Relive Michael Jordan’s career from his early days as a college sensation to his game-winning shot in the 1998 NBA Finals. Recreate his gravity-defying acrobatic shots and experience each moment as if you were there.
Pioneered in NBA 2K11, The Jordan Challenge was a groundbreaking sports game mode that allowed for NBA fans to relive their favorite and most memorable moments from Michael Jordan’s storied career. It’s been over a decade since then and we felt that now is the perfect time to retell Jordan’s ascension from college standout to NBA legend in NBA 2K23 on both New Gen and Current Gen.
One of the core differences between our audience in 2K11 and 2K23 is that many of our players in the latter never got the experience of watching Michael Jordan play in-person or live on television. Everything they know about the player is from short clips, YouTube videos, and/or tales from family members who saw a man win six NBA Championships in a single decade. In NBA 2K23’s Jordan Challenge, fans from any generation will be able to enjoy the definitive retelling of Michael Jordan’s career through our completely immersive narrative experience.
In NBA 2K23, The Jordan Challenge consists of 15 unique game experiences beginning from Jordan’s humble beginnings at the University of North Carolina and culminating with the final shot he ever took for the Chicago Bulls, one that elevated him to a six-time NBA Champion. The complete presentational package is richer than anything we have ever put together, allowing for each game to look, feel, and sound like it’s being played in the actual year it is taking place in. In this mode, you will experience:
An intricately designed video filter system that aims to re-create the television experience of watching these games as they were originally broadcast during the 1980s and 1990s, with each decade getting its own unique viewing experience.
Era-specific broadcast elements that truly capture the technology at the time of each played game. In 1982, you will experience a broadcast that is simple in design and nature. Big block letters, not many graphics. As we progress into the 90s, you will start to see an evolved presentation as technology was improving in leaps and bounds. Seeing is believing on this front, and wait until you see it…
A broadcast experience that dives deep into the mood and setting of every game to truly deliver a world-class experience. To make the commentary believable, you need the talent of someone who was there, who lived the entire Jordan experience from every perspective. Joining the commentary team for the Jordan Challenge in NBA 2K23 will be legendary coach and analyst Mike Fratello, aka The Czar. Fratello brings a one-of-a-kind level of authenticity to the games with his keen insight and unique stories that shine a bright light on our commitment to making these games look and feel…just right.
From North Carolina…At Guard…6’6…MICHAEL JORDANNNNNN! We’ve all seen the iconic Bulls starting lineup introductions featuring the iconic voice of Ray Clay. In order to capture and re-create that chill-inducing moment, we went out and captured a full PA announcer set from Ray Clay to include as the official Bulls PA announcer during those 90s games when he was broadcasting on television sets around the entire world. No 90s Bulls starting lineup experience would be complete without ‘Sirius’ by the Alan Parsons Project playing through the in-stadium speakers as each starter is announced. We left no stone unturned to deliver a completely authentic experience for all of you!
Each of the 15 Jordan Challenge games feature a pre-game interview with a luminary that was a part of what made each and every game special. Who better to tell the story of Michael Jordan than teammates, coaches, and those who commentated his games? During your experience, you will be regaled by the likes of Marv Albert (courtside commentator for The Shrug game), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (opponent in 1988 All-Star game in Chicago), Dennis Rodman (opponent in the Bad Boys game), Phil Jackson (head coach in The Last Dance game), and many more. We think you will find this touch to be the icing on the cake of a truly remarkable and memorable narrative experience.
Challenges! Each of the 15 challenges offers three goals for you to hit. Completing a goal earns you a Star. Collect 40 Stars and you will unlock unique rewards for both MyTEAM and MyCAREER mode. If you want to roll through The City and The Neighborhood in a Jordan UNC jersey, there will only be one place to get it…
Our ‘kitchen sink’ approach of including EVERYTHING we could think of doesn’t stop with the above. What good is the above if the on-court experience doesn’t live up to how the sport was played during this era? Let’s dig in to those details…
The game of basketball has changed so much over the course of the last 40 years. Enhancing our on-court experience to support the Jordan Challenge was a major priority for the team this year. The Jordan Challenge is not just the same modern-day gameplay with classic teams and uniforms. We scouted, studied, and made key gameplay changes to fit the feel of each era to make each game feel like time traveling through NBA history.
For starters, the game was much slower paced in Jordan’s day. In the ‘80s-era games, you will notice a much heavier focus on the post and mid-range game. This is supported through slider settings, AI, tendencies, and playbooks custom to the era. We also rewrote our transition game for the 1980s. It features tighter transition lanes and more players cutting to the basket with a numbers advantage, as opposed to the spotting up for three you see in today’s NBA.
