NBA 2K21 is a basketball simulation video game that was developed by Visual Concepts and published by 2K Sports, based on the National Basketball Association (NBA). It is the 22nd installment in the NBA 2K franchise and the successor to NBA 2K20. The game was released on September 4, 2020 for Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Stadia, and on November 12, 2020 for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and Series S. The PS4, Switch, Xbox One, and PC released to mixed reviews, with critics criticizing the lack of originality in the gameplay, as well as microtransactions and bugs.
A teaser was released on June 11, 2020 during the PS5 Reveal Event and featured the player model of New Orleans Pelicans’ Zion Williamson. It showed a few seconds of pre-alpha, in-engine footage and showed many effects such as ray-tracing and shadow details. On June 30, 2020, NBA 2K announced Damian Lillard, of the Portland Trail Blazers, would be the cover for the standard edition on the current-generation consoles. On July 1, 2020, NBA 2K announced Zion Williamson as the cover athlete for the standard edition on the next-generation consoles. The last covers were released on July 2, 2020, honoring the late Kobe Bryant. There will be a #8 cover for current gen consoles, which features artwork of him dunking with the afro and a #24 cover for next gen consoles, which features artwork of him waving after scoring 60 points in his final NBA game in 2016; both numbers were worn by Bryant throughout his NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers, respectively. The demo for the game was released on August 24.
A staple of the series, MyCareer, returns as one of the available game modes. MyCareer is a career mode in which the player creates their own customizable basketball player and plays through their basketball career. Players may make a male or female player, although female is only available on next-gen consoles. The Neighborhood also returns to MyCareer, as 2K Beach, in which players can customize their wardrobe, get haircuts and tattoos, and purchase boosts. They can also do their workouts and run drills to improve their attributes at their current team’s practice facility. Progress in MyCareer may not carry over across generations, due to some changes made exclusively for next-gen.
Ninth Generation Changes
In the next-generation release for the game, The MyCareer online staple The Neighborhood mode was rebranded into The City with the return of affiliations from NBA 2K16. Players start in Rookieville where they play similarly low-levelled players before they can choose an affiliation to enter The City. MyRep, the level system exclusive to The City mode, is shared across all MyPlayer builds, so players only have to level up out of Rookieville once for all their characters. Once a player levels out of Rookieville, they are automatically assigned without choice to one of four of The City’s affiliations, ranging from the North Side Knights, South City Vipers, Beasts of the East, and the Western Wildcats. Players are free to switch their affiliation, however they are penalized for doing so by their level being reset down to Pro 1; same level the player was from leaving Rookieville. Although the player can play in affiliations that they are not a member of, there is a penalty by reducing the amount of experience gained in matches for their MyRep level. Players can participate in quests given by NPCs, which are either single player 3v3 games against famous basketball players, or playing games against other MyPlayers in The City. The rewards are typically Virtual Currency (VC) and customizations.
Every affiliation has elections for a Mayor, which are typically community influencers who are responsible for making videos that display in-game, court designs, in-game playlists, design of murals, and uniform selections. Each mayoral term lasts 6 weeks.
NBA 2K21, for the ninth time in the series, features MyTeam mode, a mode based around the idea of building the ultimate basketball team and maintaining a virtual trading card collection. Players assemble and play with their team in basketball tournament-style competitions against other players’ teams in several formats. Assets for a team are acquired through various means, including randomized card packs and the auction house. Virtual Currency (VC) is used extensively within the mode. Progress in MyTeam will carry over across generations.
Changes to MyTeam
There are many changes made to MyTeam this year, the most notable one is the adaption of a Seasons format just like most games, which has exclusive rewards that get better each season. An all-new Limited mode is added, where every weekend, players compete for rings to get seasonal rewards. By the word itself, there are some limitations to what cards you can use in Limited each weekend. Ascension is a new minigame where you flip cards and try to get the top prize in the third level. The Exchange is a new feature where you trade cards to get even better cards. Unlimited is changed to have nine different tiers, each one with its own reward for advancing. The gem levels from Amethyst to Galaxy Opal have been adjusted to leave space for a new level for cards with a 99 rating, which is now called Dark Matter.
NBA 2K21 features both MyLeague and MyGM from previous games, where the player can take the helm of a franchise and fully simulate an NBA season while making trades, drafting, and playing games with their teams. Compared to prior titles, eighth-generation console releases of NBA 2K21 were left with little changes for their staple franchise modes, MyLeague and MyGM. Outside of roster changes, the main changes focuses with MyLeague Online where certain users can be given different admin control. WNBA teams were also given more representation as players were now able to play through a whole season with all 12 teams.
Ninth Generation Changes
In the Xbox One X/S and PS5 release of the game, MyGM and MyLeague were combined and rebranded into MyNBA. Instead of the role-playing aspects such as cutscenes, player morale, and tasks being locked solely to MyGM, they are now individually toggleable under role-playing elements before one starts MyNBA. NBA G League games are also playable as well, however playoffs and the championship for the NBA G League are not featured. A boom/bust system was revamped as well, giving more unpredictability to draft prospects and young players in terms of how their career will turnout.