SCHMIDT: Your last chance to be like Mike

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Everybody dreams of being the greatest ever. Now they can be.

In NBA 2K11, a game by 2K Sports released on Tuesday, you can break out the tongue-wag and bouncing gold chain, the free throw line dunks that defy gravity, physics and reality. You can unleash the shoulder shrug and rock the baldy, possess a heart cold as ice and a shooting stroke hotter than the Human Torch’s backside.

You can go ahead and call yourself whatever name you please: His Royal Airness, Sir Altitude, Money, The GOAT. Because this time, in this game, you take control of the incomparable Michael Jordan, the best basketball player to ever grace the hardwood. It’s a video game moment a lifetime in the making.

To put this in perspective let’s call on the sage wisdom of Larry Bird, who famously said – after Jordan had just burned the Celtics for a playoff-record 63 points – “I think it’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan.”

Now you get the chance to disguise yourself as number 23.

The magnitude of Jordan being featured in his very own game is officially registered as a “holy crap” on the Richter scale. For whatever reason, MJ never signed off the rights for his likelihood to be used in video games, which means we’ve had to suffer through over a decade of Jordan-free visual entertainment.

Anyone who has been forced to use the underwhelming two-man team of Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant in NBA Jam or the generic No. 99 shooting guard in NBA Live knows that a basketball video game without Jordan is like a root canal without novocain.

The only legit game that ever included Jordan was a 2003 game called NBA Street Vol. 2. Ironically, the game actually had three separate versions of MJ: The 80s Jordan with short-shorts and dangling jewelry, the 90s Jordan with the bald head and black leg band, and the 2000s Jordan, the aging pariah we’d all like to forget ever existed.

While NBA Street was fun in a juvenile sense, it was all a bit ridiculous. The over-the-top, cartoonish graphics and game play (players can actually do the sort of stuff Jordan and Bugs Bunny do in Space Jam) detracts from the awesomeness a gamer should feel controlling Air Jordan.

But thanks to NBA 2K11, this has all been remedied. Being like Mike has never been more possible.

The cover art displaying Jordan slashing to the rim in primal fury, tongue trailing behind him in a reddish blur, is enough to make any college gamer skip class until next semester. Throw in the bone-chilling Bulls anthem “Sirius” by the Alan Parson’s Project and all bets are off. So long school, hello hours of gaming and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Jordan is the muse and motivation in nearly every aspect of the game. There is a mode called “MJ: Creating a Legend,” where players take control of Jordan as a rookie in the modern era and morph him into a legend on any NBA team.

Another mode called “The Jordan Challenge” lets players relive MJ’s most hallowed accomplishments and moments like the famed “Flu Game” and the time he hit six three-pointers in the first half of a 1992 playoff game, then shrugged as if to say, “I can’t explain it either, I’m just that good.” There’s even a feature that allows players to unlock pairs of Air Jordans for hitting certain milestones in the game.

The critical response so far has been overwhelmingly positive. Video game website IGN.com said that the game was not only the best basketball game of the year, but the best sports game of this generation. For a player that has been immortalized by a bronze statue with the caption, “The best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be,” a game depicting his likeness should be nothing short of perfect.

So pick up your controller and be like Mike. Your tongue isn’t going to wag itself.

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