It’s that time of year again, so grab your best baller gear and your favourite pair of Air Jordans and head out onto Visual Concepts’ virtual courts. This year’s instalment of the most popular basketball sim on the planet has plenty of new features - some are completely new while others are subtle changes to the things you know and love.
Thing is, NBA 2K has always been a little tougher to master than EA’s NBA Live series, so to ensure you’re picking and rolling like a pro, we’ve gathered ten of our best tips and tricks into one handy playbook.
Download the free Prelude demo first
Much like last year’s instalment, Visual Concepts has released a new Prelude. It serves less as a demo and more of a prologue to the full game. You get to pick your character’s look (or import your face from the app), stats and play a new career for the Shanghai Bears.
Play every game, and see out every cutscene, and you’re getting a good hour or two of content. More importantly, you have to play this sequence through to get access to the Neighborhood (NBA 2K19’s improved online social space) so if you haven’t played the Prelude demo on the same platform you play the full game, you’ll have to do it from the start.
Enrol in 2KU
The NBA 2K series has always been a tough sports sim nut to crack, and NBA 2K19 is no exception. There’s an incredible amount of nuance to everything from ball handling right through to set plays and shooting.
Head online without mastering these basics and you’ll have an embarrassing number of rings run around you by more experienced ballers. Defence, especially, is a fine art so drill yourself in the game’s finer on-court principles and it will pay dividends in whatever mode you choose to tackle next. This is also a great place to get used to the timing of shots, whether outside the shooting D or close to the net.
Time to Takeover
The Takeover system is one of the newest additions to the NBA 2K franchise, bringing with it the chance to pull of some pretty slick solo and team maneuvers. You’ll notice a flaming ball and the word ‘Takeover’ in a bar on the top right-hand side of the screen. This bar fills up as you successfully pull of good passes, clean shots and assists. The better you perform, the faster it fills.
When used, the Takeover metre briefly buffs your stats, helping you pull off trickier shots and evade defenders faster. When you hit 50% you can even pull off a Team Takeover, but beware - mess up and you’ll drain your metre in a heartbeat.
Grind for that VC
While Virtual Currency (VC) - the in-game currency you use to progressively upgrade the stats of your MyPlayer - has always been difficult to come by in the NBA 2K series (especially in last year’s instalment). It’s a little easier to accumulate this time around.
You can use the Daily Spin to earn VC and MyPlayer points, perform well in most match types or - if you’re feeling really adventurous - play for VC on the casino-style Ante Up courts. It’s risky and you really need to know the mechanics of the game inside and out, but you can net some big payouts if you’re good enough. Keep an eye on your Daily Objective too.
Grab some wheels
Spending a lot of time in the Neighborhood? Need to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ without tiring yourself out? Sounds like you need a set of wheels to get your around. If you head on over to the cryptically-named Wheels shop, you can purchase skateboards, scooters and more with your hard-earned VC.
It’s a brand new feature, and an entirely silly one, but it makes navigating this social/online space a lot easier. Unfortunately, you’ll need an OVR of 85 or over to gain access to the shop, so you rookies might need to use your feet for the time being.
Keep your Turbo filled
Your Turbo represents your athleticism and enables you to sprint when on the court. If you’re trying to force a breakaway or peel off a particularly sticky defender, you need that source of boost ready in a game. To refill it, you’ll need to head to the Gatorade Training Facility in the Neighborhood. Here you can either replenish your Turbo at the bar with VC, or perform three drills in the gym to completely refill it. Considering doing drills actively increases your core stats, we’d always advise you do the drills as it has a dual benefit.
Work for those Badges
Badges are a sub-system of progress in NBA 2K19 that tracks your performance in individual areas of the game. Everything from movement to three-pointers have their own badge, and the better you perform, the more these badges will level up. The higher their level, the more your basic stats are enhanced.
It’s a system designed to reward those who put the grind in and go after key areas of play. Head on over to the Team Practice Facility in the Neighborhood and do some drills. You’re limited to three to four a day, and you should never pass up the chance to take them if you want to hit the allusive Level 99.
Use pick and rolls effectively
NBA 2K19 features the series’ most intelligent UI yet, so it makes sense that it’ll be dogging you just as much as other players will when you venture online. The key to making a shot from the paint that’s far more likely to go in is using the classic ‘pick and roll’ set-piece. Simply press ‘L1’/’LB’ to order the nearest teammate to block or ‘screen’ the defender covering you. Now pull away, and the teammate who was making the screen will peel away towards the basket. With the defender or defenders following you as the ball handler, press ‘X’/’A’ to pass for an easy two point layup/dunk.
Use positioning to shut down offensive options
Defending, much like previous instalments, is the toughest aspect of NBA 2K19 and it’ll take plenty of time spent in the 2KU tutorials to really get a feel for the mechanics.
Do not hold down ‘R2’/’RT’ all the time and use your Turbo to stay with a defender - you’ll likely overshoot and potentially leave a gap that will likely lead to a dunk, layup or jump shot. Instead, hold ‘L2’/’LT’ to square your shoulders and drop your hips, now push the right analogue stick towards your marked player. You’re now leaning into them, which will force the defender to try and peel off you to find a new position, potentially removing them as an option for the ball handler.
Choose a rubbish team in MyCareer
We know, this sounds like heresy to any basketball fan worth his salt, but if you want to maximise your potential for greatness then you need to have the most time on-court. When you finally make it back to the NBA you can choose from any of the teams in the league, with each one ranked in terms of where you’ll be placed.
Even if you love the Golden State Warriors of the LA Lakers, avoid them at this stage as you’ll likely be benched with a sliver of actual court time. Instead, plump for a team such as the Grizzlies or the Bucks so you know you'll be getting subbed in (or starting) in every game so you can max out your potential VC and XP.