nothing like throwing down a monster jam
Nothing like throwing down a monster jam
The rich bold colors captivated me
The rich bold colors captivated me

My brother was a huge basketball nut back in 1993. Me? The sport was OK. I liked it reasonably well enough, but I didn’t go out of my way to catch the games when it came across the ol’ telly. To be honest, at 10 years old I was far more interested in playing video games or watching WWF wrestling. But my perspective on the game of basketball all took a turn on one particularly fateful day…


The day I became a basketball lover for life
The day I became a basketball lover for life

Monday, May 29, 1995 is a day I’ll never forget. Hard to believe the other day marked 21 years since that fateful day…

It was Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals which pitted the young uprising Orlando Magic vs. the Indiana Pacers. I was at the local mall walking past Radio Shack when I saw they had the game playing on 10 TV screens. There were 3 people standing there, watching in angst and talking in-between plays. I joined, making it a crowd of 4. The game was in the final 3 minutes, and as the drama unfolded, the crowd steadily grew from 4 to 8 to 12. Even the employees stopped what they were doing and joined our huddle.

These are the moments you live for as a sports fan (as I would come to find out), and to boot it was one of the greatest finishes EVER in NBA playoff history.

With under 15 seconds to go, this improbable sequence took place:

  • Brian Shaw’s 3 pointer gave the Magic the 1 point lead
  • Reggie Miller answered with one of his own, putting the Pacers back up by 2 causing the Indiana crowd to erupt in a frenzy
  • Mere seconds later the player many then believed would carry Jordan’s torch as well as the NBA into the new millennium, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, nailed a dramatic heart breaking 3, giving the Magic a 1 point lead with 1.3 seconds to go. It left the sold out capacity crowd in stunned silence
Penny in his prime was something special
Penny in his prime was something special

As the game went to its final commercial break there was a deafening buzz within Radio Shack’s small confines. I was right in the middle of it and the raw adrenaline was indescribable. I felt like I was at the game myself!

To this day I still can hear that classic NBA on NBC theme, being played on no less than TEN television monitors, in full blast stereo reverberating throughout the store and the entire mall itself. It’s one of those vivid childhood memories that haunts me to the core… even 21 years later.

Suddenly we were no longer just a bunch of strangers, no. This playoff basketball game magically banded us together. We were basketball fans, enjoying and living up the moment.

I saw basketball in a new light — the likes of which I hadn’t seen before. There was strategy, there were tactics. Beyond that, I started appreciating the concept of teamwork and five different people of varying size and skills working as one well oiled machine.

That day I developed a much deeper appreciation for basketball. It’s the moment I became a fan for life.

Fakes... shoots... HE HITS HE HITS HE HITS!!!
“Fakes, shoots and — HE HITS HE HITS!!”

Down 1 with 1.3 seconds left, the ball made its way to the dunking Dutchman, Rik Smits. He faked, shot and the ball ripped nothing but net as the buzzer sounded off. The place became unglued and the roof blew off. Radio Shack’s walls were shaking as we all screamed, jumping up and down in pure disbelief at what we had just witnessed on the 10 TV monitors that stood before us.

I was only 11 years old while everyone else around me in the store was probably 20 or older. Those 15 minutes or so catching the 4th quarter and cheering and booing madly at the TV screen with a bunch of folks I never met before… PRICELESS. I remember on the car ride home in the backseat I kept replaying the events in my head… thinking to myself that that was the coolest thing that ever happened to me so far in my young life. Ha! But the moment was nothing short of magic.

I think back 21  years ago… part of me can’t believe it, you know. It was the best NBA Playoff game I ever saw, and to this day, I have not seen a game better or more dramatic than the one that occurred on May 29, 1995 — the Memorial Day Miracle.

Memorial Day Miracle 2.0...
Memorial Day Miracle 2.0… nothing like witnessing heroics and an arena erupting

Yesterday brought back some goosebumps and fond memories for me… as the Golden State Warriors battled the Oklahoma City Thunder in a decisive Game 7… also on Memorial Day. 21 years later ALMOST TO THE DAY… it was a miracle that the Warriors were able to storm back and push the series to a 7th and final game, as they were down 3-1 but not only down — they looked completely out of it. Somehow, they dug deep and Steph Curry and Klay Thompson knocked down some ridiculous 3 point shots. It was a nice dramatic game but the Warriors eventually won 96-88. It’s hard to compare it to the Pacers-Magic game 21 years ago, but it certainly was special in its own unique way.

