A little less than a year ago, I posted a small article detailing NBA 2 Ball. It was an innocent little post, giving credit to the site that was able to get the code from the game’s programmer and post video of gameplay. Kudos to Game-rave.com again.
No one thought much of it. It certainly received few hits, undoubtedly due to the obscurity of the whole thing (between 500-1,000 copies were distributed). NBA 2 Ball was given away at the 1998 NBA All Star Game at Madison Square Garden, and apparently, almost no copies survived the giveaway process. Only two are left that are known of, one in the hands of the original programmer, and the other in the hands of a writer at Game-rave, his copy now unfortunately cracked in two. Ouch.
So, here we are this week, where I am pulling my usual duty, deleting spam about Nike shoes that somehow beat the spam filter, and here is a comment from Michael Muchnik on that forgotten NBA 2 Ball post:
“I have the original demo in my possession. How much is it worth?”
Wait… you have a copy? No, you can’t. Seriously. This will ignite the retro gaming world on fire, at least three of us, maybe a fourth.
Being the internet, I of course had to verify this claim, so thankfully he left his e-mail address and I dropped him an inquisitive e-mail asking him to provide “pics or it didn’t happen.”
Well, Michael did provide pics (now scattered about this article), and promises to provide video later of him playing the game. He currently resides somewhere in Totowa, New Jersey, but lived in Yonkers when he came into possession of the demo.
That begs the question how he came about owning the game in the first place, because as it stands, no one seems to remember how the discs were handed out. Michael did not attend the game himself. Instead, a good friend of Michael’s did along with his father, and that good friend is about to become an even better friend:
“From what he told me, his father won two copies of the game by winning a slam dunk contest they had for fans. His father was rather tall and athletic, so I did not have a hard time believing it.”
That still doesn’t explain how Michael snagged a copy of the game. Being a lucky NBA fan, Michael jumped at the opportunity when the friend said he didn’t want it.
“My friend did not seem to care too much about the game at the time and I was a big NBA fan and loved (and still love) sports video games, so I offered to buy it from him. I purchased it for $5 at the time.”
Wait a second though. If his father won two copies, what happened to the second one?
“I actually do not recall if I did or did not purchase both copies from him. I only have one copy in possession right now, but I may have given the other to either a friend or relative at the time as a gift. As for the second copy, I am really just unsure due to all the time that has passed.”
Wow. So that leaves the possibility open that yes, another copy is still out there, or even thrown away. Michael, luckily, never had any thoughts of reselling his or tossing it in the trash:
“I bought the game for so cheap and it wasn’t something most people even knew about, so selling it garage sales wasn’t something I felt would even go over well. I never thought it would have value to anyone.”
That could change very soon, as Michael, currently unemployed, has plans of selling the game on eBay. You certainly can’t blame him. Valuing something like this is almost impossible given that none have ever been sold before. Since this is one of only three known copies in the world, and an ultra-rare sealed copy of Stadium Events recently sold for $40,000+, the sky is the limit for something this obscure and rare. Demand is something else entirely.
Michael’s copy of NBA 2 Ball is in surprisingly good shape aside from some wear on the outer sleeve. That made me ask where something like this is stored for 12 years:
“It’s been in a TV cabinet in my bedroom next to Crash Bandicoot 2 and some other PlayStation favorites. I’ll admit, once I got my Dreamcast and then the Xbox, I began to neglect the PlayStation a bit.”
Michael does remember playing it back in 1998 with friends, at least occasionally. However, the bigger question is whether or not his copy still works. According to that write up on Game-rave, many of the discs were likely defective, causing people to throw them out. Michael tested it before I interviewed him and confirmed it works, so that is one possible strike down. The bigger question is, since it runs on the rather awful NBA Jam Extreme engine, is the thing any fun?
“The game play is just okay in my opinion. It is easy to operate the players, but there isn’t much variety in terms of shooting. The players take either basic lay-ups or shots. It is still fun to see how many points you can score in one minute. I think back when I was a kid I scored well over 70 points with a friend.”
So, he states he will be selling the game on eBay, but that sort of begs the question why he brought it up now. I mean, this thing was in a drawer for 12-years, you found an article online, and casually posted a comment about owning one of the rarest games known to collectors. That’s sort of random, no?
“Its like when you watch Antiques Road Show and you see some lady pull out a vase that she finds out was owned by some late president. I constantly see these stories of old rare video games being found.”
And many of those old, rare video games are donated to collectors like myself. Really. No? Okay. Can’t say I didn’t try. So, any parting words?
“Right now, seeing as I am recently unemployed I am planning on putting it up for auction and seeing what comes of it. I always joke how I will one day be one of those people who makes it on Yahoo’s main page for something odd. Maybe this will be that oddity that can do it.”
I hope so… unless you want to donate it. Okay, fine. I’ll quit. Good luck Michael!
Note: Many will question the validity of the sleeve in these pics. I don’t believe anyone will question the disc itself, but the sleeve, minus copyright details and a ESRB logo on the front, aroused my suspicion. The other known copy comes in a black sleeve. This one has the same info, but only on the back and is white all around. Michael is 100% sure this is how he received the disc. Yes, assuming this is original (and there is no way to confirm it without other copies), he actually owns a variant. Best guess? This was one of the copies given away as a prize, the others were handed out at the door, but that is a guess at best.
Update: The original programmer of the game, Paul Blagay, dropped me a line to state his copy has the white cardboard case as well, confirming the Michael’s copy as legit. Also, Michael posted a video of the game being played on YouTube, and the eBay auction has begun: