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Deeper controls, global dominance and trash talk highlight NBA LIVE 19

Electronic Arts’ hoop game continues to make strides

NBA LIVE has come a long way in trying to close the gap that exists between it and NBA2K. Major strides were made with NBA LIVE 18, but will 2K’s edge further dwindle with NBA LIVE 19? Electronic Arts rolled out details about the next version at EA Play on Saturday. Here’s a look at what’s new:


  • New ICON Abilities to unlock. “This year, we’re introducing an all-new Icon Abilities to complement each play style,” said NBA LIVE creative director Ryan Santos. “These Icon Abilities will be inspired by superstars, whether it be legends or current-day players. These are going to be abilities that you can go and modify as you progress down your path. Think of this as another ability path that has customization built into it with key decisions that allow you to make that ability your own.”

  • Ability to choose the same style of play as another player but modify the unique Icon Abilities of the player’s tendencies and ratings to ensure they put their own spin on each game. While players may start the same, this development makes sure that no players develop the same.
  • New story and a new presentation of your player’s journey to glory and new additions to both The League and The Streets.
  • Ability to unlock special rewards such as signature throwback jerseys, kicks and specific animations tied to that ability, making you look and play differently during the game.


  • Hoop dreams go global — Expanded Pro-Am tour turns into The Streets World Tour, featuring courts around the globe in places such as Paris, Rio de Janeiro and more over the course of the year.

“Making this feel more like a global journey for your player on The Streets and then meeting different players along the way, going up against them, beating them, and then recruiting them to your squad, it’s a whole new mechanic that’s going to be presented in The Streets,” said Santos of the game’s new mode, “Build Your Squad.” “I think we have a nice blend of taking authentic Pro-Ams and introducing more of that global, yet local street flavor in terms of these street ball courts that are very grassroots, where a lot of kids grow up playing and pros show up, so you never know who you’ll go up against.”

  • Chip-chasing — Since NBA LIVE is all about making your own decisions, make your way back to The League whenever you want. When you do, you’ll get every chance to grow your own player and take your team deep into the playoffs. The interesting part about The League, though, is the decisions you make can influence the trajectory of your professional career and even your own personal life. This stems from everything, such as choosing where you want to play, getting messages from other NBA stars, and even building your own profile in the news so that everyone knows your name.

“We’re adding so many more hairstyles, different tattoos, just all those different things that make you unique when you’re out there on the court,” said Santos. “We’re also going to be building on our narrative system. Within The League last year, you had these conversations that led to different choices and some of these choices led to different rewards that you would get, like when you pick what sponsor you want to go with, so you get some rewards there. This year, we’re building on that system to allow you to get these rewards within The League. It’s going to be a lot more rewarding in terms of the types of decisions you can make there, and the impact it has. We’re going to have these decisions also lead into the game, so that when you play against certain players and have a certain performance, we have a brand-new system that’s going to pay that off with these various social media personalities.”

  • Birth of a Global ICON. The NBA is the only league where players such as Enes Kanter won’t ever come close to being seen as a star but would definitely make the all-star squad on #NBATwitter. This year’s NBA LIVE gives you the chance to become a star both on and off the court. Capturing this global cultural and social influence aspect of the NBA is a major hurdle that the team looked to make happen for fans in 2019.

“That’s a whole new way to present the user’s story in a dynamic way,” Santos said. “When you go into a league game and have an awesome performance, you’re going to have these awesome highlights being played back to you with a famous influencer or brand or broadcaster talking about this amazing performance you just had. So, that’s where you really get to see your player put on this stage and be celebrated with all the different customization options, their animations, what they did in-game, this thing that’s dynamic and really all about you.”


  • Fully customizable experience. In NBA LIVE 19, you can change your game to model some of the greatest who have ever touched the hardwood by incorporating the skills, abilities and personalities of current and retired stars. If you want to lead your teammates like Magic Johnson, you can. You can add in some elements of former Defensive Player of the Year Dikembe Mutombo’s game and become a menace down low. With the new Icon System, all of this possible.


  • Real Player Motion. Give players a much smoother and more responsive experience. Big jump in quality regarding ball carrier movement.
  • Lots of signature player movement. Guys such as LeBron James, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry will move like they do in real life. Faster acceleration, different nuances of how they dribble and how they move, all controlled with the left stick.

  • Off-ball player movement has also been upgraded to Real Player Motion. Player movement is much more responsive and smoother when controlling players in the half court or in transition.
  • You can do a lot of different moves on just the left stick alone. You don’t need to be a master on the right stick, but there’s a lot more players can do and it’s a lot smoother and easier to pick up and play. It’s a lot more responsive and authentic with signature player movement.
  • Overhauled triple-threat control. All-new jabs steps, as well as a pump fake system have been converted to Real Player Motion technology.
  • Addition of all-new counter and combo moves for both in The League and The Streets. The ball handler will have a lot more freedom and control than last year.
  • Expanded one-on-one system to off-ball. On defense, you can hold your left trigger to body players up away from the ball. On offense, there’s a series of counter moves like V-cuts, L-cuts and different right stick moves to get you open. There’s a whole new game within the game with off-ball play.
  • New interactive environment. You’ll see players save the ball into the bench and the crowd, fall into the cameramen or crash into the stanchion and you’ll also see players talking trash with the opposing team’s bench or crowd members in Pro-Am. They’re also introducing court-storming in Pro-Am and Street games.
  • All-new Dynamic Gameplay A.I. system. New AI behaviors that are true to life. So, when you play against star players who start to get hot and begin taking over a game, whether on offense or defense, you’re going to start to feel that. They’ll get the ball fed to them more and they’ll be much more aggressive. Depending on their personality types, they’ll start talking trash. There’s a new concept of post-whistle interactive where you can taunt the opposition or celebrate with your teammates. Players will start to do that depending on personality type.


  • Your squad vs. the world. Not only can you compete in The League and The Streets, you’ll also be able to go around the world to different global courts where you’ll be able to recruit players who you play against and compete with, then form your squad as you go from game to game, court to court and country to country. Electronic Arts tried to mimic the style that many role-playing games have set forth in terms of creating an online party-style mode. This is a mode where not only can you play against friends, but you can actively try to one-up and compete for bragging rights. While most global courts are yet to be released, this seems to give a nostalgic feel similar to the classic Electronic Arts Sports’ NBA Street franchise.

  • A number of NBA LIVE 19’s Live Events will be centered on this concept of building your squad, and you’ll get to do so in the most interactive way possible, where you might have one or two chances to pick up a certain player and add him to your team.

Marcus Matthews is the senior manager over social content for Andscape, tasked with developing strategy, overseeing special projects and establishing synergy opportunities in the social lane for the site. He’s a PG County, Maryland, native and a fan of the Washington Commanders, Georgetown Hoyas and Los Angeles Lakers.