NBA Y2K: The Sixers' quest for an 0-82 season

Welcome to the series premiere of NBA Y2K, the basketball edition of Breaking Madden. The 76ers' losing streak ended at only 26 games. Let's make it 82 and send the franchise into a spiral of despair out of which they will never emerge.

Between January 31 and March 27, the Philadelphia 76ers were total butt.

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If the Sixers really are intentionally tanking, they apparently need to lose even more than 100 percent of their games, because they still aren't in last place. It's kind of staggering: even after dropping an NBA-record 26 straight, they're still two games ahead of the 14-60 Milwaukee Bucks.

Clearly, 26 is not enough. I want an 0-82 season. And through the simulation abilities of NBA 2K14 for the Xbox 360, that's what we're going to try to accomplish.

Over the last four years, this series has produced the best sports video games of all time. It possesses the fun factor, if not the instant accessibility, of games like NBA Jam, NHLPA '93, Tecmo Bowl and R.B.I. Baseball. Like Street Fighter II, it challenges you to learn a storybook full of special moves, should you want. The player-specific career modes make nods to RPG conventions. The team dynasty modes have given me the empire-building feel of Civilization V.

Amazingly, all this comes together to form a gameplay experience that's without a single major flaw I've been able to identify over the hundreds of hours I've spent playing these dang games. This isn't quite "Breaking NBA 2K," because frankly, there isn't as much to break. Instead, we will press this deathly precise software into the service of bringing our basketball daydreams and horrors to life. This is NBA Y2K. This is the stuff of anarchy, paranoia and cascading blackouts.

This is what we're going to do.

Music: "Piece of Crap," Neil Young

I. RECREATE ROBERT 'BOBERT' AWFUL.

Bobert Awful has been a SB Nation mainstay over recent years, having most recently appeared in Week 2 of Breaking Madden.

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He's the very worst basketball player the game would allow me to create. But no matter how many minutes I give him on the court, he can't tank a team all by himself, so let's:

II. REPLACE THE 76ERS' ROSTER WITH THE WORST PLAYERS OF ALL TIME.

It almost seems cruel to decimate a roster that has already been decimated, but if there's anything the Sixers' Sunday night win over the Pistons teaches us, it's that on a long enough timeline, a team led by Thaddeus Young and Michael Carter-Williams is capable of winning a basketball game. I had to make sure this didn't happen, so I cut every real-life player on Philadelphia's roster and recruited new players from Twitter.

Introducting your 2013-14 76ers, all of whom are as little and horrible as Bobert Awful.

#98 - Mike Wuest (@Wuest)

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I probably shouldn't have posted that, since it's a secret. At this point, we should be fine as long as we keep the information contained. Do not share this article with anyone.

#75 - Ross Poland (@logggur)

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No, for real, I miss the institution of the player-coach. I have no idea how Bill Russell did that for the Celtics, and I wish I could have seen it. I do advocate its return in baseball, though; when Bobby Cox retired, I was really hoping they'd just make Chipper Jones the player-manager. The way I figure it, the three hardest things about being a coach are:

1. Making decisions quickly
2. Making hard, important decisions
3. Having a solid relationship with your team

A whole bunch of players have No. 3 nailed down. No. 1 isn't a problem in baseball, since you pretty much have all the time in the world. No. 2 is also not a problem, because there are almost no decisions along the course of a baseball season that are both hard and very important. Looking at the splits is one percent as hard as figuring out how to contain Kevin Durant, who cannot be intentionally walked. Hitting and pitching coaches are important, but seriously, just make your pinch-hitter the manager. I doubt your record will be any different.

#20 - Blaine Sirus (@LouisvilleMCMM)

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This, to me, is a far more interesting variant than the classic, "could [powerhouse college team] beat [worst NBA team]?" Pit the Bobcats against the Florida Gators. Give Al Jefferson, their best player, 48 minutes on the floor, but tell him to go to halfcourt, stand there for the entire game, and never touch the ball.

My money's still on the Bobcats, but I'm suddenly really curious about this. I think this is gonna need to be a future NBA Y2K.

#53 - Thickslicing (@thickslicing)

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Every story involving canned goods is a happy one! Except for one: Sir John Franklin's expedition.

In 1845, the British Crown sent him and his men to try and navigate a passage north of Canada for future trade routes. There were several reasons why this expedition ended with everybody dead, evidence of cannibalism and a desperate note left by someone who dated it with the wrong year. One reason, surely, was that the canned food was badly soldered, lead poisoning abounded and everyone who ate enough of it lost their sanity. You know, if that interests you, you should just go read that Wikipedia entry I linked. I already got your page view. You seriously don't need to feel obligated to me or anything.

