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The Best Sports Games Of The Early 2000’s

Couch Sports Guy

The early 2000’s were a time where technology and entertainment were expanding rapidly with the advent of the Internet and the Dot-com bubble. Home video game consoles witnessed a surge in popularity going into the mid to late 90’s and surpassed arcade setups as the prominent way to play your favorite game. 

The early 2000’s saw the release of the XBox, PlayStation 2 and Gamecube. These consoles paved the way for modern video game entertainment and allowed for gamers to have more immersive experiences in the comfort of their own home. Sports gamers were beneficiaries of these advancements, playing with their favorite team or athlete in more visually engaging and interactive environments. 

Sports gaming likely reached its pinnacle in creativity by the mid to late 2000’s. Massive video game corporations started to repackage the same game with a few patches here and there each year. These games lacked the passion and vigor of game developers from earlier in the decade and the timelessness of the games on this list demonstrate that. 

The criteria here is simple. To qualify as a sports video game from the early 2000’s, the game had to be released between 2000 to 2004. The game could be from a home video game console or PC. This list is not in any particular order so please debate in the comments section about which game you think takes the top spot. 

The other piece of criteria is that this is the author’s opinion and if you don’t like it, make your own list. The challenge is welcomed and encouraged. That being said, these are the best sports games of the early 2000’s. 


Backyard Sports


You cannot have a video game list for this period of time without Backyard Sports and the legend of Pablo Sanchez. The original games were released by developer Humongous Entertainment and expanded after Infogrames bought the company. 

This series of games started out as original backyard kid characters playing sports like football, baseball or basketball with future games including soccer, hockey and skateboarding. The games expanded to include professional athletes as kids and included official licenses from the MLS, NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA. 

The game play was relatively simple and straightforward, requiring only a mouse to command the controls. There were few experiences that pumped more dopamine into my under-stimulated twelve-year old brain than connecting on a pitch with an aluminum power power-up and launching a home-run with the “Secret Weapon” out of Parks Department No. 2. If you know, you know.  

All of the iterations of these games up until around 2005 were excellent. There were financial circumstances that led to the downfall of Backyard Sports unfortunately. These were fond memories in my childhood and my hope is that you shared some of those experiences too. 


NBA Street Vol. 2 (2003)


NBA Street Vol. 2 was the apex of absurdly awesome basketball gameplay during this era. The soundtrack for the game, the streetball ethos and the characters were all beautifully orchestrated to create one of the most memorable basketball gaming experiences to date. 

Vol. 2 continued the same three-on-three gameplay from its predecessor and retained many of the bosses from the story line including Stretch. There were four gameplay modes: Pickup Game, NBA Challenge, Be A Legend and Street School. 

You could play with NBA legends like Julius Erving, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and more. The game allowed for the ability to unlock all types of items like jerseys, courts and street legend characters. 

You can battle through the Be A Legend gameplay and become a street basketball legend yourself. The gameplay consisted of trick moves, alley-oops and gamebreaker power-ups that could change the balance of the game if you play with enough swagger and style. 

There hasn’t been a basketball game since this title that has been able to execute with the level of finesse between reality and arcade style play that NBA Street is known for. There have been ill-fated attempts to duplicate its success but this has been an exercise in futility up to this point.


Rocky (2002)


For many, this pick may be out of left field and may border on heresy and blasphemy in some circles. If you are not a fan of the Rocky films then you likely would not enjoy the Rocky game either so move to the next section if that is the case. 

If you are still here by this point, you may know how underrated of a game this truly was. There will be naysayers who say this spot should’ve gone to one of the Fight Night games. The Fight Night games were excellent in their own right but do not compare in terms of the storyline and cinematic quality of the Rocky game. 

There were four methods of gameplay: Story Mode, Exhibition Match, Sparring and Knockout Tournament. Story Mode took you through the entire Rocky series starting with fighters from the first film working your way up to Apollo Creed all the way through to Rocky V where Rocky Balboa squared off with Tommy Gunn to end the game. 

The actual boxing dynamics of this game were solid for the time but were later outshined by the Fight Night gaming controls in terms of realism. The Knockout Tournament or Exhibition Match allowed for the gamer to have outlandish contests between Rocky characters that never crossed paths within canon. Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago, Apollo Creed and more could face off with each other as well as different iterations of the Rocky character from each individual film. 

This was a criminally underrated title when it came out and stands the test of time especially for fans of the film franchise. 

NBA Live 2004 


NBA Live 2004 may not carry the same name recognition as the other titles on this list but it is a personal favorite for a number of reasons. The gameplay was incredibly smooth for its time and lacked much of the convoluted controls that many of the modern NBA 2K games possess. The graphics for the time were exceptional, you could see the transition towards facial models becoming more accurate in the likenesses of players and coaches. 

Overall, NBA Live 2004’s was the most realistic basketball gameplay to date and was one of EA Sports’ last successful basketball titles before NBA 2K took that crown from them. NBA Live 2005 is generally regarded as a more popular title with their All-Star Weekend gameplay but NBA Live 2004 laid some of the groundwork for the 2005 versions success. 

This title had Season and Dynasty gameplay and improved the gaming dynamics to include a differentiation between a field goal attempt and a dunk/layup with separate buttons. The game introduced the “pro-hop” and “power-dribble” features that allowed for in-game options to create space offensively driving to the hoop and backing down defenders in the paint. 

This was a vast improvement from previous games and made this a tremendously enjoyable experience as a young basketball fan. The Charlotte Bobcats also existed in the game which should give you a good chuckle as well. They’re as terrible as you remember. 


Memory Lane 

There are other titles that were excluded from this list that some of you may be screaming at me blue in the face and fuming on your phone or computer screen wondering why they weren’t included. You can see the fifth paragraph in the introduction for that answer. This list was by no means exhaustive and will change person to person based on your childhood and experiences. 

These were the best sports games of the early 2000’s and you can bet these were not the only games I played. These were just the best out of the bunch in my humble opinion and remind me of the creative and spirited sports game development during this period of time versus what we have today. These games will continue to live on with video game enthusiasts and hopefully, with advances in technology, will be preserved and revamped in the future. Let us know in the comments what your favorite sports games were from this era. 


Rob Korensky is Back Sports Page’s Editor-In-Chief. Rob has written content for the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL & PGA Tour in his tenure at BSP. Rob is a frequent guest contributor to the Cut The Nets basketball podcast within the BSP network. Rob was born in Hinsdale, Illinois but spent his formative years in Rochester, New York and currently resides in Central Texas. Rob can be found on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter @RobKorensky

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