NBA 2K23 Review

Richard Walker

In his prime, no one could touch Michael Jordan. He was the most electrifying basketball player of all time, elevating the game with an unprecedented level of raw talent and prenatural drive, helping lead the Chicago Bulls to six championships throughout the 1990s. NBA 2K23 also sees the series back in its prime, celebrating the career of His Airness as it did in NBA 2K11, with the return of Jordan Challenges, and the most polished MyCareer experience in some time.

Cover star Devin Booker takes a moment to reflect.

Developer Visual Concepts has evidently taken on board the issues that have affected recent iterations of NBA 2K, and the result is by far one of the better series entries in a good while, though not one entirely without its flaws. For instance, the new MyNBA Eras mode is a bit of a convoluted mess, and, while MyCareer's 'The City' is smaller and easier to traverse, it's still stricken with slowdown and frame drops whenever the streets become crowded by other players. Any such niggles pale into insignificance once you're immersed in NBA 2K23's basketball – this year's iteration is superb, smoothing off some of the rough edges of the recent entries, making for a slick and hugely accomplished game of hoops.

Player animations have been markedly improved, while shooting with the ever-present shot stick or busting out dribbling moves with the pro stick feels more intuitive than previous years – the shot meter, too, has been made slightly less obtrusive, and you can always turn it off entirely if it bothers you, of course. On the court, the fundamentals are, once again, as good as they've ever been, and, as such, the rest of NBA 2K23 is elevated as a result. MyCareer in particular benefits, not least because your MyPlayer no longer feels like an inept bumbling fool who doesn't belong in the NBA. Visual Concepts has also dispensed with the interminable nonsense you had to grind through to get to the good stuff in MyCareer, drafting you straight into the NBA without the usual fuss of the G-League, college ball, and whatever else.

Like last year, your MyPlayer is dubbed 'MP', who, for some reason, is a divisive draft pick for your chosen team, and has an on- and off-court rivalry with fellow rookie Shep Owens. The thrust of MyCareer this time is to prove that you're a better player than Shep, carving out a place for yourself as a 'sixth man', until you’ve made your mark enough to become an indispensable starter, which means working with management types, putting in the hours on the court, skateboarding around The City, completing side quests, and whatever other activities take your fancy. And while the all-pervading shadow of Virtual Currency still lingers over MyCareer, you can get away with earning enough in-game to slowly upgrade your MyPlayer's attributes – if you want to fast-track your way to NBA All-Star levels of excellence, however, it'll cost you actual cash.

Nonetheless, it's nice to play a MyCareer mode that doesn't make you feel like a passenger, and as if you're missing out on actually savouring the experience if you’re not prepared to fork over cash for VC. In MyTeam, you can use VC to buy card packs and help assemble your dream team, but the rest of NBA 2K23 is mercifully left untouched by microtransactions – the Jordan Challenges are especially good, running you through some of the finest moments in the career of the NBA's all-time greatest, without much in the way of fripperies (except for ‘The Shot’, which features a quick-time event as a full challenge). Starting in 1982, with Jordan's formative college years with the North Carolina Tar Heels, you'll lock horns with other up-and-coming future stars like Patrick Ewing, leading all the way up to the game-winning shot during the 1998 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz.

Jordan Challenges are brilliantly presented, too, screen filters and broadcast overlays from the time lending to the authenticity, while talking heads from contemporaries, like Kenny Smith, frame the objective-driven segments. Some Jordan missions can be a little on the difficult side, like cleaning the glass to rack up nine rebounds, which is no picnic when you've got Ewing scooping up every loose ball like an invincible basketball god. There are fifteen Jordan Challenges to tackle in all (ten old ones from 2K11 and five new ones), and they're thoroughly enjoyable – perhaps the most enjoyable part of NBA 2K23, for that matter.

The WNBA MyPlayer experience debuted in NBA 2K21 has also been given due care and attention this year, 'The W' presenting its own separate career mode, in which you play as a customised female baller, albeit it in a comparatively barebones take on a traditional NBA 2K career mode. It's a nice thing to have, and better represents the WNBA in this year's game. Once again, MyGM rounds out the suite of modes, enabling you to take charge of your chosen franchise, while MyTeam offers the usual card-based team-building shenanigans as it always has, with objectives to complete, card packs to purchase, unlock, and evolve.

The W has undergone some nice improvements.

MyNBA Eras, as a banner addition for NBA 2K23, unfortunately comes up short, its rosters from across the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s lacking key players like Charles Barkley (his non-appearance still tied up in dispute), Chris Webber, Brandon Roy, Tayshaun Prince, and more, simply rendering the mode incomplete. It's not the 1990s Phoenix Suns if Barkley isn't in the mix. It doesn't help that the entire mode is rather difficult to get into – a mass of menus and options to tinker with before you even get into the meat of the mode itself. It's a mite off-putting, but when you do manage to get into it, MyNBA offers the chance to relive classic NBA match-ups in a series of ‘what if’ scenarios, with more than ninety new classic teams, which, mystifyingly are unplayable in Exhibition games. You can lose players to injury and random trades, keeping things interesting - MyNBA Eras certainly has masses of appeal, in spite of its scrappy presentation. 

Regardless of such minor quibbles, the quality of this year’s NBA 2K is above and beyond, MyCareer and MyTeam alone providing countless hours of exceptional hardwood action, while the welcome return of Jordan Challenges makes this feel like the most complete and inviting iteration in some years. If that lot isn’t an ample enough reason to nab yourself a copy of NBA 2K23, then we don’t know what is.

[Tested on Xbox Series X]

NBA 2K23

When you buy NBA 2K, you know what you're getting. Except this year, NBA 2K23 sees Visual Concepts bringing its 'A' game, with an excellent MyCareer mode, the return of Jordan Challenges, and an addictive MyTeam offering. This is a straight-up slam dunk.

Form widget

Standard hip-hop fare, rubbing shoulders with a typically superlative play-by-play commentary, which is still the best around.


Excellent. Some of the choppy animations from previous years have been smoothed out, and the player models and environments look superbly authentic.


One of the best iterations in recent years, NBA 2K23’s rebounds might be a bit dodgy, but pretty much everything else is stellar.


With the Jordan Challenges back, MyNBA Eras, MyTeam, The W, and a polished MyCareer, this one has everything. VC feels slightly less all-pervading this year, too.


Like last year, this is an entirely serviceable list that covers all of the requisite bases. Nothing to get too excited about, mind.

Game navigation