Wayback Wednesday: My 1996 Season Patch for NBA Live 2004

Shaquille O'Neal Cover Shot in the 1996 Season Roster for NBA Live 2004

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content.

Last week, I wrote an article talking about the lure of roster modding. As I explained in that feature, while modding in general is something I don’t do as much as I used to, there’s always the temptation to get back into it. I really did enjoy making those current roster updates for so many years, as well as the occasional special project. One such project was my 1996 season patch for NBA Live 2004, which thanks to the contributions of some of our best art modders at the time, turned out to be reasonably comprehensive…at least compared to some of my previous retro season patches.

To this day, it remains one of my favourite patches that I’ve made for NBA Live 2004, or indeed, any other game. I recently came across some old preview images of the patch in my archives, and figured it would be fun to share them, along with a few reflections on the mod. Let’s take a look back…way back…

I suppose I should start with the reason why I chose to make a 1996 season patch for NBA Live 2004. For those who are unaware, I’m a Chicago Bulls fan, with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen ranking as my two all-time favourite players. That memorable 1996 season is still one of my favourite years in the NBA. There was the then-record setting 72-10 performance, one of the last All-Star games to feature many of the biggest names of the 80s and 90s along with the rising stars, the Bulls’ fourth title, and plenty of highlights. It’s also when my basketball fanaticism really took off, as I played every day at school and began following the NBA closer than ever before.

Michael Jordan in the 1995/1996 Roster for NBA Live 2004

Referencing the rosters in NBA Live 96, as well as information from basketball trading cards, old magazines, and the online resources that were available at the time, I created the necessary players and undid years of transactions to re-create the 1996 rosters. I also moved all of the players that came along after the 1996 season to the Retired Pool, to ensure that they wouldn’t show up in the game. Finally, I updated player ratings to reflect their performance from the ’96 season. Thanks to the contributions of the aforementioned talented modders, I was able to give several players real faces, as well as feature authentic courts and jerseys.

Overall, I was very pleased with the results, and proud of the release. It was also quite well received by the community, so I certainly consider it a success. However, looking back on it, I can definitely see some flaws in the roster. There are a few inaccuracies, some of which actually sprang to mind while I was making the Definitive Roster for NBA Live 96, since I was reviewing the transactions from the 1996 season at the time. Back in the day, I was working with inferior sources of information compared to what’s available today, so there are a few errors that I wouldn’t mind going back and correcting, given the opportunity.

In fact, it’s something that I’d absolutely consider doing, when I can set aside some time to do it. It wouldn’t take too long, and it would be fun to do a little something with NBA Live 2004 again. There may even be a couple of other things that I could tweak or add, time permitting. I do like the idea of going back and fixing up old releases, creating a “definitive version” if you will. Thinking back on the creation of the roster, and glancing at the screenshots I found, it’s definitely an appealing thought. Speaking of which, here are those preview screens:

There’s one screenshot in particular that I’d like to highlight. While I do like the way that they all came out – even if they are rather small by today’s standards – there is one that I’m still particularly pleased with, all these years later. It’s the screenshot of Shaquille O’Neal throwing down a one-handed dunk against the Chicago Bulls, while wearing the home jersey of the Orlando Magic from the 1996 season.

Shaquille O'Neal in the 1996 Season Patch for NBA Live 2004

Shaq was the cover player for the PC version of NBA Live 96 – the console versions featured an aerial photo from the 1995 NBA Finals – and so I was attempting to re-create the cover image with his screenshot. I felt that it would be a nice nod to the game that EA Sports actually released for the 1996 season (incidentally, another one of my all-time favourite Live games), and fortunately, NBA Live 2004 did feature a one-handed dunk animation that was reasonably similar to the one Shaq was performing. Aside from the presence of other players in the shot, I feel that I did a decent job; for comparison, here is the NBA Live 96 PC cover.

NBA Live 96 Cover Art - PC

Despite the fact it’s one of my all-time favourite seasons, NBA Live 2004 is the last game to date that I’ve made a 1996 roster for. That’s because the debut of the Charlotte Bobcats and subsequent division realignment meant that in NBA Live 2005 onwards, Dynasty Mode has only supported 30 teams, and featured the six current divisions instead of the four the NBA had in 1996. Although the Bobcats do appear in NBA Live 2004, they can’t be used in Dynasty Mode unless they replace another team, so it’s the last NBA Live title that’s suitable for recreating a season in which the league featured only 29 teams.

Once again, I can’t rule out the possibility that I’ll pop in NBA Live 2004, fire up the roster, and do a little tinkering. I once re-uploaded an old episode of the NLSC Podcast because I happened to notice that I’d made a typo in one of the tags in the mp3 file (specifically, “NLSC Podcats”). This was a couple of years after the episode came out, so I’m certainly no stranger to fixing up errors long after the fact. Of course, it may just be an excuse to revisit one of my favourite games, and a project that I really enjoyed making. And hey, if I didn’t enjoy a bit of nostalgia every now and again, I wouldn’t be running a feature every week called Wayback Wednesday!

If you’d like to try out the 1996 patch for NBA Live 2004, it’s still available here.

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February 2, 2017 4:26 am

Funny thing about the ’96 box cover. Live ’96 was the first b-ball game I ever had. I got it for my b-day in ’97 when I was just getting into basketball. It was a “Big Box Classics” edition and the cover was just a shot of a game going on. From what I remember just a shot of all the players in the key or something.