You can run sets from some of the greatest coaching minds in NBA history: Jack Ramsay, Hubie Brown, Dick Motta, Lenny Wilkens, Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Rick Adelman and more. On the defensive end, we’ve rewritten our matchup logic so that when Jordan plays against Dominique Wilkins, they’ll match up and try to outscore each other in the Shootout challenge. In other games, you’ll see more complex cross matches. When you play as Jordan against the Cavaliers, Winston Bennett guards Jordan, Jordan takes Craig Ehlo, Ehlo guards Scottie Pippen, and Pippen guards Bennett. If you are able to score well at a high enough efficiency, Ehlo will eventually take over defensive responsibilities for Jordan.
Basketball in the 1980s and 1990s was much more physical than present day; this is accurately modeled in our floor game and in the paint. Hand-checking and hard-hitting body-ups bring a completely different feel to the one-on-one battles compared to the more free-flowing game of today. We also made sure that all the rules (like illegal defense) are accurately represented properly for each particular game. Playing with Jordan against the ‘Bad Boy’ Pistons is probably the most obvious example of where you see the grit and physicality of old school basketball. The Pistons will employ their famous ‘Jordan Rules,’ a set of defensive strategies they used to try and contain MJ.
On the signature style front, you’ll see our biggest upgrade yet. Magic Johnson has his signature no-look passes, and a number of classic greats have all-new jump shot, layup, and dunk packages. We also made every effort to ensure that our dribble move set and finishing moves were era-appropriate. This means moves like the “shammgod” crossover and euro-step layups won’t be firing off in Jordan Challenge games. And of course, the Jordan Challenge wouldn’t be complete without capturing some of the big moments that everyone remembers: Jordan’s famous shrug against Portland, the 1997 Finals flu game, The Shot over Ehlo, and Jordan’s famous game-winner over Bryon Russell to seal his final championship. These are just some of the memories that have been accurately recreated in NBA 2K23.
We paid attention to every possible detail creating the Jordan Challenge, and then some. The end result is a breathtaking recreation of a bygone era that we know you will enjoy! Below, you’ll find a detailed glimpse at each challenge and the history behind the moment.
THE JORDAN CHALLENGES
1. 1982 National Championship: University of North Carolina vs. Georgetown
The 1982 National Championship featured future Hall of Famers, legendary matchups, and the first glimpse of Michael Jordan’s clutch gene. Down 62-61 with less than 20 seconds to play, MJ, a first-year Tar Heel, clinched the title with a go-ahead jump shot with 15 seconds left in regulation. Many players, not just freshmen, would’ve folded under the bright lights and intensity of a national championship, but not No. 23. Experience Jordan’s first iconic shot by recreating the magic of the 1982 National Championship.
2. 1984 Team USA Basketball Scrimmage
67,596 fans descended upon the Hoosier Dome in 1984 to witness a clash between NBA giants, as the USA Olympic Team, led by Michael Jordan, went toe-to-toe with Magic Johnson and the NBA All-Stars. In a game featuring NBA legends like Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Isiah Thomas, and more, Jordan proved, as a rookie, he was capable of defeating some of the game’s greatest stars.
3. 1986 Eastern Conference First Round, Game 2
In Michael Jordan’s second NBA Playoff series, the then-22-year-old guard showed immense poise against the formidable Boston Celtics. MJ’s Game 2 takeover is the stuff of legend, giving Larry Bird and company the business en route to a 63-point eruption. Jordan was near-unguardable, making acrobatic layups among towering defenders and nailing jump shot after jump shot. Unleash Jordan’s historic offensive onslaught again in NBA 2K23.
4. 1988 NBA All-Star Game
Despite playing only 29 minutes, Michael Jordan led all scorers with 40 points with a field goal percentage of .739. Take the court as His Airness against a stacked lineup of Western Conference All-Stars including Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Hakeem Olajuwon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and more.
5. 1989 Eastern Conference First Round, Game 5
Elimination games provide the ultimate test for any competitor looking to establish themselves as a ‘clutch player.’ The Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers sat tied 2-2 entering a win-or-go-home Game 5 in Cleveland, setting the stage for a masterful performance from Jordan. The North Carolina native hung 44 points, nine rebounds, and six assists on the Cavs, giving his team a one-point win to advance. Showcase Jordan’s varied skill set and dash Cleveland’s playoff hopes.
6. 1990 Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls
When recollecting many of Jordan’s must-see duels, his battles with Dominique Wilkins can’t go overlooked. Against one of the premier playmakers in Atlanta Hawks history, Jordan averaged 31.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 6.2 assists in 45 games. On the flip side, Wilkins averaged 29.8 points and 6.8 rebounds versus Michael Jordan in his career. When the duo squared off, it was a heavyweight title match, and you can relive it in the Jordan Challenge.
