NBA 2K19 Review

NBA 2K19 Review

Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

Basketball has a unique style that is unique among sports. The glowing arenas, fashionable clothing, and high speed of the game are all unmatched. The game isn’t just about winning or losing; it’s about how you look while playing. To achieve this, NBA 2K19 builds upon its strong gameplay, fantastic presentation, and a wide array of game modes. Although it suffers from a few persistent issues with AI behavior and obscene microtransactions in the MyPlayer mode, NBA 2K19 is still a standout game in the series.

NBA 2K19 has a tougher learning curve than previous games in the series, one that rewards skill and punishes inexperience. In spite of my experience with the series, I was frequently beaten by the CPU on the default difficulty level as I relearned the old mechanics and adapted to the slew of defensive improvements that made dribble drives much harder. In fact, I found playing against others who had the same problem to be a better learning tool. The emphasis this year is on ball control and maximizing players’ abilities. I felt better each time the buzzer rang, though.

The NBA 2K19 game rewarded me greatly for taking the time to learn its various skills, including a complex post-game and a set of dribbling moves. When you learn how to pull off a Steph Curry step-back jumper or a Lebron James fade away, it’s really satisfying, especially since it requires a lot of work. Due to the complexity of the controls and movement system, there can be some truly embarrassing moments.

An attempted move results in a beautiful animation that is perfectly in line with what you would see in an NBA game, but an unsuccessful attempt usually results in your player running into the defender awkwardly. In some instances, the AI will begin a dribble move only to bump into a defender, bringing them all the way to a backcourt violation. This game usually has such fluid motion that these hiccups are easily spotted.

Steph Curry’s step-back jumper or a Lebron James fadeaway are really satisfying to pull off.

NBA 2K19 Review

The transitions in NBA 2K19 are still problematic, even though they’re better than in previous iterations. The floor spacing is a little better, but still disappointing. Even though we play like some of the best athletes in the world, the fast break takes too long to develop. In several instances, my own teammates have run out in front of me and prevented me from scoring an easy transition dunk. With guys like Russell Westbrook, who are traditionally phenomenal in transition, I would still have to settle for a jumper instead of being able to get to the basket.

The ball is distributed nicely by the AI, which emphasizes how different every player feels. If you let Jonas Valanciunas slip out of the pick and roll, you will pay the price. Karl-Anthony Towns dominates the paint with his athleticism. However, there have been instances where the AI actively avoided open players in order to get the ball to their superstar, which was a bit absurd.

The off-ball movement is actually pretty good, so it is a bit frustrating when players work themselves open for a shot but never get to touch the ball. Despite the fact that time isn’t on its side, the AI also has a tendency to hold onto the ball beyond the three-point line. Thankfully, this only occurs a couple of times per game, but it’s still discouraging when the AI is so strong everywhere else.

NBA 2K Evaluation

NBA 2K19 Review

Despite tight controls and an emphasis on player ratings, NBA 2K19 excels on the defensive end of the court. Weaker defenders can’t cope with lockdown defenders like Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard. As a complement to the complex offensive mechanics, defense became much more of a chess match.

Especially if you have a weak defense behind you, predicting what moves they will make and when they will make them becomes critical. Even if you don’t have offensive talent like Andre Roberson, you need one or two defensive stoppers on your roster.

It’s most noticeable from the interior, where big men are no longer content to allow guys like James Harden to go by on a one-on-one dribble drive. NBA 2K19’s defense is difficult to keep engaging and interesting, but it keeps the game fun all of the time instead of just half of it.

More Than a Game

NBA 2K19 Review

Even though the sheer number of animations dedicated to matching the identities of real-life counterparts helps, players tend to look strange from the neck down. LeBron James should not have the same body type as Rajon Rondo, who is trim by comparison. It is a good job of differentiating players from the more popular stars, but it is still an odd look.

NBA 2K19 is a masterclass in presentation, in addition to player physique. Throughout the game, there is always a fantastic level of quality and attention to detail. Even blowout games can be made interesting through small anecdotes from former NBA player Clark Kellogg or specific details about players that enhance what they are doing on the court.

Jimmy Butler likes to buy other people’s groceries at the grocery store, for instance. I wanted to trade for him later that season after hearing about it in mid-game. Moreover, there are excellent interviews with players, some of which seem to have been filmed from a booth, while others appear to have been filmed on the court. It is a fun detail to see someone like Dirk Nowitzki interviewed about basketball mechanics.

