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NBA 2K’s Jordan Challenge returns in NBA 2K23

NBA 2K11’s landmark work gets another five games from His Airness’ career

Michael Jordan in his 1986 Chicago Bulls uniform, although the shot clock has tenths of a second on it, which was not the case in the NBA in 1986, in NBA 2K23
Michael Jordan as he appeared in 1986, when he torched Boston for 63 points in a playoff game. Larry Bird says this is God in disguise.
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 2K23 launches Sept. 9 and it will bring back The Jordan Challenge, an extremely popular mode that nonetheless has made just one appearance, 12 years ago in 2K Sports’ landmark NBA 2K11.

The Jordan Challenge — which tasks players with re-creating or bettering some of Michael Jordan’s greatest NBA performances — will include 15 games in NBA 2K23; NBA 2K11 had 10. A news release on Tuesday said the revived mode will include “unique video vignettes that come with special commentary from an array of NBA luminaries.”

Jordan will star on the cover of two special editions of NBA 2K23: the Michael Jordan Edition and the Championship Edition. Jordan appeared on the main cover of NBA 2K11 and NBA 2K12, as well as that of the Michael Jordan Special Edition of NBA 2K16.

The first Jordan Challenge, in a game made for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PCs of the day, put players in the shoes of His Airness for 10 milestone games that highlighted his professional career. These included signature moments like the “Flu Game” in the 1997 NBA Finals, and his 69-point performance against Cleveland (combining with teammate Stacey King for 70, of course) in 1990.

Michael Jordan in his 1992 Chicago Bulls home whites in NBA 2K23
Jordan in 1992, when he perpetrated “The Shrug” against Clyde Drexler and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Image: Visual Concepts/2K Sports

It was followed by NBA 2K12, which offered a more expansive mode called NBA’s Greatest, which starred several classic teams and Hall of Fame players who have appeared in the game’s roster file ever since. But neither mode, which included graphics, presentation, and commentary reflecting the period, ever returned, despite their appeal and long-running community demand.

Jordan’s two special editions will be accompanied by a third, the NBA 2K23 WNBA Edition, which will feature Seattle’s Sue Bird and Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi, both of whom are multiple WNBA champions and Olympic gold medalists (and Connecticut alumnae).

Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird on the wrap-around cover of NBA 2K23’s WNBA Edition Image: Visual Concepts/2K Sports

Bird, who will retire after the current WNBA season, and Taurasi join Candace Parker as the first WNBA players to get a special edition cover for 2K Sports’ basketball simulation. Parker starred on NBA 2K22’s WNBA 25th Anniversary Edition. Women’s professional basketball joined the series beginning with NBA 2K20, and NBA 2K developer Visual Concepts expanded its offerings over the next two years. NBA 2K22 enhanced the series’ first-ever single-player career mode for a women’s team sport.

2K Sports says there is one more cover announcement remaining, which should be the main cover star. That will be revealed, along with the title’s platforms, on Thursday.

Update (July 7): Devin Booker, the Phoenix Suns’ three-time NBA All-Star and first team All-NBA selection in 2022, will star on the cover of the standard edition (and Digital Deluxe Edition) of NBA 2K23. “Additionally, a special version of the standard edition, recognizing the cross-section of music and basketball culture, will be released later this fall,” 2K Sports said in a statement. NBA 2K23 will launch on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Phoenix’s Devin Booker on the wraparound cover for NBA 2K23; it’s a rendered image, not a photograph Image: Visual Concepts/2K Sports

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