How to Play Sim Basketball in NBA2K

When I first started playing NBA2K, I played a whole season versus the CPU on pro difficulty winning a championship with a team I’d never use now – the LA Lakers. I don’t know what I was thinking.

Anyway, it wasn’t long after that, I found out that you could play games versus other human opponents. I liked that idea. I wanted to play against a person who could think and adjust.

It was also around this time I switched from the Lakers to the Pacers and began playing games with them in quick match.

Quick match was a whole different arena. Suddenly, I found myself playing the best teams in the game over and over, swarmed by full court defense, guys taking charges, traps everywhere and getting blown out. It was like a bunch NBA2K warriors fighting to the death.

I wanted to play a better game than that.

Back then, not as many people recorded games and I wanted to find users to play. So, I put an offer out there to record games of people who agreed to play me and in exchange I would then put that footage on YouTube whether I won or lost and some guys took me up on that offer.

One of the reasons I did that was because I wanted people to criticize my gameplay so I could learn how to put a better game on the court. I wanted to use the feedback I got to find out what I shouldn’t do in the game.

What’s cool is, if you have a PSN username like www-Coach2K-com – as opposed to one say like hellokitty23 – people are more than happy to say your game stinks here and here and here. And oh yeah, here too.

I also got feedback about the play of the users I played. They didn’t all bring a clean game either. Many of them brought their quick match mentality to my games. So I learned what people liked and didn’t like from my play and also from there’s.

As I got that feedback, I slowly tried my best to get rid of what people didn’t like with one goal in mind – to win or lose games against users in a way that people could feel like they got an enjoyable game.

And while I can’t do that in every game every single time or make everybody I play a happy opponent, I can do it often enough now that I don’t ever play quick match anymore and spend hours playing users that care more about their game.

Chances are if you have played other users, you’ve experienced a similar path as I have. Someone will eventually tell you that what you are doing is cheese and you aren’t playing sim basketball.

So the purpose of this discussion today is to help you get started finding ways to put a cleaner more respectable game on the court.

This is not the complete guide to sim ball.

It’s just a collection of simple things that you can start with that will serve as a foundation for putting a better basketball game on the NBA2K court.