#67 - Steven Godfrey (@38Godfrey)

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I can imagine living in a world, in the near or distant future, when, like, the Royals win a World Series, or the Dolphins win a Super Bowl. It seems unlikely at present, sure, but I can at least buy that someday, those things will happen.

Not only can I not imagine the Hawks winning a title, I can't imagine someone even thinking they will. They were my favorite team in my childhood, and I like them. They're just never, ever going to win a championship before this all turns to cosmic dust, or until basketball turns into something we no longer recognize. They are the most 44-38 team of all time. Asking them to win a title is like asking a bird to build a nest on the Sun. "But you're so close," you say.

#2 - Chris DiNardo (@chrisdinardo1)

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Basketball was played for 15 years before they finally decided to take the bottom out of the peach basket, such that they didn't have to go up and retrieve the ball every time. I'd imagine that over the first 15 years of peach harvesting, they had the opposite problem.

FARMER #1. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Shit.
FARMER #2. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Ah, shit.
FARMER #1. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Whoops.
FARMER #2. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Damn it.
FARMER #1. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Shit!
FARMER #2. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Every time I try to put a peach in my basket, it just falls on the ground.
FARMER #1. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] That keeps happening to me, too.
FARMER #2. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Shit.
FARMER #1. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Shit.
FARMER #2. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Dang it.
FARMER #1. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Shit.
FARMER #2. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Ah, shit.
FARMER #1. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Welp, there goes another one. Hope you're hungry, Mr. Ground! Heh!
FARMER #2. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Why is the ground necessarily male?
FARMER #1. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] I don't know, the ground just always seemed like a dude to me.
FARMER #2. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] I guess I could see why you wou-- SHIT!
FARMER #1. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] What? What happened?
FARMER #2. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] I tried to put a peach in my basket and it fell out of the bottom.
FARMER #1. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Again?
FARMER #2. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Yeah.
FARMER #1. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Shit.
FARMER #2. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Ah, crap.
FARMER #1. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Damn it.
FARMER #2. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Damn it!
FARMER #1. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Augh!
FARMER #2. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] I'm getting fed up with this crap.
FARMER #1. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Shit.
FARMER #2. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Oops.
FARMER #1. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Shit.
FARMER #2. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] SHIT!!!!
FARMER #1. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Hey, have you ever had peach cobbler?
FARMER #2. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Of course I have. I'm a peach harvester. You?
FARMER #1. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Yeah.
FARMER #2. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] Ah crap.
FARMER #1. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] What?
FARMER #2. [picks peach, places in basket, peach falls through the bottom] I tried to put a peach in my basket, but it simply fell out. This has happened many, many times.

#47 - Martin F-er (@antimeria)

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In one of my favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, Dr. Beverly Crusher notices that members of the Enterprise's crew are starting to disappear, but nobody else notices or cares. Eventually, major characters such as Worf and Data cease to exist. "Remember them?" she asks. "Never heard of them," says everyone else. By the end, everyone has disappeared except for herself and Captain Picard. She appeals to logic: "look, this ship is big enough for hundreds of people. Why would you and I be the only people onboard? That doesn't make any sense." Picard just sort of shrugs and says, "I don't know. Seems normal to me." And then even he disappears, and the ship's computer reports that the universe is only 300 meters in diameter, and everything just goes to Hell.

I identify with that story on a personal level. I've had conversations with several different people in which I insisted in vain that Boston Market used to be called Boston Chicken. I know this was so. I am positive. You can even look it up. But everyone just looks at me like I'm crazy.

#93 - David Lilly (@davidalilly)

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NO DON'T

#0 - KBlack (@TheRealKBlack25)

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NO DON'T

#50 - Max Burford (@iammax17)

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I'd buy that this rule is a sort of Easter egg that's buried so deep in the NBA rule book that nobody will ever find it. No one knows about it except for the refs. There was a close call a while back when Gerald Henderson did this while screaming a Nelly Furtado song. The three referees exchanged bewildered looks with one another, whistles at the ready. It was closer than any player had come to initiating the Dido Protocols, but in the end, they decided it was not close enough.

#18 - gbeben (@gbeben)

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This affords me the opportunity to reflect on one of the most awkward social interactions of my adult life. To recreate this scenario, you will need:

1. An ass.
2. A bicycle with a flat tire, the front rim of which is slightly damaged and has a sharp burr sticking out of its face, unbeknownst to you.

I get a flat tire while I'm on a bike ride and I'm trying to change the tube. No matter how many times I change out a tube, I never, ever get better at it, because I am an idiot. It always takes a half-hour and there's a 50-50 chance I'll break something. So I'm moderately pissed off, inflating the new tube with my little hand-pump, ass sticking out in the direction of a lady who is walking out of her front door.

