Pippen, the lone holdout of 12 superstars on the United States 1992 national team when 2K Sports announced it was bringing USA Basketball to NBA 2K13 this year, reversed himself and agreed to license his appearance, the publisher said earlier today. Though Jay-Z, the hip-hop superstar and entrepreneur brought in as executive producer in a creative capacity, insisted on bringing the Dream Team back to a video game, Pippen had opted out of a group licensing arrangement and wouldn't agree to terms to appear in the game.
A strong demonstration of fan disappointment over Twitter and Facebook played a role in Pippen's decision to reconsider. But one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players ultimately had to answer to others who hold him more accountable..
"Larsa [Pippen's wife], she got a ton of requests from fans," said Jason Argent, the 2K Sports vice president of marketing. "I believe she sent out a couple of tweets about it, one saying she was working on [getting Pippen in the game.] She told us their 11-year-old son was really disappointed, too."
Officially, the word is that Pippen came around out of fan service. While 2K Sports is careful never to discuss financial terms of its licensing deals, it's apparent money was the holdup. Pippen appeared in NBA 2K11 and NBA 2K12 under a group license offered by a retired NBA players' association. He opted out of that sometime in the past year, requiring 2K Sports to reach an individual deal with him, which it couldn't.
When the Dream Team's video game return was announced Aug. 15, Argent said negotiations had concluded. They ended amicably, but they were over, and 2K and Jay-Z were prepared to go forward without Pippen. It was Pippen who reconsidered and came back to 2K Sports to ask back into the game. "And we of course welcomed him with open arms," Argent said.
Scottie Pippen may be popularly viewed as Michael Jordan's greatest teammate, but he does make a unique and indispensable contribution to the Dream Team—considered the greatest collection of talent in any sport, ever—through his defense. That will be key as video gamers inevitably seek to answer which edition of the U.S. national team was better, the 1992 squad, or the 2012 team that just won gold in the London Olympics.
Pippen's overall rating in the game will be a 92. That's equal to another 2012 national team small forward, Carmelo Anthony, and lower than Kevin Durant's 95. But Jordan himself said the 1992 team should win because it played tougher defense. Pippen's 2,307 career steals are the most of any NBA forward, and he is one of three players to record more than 200 steals and 100 blocks in the same season.
Most important to 2K, however, is the Dream Team will appear in its entirety, Argent said. "It was incomplete without him," he said. "Wherever fans may rank him in the heirarchy of great players, it's less relevant than just having the whole team in."
When asked if 2K had spent all this money and effort on 12 retired players just to use them as a single team in the game's exhibition mode, Argent demurred, but said there were more announcements to be made—not just on gameplay, but on game modes, in NBA 2K13.