    • Pick a team to master that not everyone uses I can’t count the number of times I played the Heat during the Lebron James era. Surprisingly, I don’t see those guys that were born and raised in Miami and always fans of the Heat anymore. It gets old playing the same top teams over and over. There are 30 teams in the league and it’s a blast playing in every NBA arena as well as facing different players. More guys playing more teams is a good thing for NBA2K.
    • Spend time practicing with your team and learning what they can do There are a lot of skilled players in the NBA and with enough practice you can compete against the vast majority of players you meet with any other NBA team if you know it’s strengths and weaknesses. While it’s perfectly fine to try and dominate with your best player at first, there’s a full roster of players that can kick it into gear for you. I once saw Rasual Butler go on an absolute murderous three point barage versus me – something I probably wouldn’t see from anyone but a Wizards expert who knew his squad inside an out.
    • Use your team in all game modes Each of the game modes from MyCareer, MyLeague are opportunities to learn more about what your team can do. If you play MyCareer for example, you can watch the CPU use the other players on your team or if you play MyLeague you can play on player lock to learn certain positions. The more you can learn about your team the better and each of these modes has something to teach you about how you can use your team.
    • Play to learn first, win second I’ve lost way more games than I’ve won. I don’t set out to win the day the game comes out. While I want to win just like everyone else, my main goal is to learn the whole team and get stronger as the year goes on.
    • Play 12 minute, hall of fame, simulation sliders The game plays great when you play on the right settings. If you want to play sim, it starts with a 12 minute game. After all, that’s what they play in real life. Once you get used to playing the 12 minute game, you might not ever miss it. I feel cheated in a short game. There’s more strategy involved in substitution patterns, foul trouble and fatigue that just doesn’t happen in a short game.
    • Set your settings properly Set all of your coaching settings to manual and set cpu defensive and box out assistance to zero and shot contest to manual. If you are afraid to do it all at once, work your way towards that goal. You want to be completely in charge of all aspects of your team.
    • Play all challengers When good teams appear on the schedule, real life teams don’t skip past them. Don’t be a dodger. Play people you don’t like to play to put your sim style on display and to the test against actual people.
    • Follow proper NBA2K gaming etiquettte I wrote at length about the things you can do in my NBA2K etiquette post to make the game more enjoyable. Most people probably won’t even notice you do these things but will notice if you don’t.
    • Play man to man defense all the time and nothing else Playing zone gives your opponent something to complain about. Most users won’t say it, but they think zone is cheese and if they lose to it, it just gives them something to point to and say well, I would’ve have won that one if he didn’t go zone. Players for some reason like to use zone with the strongest teams in the league and that’s even worse in my mind. Others like to go zone periodically just to mix things up but that’s basically saying, I cheese a little bit when I need to. You don’t need to.
    • Spend 90 percent of your time playing on ball defense While playing off ball is fine when you begin, at some point you need to make the transition to playing on ball defense. On ball man to man defense is respected in the community. Playing off ball is not. Yeah, you’ll suck at first playing on ball but you have to learn some time. Might as well start today. It’s ok to manually switch periodically to bring help or make an adjustment but move back as soon as you can to the ball.
    • Manually guard the pick and roll In pick and roll situations, manually use the screener’s man to hedge if that’s what you want to do defensively and then switch back to the ball.
    • Don’t press full court Get back on defense and don’t press full court. It’s annoying to spend 48 minutes breaking a press, no one in the NBA presses full court all game and neither should you.
    • Don’t extend your defense Keep your defense either a step outside the three point line or just inside the three point area. Your guy is not going to shoot from half court. No sense guarding him out there. If you see an opportunity to trap in a corner ok, but unless your team is aggressive in real life, keep your defense contained.
    • Lay off the steal button You’ve all seen the swipers with Chris Paul. Just because you have a guy with a high steal rating doesn’t mean you should be out there swatting all of the time.
    • Don’t use L1 to double team The use of L1 to double team is the most abused defensive button in the game. You don’t have to use it. If you choose to double team, do it by manually bringing the doubler over. CPU double teams are more effective than manual ones. Stick to the manual ones.
    • Don’t run around taking charges Another quick match habit that you need to get rid of. If a guy runs at the rim, feel free to position yourself in front of the restricted area. Don’t attempt to take charges all over the court.
    • Don’t inbound the ball from the baseline to half court Keep your point guard near the baseline and inbound the ball there. Don’t run all the way to half court and throw a half court pass to inbound the ball unless there isn’t much time on the clock.
    • Use timeouts A real game has timeouts. Use them to rest your players and make changes.
    • Layoff turbo and slow down Take your time on offense. Layoff the sprinting around everywhere.
    • Don’t zig zag Don’t move your guy back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth until you get open. That’s stupid.
    • Don’t chuck threes all game Some guys shoot a huge number of threes. Work some ball movement into your offense and remember there are post players in the game and mid range shots. Use them.
    • Don’t worry about money plays or exploits Don’t search YouTube for exploits or money plays. Every game is different. Nothing will work all of the time against every opponent.
    • Don’t try and score all of your points with your star player I have no problem with guys learning to use their players and maxing them out. Once you know what a guy can do, there’s no need to score 70 or 80 points with him. Use him to create shots for other people and learn how to dominate with them to.
    • Start running plays from your playbook or freelance motions The game is built with 100s of plays and an elaborate freelance offensive system. Start utilizing it one play at a time. Start with auto plays if you have to then graduate to manual play calling.
    • Use the playbook the team is given You can’t take custom playbooks online. Use the one your team is given. The coach is part of the team too just like your players. You should work with the coach you have in real life.
    • Don’t call multiple timeouts so you can keep your starters in Some guys will call multiple timeouts so they can rest their starters. Don’t do that.
    • Watch your real life team If you are a true fan of your team, you are probably watching the games anyway. Run the sets they run. Pay attention to the substitution patterns the coaches use. Try and play the way they play in real life. If your team runs in real life and you do it in 2K, you can point to the teams real life play style to support your play. If they pound it inside and you never drop the ball down low, you don’t have that evidence behind you. If your team never runs trapping defenses, maybe you shouldn’t either.
    • Finish every game you start The Pacers played almost their whole season without Paul George. Never once did they leave the court early. No team ever quits a game in real life because they are required to play. If you are getting killed, use that time to practice certain skills. If you are winning, work on your bench players. The game is deep and there is always something to learn.
  • Congratulate your opponent on a good game Good sportsmanship is a lost art in online gaming. Don’t let that be you. Be a good sport.

There’s a list of things you can do to improve the quality of the game you put on the court. I’m sure there are other things I could add, but that’s a good start.

Remember, you don’t have to become the player you want to be overnight. It’s ok to do it in steps and improve your game over time.

If you have any tips you want to add let me know in the comments and follow me on Twitter for my latest games.


Coach2K is a fictional NBA2K player. C2K has been playing video basketball games since the Mattel handheld basketball game was released way back in 1980. You can contact Coach2K on Twitter by clicking here.

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