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Michael Jordan to appear in NBA 2K11

FOX Sports Kevin Allen
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For years basketball fans clamored that they wanted to “be like Mike.” Now they can actually be Mike — or at least his virtual proxy.

After announcing that Michael Jordan will grace the cover of its latest NBA game, 2K Sports has announced that His Airness will be a playable character in it as well.

NBA 2K11 marks Michael Jordan's first video game appearance since 2004.

Jason Argent, vice president of marketing for 2K Sports, told FOXSports.com that in addition to the regular basketball simulation features that have made it the highest selling hoops title on the market, NBA 2K11 will allow gamers to take the Jordan Challenge.

“It’s a new mode in the game that will allow the gamer to re-live 10 of Michael Jordan’s most legendary moments in the game,” Argent said.

Among the 10 challenges will be Jordan’s final shot in a Bulls uniform over Bryon Russell to clinch the 1998 NBA championship, “the shrug” performance against the Trail Blazers in the 1992 Finals, his 63 points against Larry Bird’s Celtics in the 1986 playoffs and his self-described greatest game — a 69-point performance against the Cavaliers in March 1990.

To make it as authentic as possible, 2K Sports has also recruited several of Jordan’s former teammates to appear in the game. They're also hoping to have at least the starting five from each of the opposing teams in the game.

And for those wondering how the Bulls in their heyday would stack up against LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and the 2010 Miami Heat, gamers will have the option to pit those teams against each other.

The NBA 2K franchise has grown rapidly in the last few years, overtaking EA Sports’ NBA Live franchise (re-titled NBA Elite this year) in sales. The NBA 2K10 title topped 2 million in sales, a 60 percent jump from the previous year.

Argent said after last year’s success, 2K Sports set out to make “the best video basketball game of all time.” Faced with the challenge of picking a cover athlete to go with their lofty goal, Argent said the 2K team knew exactly who they wanted.

“Everything kept coming back to the best basketball player of all time,” Argent said. “If Jordan was willing to be a part of it, he was a no-brainer pick for the cover of this year’s game. We got very lucky and we’re honored that he wanted to participate with us.”

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This isn’t Jordan’s first foray into the video game sphere, but it’s certainly his most sophisticated. He first appeared in the 1988 Nintendo game “Jordan Vs. Bird” and was featured in a few other titles over the years. But appearances in video games were limited for Jordan in the past due to concerns over licensing. This marks his first appearance in the Cover Athlete Era of video games where the chosen face of the franchise can make or break that year's version.

Argent said Jordan was involved in the development of NBA 2K11 and the five-time MVP's “concern with authenticity and credibility has really come through” in the Jordan Challenge.

And while MJ has yet to speak publicly about the game, he did issue a statement when it was announced that he’d be featured on the cover:

“It’s an honor to be featured on the cover of NBA 2K11,” Jordan said. “I have no doubt that NBA 2K11 will be a big hit with gamers and basketball fans alike. I’m looking forward to getting back out on the court, virtually.”

NBA 2K11 is slated for an Oct. 5 release date.

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