NBA stars have off-court game, too
League claims 85 percent of players serious video gamers
Between games, practices, travel and promotional appearances, you'd think that the NBA's multimillionaire stars would be too busy.
But most NBA players say they find time to play video games every day. In fact, the NBA claims that 85 percent of its players are gamers.
"I would say I play about three or four hours every night," says Orlando Magic Center Dwight Howard. "I'm a night owl, so after games I'm up till about 4 or 5 a.m. playing video games."
"That's all I do," says Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant. "If I'm not on the court, I got the controller in my hand."
"With the schedule we have this year, I don't get to play as much as I want to," says LeBron James of the Miami Heat. "But whenever I get some down time I play some Xbox."
As the NBA playoffs get under way, half the league's players are done for the season, giving them more free hours to fire up their video game consoles. The other half will have extra time off between playoff games, thanks to the league's stretched-out postseason schedule.
"I play a little bit, but I played more during the summer," says Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics. "This season is so crammed, it's tough."
The league's rising young stars aren't immune from the thrills of gaming, either.
Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves), Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers) and John Wall (Washington Wizards), made a pit stop while in Orlando for the 2012 NBA All-Star Game to check out the new "NBA Live 13" game at Electronic Arts' Tiburon studio -- the developer behind sports franchises like "Madden NFL 12," "NCAA Football 12" and the new "Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf 13."
NBA fans will have a choice of simulation games next season when "NBA Live 13" tips off against "NBA 2K13." It's been a few years now that gamers, and NBA players, have had no choice in pro-hoops games (outside of the arcade game, EA Sports NBA Jam).
"I'm excited they brought 'NBA Live' back," says Durant. "I haven't talked to anybody yet (about the cover). I'm sure I'll get a call here in a few hours or a few days or so. I haven't heard about it, this is my first time. I'm excited."
Durant was the cover athlete for "NBA Elite 11," a rebranding of EA Sports' basketball franchise that was canceled because of horrible community reaction to the glitchy gameplay. But he's still up for being on the cover of the new game.
"I'm a '2K' person now," says Andre Iguodala of the Philadelphia 76ers. "I might give 'NBA Live 13' a try, but '2K' has taken over the basketball scene."
Although a knee injury to New York Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin knocked him out for the season, he's still playable in "NBA 2K12" -- and his gameplay has improved thanks to not one, but two player rating upgrades by developer Visual Concepts.
"I actually don't know the exact numbers, but I know for a while I was in the 50s, I believe," Lin says. "I think ESPN had me as the 467th best player out of 500 or something like that coming into the season."
Now that Lin has earned a 75 in the game, up from 56 when he was a bench player, he's not focusing on how high his player rating can go.
"I'm not really too worried about that," he says. "I don't have a set number or goal, but it's cool to be able to hear about progressing. That's the important thing, is that me and my team continue to improve. As long as we're headed up, I think we're good to go."
New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is happy for his teammate's player rating upgrade.
"It's getting up there," he says. "It should be in the 90s. If I have a chance to play '2K12,' he's definitely in my starting lineup."
But not everyone is crazy about their NBA 2K12 player ratings. And yes, they do check out their in-game attributes.
"I like some of the ratings, but I feel like some of them could be increased a little bit," says Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward. "Defensively, I think they've got my grade a little low. I think they had one of my teammates, Al Jefferson, a better perimeter defender than me. I was like, 'Come on now, that can't happen.' With time, they'll probably increase them, so I'm not too worried about it."
Utah Jazz teammate Jeremy Evans, winner of the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest, would also like to see his player ratings in NBA '2K12' improved.
"When I play '2K12,' and sometimes I play as myself, I get mad," he says. "It's like, 'I would have dunked that in the NBA.' It's a great game, but sometimes they don't actually make you like you want to be made."
Evans grew up on sports games like "Double Dribble" and "NBA Live" on the Nintendo 64 and now plays "FIFA 12" and the "Call of Duty" series.
When it comes to video games, some NBA players will try anything.
"I played everything...football games, basketball games, baseball games, Donkey Kong, and all of that," says Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin. "Actually, probably my favorite game to play is 'Tiger Woods Golf.' It's always been fun. I've played it for a long time."
So the next time you're on Xbox Live, it may just be an NBA All-Star in that game world with you.
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