NBA 2K16 is a basketball simulation video game based on the National Basketball Association. Like past games in the series, NBA 2K16 simulates the experience of the NBA. Players play NBA games with any real life or custom team, and can customize many aspects, such as camera angles, the presentation of players, the sound levels, and the level of realism. Like other NBA 2K games, NBA 2K16 is marketed as being as realistic as the actual NBA, with all the things featured in NBA games, such as commentary, pre-game shows, halftime shows, post-game shows, replays, interviews, crowds, and real player movement, among many other things. The pre-game, halftime, and post-game shows are hosted by Ernie Johnson, Shaquille ONeal, and Kenny Smith. Meanwhile, the mid-game play-by-play commentary is performed by Kevin Harlan, Clark Kellogg, and Greg Anthony, while Doris Burke is the sideline reporter. The game features several online and offline game modes where players can play alone against the CPU, or against other players online.
NBA 2K16, like last past games in the series, is marketed as being better than the predecessor, as many features are added and improved. One such improvement, is the tattoos; when creating a player, there are over 1500 different designs available, whereas past games only had a few dozen individual tattoos. Other things that are touted as being improved are the visuals, the player customization (haircuts, accessories, etc.), several of the game modes (particularly MyCareer, which is marketed as a central feature), and the overall gameplay. Many aesthetical improvements are made as well, such as new animations, and redesigned menus. New animations include mouth guards, and photobombs.
Along with the current real world teams, such as the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Brooklyn Nets, and the Classic teams (first introduced in NBA 2K11) that have been featured before, like the 1985–86 Boston Celtics and the 1995–96 Chicago Bulls, 12 new Classic teams are introduced in NBA 2K16. The 1999–2000 Toronto Raptors, featuring Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady, the 2000–01 Los Angeles Lakers, featuring Shaquille ONeal and Kobe Bryant, the 2002–03 Dallas Mavericks, featuring Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki, and the 2007–08 Boston Celtics, featuring Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, are some of the new Classic teams. The Euroleague teams, first featured in NBA 2K14, return for the third time. Some of the 25 Euroleague teams include Olympiacos Piraeus, Panathinaikos Athens, FC Barcelona Lassa, Real Madrid, Alba Berlin, and CSKA Moscow.
NBA 2K16 again, for the fourth time in the series, features MyTeam mode. MyTeam mode was first introduced in NBA 2K13, and is based around the idea of building the ultimate basketball team, and maintaining a virtual trading card collection. Players build their own custom team, selecting the players, current and past, jerseys, coach, court, and other basketball related things, and play with their team in basketball tournament-style competitions against other players teams. Players collect cards that unlock players, playbooks, and other items that can be used in their team or sold. Players purchase card packs with Virtual Currency (VC) which gives the player random items. Cards have different levels that indicate how good the card is. A player will commonly receive Bronze cards if they purchase cheaper card packs. However, if the player purchases high priced packs, the chances of getting Gold cards are higher. There are also rare cards, such as Amethyst and Diamond cards, that are rarer and better than other cards. The level of a card isnt always the most important factor as the abilities of the actual player, and their rating indicating how good they are, is most often more important. Players can freely customize their team on the fly; players may change the coach, players, jerseys, and anything else at any time. Customization aspects were touted as being the major improvements for the mode.
In addition to the MyTeam team customization, players may create their own brand new team from scratch and play 5-on-5 games against other players and their teams online, in the 2K Pro-Am game mode. Similar to previous games Crew mode, players customize team logos, colour schemes, court designs, jersey styles, and certain other basketball related aspects. Players can create a variety of designs and themes; for example, the player has the ability to create the logos of past NBA teams, such as the Seattle SuperSonics, or create a team which features logos that consists of individual players. Unlike other game modes, Pro-Am teams consists exclusively of MyPlayers. Players may also play 5-on-5 games against other players using regular teams. Regular online games are played in a mode called Play Now. In Play Now, the player essentially levels up as they win games and move through the online ranks.
Also returning in NBA 2K16 is the MyCareer mode; MyCareer is a story-driven campaign that first appeared in NBA 2K10. The story is called Livin Da Dream and focuses on an up-and-coming basketball prospect.
The story starts with the player in high-school, but the player eventually enters college and then the NBA. Players create their basketball player, giving basic information, such as height, weight, position, background information, and name. (Even though the player may choose a name and some background details, the character is mostly referred to as "Frequency Vibrations" and has an African American family. Certain other details about the character are also not customizable, such as the players personality and birthplace. The character is from Harlem, New York and had an underprivileged upbringing.) Players follow the story of being a basketball player as they upgrade their players abilities with the ultimate goal of becoming one of the greatest basketball players of all time. The mode has a more cinematic presentation than previous games, with more cutscenes and stories. The player character enters the NBA via the draft, but not before playing for the college of their choosing. The player character quickly draws attention for his on-court and off-court actions, as he continues his journey towards superstardom. Players play basketball games in the NBA, interact with other players, which may result in friendship or rivalry, coaches, members of the media, and fans, negotiate contracts, appear in endorsement deals, practice in gyms, upgrade their players abilities, customize their players skill set, and customize their players physical appearance. The players central hub is a practice arena called MyCourt. As well as upgrading their player and practicing (etc.), the player may customize their court and invite other players to their court to participate in pick-up games, among other activities. The player can also take their MyPlayer to MyPark and play street basketball pick-up games against other players and their MyPlayer. Returning from NBA 2K15, players may scan their own face into the game.
The MyGM mode returns as well. Instead of only playing with the teams, players customize all the aspects of one team as they are essentially the boss of the entire organization. Players sign new players, complete trades, negotiate contracts with players or coaches, customize prices, add features to the arena, provide better facilities for the players, maintain a good relationship with the team owner, the players, media members, and fans, make a profit, and guide the team to NBA championships. Prior to release, the MyGM mode was said to have been drastically improved, with many new features having been added. For instance, players may relocate their team to a different North American city, a first for an NBA 2K game. Other additions include redesigned draft presentations, more off-season activities, the ability to customize arenas and jerseys, players that can have multiple injuries at once, three-team trades, and a mini game the player may play while simulating games, to give the player interactivity during simulations.
MyLeague mode is touted as a "sandbox" version of MyGM and is more similar to previous games Association mode. MyLeague features most features in MyGM in that the player controls an NBA organization, customizing basketball aspects, and making money. However, MyLeague features more online multiplayer components, whereas MyGM is single-player only, and has similar customization options to MyTeam. MyLeague features more customization options than MyGM and removes certain rules to allow flexibility for the player. For example, the player can freely relocate their team, trade players, change team aesthetics, and purchase upgrades without restrictions. The player may enter a MyLeague association made up of 30 user-controlled teams, instead of one user- and 29 CPU-controlled teams.