LADY. Heyyy! Nice ass, baby!
ME. [turning around] What?
LADY. Oh-- oh my God. I'm so sorry. I thought you were my boyfriend. From behind, you--

[Tire tube punctures and violently explodes. The sound is deafening. LADY screams and hits the ground.]

ME. Oh hey, hey, sorry, it's okay. That was just my tire.
LADY. Oh my God. I thought that was a gunshot.
ME. No, no, everything's fine. Sorry to scare you.
LADY. Your tire's flat? What are you gonna do now?
ME. I don't know.
LADY. Okay, well ... bye.

FIN

III. GIVE THE SIXERS A STANDOUT PROSPECT TO DRAFT

If I'm going to make the Sixers tank, I'm going to at least give them a can't-miss prospect so there's a purpose to their efforts. With a roster full of 5'3" players, height is clearly their most glaring weakness. This man, should they be lucky enough to draft him, will offset this deficiency and serve as the future of their franchise for years to come.

Shithead_medium

I know that "Horrid Shithead" is a rather unfortunate name, I realize that he's 49 years old, and I understand that our scout, James Graham, is not very high on him. Forget all that. He is tremendously tall and has a wonderful haircut. I'm putting him at the top of the Sixers' draft board.

THE GAME.

I'll be simulating the entire season, but in particular I'll be focusing on one game I've arbitrarily selected: the 76ers' April 5 game against the Brooklyn Nets. A few notes:

- I straight-up deleted the 76ers' entire playbook. They have no offensive plays.
- I occasionally took control of the Nets, but never the 76ers. The things you see them doing in these GIFs is 100 percent the game's fault.
- Also, as you'll see below, I tweaked the game's skill sliders here and there. NBA 2K14 allows us to set a team's tendencies. I can adjust their general behavior so that they're more likely to take threes, drive to the net, milk the clock or any other such thing.

I. ATTACKING THE BASKET.

First -- again, without taking control of the team myself -- I instructed them to pass inside, move straight to the net and do absolutely nothing else. They don't have any plays, either. They just gotta straight-up do it. And that is how things like this happened.

Thread_medium

Thickslicing is obviously being completely swallowed up by Kevin Garnett. When there is no needle to thread, this is what threading the needle looks like. Blaine Sirus just chucks the ball directly into Joe Johnson's torso. Clearly he sees Joe Johnson, because he's six inches from his face. He just does this anyway, because he has no other ideas.

Attackthebasket_medium

No. 2, Chris DiNardo, just drops out of the post like a drunk woodpecker, and Martin F'er is left to make something happen all by himself. At first, he tries to back down Jason Terry, but in a matter of seconds, he finds himself tumbling through the long-armed bureaucracy of the Brooklyn Nets defense. By the end of it, he's all alone without the ball.

I can't explain why the CPU-controlled Nets swarmed to the paint to pentuple-team him. I guess they just smelled blood. It seems a little mean, since all it really takes to stop these 76ers is one flat-footed guy.

Kirilenkoblock_medium

Andrei Kirilenko doesn't really need to do basketball things to reject this shot. Spiritually, he's off in another place. He looks like someone riding a subway for the first time -- grabbing not one, but two, handles as he desperately scans the car's signage for some sort of map. "To Brooklyn? Does that means this goes to the Bronx? The Bronx is Brooklyn's nickname, right? What do I do if Brooklyn has more than one stop? They should really make special seat belts for all the folks who are standing up."

INTERMISSION: LET'S CHECK IN ON HORRID SHITHEAD.

Looks like our scout, James Graham, is back with his second report.

Shithead2_medium

James, I thank you for your honest assessment. However, I feel as though Horrid Shithead is the missing piece of the puzzle. Please go back to Marquette and draft another scouting report.

II. DEFENSE.

NBA 2K14 allows us to set tendencies in dozens of defensive categories as well: we could set the Sixers such that they're prone to taking charges, going for steals, playing tough on the perimeter, focusing on the paint, etc. I have set all their tendencies to zero. Defensively, they have no particular tendency to do anything.

Wave_medium

And when we take away these tendencies, our players just kind of hang out in the general vicinity of the basketball. That's not a travel by the Deron Williams, because apparently Gbeben's groin is considered part of the court. Max Burford, No. 50, jumps his little self into Mirza Teletovic's protective embrace like he's in Titanfall. Russ Poland, No. 75, just kind of ambles and waves. And Mike Wuest, No. 98, totally bails on his man in the post, because clearly the Sixers are just one guy away from properly guarding Williams.

With all their tendencies -- in other words, their ambitions, desires, motives, feelings -- taken away, it's a wonder these guys are playing basketball at all. But they still went clumsily after the basketball as though someone dropped a rock on their gas pedals and bailed out the window.

Awful_medium

This is how Bobert Awful defends. He dawdles into traffic without raising his arms, and if he's lucky, a pass will pop him in the dome. That's a steal. He was credited with a steal.

