Imagine if you will a player that has no weaknesses on a virtual basketball floor. You are probably conjuring thoughts of a player with extreme size and switch-ability on defense, high athleticism for roaring dunks, a handle to create their own looks and a smooth jumper to tie it all together. That’s about what fans can expect from San Antonio Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama when they play NBA 2K24 this fall.
Last week it was announced that Wembanyama has the gaming franchise’s highest rating for a rookie since Zion Williamson in 2019. At an 84 overall, Wemby is three overall points higher than the next highest rated rookie in the game’s history. He’s six overall points higher than LeBron James was as a rookie when he entered the game in NBA 2K4.
We wanted to learn more about how the developers came to their decisions to make Victor the highest rated rookie, and how they can balance a player with his skillset as to not “break” the game. So PtR sat down with 2K’s Head of Lifestyle & Content Marketing, Ronnie 2K to learn more. The following is a Q&A with Ronnie that has been edited for clarity.
Wembanyama is the highest rated rookie in the game’s history. What went into that decision? Was it tough to decide he was the number one?
Since we changed our rating system and introduced legends back in 2K11, that’s when our ratings changed. Back in 2K1, Kenyon Martin was an 86 which was an anomaly before that change. In the modern era, Victor has the highest rating and it’s not even really close. LeBron was a 78, Zion was an 81, John Wall was an 81. There are a lot of guys that have nudged into the 80s, but to make it almost into the mid-80s is huge.
It’s a real testament to what we believe with Victor. He’s a once in a generation prospect, and we are really excited about what his skillset and size mean to what he will output in his first season. An 84 just seemed like the right place for him to be. It’s six points higher than anyone else in his own rookie class. There was a lot of discussion around the second and third player. San Antonio Spurs fans should be really excited about it with 2K’s vouch as well.
They are certainly excited! I was watching an interview between you and Rich Eisen last year where you expressed concerns of him “breaking the game.” How did the developers balanced him with a skillset that is so perfectly suited for the game?
He is the ultimate video game player. You couldn’t even build him (in MyPlayer) up until this point. He’s a 7-4 guy who has the dribble packages that he does. It’s going to be interesting. I think that this year it will maybe be okay, because we are all waiting to see how incredible he is going to be at that size.
I do believe he could be one of those guys that we do have to reassess and think about guys that come into the league at that size that are this skilled. I mean it’s an interesting challenge for us as I mentioned last year. That second summer league performance was really eye-opening. It will be interesting to see how he can learn an evolve. He’s got a great coach and a great organization that he represents. So the sky is the limit. Let’s see how challenging he makes it for 2K.
You were there with him when he revealed his rating. Is he a fan of the game? Does he play?
Oh my god. It’s really funny. When he first saw me, he charges up to me like a little kid and was so excited to meet me. I knew right then that this guy has been playing the game his entire life. It did mean so much for him to meet me and he talked about the first time he played and what the game means to him.
We are very big internationally, but it doesn’t resonate because I’m so North America centric. Watching him kind of have that joyful kid moment, and he called me a legend... you talk about a guy that’s gotten so much press attention and yet when it comes to 2K it just brings the joyous attitude of the kid back. He’s just so pumped to be representing a game that he’s played for so long. We are really excited to have him.
My first engagement with him off-camera, just hanging out, he was a super nice kid and charismatic. Like I said, I think San Antonio should be really excited for not just the player you are getting on the court but the person you are going to have in the organization.
One last question for you. Can you tell me anything about the other Spurs and their ratings?
We haven’t revealed any yet, and I don’t have any I can state off the top of my head. I’m not telling you something you don’t already know. This is going to be a building year for the Spurs as they try to put Victor at the forefront of the franchise and then build around him. That’s why there was no one else in the top-12 for San Antonio. There is a reason they had the number one pick, I guess.
There is a lot to look forward to in the future, and let’s see where some of those other pieces end up rating-wise for 2K24.