NBA Live vs 2k: Which Is the Best Basketball Video Game?

If there's one thing that all gamers have in common, it's their love for arguing which game is better. Every genre of game has its great debates. Be it Fifa vs. Pes or Call of Duty vs. Battlefield. However, when it comes to basketball, there are the two titans: NBA Live and 2K.

There hasn't been an NBA Live game since 2018, but 2K has still been pumping out games annually.

However, the absence of NBA Live has left a weird itch in players who loved to compare and see how they two stood off against each other. So which is better? 

What We Looked For

Finding out which game is better is no simple task. Whichever the answer, there are bound to be scores of people who will disagree. So the only way to do this is to do it objectively and stick to the hard facts.

As an avid gamer and a person with a passion for basketball, both these games allow you to experience the thrill of being an NBA star.

It would be unjust to compare NBA Live 19 to the latest 2K. So instead, we're going to use the benefit of hindsight and look at when the two last battled equally.

So let's get into it.


Usually, the first thing players notice is the graphics. Excellent graphics immerse the players in the game and feel like their favorite player surrounded by thousands of fans in stunning arenas.

While graphics have made giant leaps and bounds since 2018, the graphics at the time were still astounding. So let's break it down.

  • Player Models

Both games did pretty decent jobs for character modeling. However, some players look better in one game than their respective counterparts in the other. There are noticeable differences where one game outshines the other.

For NBA Live, it's their clothing and hair detail. You can see the individual stitches on players' shirts and the tiny details that make the vests look fabric. Hair looks more detailed in Live. 

It doesn't look like a lego cap stuck on, but instead, you can see individual fibers. In 2K, the vests look painted on into the models. However, 2K wins in the color department as everything pops better.

2K also has better facial animations that look incredibly detailed and still hold up today. NBA Live looks slightly off, especially if the characters open their mouths.

This one goes to 2K for their superior character models.

  • Arenas

The arenas in Live are the shining star of the game. They are gorgeous, with radiant floors and a reactive crowd that feels alive.

Honestly, the arenas are why we keep going back to Live now and then because of the excellent atmosphere and ambiance. This is not to say 2K's arenas are bad. Instead, they are also stunning, but Live has something that 2K is missing. Even in their latest games.


  • Movement and Physics

Gauging which game is better using movements is hard. There are no generally accepted aspects, and therefore it's really up to an individual's preference.

Live is for you if you are looking for a simple, fun, and arcade-like basketball game to enjoy with some friends. The movement in Live feels a lot more light as if the players don't have any weight to them.

The physics of the players and ball can also be a bit janky, with players clipping through each other and the ball bouncing unnaturally. However, this also adds to the game's fun, especially when playing with friends.

On the other hand, 2K feels like a basketball simulator. The characters feel sturdy, and the game has nailed the ball physics. You can accurately predict how a ball will bounce off a surface and plan accordingly.

As a result, 2K creates some great competitive matches and suits more competitive players. This comes with a significant learning curve, but it also means there's a more substantial payoff when you nail that perfect shot or catch the rebound. If you want to feel like a professional NBA player, 2K is for you.

Overall, 2K has better movement and reliable physics. Sure sometimes, you want to have fun in an arcade-style.

However, when you're trying to set up a shot, and the ball bounces to the opposite end of the court or a player you're trying to defend clips through you, it can be infuriating.

Consequently, we have to give it to 2K.

  • Story

NBA Live doesn't have a fledged-out story but intercuts real scenes from matches with the game's cutscenes. It's an interesting touch, but it just takes you out of the game's immersion when you switch from actual footage to in-game footage.

Lack of any story also means you don't have any character development with your custom character.

On the other hand, 2K has a fully-fledged story for you to dive into. It explains where your character comes from, and you join them on their journey to NBA stardom. It is much more fulfilling, and you form a stronger connection with the game.

2K definitely takes this one.

  • Customization

Both games do a great job with player customization. Live's customization mode is still relatively new, but they do a solid job. You have all the tools you need to create your character, but there isn't anything thrilling.

Their custom team builder lacks any customization that gamers expect from modern games. You can't customize arenas or even team jerseys, so it never feels like your own dream team.

On the other hand, 2K allows you to sculpt yourself or any person you can imagine into the game. The tools are easy to use, and you can control every aspect of your character, from their body shape to the tiny freckles on their face.

Nothing can compare. 2K also has an excellent custom team builder offering complete customization of your team and line up. However, many of these features and options are behind paywalls, so be ready to pay extra if you want the whole experience.

2k wins this round.


Now let's look at the developers and the people who support the games. This is important because you can see when developers are passionate about what they do and when they are just in it for a quick buck.

  • Electronic Arts (EA)

EA has been in hot water these recent years. They have recently shifted focus to profit over service and often neglect feedback from players to prioritize cost. EA has also had trouble in the past with NBA Live game launches. Only two titles, Live 17 and 18, were released on schedule and were rather enjoyable on release.

Since then, EA has announced it will not be releasing an NBA Live 20. As for the moment, the Live games are dead in the water with no real news.

However, EA has announced that they are looking to reinvigorate their sports games to take advantage of the new consoles. So we hope we will hear something soon so the constructive rivalry can continue.

  • Visual Concepts Entertainment 

Visual Concepts has a passion for basketball and WWE. Their games clearly show this passion, with NBA 2K being their flagship title. Yes, they may have gotten a bit greedy lately, but their work in their games is unrivaled and creates an enjoyable experience overall.

With annual releases still being pumped, each game has something new to offer.

We hope that the competition between Electronic Arts and Visual Concepts returns as we feel it forces both companies to put in their best and innovate new ideas.

Final verdict: NBA 2k vs NBA Live 

It shouldn't come as a surprise that 2K is the better game in many aspects. They have better graphics, gameplay, and studio behind them. 2K games set the standard for all sports games.

However, this isn't to say Live isn't worth getting or hopping back into. For some reason, we always find ourselves playing countless hours of NBA Live because it is pure fun. We hope EA will announce a new one soon so that we can have more NBA Live vs. 2K conversations soon.

Related: Best Basketball Video Games (Other than Live and 2K)

Joshua Bast

My name is Joshua Bast and I have been playing basketball ever since I was 7 years old. I love the game play, I love the feeling whenever I score a basket, but what made me fell in love was the camaraderie with my team mates. This blog is dedicated to help any up-and-coming basketball players maximize their potential.

Joshua Bast