For those of us who have wanted to dominate the NBA, video games have made for surprisingly satisfying outlet.
I won't lie. Throwing my own last name on a Suns jersey and pushing all the ratings to "99" gave me a ton of irrational satisfaction during the peak of the NBA Live Series in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
2K Sports has taken the majority of the torch since then, especially in the eyes of NBA players themselves. The newest version of NBA 2K is something of a cultural event, with the professionals hoping they'll be positively portrayed by the game's makers.
Rookies have the most potential for pleasant surprise or disappointment. With no previous NBA experience or stats to use as a springboard, the 2K crew does its best at making an educated guess as to just how good first-year players are in relation to the rest of the league.
BleacherReport.com hit up the rookie photo shoot earlier this summer to find out how the new kids on the NBA block felt they should be rated in the soon-to-be-released NBA 2K15.
Some of them sounded very confident. Others were setting up low expectations so they'd be pleasantly surprised later on.
Suns rookie T.J. Warren fell somewhere in between. He threw out a high number, but led off with a realistic adverb and a laugh.
"Hopefully it's the 80s," he said.
What neither Warren nor the other rookies realized was that B/R already had the rankings in hand. Unfortunately for Warren, it looks like he's pegged at 72, overall.
Tyler Ennis, the other Suns' first-round pick on the roster this season, took the realistic approach.
"I hope [I'm ranked in the] 70s," he said. "You've got to play your way up."
Just for kicks, I flipped on the old Sega Genesis and popped in NBA Live 96 and NBA Live 97 (the original '95 version doesn't even have numerical ratings, opting instead for unlabeled blue bars that you have to compare to the other players on your team) to see how Suns rookies Michael Finley and Steve Nash had ranked in their own video-game rookie campaigns. I also consulted my well-preserved memories of Live 2003 (Amare Stoudemire).
Don't forget, the year in the game title represents the newest calendar year of the upcoming season. Hence, the rookies in NBA Live 96 are actually from the 1995 NBA Draft class, and so on in the other versions.
NBA Live '96 -- Michael Finley
Fun fact: if you create a rookie player in '96 using his accurate first and last name, the player is automatically populated with his correct bio and projected ratings for his first season. This must have thrilled Dejan Bodiroga fans to no end.
Finley, taken 21st overall by Phoenix in 1995, was given a solid 73 rating. I say solid because it's not like All-Star teammates Charles Barkley (83) and Kevin Johnson (81) were in the 90s. Indeed, Live 96 was loathe to hand out 90s compared to the turn-of-the-century versions that followed.
NBA Live 97 -- Steve Nash
No create-a-player "cheat codes" were required in '97. The rookies were included in the original rosters, though it was obvious the finished product had been a rushed one.
For one thing, I'm pretty sure Nash never wore No. 44. And yes, this is based off the original factory settings of the game (more on this in a second).
Also, Nash received a far more generous ranking than most rookies ever see, especially given he was a mid-first-round pick. His overall rating of "78" ranked just behind a still-lethal Kevin Johnson (80)...
...and just give overall points behind a mysterious power forward with the surname "forward" and the No. 72.
A stealthily placed Sir Charles imposter? Indeed, no-name replacements for Barkley and Jordan were the rule of the day in the late 1990s. The Bulls' best player was a dude with the last name of "Player."
NBA Live 2003 -- Amare Stoudemire
Unfortunately I couldn't get this one fired up. Old PC games are notorious for their incompatibility with new operating systems. Sure enough. NBA Live 2003 just couldn't get off the ground on my Windows 7 machine.
Having played it for much of my teenage years, however, I remember full well that Stoudemire was given a safe "74" rating.
This was more than fair at the time. He had just been drafted out of high school, an even more uncertain barometer for an NBA rookie than college or Europe. It was the same ranking given to fellow rookie and former Duke standout Carlos Boozer. He ranked five points lower than power forward teammates Tom Gugliotta (79) and Bo Outlaw (79).
Of the four special skills offered (dunking, lockdown defender, blocking and three-point shooting), his was shot-blocking.