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Xbox Game Pass dishes NBA 2K21 to subscribers this week

Rare, in-season Game Pass appearance of a current sports video game

Shortly after committing an offensive foul on Utah’s Bryon Russell, Michael Jordan launches a 15-foot jumper from the elbow to beat the Jazz 87-86 on June 14, 1998.
Michael Jordan takes the climactic shot of Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, in NBA 2K21’s MyTeam mode.
Image: Visual Concepts/2K Sports
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

NBA 2K21 joins the Xbox Game Pass lineup on March 4, making a rare, in-season appearance of a current sports video game in one of the consoles’ streaming services or free games on offer.

Usually, the best that players can get for “free” while a sports league is in session is the previous year’s game; publishers have typically waited until after the playoffs to offer a sports game on Game Pass or PlayStation Plus.

The game’s popular MyTeam mode — a card-collection/multiplayer suite — is currently in Season 5’s comic-book themed “Age of Heroes.” Age of Heroes features a callback to the series’ groundbreaking “Jordan Challenge” mode from NBA 2K11. In it, players are tasked with re-creating Michael Jordan’s last game with the Chicago Bulls, pushing off Bryon Russell to sink the championship-winning shot in the 1998 NBA Finals (pictured above).

Players will need MJ on their team to pull off the challenge but, if they don’t have him yet, they can pick him up with the in-game locker code JORDAN-LAST-SHOT.

It’s a strong offer to Game Pass subscribers; NBA 2K21 also offers MyCareer, an integrated single-player/co-operative and competitive multiplayer mode with all kinds of lifestyle and role-playing features, to boot. MyGM is its counterpart for controlling an entire franchise through multiple seasons. And the WNBA gets The W, a mode that introduces both single-player and franchise-control careers for that league for the first time.

Madden NFL 21, for example, was just added to EA Play’s library (and is also available to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers) on March 2, a month after the Super Bowl. But NHL 21 will join EA Play sometime in April, about a month before the Stanley Cup Playoffs are scheduled to begin.

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