Video Game: NBA Ballers

NBA Ballers is one of the Spiritual Successor titles Midway Games created after losing the NBA Jam name to Acclaim Entertainment. The original was released in 2004 for the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox. The game was a hit, both critically and commercially, thanks to its hybrid of Midway's fast-paced, easy to learn but hard to master gameplay with the rival NBA Street's emphasis on flashy moves and the Glam Rap lifestyles that captured the public's attention stood out from every other basketball game before it.

Unlike its predecessors, Ballers is a street basketball game. Games are played in best two of three matches where the two players have three minutes to score eleven points before the other guy does. Different players have different perks they're allowed to access, such as having a fan at courtside to pass to, a one-time sweet spot where their shot is near-guaranteed to go in, the ability to catch fire as in old-school NBA Jam, and so on. Players can also perform various over-the-top trick moves to fake out defenders and earn extra points. By playing well, the player builds up their House meter. When it fills all the way up, they can "Bring Down the House", a move that breaks the hoop and instantly grants that player the win.

Another aspect of the game that made it unique was its presentation. The game was presented as a Show Within a Show also called NBA Ballers where the NBA's best played one-on-one on yachts, in famous streetball courts, or each other's mansions. The graphics were some of the best of its time, with detail beyond what any other sports game had. It also was the first licensed sports game to have a story mode. In Rags to Riches mode, you played the role of a created player who's just a regular amateur. The Midway Sports Network holds a tournament at Rucker Park, which serves as the pilot for a reality TV show centering around the winner of the tournament, who goes on to take on a gauntlet of the NBA's best and acquire cash, fame, and a crapton of expensive stuff. If he wins, he gets to keep everything. How you played with this character determined his stat development. Dunking a lot increased his dunking skills, shooting from long range increased his three point skills, and so on.

The game went on to have two sequels, subtitled Phenom and Chosen One, as well as a game on PlayStation Portable subtitled Rebound. However, now that Midway is out of business and EA has revived Jam, it is unlikely there will be another installment in the Ballers series.

NBA Ballers and its sequels contain examples of the following tropes:

  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: MC Supernatural occasionally makes references that hint he may know he's in a video game.
  • Executive Meddling: An in-universe example. The story mode kicks off with two network executives trying to come up with a hit TV show. They come up with NBA Ballers: Rags to Riches Edition, the show within a show your character is the star of. Said executives will go on to mess with the events of the show as your created character rises in prominence.
  • Karma Meter: In Phenom, playing in tournaments will provide points for the two career paths available, namely NBA player and entertainment mogul. Similar to Mass Effect, the two meters build separately, but all it really does is determine which of the two endings you get. The game presents both options as equally viable, and if there's even the slightest difference between your totals for the two paths, you get the ending for the one you have more points in.
  • Product Placement: Phenom is loaded with it. In story mode, your created baller has a T-Mobile Sidekick and can wear clothing with T-Mobile clothing on it, as he can for AOL and Sprite. In fact, one of the cutscenes puts him in a Sprite jacket if he wasn't already. Then there's the Sprite you can buy and use as a power-up in tournaments, the multiple Adidas basketball shoes that come with stat boosts when equipped, the sidequest revolving around putting up posters for Ludacris's record label...
  • Rags to Riches: The story mode is even called that. Phenom's story follows a similar arc, starting with the protagonist living out of his car and ending with him as either a star NBA player or a hip-hop mogul.
  • Totally Radical: Bob Benson, the white TV analyst, tries to use the hip hop slang that everyone else does in this game. It's hilariously bad when he says it.
  • Shipper on Deck: In Phenom, Ludacris sets the main character up with his assistant, Courtney.
  • Shout-Out: After a foul, MC Supernatural will sometimes remind the players that this is not NFL Blitz or Mortal Kombat.
  • Show Within a Show: Two of them in the same game, and one is a spinoff of the first one.
  • Super Mode: Fire Mode, which works exactly like it did in NBA Jam.