“I’m just trying to get my 2K rating up.”
These are the infamous words that a young Miami Heat center named Hassan Whiteside said after earning a triple double against the Chicago Bulls in 2015, notching 14 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 blocks in a game that introduced him to the basketball world.
The world is a lot different now. Instead of gearing up for what many Portland Trail Blazers fans would have hoped to be a playoff push, they are stuck at home watching old games and most recently, the players-only NBA 2K tournament. For those fans, that meant that their basketball dreams were now pinned to their polarizing offseason addition in Whiteside, the lone Portland player in the tournament.
With Whiteside representing the Blazers in this tournament, I had high hopes. The guy who had once fought so hard to up an ultimately meaningless video game rating had to be at least good at the game, right? His gambling odds had great value (+2200 for a known 2K connoisseur? I’ll take it). Well...let’s just say I might have been wrong, as he got trounced by Patrick Beverly 84-54, who played as the Milwaukee Bucks while Whiteside chose the Lakers.
With the lack of current games to analyze, I’ve gone stir crazy without a game to do an extended analysis on, so now it’s time. Let’s dive deeper than we ever thought necessary into a game of NBA 2K.
Before we begin...
If we’re going to start somewhere, let’s start with his seeding, which was based off his 2K player rating, which is — to put it nicely — generous. Whiteside was the three seed in a 16-team tournament with a player rating of 87 overall. That’s higher than Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, Zach Lavine, Montrezl Harrell and Domantas Sabonis.
If you listen closely, you can hear the Blazers fan base parting like the Red Sea, but instead of staying apart to let Moses through they’re just violently crashing into each other about Whiteside’s defensive rating. While Whiteside’s box score numbers are great (what’s new?) at 16.3 points per game, 14.2 rebounds and 3.1 blocks, he is arguably the biggest “eye-test” polarizer currently in the league.
His three blocks a game come at the expense of constant block chasing and failed boxouts that lead to wide open shots inside, not to mention his lack of defensive versatility on the perimeter. Oh, and he also flexes after literally anything, especially when down 20 and almost assuredly leading to buckets on the other end every time.
Is his rating too high? Yes. Should it be lower than Sabonis and arguably Harrell and several other players in the tournament? Absolutely. But this is also the company that he shouted out after getting a triple double and that also LOVES Kyle Kuzma, so what did we expect?
Oh you didn’t think I was doing a quarter by quarter breakdown? Then you don’t know me, pal!
Things actually looked pretty good for a little bit. Whiteside got up by five early (like very early, as one does when they literally start the game scoring eight of the first 11 points) and it looked like he actually had a game plan. He was doing a good job working the ball inside and taking advantage of LeBron James and Anthony Davis being, you know, two of the greatest athletes on the planet.
But old habits die hard, and Whiteside’s defensive instincts kicked in. He mostly just jumped at everything. Is the ball in the air? Go for the block! Could the ball maybe go in the air at some point in the 24 second shot clock? What the heck, go for the block! That doesn’t work against Giannis Antetokounmpo. Especially in video game form. He blew his lead on an 8-0 run at the end of the quarter to leave him down 24-16 after one.
The second quarter is where it all went downhill for Whiteside. Quite literally the INSTANT that Beverly got up 10, the point guard decided it was time to “get busy”, which meant that he was ready to unleash a bevy of trash talk that makes you understand why he is in the upper echelon of “you hate him unless he’s on your team” guys.
If Whiteside would’ve stopped him, that might’ve changed Beverly’s tone. But he didn’t. Repeatedly. Beverly went on a 23-2 run at one point and was ecstatic to let Whiteside know every step of the way how much better he was than him. At one point, Beverly yells “I’M TOO LOCKED IN!” I have to agree with this statement because oh my god playing against a 2K player like Beverly is awful. He was indeed very locked in and Whiteside was down 47-26 at the half.
The most notable thing here is towards the end of the quarter, Whiteside conceded that Giannis is a cheat code, which is true both in the virtual world and real world. Beverly quickly retorted by saying that he’s the one controlling Giannis so technically he’s the cheat code.
But like...he’s not?? Giannis is literally a 7-foot monster, the best basketball player in the world and objectively better than anyone on the Lakers, including LeBron. As an experienced 2K player, it is quite easy to score with the Greek Freak if you run down the court and just hit square or X, depending on the console you’re playing on. So yes, Beverly is great, but he also could’ve won with Giannis if his teammates were just the remnants of my 8th grade CYO team. Whiteside was down 69-38 with one to go.
There’s not much to say here other than it was probably a gift to Whiteside to not have to play against an irritant like Beverly anymore. Beverly is exactly like his on court persona when playing 2K. I’m a rage monster when playing 2K. I would’ve thrown my controller at him. I credit Whiteside with generally keeping his cool outside of a fair amount of whining, which isn’t that impressive since it is only a videogame, but also is impressive because I would not have shown such grace.
Also, Beverly noted that they had him “in a cage for five years overseas,” so all he could do is play 2K. I could say the same thing, but instead of a cage it’s just my parents house in Portland where I could come and go as I pleased. And it was for more than five years. And it wasn’t the only thing I could do. I just chose it over, you know, having friends or whatever. Still, basically the same thing. Oh yeah, the final score was 84-54.
Overall, this game was tough to watch, not just because it was a video game and not real basketball and not just because it was a blowout because the other team had Giannis while Whiteside jumped at anything and everything. It was tough because in the end, it was a sobering reminder that basketball is a ways away, and even in the virtual world, a Blazer can find himself facing a first round exit.
Whiteside might have gotten his 2K rating up. Sadly his 2K skills didn’t go up with it.