8 things I learned playing WNBA ‘2K’ against an actual WNBA player

Aerial Powers spent some time roasting us in the WNBA version of NBA 2K.

Mystics guard Aerial Powers, right, samples the WNBA feature in the new NBA 2K video game with SB Nation’s Matt Ellentuck. | Hayley Archer/SB Nation Illustration

Mystics guard Aerial Powers used her team and I stood no chance.

Mystics guard Aerial Powers thinks her picture in NBA 2K20 makes her look constipated, and she’s wildly disappointed by her 78 overall rating. She scores 11 points per game and shoots 36 percent shooter from three-point range for the best offense in WNBA history. But the most popular basketball video game in the world, which for the first time introduced the WNBA to its series, rates her around a league average player.

“I’m gonna have to talk to someone,” Powers said. “This is tough to look at. I hope they do updates. Going into playoff they should do updates. I think I should be in the 80s for sure.”

Powers is such a gamer, she brings her Xbox One with her when the Mystics travel to play on the road. Her teammates get fed up with how long it takes her to pass through airport security, with her console, controllers, and copies of Apex Legends, Call of Duty, and NBA2K all needing to be checked. Soon that laundry list will grow. She’s preparing to livestream her playing the WNBA mode in NBA2K20 on Twitch, under the username POWERzsurge. (She’s really got the dopest name in hoops.)

So I asked Aerial to hang out and play with the new WNBA features in NBA2K20. We played a quick game with Mystics and Aces (you can guess who was who.), and we went through ratings and graphics to see what we liked and didn’t from the league’s first foray into the ubiquitous 2K franchise.

Here’s what I learned:

1. Aerial Powers relentlessly talks shit on and off the court

From the second Aerial walked into our studio, she hyped herself up. She hadn’t played the game yet and I had two days practice, yet she gifted me my choice of team (the Aces.) She even gave me an advantage and let me play as the home team despite us gaming on a Playstation 4, which isn’t the system on which she usually plays. She gave me every handicap available.

Yet everything went downhill for me quick.

First she was offended that I chose Kayla McBride to lock her down. Making her angry was not, in fact the move:

Then she figured out how to use herself in the game:

Then, with the game on the line, I traveled.

Then she did it. She kicked my ass as I blew a double-digit lead and lost by two. Look at this:

2. Generally, the WNBA graphics are really good!

Powers looks a little constipated, while teammates Emma Meesseman and Natasha Cloud are a bit thin. But on the whole, the players look pretty realistic.

They got all of Aces veteran Tamera Young’s tattoos down, had noted trash-talker Liz Cambage talk shit after I hit a clutch bucket with her, and made sure Powers’ high bun was perfectly in place.

Everything seemed right to me.


3. The game doesn’t have the WNBA’s head coaches

When I talked to Mystics coach Mike Thibault a few weeks ago, he said he was scanned for the game, yet none of the coaches in the game resemble who they are in real life. Even worse, women coaches in real life, such as Minnesota’s Cheryl Reeve and Atlanta’s Nicki Collen, were replaced with generic men in the game. Smh, 2K.

4. Maybe coach Thibault’s dance moves were too much for the game

The night before Aerial and I played 2K, she was on a yacht for Elena Delle Donne’s 30th birthday. If you haven’t already seen Thibault’s moves, please see them here:

after watching coach thibault dance i can confirm elena delle donne had the littest 30th birthday party of all time

— Matt Ellentuck (@mellentuck) September 5, 2019

I’ll let Aerial give you the backstory:

5. The game’s shot mechanics are ok

No player we used had a shooting form that was egregiously off, but some feel too slow. Three-point shooters like Kayla McBride, Sugar Rodgers, and Kristi Toliver tended to be the ones whose shots should launch quicker. But their forms look about right, even though the company only full-body scanned a select few talents.

Powers took exception to the lack of fluency in teammate Ariel Atkins’ shot, though:

6. Player ratings are off

Please put some respect on Aerial Powers’ name, 2K. It’s time to look at this year’s stats. Bizarrely, Powers was rated just a 77 from three-point range despite finishing 20th in the league in percentage.

In the game we played in, though, I drained all three of the threes I took with Aces rookie Jackie Young. Jackie Young! Young is a solid passer and defender, but teams intentionally let her shoot from distance. She only makes 30 percent of all her shots from the field and 32 percent from downtown.

Powers was not having it.

She wasn’t cool with her own defensive rating either:

The ratings for the upper-tier stars of the league seem a bit deflated, too. Delle Donne just completed likely MVP season in which she shot over 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range, and 90 percent from the line, yet she’s merely a 95 overall in the game. The NBA side, on the other hand, ranked both LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard as 97 overall. The WNBA stars should be able to take over more easily in the video game than they currently do.

7. We need a franchise mode!

It’s great that 2K is the first franchise basketball video game to allow us to play out a WNBA season, but it goes by quick, and feels shallow. You’re able to make trades, but they’re always accepted (yes, you can trade Delle Donne for a benchwarmer). There’s no draft, either.

The season mode is a ton of fun and definitely worth trying out. I love how they kept the WNBA’s infamous single-elimination style playoff system in.

But there’s a lot more room to go. Give us franchise mode!

8. The WNBA in 2K is long overdue, but I’m glad it’s finally here

Powers said it best:

anyway, it’s incredibly dope that 2K finally added the Waerial had some words

— Matt Ellentuck (@mellentuck) September 9, 2019

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