'NBA 2K11' delivers very realistic renderings and animations of NBA players.

'NBA 2K11' delivers very realistic renderings and animations of NBA players. (2K Sports)

'NBA 2K11' lets gamers makes some impressive moves.

'NBA 2K11' lets gamers makes some impressive moves. (2K Sports)

There are few things that can recreate the excitement many basketball fans felt during Michael Jordan’s first return from retirement back in 1995. But “NBA 2K11” — featuring my childhood sports’ hero — has done it.

This E-rated game is, simply put, the most complete basketball game I’ve ever played. Trust me, I’ve owned and played many.

The game begins with an amazing introduction of Jordan at the United Center in Chicago. It instantly brings back a wave of nostalgia and gets the heart pumping with excitement. Although the focus is on Jordan, he takes the court with his teammates from the 1991 Chicago Bulls.

Whereas most annually-released sports games offer roster updates for the upcoming season, “2K11” takes you back to the future. Along with Jordan and his Bulls, “NBA 2K11” has brought back the Magic Johnson-led Los Angeles Lakers, Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics, Isiah Thomas and the “Bad Boys,” as well as many other legendary teams.

Gamers more keen on current NBA stars should certainly enjoy playing as the new “big three” in Miami, consisting of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. For the record, my Jordan-led team gave the Heat a beatdown when I was at the control.

One of the highlights in the game is the Jordan Challenges, where you try to recreate 10 of Jordan’s greatest games, stat by stat. Who can forget the moment when Jordan torched the Portland Trail Blazers by scoring 35 points in the first half of the NBA finals, only to give his famous shrug after his sixth trey? Or when he dropped a double nickel on the New York Knicks after his return from retirement? Revisiting these moments was fabulous for me. But for fans who didn’t grow up seeing Jordan play, it’s a great history lesson.

After completing all 10 of the Jordan Challenges, the game allows you to bring a young Jordan into the current league of players and put him on any team you wish. If you ever wondered what a team with Kobe Bryant and Jordan would be like and who would take the last shot, here’s your chance.

All the talk about the legends aside, I have to say that this game really looks great. The players move so much like the real versions of themselves, it’s scary. As I stole the ball and completed a fast-break tomahawk jam down the court with Scottie Pippen, I realized doing it in this game looked just as good as seeing it on television growing up.

Sports commentary has become pretty standard in these types of games. While very authentic in this one, my only gripe is that some of the commentary loops too often. You know you’ve played too many games when you’re able to predict the third quarter run being referred to as “spurtability.”

The 2K Sports folks continue to provide a pretty decent soundtrack to these games. “2K11” even features an array of current music that you can play in the game’s jukebox.

The game controls well and remains fairly consistent with past versions. If you’re tired of using the standard controller, you have the option of playing the game using the new Sony Move motion controller.

It’s very rare you get everything you could ever wish for in a sports game, but this one comes pretty close. It’s a good mix of old and new and allows fans to play out their what-if matchups. If you are as big an NBA fan as I am, you simply must get this game.

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (tested), Wii, PC


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