LeBron's Choice Alters Basketball's Video Game Landscape, Too

LeBron James' decision to leave Cleveland and sign with Miami also changes the fortunes of those franchises' video game counterparts. Expect to catch a lot of the Heat in online multiplayer. And the Cavaliers, formerly the top choice, will vanish.

"For ranked games, the Cavs were the No. 1 choice, because of LeBron, and the Heat were in the top 10," Chris Snyder, 2K Sports director of marketing, told me after the publisher of NBA 2K released a much, much better image than the one we put up last night of James suited up for Miami.

"This year, I'd expect the Heat to be the No. 1 team for ranked games next year," Snyder You've still got the Lakers, Celtics, Nuggets and Magic, which are good teams and have fun players," Snyder added, "but I expect people will probably want to check out what this new Miami team looks and plays like."

James joins a Miami team that already had an extremely potent lineup by signing free agent forward Chris Bosh and keeping all-star Dwyane Wade in black and red.

There won't be another update to NBA 2K10's Living Rosters, so the first time the unit will be playable in multiplayer will be with the release of NBA 2K11 on Oct. 5. Of course, anyone with the game can swap players around to try them out now. But 2K11 is promising greater depth of player animation, new controls, and crisper visuals, so they will likely play and perform differently in the new game.

Snyder says 2K Sports' multiplayer servers saw a surge in activity right after James' announcement, indicating that game's community dropped everything to tune in, then went back to the virtual hardwood as soon as it was over.

This year, of course, NBA 2K11 will feature Michael Jordan on its cover, as well as playable in the game in a mode for which no details have been released. I asked Snyder if his office was secretly hoping for James to choose the Bulls, one of six suitors seeking his basketball services, and Snyder laughed.

"I'm from New Jersey, I was hoping he'd go to the Nets, to be completely frank," Snyder said. "But we didn't have a rooting interest. We're pretty happy and secure with the guy we have on the cover, while it would have been a nice tie together."

Snyder added that 2K Sports saw itself on Twitter's trending topics list for a few hours after James' announcement, even though the studio made no news release or statement about it last night. "It's funny that people associate all of these things with LeBron, and we're a part of that," Snyder said. "Whether people like it or not, he is a big part of video gaming."