I just wish they would bring back that classic NBA theme regardless of which station the games emanate from. There’s nothing comparable to John Tesh’s amazing Roundball Rock score!


Why not try the Konami code here?
Why not try the Konami code here?
Up, up, down, down...
Up, up, down, down…
Gonna replicate the Memorial Day Miracle from '95
Gonna replicate the Memorial Day Miracle from ’95

All NBA teams and players are here, including that year’s All-Star selections. The Shooting Stars and Supreme Team are five player teams that consist of the best five players from each conference. Think of it as a Dream Team. You can also edit it to form your own fantasy team. More on this later.

Find out who's hot and who's not tonight
Find out who’s hot and who’s not tonight

Give ‘N Go has an interesting quirk where players are rated per stars. Three max. This changes from game to game randomly. It basically indicates how the player is “feeling” that game. The more stars, the higher chance he’ll have at making baskets. It’s a unique feature that factors in the “human” element of players’ feelings on a game by game basis. You can still have a good game with a guy who has zero stars, but it’s tougher. Hey, maybe his wife cheated on him that day, who knows! Like a box of chocolate, ya never know what you might get.

Hoping to see lots of stars was just part of the fun
This is an example of a time you want to see stars

I can’t think of any other 16-bit basketball game that gauges how a player is feeling on a game-to-game basis. It’s fun firing the game up and hoping to see many stars across the board. As it was randomly generated game by game, it added an extra element of spice.

Sometimes it would spur me to sit a starter for a bench player — say if the starter had zero stars and the capable bench player was feeling particularly spry with three stars. Good stuff.

C'mon, you know it's coming. Oh yeah...
C’mon, you know it’s coming. Oh yeah…
MODE 7 MADNESS!!! *Monster Truck Voice Guy*
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
The game nails it in the presentation department
The game nails it in the presentation department

Miller is cocked and ready to shoot [That's what she said -Ed.]
Miller, cocked, ready to shoot! That came out wrong
You gotta love how big the players are. There’s a nice ‘thickness’ to them [That’s what she said -Ed.] and they really do look like the actual stars themselves. Can you tell that’s Reggie Miller there? Quite easily, I’d wager. Look at the defensive stance of that bloke over there — very realistic eh? One hand guards the ball, the other guards the passing lane. Hey, I aced Beginning and Intermediate Basketball in my day, ya know? Picked up a few tricks along the way ;)

If it's Reggie, it's good. It's Miller Time
If it’s Reggie, it’s good. It’s Miller Time


Miller soars up with the greatest of ease as Nick Anderson is caught with sand in his shoes. Great visuals, eh? Now this is basketball! Player mechanics are accurately mimicked.

Nothing like the dramatic bounce of the ball...
Nothing like the dramatic bounce of the ball…
Gotta love those lucky bounces :)
Gotta love those lucky bounces :)
Run back to your invisible bench and coach
Run back to your invisible bench and coach
"The Pacers have to do a better job of converting those dunks"
“Pacers have to do a better job converting those dunks.”

“And after one it’s a real tight ball game we have here today, Bob.”

“Indeed. If this is a sign of things to come, fans I hope you’re all strapped in — it’s gonna be one heck of a ride!”

“What a great first quarter of action, Bob.”

“Can’t ask for much more on this beautiful Memorial Day, 1995!”

“It just may come down to a buzzer beating last second shot for one of these teams…”

Will the "Dunking Dutchman" live up to his name?
Will the “Dunking Dutchman” live up to his name?
Perhaps next time, then
Perhaps next time, then
Never know what these players are thinking or saying during the course of a game!
Never know what they’re thinking during the game


Pacers really surged ahead in that 2nd quarter
Pacers really surged ahead in that 2nd quarter
Speed depends on the player's actual FT % from that NBA season
Speed depends on the player’s free throw %
Damn, times are tougher than I thought!
Damn, times are tougher than I thought!
Not quite the Memorial Day Miracle barn burner, eh?
Not quite the Memorial Day Miracle barn burner, eh?

