One of the silliest exercises each year is the uproar over NBA 2K player and team ratings, although I have to credit 2K for turning it into such prominent fodder for offseason social media squabbling. There’s nothing quite like quibbling that a Milwaukee Bucks player should be rated incrementally higher in their athleticism. In truth, I haven’t played an NBA video game all that much since NBA Live 2005 (shoutout to the dunk contest feature in that one), but I enjoy seeing the discourse nonetheless, especially when players weigh in themselves. But every year, there’s a much sadder story lurking behind those ratings releases. It’s a dream deferred for so many young players. I’m talking about the absence of fringe roster players from NBA 2K’s initial team rosters upon the game’s release. And yes, this can formally be considered an in-kind donation to Sandro Mamukelashvili’s campaign to officially be added to NBA 2K22.
When Mamu heard his name called on draft night, it was simply step one of his path towards the vision he’s had since he first grabbed a roundball back in his home country of Georgia. He stepped into Milwaukee not just 100% locked in, but 10 times that. This is a man committed to his craft.
Blessed & humbled ! 1000% locked in https://t.co/1iGGHt4FhW— Sandro Mamukelashvili (@Mamukelashvili5) July 30, 2021
He continued to steal our hearts in summer league. Then, his unconventional, lefty, ball-handling bigness got some more shine in the preseason, courtesy of his balling out against the Brooklyn Nets. It was a stellar bounce back after the Bucks social media team sent him spiraling down a few pegs with practice footage of Giannis Antetokounmpo treating him as Yi Jianlian did his infamous chair.
Ayyo chill w the Mamu abuse at least this prepares him for what’s to come in the NBA. Having to defend Giannis will help him grow! https://t.co/GolIvXgJJH— Mamu SZN (@MamuBurner) October 7, 2021
Every year, there are hundreds of fringe NBA players who have to be manually added to 2K through the goodwill of devout users out there. Mamu is another one of these video game oversights. His teammate Georgios Kalaitzakis is another, and there are plenty of others all over the league anxiously waiting to see their just-okay player model get rated as a 68 and become playable in NBA 2K. At the moment, video game players across the country have to scramble to add their favorite fringe player clinging to the last roster spot as a user-created model. Meanwhile, the NBA players must simply wait, praying that their play can flash enough for the developers at Visual Concepts to notice.
The good news for players like Mamu, there is hope at the end of that grind. HoopsHype lists 585 players with rankings in last year’s NBA 2K21. At present, their 2K22 list has merely 464. By season’s end, I expect that Mamu and so many others will be playable. But in the weeks and months ahead, we can make a difference for ballers of Mamu’s ilk. We can retweet their marginal contributions — offensive rebounds, diving for loose balls, deflections, garbage time layups. What matters most is ensuring not a single screen assist goes unnoticed by the NBA 2K dev team as they work to build out every team’s roster. A full scale player model is not just granted to everyone, some have to work harder, “grind” in player parlance. That’s where we, as fans, come in. It’s time to make Mamu and others’ digital avatar dreams come true.
In the meantime, there’s this.