Nintendo has had a weird history with in-house sports games. The NES was partially launched with sports games, like Golf, Baseball, 10 Yard Fight, Ice Hockey, etc. A descriptive bunch of titles, setting up a no-nonsense approach for the opening of the new console, and really the new generation of video games. After that, Nintendo sort of held back from making their own sports games, allowing others to get in on the fun.
In the mid-nineties, they picked the “sports game” game back up on the back of a player whose team they happened to own.
And then produced the original NBA Courtside, named Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside. This game came out in April of 1998, meaning Nintendo decided to name an entire game after a player who had spent one season in the NBA, and didn’t even make the NBA’s All-Rookie team, relegated to the second guard on the all-rookie second team, next to Kerry Kittles and Travis Knight. (If you want to hear me talk forever, ask me about how Kerry Kittles and Kobe Bryant are indirectly responsible for modern college basketball) They could’ve picked someone from the all-rookie teams, like Antoine Walker, Marcus Camby, or Matt Maloney and tried to run with that. Nintendo got really, really lucky that they just happened to pick up the best shooting guard of the next fifteen years to be the youngest athlete ever to endorse a game. By the way here’s 18 year old Kobe hanging out with Trevor Knight and Derek Fisher in 1997. It would’ve been really interesting if this core of three rookies could’ve been the core that brought the Lakers to a championship finally.
Anyway, after Courtside 2002, Nintendo stuck to using its own licensed characters in sports games, probably figuring out that the cost of the NBAPA wasn’t worth what they would get back. By 2006, Nintendo had shifted all the way back to where it started in sports games with Wii Sports. Back to good old, non-descript Baseball, Tennis, and Golf (and bowling and boxing too). In fact, some of the holes in NES Golf were reused in Wii Sports.
Courtside 2002 is by no means the high point for Nintendo’s sporting ventures, but that’s less a fault of Courtside 2002 and more the fault of the high quality of most other Nintendo sports games.