There’s truth in NBA 2K20’s story this year. When a college teammate goes down with an ACL tear and loses his sports scholarship, protagonist Che protests. “All this talk about family, but we’re really just entertainment,” he says, in backlash to the exploitative NCAA business model. If there’s a wonder why NBA 2K20 doesn’t feature actual schools (Che attends the fictional Bay City University), that’s why.
Usually, NBA 2K’s story is something frizzy and campy. For a brief time, Che’s agitation costs him a potential draft spot, and later, his family is hounded by social media death threats. It’s the reality of doing the right thing in sports. A little of NFL star Colin Kaepernick runs through Che.
But then it’s over. Che is drafted (there’s no career mode if he’s not), he makes amends, and the fight goes out of his eyes. He’s another employee, talented but also the entertainment he appeared to detest earlier. It’s as if Che doesn’t care about those kids coming up in the same exploitative system he did. Nothing changed. And, NBA 2K20 isn’t about to critically analyze the league in its name; the cushioned finish happens all too cleanly, even abruptly.
Afterward,to keep improving Che, it’s about giving 2K money to offset the arduously slow drip feed of in-game currency. Like Che in college days, it’s a realization that everyone playing basketball (simulated, in this case) is doing so for the benefit of someone richer.