An Addictive Game for NBA Fans Exists on the Internet! (also NFL/NHL, I guess)

Basketball GM

This free one-player game allows you to play as an NBA general manager, attempting to assemble the perfect roster through drafts, trades and free agency.

You can start as the manager of any team in any season in history. Once the game begins, all the other teams are run by AI. After the first couple of years, nobody will (except by chance) get drafted by the same team they did in real life, so it quickly becomes a sort of parallel NBA universe which can be fun to follow regardless of how your own team is doing. You can, if you want, continue playing centuries into the future with computer-generated players.

Players come into the league in the same year and with the same general skills and potential as they did in real life, and then develop randomly based on their potential. In general, the stars in any given playthrough are the same as in real life, but there will be many real-life stars who are busts and vice versa.

The game outcomes, of course, are random, weighted according to relative team quality. You can zip through the entire regular season and playoffs with two clicks, or you can read the play-by-play tick slowly by for each game, depending on your mood.

I find it’s entertaining for many levels of focus; you can play it with half your attention on something else, or you can get intensely locked in for hours. There’s even an auto-play option, so you could just watch an alternate league history play out and not have to do anything at all!

And it’s free with no ads, just done by some guy as a public service and constantly being updated with new bells and whistles. All the game data is stored in your browser cache, though, which means that you can’t play the same league across devices.

He also has NFL and NHL versions, which I haven’t tried.

I’ve played several hundred seasons at this point, and this is my crowning achievement so far. May I present the Toronto Raccoons, with a core of Kerry Kittles, Peja Stojakovic, Chauncey Billups, and Tracy McGrady: six straight championships with between 62 and 71 regular season wins from 2000 to 2005.

(Cities and player names can’t be copyrighted, but team names can’t, hence the joke names; I guess you can go in and change them manually if you want, but I’ve never bothered. We beat the LA Lowriders three times in the Finals, the Denver High twice and the Dallas Snipers once).

But on many other occasions I’ve been fired, which actually requires a couple decades of sustained failure; it’s like every team you work for is owned by Jerry Reinsdorf (rimshot).

The best single player I’ve seen generated was a version of Magic Johnson who won thirteen consecutive MVPs and averaged 25-8-9 over a 24 year career, the first 23 of them with my Portland Roses. Maddeningly, I somehow managed to win only two championships with him.

I’m liking the customizability of the database. I haven’t actually gotten into any of the games yet.

Do you know how to find the RGB colors of teams that have since changed their colors? Like the Mark Price-era 1987 Cavaliers?

Nevermind. Found it, at teamcolorcodes.com.

I like this game so far! I’m playing as the Indiana Pacers, starting with Reggie Miller’s rookie year. I like how there are scripts that exist that allow the teams to relocate and change logos and colors automatically.

I got tired of always losing; I couldn’t figure out how to win with the Pacers, so instead I started Spectator Mode with the Celtics from the beginning of the league’s existence.

Winning is actually quite easy, if somewhat tedious. The trick is to ask for trade offers on all your players at least a couple times a season. Some small percentage of the time, some other team will offer you a ridiculously good deal, and just wait for those and snap them up when they come. My favorite so far is, with the '68 Bulls, trading Jerry Sloan to the Celtics for Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Sam Jones and two first-round draft picks. Granted, Sloan was in his prime and the other guys were past theirs, but I’m still pretty sure Red wouldn’t have made that deal in real life.