Ernie Johnson Jr., Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O’Neal also put on entertaining pre-and post-game shows. Similarly, they have the same chemistry and charm in NBA 2K19 as they do on TNT, providing both useful insight and comedic delivery that breaks up the seriousness of the game.

During the pre-game show, the arenas are theatrical and the clothing is chic, seamlessly transitioning into the on-court battle. Despite its depth, NBA 2K19 never feels the same twice, making it an excellent game to replay over and over again.

You can digest NBA 2K19’s gameplay and presentation in a dozen or so different ways. MyLeague is one of the best modes, and perhaps the only one that matches the intensity of the complex mechanics. This game allows you to customize your NBA franchise to your heart’s content (or start from scratch). Whether it’s something like the frequency of trades taking place across the league or what shade of orange you want the New York Knicks to have, it seems like no topic is off the table.

I enjoyed this mode because I could run the NBA the way I saw fit, which included lots of unreasonable trades between superstars and the decimation of the Golden State Warriors, and it served as the perfect medium for me to enjoy NBA 2K19’s strengths.

There is never a dull moment in the story.

With “The Way Back,” NBA 2K19 has its strongest MyCareer mode yet. It’s more narrative-focused than its predecessors. The N.B.A.’s history with a more well-known player with the same name, Allen Iverson, makes the AI, whose name may be the most unfortunate aspect of the game, a complicated protagonist who isn’t always reasonable or kind.

As a result, his attempt to be picked up by the NBA feels personal and more pragmatic than I expected from a team that has struggled so far on this front. Although there is always an interesting conflict in the story, it starts to run out of steam at the end. The theme of A.I.’s constant struggle to learn that professional basketball goes beyond his own well-being is one that comes up far too often.

Unfortunately, despite The Way Back’s promise of impactful decisions that can be made at various points in the story, upon a second playthrough, it became apparent that these choices have very little impact on the plot. Similarly, the way I performed in the games that took place in between cutscenes had very little bearing on A.I.’s career path. I sometimes performed horribly, only to be told afterward that I had had a game of a lifetime.

As a result of your performance, you are given a very inconsistent grade as a teammate, as it docks a lot of points for things out of your control while little is added for things like setting screens. However, the writing is exceptionally strong for a game mode like this, and appearances from Anthony Mackie and Haley Joel Osment add life to a relatively short (about five hours) MyCareer mode.

Some of the game modes did not seem as worthwhile as MyLeague and MyCareer. The NBA 2K franchise’s entry into the card-opening business feels too familiar, with currency being a bit hard to come by-especially since it’s the same currency you use to boost A.I.’s stats in MyCareer. To speed up the process, 2K will sell you virtual currency, but it comes at a hefty price.

Pack prices range from $5 to $10, with more expensive boxes going for twice as much. Even the most expensive packs don’t guarantee you the players you want, so I was much happier to spend the $25 worth of currency I received with the Anniversary Edition on my MyPlayer. It’s hard to imagine how MyTeam can compete with people who will shell out the cash for a better team without spending a lot of time on it.

Thanks to its lack of microtransactions, MyLeague makes it much easier to enjoy without second thoughts.

The game also includes a Blacktop mode with one-on-one or five-on-five street basketball. I had a lot of fun playing as some of my favorite NBA legends, like John Stockton and Allen Iverson, but I couldn’t help but wish the gameplay had been more exaggerated and along the lines of NBA Street or NBA Jam. It feels more like a slightly modified version of what you’d see in NBA 2K19.

In my experience, the online play was mostly positive, with the largest issue being a very small delay between the push of a button and the resulting action. It can lead to some frustrating misses or turnovers when the shooting mechanics rely almost exclusively on that timing.

The effect was especially noticeable when shooting free throws, which became almost impossible to time. Occasionally, when online, it would freeze completely, taking me out of control for chunks at a time. The latency is unfortunate since there is a real element of strategy when facing a human opponent.

However, if you do not have anyone to play with locally, the thrill of playing against another player, especially with the improved defense that largely eliminates cheap scoring options, is still worth the effort.


NBA 2K19 takes the importance of basketball more seriously than most games. The game throws everything it has at the theatrics of the sport, including a well-written story mode and solid gameplay. Its persistent flaws remain in areas like the transition game and ludicrous microtransactions, but the game’s extensive MyLeague mode offers so much variety that it’s always worth checking out the next game.