Life is like a hurricane
HERE IN… Duckburg
Race cars, lasers, airplanes
Might solve a mystery…
Or rewrite history!


Ahem, sorry… [You’re fired -Ed.]

Love seeing the stats at the end. Sorry no Shaq
Love seeing the stats at the end. Sorry no Shaq
A solid all-around team performance, with Miller leading the charge
Everyone contributed, with Miller leading the charge


NBA Give 'N Go_00009

Nothing humbles the opposition quite like a big time block. I love how that one Magic player is running back up the other side of the court… thinking his teammate has got the basket. Uh, I’ve got something to say about that…

This must be awkward...
This must be awkward…

NBA Give 'N Go_00000

Thankfully, NBA Give ‘N Go gives players an option. When going for a slam dunk, you can press the shoot button to change the dunk animation into a layup midway through!

Very handy indeed
Very handy indeed

It keeps the opposition honest, and because the game is so block friendly, this scoring alternative is a God send, especially in two player games with a buddy.

Pump fake...
Pump fake…
Hustle around...
Hustle around…
Cock the ball back...
Cock the ball back…
... and destroy that rim!
… and destroy that rim!
Few things are as satisfying
Few things are as satisfying
Rodman's liable to shoot from right there, the nut!
Rodman is liable to shoot from right there, the nut!

As I said earlier, players look like the real players. Here you see Dennis Rodman in all his crazy madness. Unfortunately though, the game does not account for the size differences. John Stockton is just as tall as Patrick Ewing. Shame about that, but oh well, what can ya do? [Play NBA Jam -Ed.]

Gotta love the Garden
Gotta love the Garden

One of the really neat things about Give ‘N Go is seeing all the different NBA arenas. Though they’re not as unique as, say, baseball parks, some of them definitely have their own sense of history and atmosphere. It’s one thing this game definitely has over any other SNES basketball title, such as the NBA Live and NBA Jam series.

This is my go-to court to play on
This is my go-to court to play on

But my absolute favorite is easily the All-Star court. With its brightly colored court, it just makes it fun to shoot at all odd corners of the floor. I don’t know what it is about that, but on this court, I just love pulling up for 17, 18 foot jump shots. Something about shooting on that solid purple floor is mighty addicting…

The two Dream Teams add some replay value to the game
The two Dream Teams add some extra replay value
Have at it and have it your way
Have at it and have it your way


North American owners got gypped!
North American owners got gypped!

Don’t know why but the Japanese version of this game is battery-backed, while the US version received a super crappy password feature to save the regular season games. Talk about absurd — look how long the password is!

"Um... I just got out of the pool. No really!"
“Um… I just got out of the pool. No really!”

HUH! Yep, sometimes players will shrink for a very brief period of time. It doesn’t affect gameplay — at least so far that I’ve been able to witness — it’s more of a sight gag if anything. I guess it’s just the SNES straining from the odd time to time. Give ‘N Go is no Killer Instinct or DOOM in terms of pushing the system to the limits, but it also wasn’t Super Tennis.

Look at the Pacers' 3 point percentage...
Look at the Pacers’ 3 point percentage — 3 for 17?!

It’s easy hitting 3 point shots in the 1st quarter. After that, oddly enough, it becomes hard even if you’re a 3 point specialist like Reggie Miller. Not saying it’s impossible to nail 3 point shots past the 1st quarter — it just becomes much harder. Why this is, I have no idea. But it does put a bit of a damper on the game. See, the Magic hit 1 out of 2, but I kept chucking threes into the 2nd half of the game, and I kept missing them (even with a dead-eye shooter such as Reggie). Not cool.


