When it arrives on Ocober 5, NBA 2K11 will feature a 10-game "Jordan Challenge" that recreates Michael Jordan's most famous performances. Here's a breakdown of each game, its significance and what you must do - plus one very notable omission.
When and Where: April 20, 1986. Game 2, 1st round playoffs vs Celtics, at Boston Garden. Goal 1: Score 63 points or more Goal 2: Shoot 50 per cent or better from the field Skinny: Although the Bulls lost this game against one of the greatest Boston teams ever, you wouldn't tell it by the way Jordan's showstopping 63-point performance is remembered. After the game, Larry Bird said the Celtics were playing "God disguised as Michael Jordan".
When and Where: March 28, 1990. Regular season game vs Cavaliers, Richfield Coliseum Goal 1: Score 69 points or more. Goal 2: Shoot 50 per cent or better from the field Goal 3: Win the game Skinny: Jordan averaged 44 points versus Cleveland in the 1989-1990 season, scored 54 points against them in the season opener and had buried the Cavs' playoff dreams a year before. Yet Jordan himself considers this staggering 69-point performance his best ever. Teammate Stacey King would say later: "I'll always remember this as the night Michael Jordan and I combined to score 70 points."
When and Where: Any date in 1990, a regular season game vs Hawks Goal 1: Outscore Dominique Wilkins Goal 2: Hold Dominique under 25 Points Goal 3: Win the game Skinny: There is actually no game played between Chicago and Atlanta in 1990 that matches these conditions. (The closest is this one, Jordan scoring 36 points to the Human Highlight Reel's 26.) But 2K Sports clearly wanted to put in a showdown between the league's pre-eminent scoring superstars, at the height of their rivalry.
When and Where: May 26, 1990. Game 3, Eastern Conference Finals vs Pistons, Chicago Stadium Goal 1: Score 47 points or more Goal 2: Win the game Skinny: This game will likely serve as the basis for The Jordan Rules in NBA 2K11. The year before, Chicago had taken a surprising 2-1 lead in the 1989 Eastern Conference finals against the hated Detroit Pistons, who then rolled out the bruising "Jordan Rules" strategy that targeted the superstar and dared the Bulls to beat them with the supporting cast. When these two hooked up in the 1990 Eastern Conference finals, Detroit deployed the same aggressive tactics en route to a 2-0 lead, before getting torched for 47 in Game Three, the only one Chicago would win of this series.
1991 NBA Finals
When and Where: June 2 thru June 12, 1991 vs Lakers, Chicago Stadium and the Great Western Forum Goal 1: Average 31.0 points or more for the series Goal 2: Shoot 55 per cent or better from the field Goal 3: Win the series Skinny: Magic vs Michael made the 1991 Finals appointment television for five games, especially after the Lakers stole Game One in Chicago. The highlight will undoubtedly be Jordan's unbelievable switched-hands layup in Game Two (and Scott Williams raising his arms triumphantly despite loafing up the court on the break and not being involved in the play at all.)
When and Where: June 3, 1992. Game 1, 1st round playoffs vs Blazers, Chicago Stadium Goal 1: Score 35 points or more in the first half Goal 2: Make 6 or more three-pointers in the first half Goal 3: Hold Clyde Drexler to fewer than 20 points for the game. Goal 4: Win the Game Skinny: After hitting his sixth three-pointer in a scorching 35-point first-half performance, Jordan shrugged to NBC's Marv Albert at the scoring table, as if to say he didn't know how he does it either. The Bulls annihilated Portland 122-89 to open the series, but had to tough out a six-game win to repeat as champions.
When and Where: March 18, 1995. Regular season game vs Knicks, Madison Square Garden Goal 1: Score 55 points or more. Goal 2: Shoot 55 per cent or better from the field. Goal 3: Win the game Skinny: After his father was murdered following the Bulls' first three-peat in 1993, a numb Jordan retired, citing a desire no longer to play basketball and to pursue a childhood dream of playing professional baseball. The one year experiment didn't work, and in 1995, Jordan returned to a listless Bulls team with a two-word announcement. "I'm back." Six games into his return, wearing No. 45, his baseball uniform number, Jordan cemented his reputation for delivering big-game performances almost at will, with a jaw-dropping 55-point night in the most famous arena in the world.
Father's Day Victory
When and Where: June 16, 1996. Game 6, 1996 Finals vs Sonics, United Center Goal 1: Score 22 points or more. Goal 2: Grab nine rebounds or more. Goal 3: Win the game Skinny: In the first full season of his return, Chicago unloaded an NBA record 72 victory season and demolished the Eastern Conference in the playoffs, losing just one game before meeting Seattle in the Finals. Chicago took a 3-0 lead on the Sonics before letting Seattle back in with two victories, and his clinching performance - he shot 26 per cent for the game - was not compelling. But Jordan winning his fourth NBA title, clutching the basketball at midcourt, and weeping on the floor of the locker room on Father's Day, is.
The Flu Game
When and Where: June 11, 1997. Game 5, 1997 Finals vs Jazz. Delta Centre. Goal 1: Score 38 points or more. Goal 2: Grab 7 rebounds or more. Goal 3: Win the game Skinny: Arguably the greatest individual performance under duress in the history of championship sports. Sick with the flu, the Bulls playing in a hostile Delta centre and facing a 3-2 series deficit, Jordan summoned a 38-point effort and the game-winning three point basket, making the most emphatic demonstration of his famous will to win. "No matter how sick I was, how tired I was, I felt the obligation to my team and the city of Chicago to go out, and give that extra effort," he said. Chicago won its fifth NBA title in the next game.
Michael's Last Dance
When and Where: June 14, 1998. Game 6, 1998 Finals vs Jazz. Delta Centre. Goal 1: Score 45 points or more. Goal 2: Get 4 steals or more. Goal 3: Win the game. Skinny: If only it ended here. Jordan's game winning shot for the 87-86 win, and sixth NBA championship, was a storybook finale too good to be true. And it was. Instead of being the last shot he'd ever take, Jordan would return from retirement again three years later, for two forgettable seasons with the Washington Wizards. But his game-winning shot for a sixth NBA title, set up by a steal from Karl Malone with the Jazz up by one, is the only way to end this series of indelible moments.
MISSING: The Shot
When and Where: May 7, 1989. Bulls vs Cavs, Game Five of the First Round of the NBA Playoffs. Richfield Coliseum Skinny: It's perplexing why 2K Sports did not include "The Shot" - one of the most famous game-winners Jordan hit - in the 10-game Jordan Challenge. With the 1990 Cavaliers appearing in "69 Points", 2K Sports has the likenesses of all the personnel on the court for Jordan's fist-pumping, Game Five dagger to sink Cleveland in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The performance - 44 points, a game-winning basket - closely matches "Michael's Last Dance", so it would seem to be somewhat scriptable within The Jordan Challenge.
Asked why their game has no "Shot", 2K Sports' Jason Argent indicated it ended up on the cutting room floor. "There are so many amazing Jordan moments that it was very, very hard to choose, so we tried to pick the 10 we felt would be the most fun to play through," Argent said. "But with a legend like Mike, you can never really capture all the greatest moments"
My speculation? They might be saving for post-release downloadable expansions. Asked earlier about DLC plans for "The Jordan Challenge", Argent declined to answer the question.