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Basketball's influence on Video games

basketball video games

Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world, so it's with little surprise that it's presence has influenced video games overm the years, whether that be through fashionable b-ball jerseys, games with mini games or characters inspired by legendary ball players.

Let's make one thing clear, this topic isn't about the greatest basketball games of all time, but rather the influence and contagious effect basketball has had on popular non-sport video games in the history of video games.

Shaq Fu

It wasn't unusual for basketball players to star in their own video games in the early 90s. Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and even Scottie Pippen all got their own games. Shaquille O'Neal's Shaq Fu could've fallen in line with other mediocre basketball video games, but tried to be so much more.. 

Most of Shaq Fu's notorious reputation stems from the fact that it's a 2D fighting game featuring a basketball player.

In an old issue of Mean Machines gaming magazine, it stated that Shaq Fu was originally a basketball game. But because Shaq was a fan of fighting games such as Mortal Kombat, the cult classic turned into a martial arts game.

Grand Theft Auto

San Andreas 

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is one of the greatest video game of all time and part of the reason is because of how much activities the game gives the player outside of missions, this includes being able to step on a court and b-ball.

gta san andreas basketball

Although many basketball courts appear throughout the series, San Andreas is the only game which allows the player to actually pick up a ball and play basketball.

With CJ, the player can earn points by shooting the ball into a hoop — the farther the distance, the more points rewarded— but other than that nothing else is gained from playing besides bragging rights.

While the player can only play with themselves, a mini-challenge can be activated to score the most number of buckets within an assigned time. The player is also able to perform tricks and skills like spinning the ball on CJ's finger, or slam dunking the ball in the paint.

Los Santos is a parody of Los Angeles, California and it's greater metropolitan area. In San Andreas The Los Santos Dribblers are a pro basketball team in Los Santos, seemingly based on the LA Lakers (since the other Los Santos team, the Saints, are based on the LA Clippers).

Their team jersey, however, is inspired by the Chicago Bulls jersey between 1973-1984, being mainly red with black numbers.

Grand Theft Auto V

ballas gta 5

This is further expanded in Grand Theft Auto V with the Los Santos Panic basketball team, whose sports jerseys are worn by the notorious Black American street gang, The Ballas.

This team is a clear parody of the Los Angeles Lakers, mainly because of the purple and gold team jerseys and the fact that the Panic have secured 16 championships in identical years to the Lakers.

The Los Santos Panic are called a 'courting disaster' on billboard adverts, which is strange considering their successful venture of winning 16 titles for the city; though this may be in reference to the Lakers' troubles during 2012-13.

Their home court is the Maze Bank Arena in Los Puerta, a massive sports stadium which resembles a smaller, domed iteration of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and takes inspiration from both The Forum, the former home of the LA Lakers and also the current Staples Center.

1 on 1 Basketball (PlayStation 1)

1 on 1 ps1 basketball fighting game

1 on 1 (not to be confused with the 1983 basketball game) is a 3D 1v1 street basketball fighting game developed and published by Jorudan for the Sony PlayStation, exclusively in Japan on November 26, 1998.

Featuring character designs created by the artist behind the '90s manga Slam Dunk, the game is unique because it mixes streetball with the gameplay and style of 3D fighting games (such as Tekken and Virtua Fighter).


fortnite skin jumpshot

Since Fortnite Battle Royale hit the scene in 2017, Epic Games have produced over one hundred cosmetic skins for players to purchase and hit the battlefield with in style, majority in reference to popular culture, and 'Half Court' is a set of skins that embodies streetball fashion to it's fullest.

In this set you get not only the character skins Jumpshot and Triple Threat, but also a glider and harvesting tool which takes the shape and form of a basketball rim and backboard. Released in Season 4 of 2018, Jumpshot is still the freshest looking Fortnite skin ever released.

In May 2019 Jordan's Brand had a collaboration with Fortnite, it's newest sneakers at the time becoming a virtual entity.

fortnite jordan skin

 The shoe giant and Epic Games joined forces to create one of the first ever footwear/game collabs in video game history, giving players the chance to not only buy two Jordan-clad skins but also complete in the game mode Downtown Drop LTM by Jordan.

To further elaborate, the two skins are apart of the Hangtime Bundle: the Clutch Outfit and the Get the Grind Outfit. Both skins are dripped in the signature red, white and Jordan colours.