  • - Rim physics aren’t realistic (then again, it IS an arcade game)
  • - Whoever is running down court has a disadvantage. The rim on the bottom half of the court isn’t visible at all times
  • - Stat tracking leaves something to be desired. No assists — what?
  • - Guards are as tall as centers. Those who can’t dunk in real life can dunk in the game
  • - Alley oop system can be abused
  • - Gameplay is not as quick as NBA Jam or NBA Live. It may feel too slow for some folks. Personally, I think it still plays fine in spite of the less-than-stellar speed


  • + I gotta give PROPS to the announcer. He’s pretty wacky. “REBOUND AND JAAAM!”  (adds to the early-mid ’90s arcade feel of the game)
  • + Speaking of the sound, unlike many basketball games, Give ‘N Go actually incorporates music during the game. I found the upbeat melodies to be pleasant
  • + Visually, the game’s quite ace. Players are huge and easy to make out. Amazing little details like Dennis Rodman’s wild hair and Horace Grant’s goggles give the game a sense of “life” and personality. Plus the NBA courts are nicely detailed
  • + Another praise for the 0 to 3 star rank system. On any given night, any player can be a capable threat. Some nights your star players will feel like superstars. But on other nights however, perhaps your 10th man on the bench is feeling particularly spry. It’s all randomly generated and you never know who’s feeling hot (or not) on any given night. Cool feature if you ask me! It’s nice too that 0 star players can STILL have a big game for you… 3 stars only mean he’s THAT much more capable
  • + Rarely slows down. Impressive considering the size of ten big players running around
  • + Can edit your own Dream Team of stars and scrubs however you like
  • + Menus and game presentation is absolutely top-notch and crisp
  • + It’s RUN ‘N GUN on your SNES! Or at least, halfway close enough. 4-player games rock :)
  • + GameFan gave it scores of 84 and 86%. Super Play rated it 85%


There's a nice simple charm to this game :)
There’s a nice simple charm to this game :)

I still remember fondly the day I rented this game in late ’95 for me and my brother. Back in the day he always had me rent the games he wanted, but for a change, we both couldn’t wait to play this. We loved it. It was a long wait, but Give ‘N Go did not disappoint. It brought home the large colorful graphics, the squeaky sneakers, massive slam dunks, monster block shots and thrilling games that came right down to the final second. It’s not without flaws though: the game plays slower than other SNES basketball titles. It’s hard to make 3 point shots after the 1st quarter, the alley oop feature can be abused (though easily fixed by agreeing to have a “1 per quarter” limit or so), player sizes are all the same so Stockton can dunk (yeah right!) just as well as Shawn Kemp, and so on. But you know what, this was never the perfect basketball game to begin with. What it was — and as I found out recently — what it *IS*… is a damn fun basketball game with an impeccable arcade-like feel. In many ways I liken it to Super Baseball 2020. Taken for what it was intended to be, it does its job well. I have as much fun with NBA Give ‘N Go today as I did over 20 years ago. Anytime I can say that, that game’s all right by me. It’s not the first basketball title I pull off my shelf to play, but it’s a nice alternative to the NBA Lives and Jams of the world, for sure. Give ‘N Go does an admirable job of bringing the zany arcade experience home.

Can't wait for Warriors-Cavs 2.0!
Can’t wait for Warriors-Cavs 2.0!

Hard for me to believe it’s been 21 years now since that epic Memorial Day playoff game between the Pacers and Magic. It was the game that cemented me as a basketball fan for life. What a mad finish! And what a shot by Rik Smits!  From the classic NBA on NBC tune to the countless strangers huddled around that Radio Shack monitor cheering and booing, it was one hell of a way to kick off the final summer of my preadolescence. Some images, some sounds and some smells stay with you for a lifetime. May 29, 1995 was such a day for me :)

NBA Give ‘N Go is a fond reminder of the good old days. When times and things were a bit simpler. When you could walk into an arcade hall not five blocks from your house, smell the piping hot cheese and have your ears tickled by the innocent laughter of children. Not only is it a nostalgic blast, I find Give ‘N Go still holds up to this day. It plays on the slower side but it’s also presented in a light that makes it stand out compared to any other SNES basketball game. Better late than never? Yes. Or perhaps I should say, “YES SIR!” [Pack yer things -Ed.]

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 7.5
Gameplay: 7
Longevity: 8.5

Overall: 7.5

Bronze AwardBronze Award