Each installment in the NBA 2K series strives to emulate the National Basketball Association, and present improvements over the previous installments. As such, gameplay simulates a typical game of basketball, with the player controlling an entire team or a select player; objectives coincide with the rules of basketball and presentation resembles actual televised NBA games. Various game modes have been featured in the series, allowing for gameplay variety. Numerous elements of the games feature customizable options. Each game features the teams and players from the current NBA season; historic NBA teams and players have also been featured, as have EuroLeague teams. Fictional players and teams can also be created and compiled.
A staple of the series is its career mode, which has been described as a sports-themed role-playing video game. ESPN NBA Basketball was the first game in the series to feature such a mode, but it wasn’t until NBA 2K10 and its successors that the mode became a more integral part of the series. The mode was initially titled 24/7, before being changed to MyPlayer, and settling on MyCareer. The modes center on the basketball career of the player’s created player; the player customizes several aspects of their player and plays through their career in the NBA. Key events in the player’s career are depicted, such as the draft and their retirement ceremony. A storyline is often present in the modes, and high school and college-level basketball has also been depicted. The player upgrades their player’s attributes as they play, and can participate in off-court activities.