Players come at sports video games from a lot of different angles these days. You can run a fantasy draft and make the dream team you’ve always wanted. You can try to take your favorite team as-is and do your best to better them. You can play with friends or strangers around the world. But ever since I can remember, my favorite part of any title has been designing my own player to draft onto my favorite team or (more recently) run through a game’s career mode.
And since the beginning, the NBA 2K series has been disappointing me with its hairstyles.
Don’t get me wrong: NBA 2K has made great strides in the field of virtual follicles since the early days and 2K12 boasts 41 different hairstyles (plus players on PC have access to all kinds of mods). But at least seven of those 41 are literally described as “balding” or else appear to involve a receding hairline. I understand that LeBron James has made this look popular, but more than a sixth of the hair options devoted to it? Come on.
There are a handful of acceptable hairstyles. Any of the ones labeled Stubble (including, strangely, Dark Recessed Stubble, which actually looks like a normal hairline) are solid if unremarkable, as are Straight Short and Natural Part; the Mohawk isn’t half bad if you keep the length short; Wavy can be good if you keep the length long; and Short Dreads has been a standby since its rookie season in NBA 2K10.
But I’m not here to talk about the good. I’m here to count down the worst of the worst.
If you are a human being who wears this hair style, may God have mercy on your soul.
4. The Patch
How do we even begin to explain The Patch? NBA 2K seems to be fond of honing in on a few of the more unusual NBA hairstyles and providing them as options, which seems to be how we got Short Dreads (Chris Bosh circa 2007—he might also be responsible for Tied Dreads), Mohawk (Chris Andersen), and Mop Tail (Nene). But Drew Gooden sported this odd look during the 2006-07 season and it’s been haunting NBA 2K ever since. That’s five years since any reasonable human being has had this hairstyle and yet it’s still taking up a roster spot in NBA 2K12. It’s time to amnesty this hairstyle and put in something better. According to Gooden, he grew what he called the ducktail because he loves the ‘80s. And yet the term “ducktail” describes a ‘50s haircut that doesn’t resemble Gooden’s in any way. Maybe he was talking about the show “Duck Tales”?
...trying to figure out if it's man or woman.
3. Straight Tail
This hairstyle is even more inexplicable than The Patch because I don’t think it’s even based on an NBA player’s hair. It seems vaguely related to the sort of soccer-y tied back hairstyles of Sasha Vujacic and Mike Miller and yet somehow it’s inestimably worse. It’s the sensitive-ponytail-guy haircut. There are these strange panels of hair in the front that aren’t tied back but don’t move, and then the back is tied into the tiniest possible tail that only gets grosser when you increase the length. It’s that awful stage of hair between short and long where you can’t do anything with it. And NBA 2K has immortalized that awkward, awful moment.
Poor guy was a victim of a Rogaine experiment gone bad.
2. Natural Patches
I can understand the genesis of The Patch, because an NBA player actually had that style. I can understand (maybe) where the Straight Tail began: as an attempt at a longish, tied-back hairstyle. But I can’t for the life of me figure out what the minds at 2K Sports were thinking when they designed the Natural Patches hairstyle. I can only picture a guy in a brainstorming session saying, “What about one where there are just little bits of hair randomly placed on the head? You know, like an electrolysis accident or like he has mange? Oh and push the hairline up more. No: more.” It just doesn’t look like a hairstyle any reasonable human being would have on purpose. In closing, let me just note that Natural Patches is a brand of essential oil body patches. Maybe selecting this hairstyle should give a boost to your mental focus and energy?
We shall call it...the half mullet!
1. Medium Flat
Medium Flat is a tricky one. It has a boring name, it’s in the middle of a bunch of other hairstyles you probably just scroll through as quickly as possible (Balding Flat, Short Flat), but don’t sleep on its true awfulness. Like several of the NBA 2K hairstyles, it’s based on a famous haircut, but I’m pretty sure it’s Buffalo Bob’s from Silence of the Lambs. You’ve got a vaguely receding hairline but with the added bonus of wispy strings of yarn hanging over the forehead. That should be enough to put this cut into contention for the top spot but then if you increase the length the back turns into a mullet. A hint of balding with a mullet in the back and scraggly loose strands up front? Just tell me which basket to put the lotion in.
It's Time for Change America
2K Sports needs to clean house and put in some more player-inspired cuts that are more reasonable and/or fun. What about Brandon Jennings’ fauxhawk (which looks great in NBA 2K12 and worlds better than the Natural Fauxhawk)? And although the Mohwak as is can be a good option, we need a frohawk more like what Russell Westbrook and James Harden sported last season. T
he dreads department is also wanting, so why not base one off Kenneth Faried’s voluminous mane? And if those are too far out, one need only look at the player models of Kirk Hinrich and O.J. Mayo to see sensible, reasonable hairstyles that look natural and not like helmets (short Afro) or shards of glass (Messy). Maybe NBA2K13 will finally deliver on what this generation of consoles so long ago promised: the kind of great leap forward in virtual hair our fathers never could have dreamed of.