Bobert's Awareness rating was set at zero, and so was the global Awareness rating for the 76ers. This, I reckon, made sure that the meter didn't bottom out at zero. Bobert had negative Awareness. In other words, he was aware of players who didn't exist and had never been born.

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He seems to ask for help guarding the void, then digs in to guard it, even as Brook Lopez is clearly taking a shot within his field of view. Were this real life, I would find it quite difficult to believe that Bobert Awful would make it to a D-league team, much less an NBA team!

Oh yeah, I set Hustle to zero as well:

Terry_medium

Jason Terry has sent four-fifths of the Sixers' defense into some hazy state of maybe wanting to guard him in some way. Well, maybe not Martin F'er, who pleads for help with guarding some nameless jerk on the perimeter while Terry is DRIVING TO THE NET RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM.

I showed this GIF to our own Tom Ziller:

This is an accurate representation of at least five teams' current defenses. It's March.

INTERMISSION: LET'S CHECK IN ONCE AGAIN ON HORRID SHITHEAD.

Good news, everyone! James Graham is back with a third scouting report!

Horrid2_medium

Out of all two sentences you just said, James, the second one is my favorite. You are right, I think it may be worth taking another look. I want you to know that I appreciate your input, but I feel very strongly that a 7'6" man is the future of this franchise. When you're that tall you can basically slam-jam it on every play, which will result in 100 points or more.

Also, please stop needlessly expensing Motel 6 rooms to the team. Sleep in the 1996 Camry the Lord gave you.

III. UNEXPLAINED TOMFOOLERY.

There's no way No. 67, SB Nation's Steven Godfrey, is playing basketball here.

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But I'm more a basketball enthusiast than a basketball expert. Maybe setting a pick right there, in the paint, all by himself did represent some crude level of basketball logic. To confirm, I showed this GIF to Mr. Ziller, who said:

Can you get called for a moving screen when you don't actually screen anyone? If so, is it just basically illegal to shuffle sideways while cupping your balls in the NBA?

I think the AI was treating its code like coal, just shoveling some of it, any of it, into the engine, just to keep the game going. Given enough time, maybe they'd start flopping on the free-throw line. We've got the rest of the season to find th-- WHOA FAST BREAK

Fastbreak_medium

I wish I could remember how a 76ers fast break happened at all. I also wish I could explain to you why Mr. Poland tries to drive to the net and somehow ends up 20 feet off course.

I pulled out a lot of stops for this premiere episode of NBA Y2K, and I'll admit that for a while, I was worried that I wouldn't come close to what Madden NFL 25 let me do with Breaking Madden. So much nonsense happened in that game -- there are far more players, the field of play is far bigger, the guys run into and obliterate each other, and the game itself is rife with seldom-exploited bugs and glitches that make it into the product year after year. I was worried that I'd have three GIFs of me airballing a halfcourt shot, and a GIF of a guy taking a charge, and write "lol d'ohhhh!!!!" around it and shovel it on your screen, and that would be it.

But I see stuff like the GIF above, and I feel like there's a wealth of extraordinarily shitty crap in store for us.

There's one more GIF I want to show you. This game features the most detailed crowd I'd ever seen in a sports game. They wave foam fingers, they cheer, they hold their heads in shame, and they yell stupid shit like "GIVE IT TO KOBEEEEEE" 48 times a game.

And then there's this dude.

Shuffler_medium

Right up there in the white shirt. I watched him for five minutes. He'd get up, shuffle his way to the aisle, then reverse course and shuffle back to his seat. Over and over and over. Try this next time you attend a sporting event in Philadelphia!

INTERMISSION: LET'S REVIEW ONE LAST SCOUTING REPORT ON HORRID SHITHEAD.

I have now sent our scout to Marquette four times.

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Oh jeez. I don't care that he rates an F-minus, a grade so low that it doesn't actually exist in academic circles, in every category. If other teams are scouting him heavily, he must be really good. Here's what our scout wrote in his detailed report.

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blah blah blah nerd shit whatever. He's tall as hell, I'm pulling the trigger.

IV. THE RESULTS.

This was our final score.

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There's a lot to consider here, but my favorite thing is that the Sixers held the ball for two-thirds of the game. That's what happens when you take all a team's tendencies away. They'd just hang out at the perimeter, dribble in place for 20 seconds, and chuck up a garbage shot with the shot clock expiring because the game demanded it.

But our aim, of course, isn't just to lose one game. It's to lose all 82, and put ourselves in the best possible position to draft the player I feel to be the missing piece of the puzzle.

Here is how that went.

Music: "Some Dandruff On Your Shoulder," Jens Lekman

For the football edition of NBA Y2K, be sure to check out Season 1 of Breaking Madden.

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