As for the sneakers specifically, the characters are clad in Air Jordan 1s. The colourways of the shoe is customisable by players, and new colour varieties are unlockable by completing a challenge pack unique to the duo.


hoopster pokemon trainer

Unova is the fifth region and backdrop of Pokémon Black and White. Unlike the earlier regions which were based on Japan, Unova is inspired by America's New York City, and on that note we see the debut of basketball players commonly referred to as Hoopsters.

Introduced in Generation V, they are athletes who play basketball. In Black and White, they are only seen hanging around the Small Court in Nimbasa City. Hoopster outfits consist of basketball jerseys and shorts. While their battle sprites have them holding basketballs dyed like a Pokéball.

The Hoopsters known as Lamarcus and Derrick are direct references to two real life NBA players: LaMarcus Aldridge and Derrick Rose. Another fact is that since Generation V, the Hoopster trainer class hasn't returned and appears to be exclusive to the Unova region.

Fighting games

Street Fighter Alpha - Guy's sneakers 

street fighter nike dunks

In the Street Fighter Alpha series (which is canonically set between Street Fighter 1 and Street Fighter 2), Final Fight‘s Guy emerges as a playable character. The game’s promotional art had him wearing generic red and white sneakers.

Although in the game itself, Guy’s pixeled sprite appears to be sporting a pair of Nike Dunks. It’s a subtle nod that probably surprised a few players back in the day. However, in Street Fighter 4, Guy's sneakers revert back to a generic design because lawsuits…

Street Fighter 3 Sean

Sean street fighter 3

Making his debut in Street Fighter 3, Sean Matsuda is a martial artist who also loves to hoop and brings a basketball with him everywhere. What's most interesting is he was originally American, hence his love for b-ball.

Sean shares the same fighting style as Ryu and Ken; although there are noticeable differences. For one he can shoot a basketball at his opponent as a taunt and more strategically as an overhead projectile, although it doesn't deal a lot of damage.

As confirmed in the Street Fighter: World Warrior Encyclopedia, Sean is a player of his high-school basketball team.

sean street fighter

Although in the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, Sean's biography states that he plays for his college team, which could imply he has played for both. Based on his sister's jersey swimsuit costume in Street Fighter 5, Sean's team are known as 'The Leons'.

The background of the second bonus stage in Street Fighter 3 third Strike is a outdoor b-ball court which takes heavy influence from 90s New York City and is the only basketball court to appear in the series.

King of Fighters - Lucky Glauber 

king of fighters 15 lucky glauber

Another character who uses his basketball as a literal weapon, only more aggressively is Lucky Glauber, who first appeared in The King of Fighters '94 as a teammate of the American Sports Team.

Lucky is a martial arts champion as well as an ex professional basketball player who is asked by his dude Heavy D! to create a team and participate in the King of Fighters tournament.


Lucky's moveset is loosely based on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's fighting style in Bruce Lee's Game of Death. Though the difference is Abdul-Jabbar uses Jeet Kune Do in the flick, while Lucky fights with karate and a basketball, Kareem's former profession.

The colour palettes used for his design are direct homage of several NBA teams attires. His main colour scheme purple and gold represents the Los Angeles Lakers, which is the basketball team that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar used to play for back in the day.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Final fantasy 7 remake basketball court

After the overwhelming motorcycle battle at the beginning of Chapter 4, Cloud, Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie can relax in the nearby neighbourhood. Before reaching Jessie's parent's home, a dimly-lit basketball court can be accessed. 

It's sorta easy to miss though, as the entrance is to the immediate right when exiting the tunnel and is pretty dark. Even though Cloud isn't able to shoot hoops with the Avalanche gang, he can still get kick  the basketballs around.

When it came to recreating the iconic setting, the game's Co-director, Naoki Hamaguchi, has no regrets...except one. 

Hamaguchi told Push Square, that he wanted the basketball court to be an interactive mini-game, however he and his team felt it wouldn't make sense at that point in the story, when the party members were moving covertly in the dead of night, so they removed it.

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales

marvel's spider-man miles morales basketball

Marvel's Spider-Man has one of the most accurate video game representations of New York to date. Sony and Insomniac games' latest superhero venture, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, embraces the more local elements of NYC life, especially compared to the first game.

That includes streetball, as there are several basketball courts scattered throughout the inner city of the titular hero's new home of Harlem. On these outdoor courts, you can sometimes watch basketballers play a 1v1 pick up game, consisting of ankle breakers, dribbling and three pointer shots.

In the case of Harlem's own Spiderman, there is not a protagonist in video game history who is a bigger basketball head than Miles Morales. He literally eats, sleeps and breathes basketball, and subtle moments in the story displays his love for the game.


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