7. 1990 Chicago Bulls at Cleveland Cavaliers
Some of Jordan’s best games came against the Cavs, but none were more impressive than his 69-point performance. For 50 minutes, Jordan taught a masterclass in scoring, rebounding, and assists, finishing the game with a career-high in points and rebounds with 18. Jordan consistently nailed jump shots, registering 23 field goals, while hitting 21 of his 23 free-throw attempts. Deliver one of the league’s most memorable moments by recreating his historic game.
8. 1990 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 3
There was no love lost between the Chicago Bulls and the Detroit Pistons in the early ‘90s, and their rivalry came to a head in Game 3 of the 1989 Eastern Conference Finals. With the ECF series tied 1-1, Jordan lifted his team to victory the best way he knew how by dropping 46 points and adding five steals for good measure. Duke it out in front of a deafening Chicago crowd in an Eastern Conference heavyweight battle.
9. 1991 NBA Finals, Game 5
At last, Jordan hoists his first Larry O’Brien trophy by defeating the Showtime Lakers, led by Magic Johnson. For six years, the highly coveted championship trophy eluded Jordan, despite his best efforts. The then-27-year-old shooting guard proved he could meet the lofty expectations thrust upon him by defeating a team filled with Hall-of-Fame talent. Bask in the limelight as streamers and confetti fall at your feet.
10. 1992 NBA Finals, Game 1
Once Jordan captured his first title, he developed an insatiable hunger for more rings. In his second consecutive trip to the NBA Finals, Jordan set the tone early against the Portland Trailblazers, putting the game out of reach by the end of the first half. MJ led all scorers with 39 points, serving as the primary contributor in the Bulls’ 33-point blowout win.
11. 1995 Chicago Bulls at New York Knicks
Former college rivals square off once again, this time at the mecca of basketball, Madison Square Garden. At the height of their power, Jordan and Patrick Ewing gave the fans in attendance their money’s worth, trading buckets and elbows in a physical duel. Ewing’s 36 points would typically be enough to beat a team on any given night, but Jordan’s 55 points proved to be too much to overcome. This game is yet another reminder of Jordan’s greatness, and you can experience it firsthand.
12. 1996 NBA Finals, Game 6
Michael Jordan’s fourth championship title was arguably one of his toughest tests. Facing a Seattle Supersonics squad equipped with lockdown defender Gary Payton, also known as ‘The Glove,’ every possession was a slugfest. Payton tried his best to smother Jordan throughout the series, successfully limiting him to a .263 field goal percentage in Game 6, but the offensive assassin found a way to thwart the Supersonics’ championship plan. Dig deep to clinch the title in a grueling battle against formidable foes.
13. 1997 NBA Finals, Game 5
Flu-ridden and teetering on the edge of collapse, Michael Jordan battled sickness and fatigue for 44 minutes and 17 seconds against the Utah Jazz. The famous ‘Flu Game’ is legendary and widely considered one of Jordan’s finest moments as a basketball player. The Bulls found themselves in a less-than-ideal situation early in Game 5, trailing by 16 at one point. Somehow, Jordan managed to power his team back within striking distance, and eventually secured the win. When the clock struck double zero, Jordan had 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and three steals. He left everything he had on the court.
14. 1997 Chicago Bulls vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe Bryant entered the NBA with a swagger and an air of confidence that resembled shades of Michael Jordan, but whether he was MJ’s heir to the throne remained to be seen. Bryant, who grew up idolizing Jordan, went at his idol all game, determined to prove he was worthy of receiving the torch. The Lower Merion High School product dropped 33 points against MJ and the Bulls, but Jordan’s 36 were a reminder that he still reigned supreme. Teach the up-and-coming Bryant a few things en route to a commanding win.
15. 1998 NBA Finals, Game 6
The Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls decided their 1997 NBA Finals matchup wasn’t enough, so they ran it back in 1998. All but one game in the series was decided by five points or less, making for some dramatic finishes, with Game 6 serving as the climactic crescendo. To the tune of 45 points, Jordan cemented his legacy and secured his sixth championship title by sending Bryon Russell skidding in the lane with a deadly crossover and drilling the go-ahead bucket with five seconds remaining in the game. Recapture the magic of those final moments and celebrate one of Jordan’s greatest feats.
Available on ALL versions of NBA 2K23, we can’t wait for you to get your hands on The Jordan Challenge! This definitive re-telling of Michael Jordan’s career was a passion project for our development team. To honor such an important person who shaped the NBA into what it is today…what a privilege for all of us here at Visual Concepts. We sincerely hope you enjoy playing The Jordan Challenge as much as we had fun building it. We’ll see you on the hardwood!