Phoenix Suns Guard/Forward Boris Diaw is to be named the cover athlete of NBA Live 2007 in his native France.
Diaw motion captured for video game
Game Boy Advanced
By Brad Faye and Jeramie McPeek, Suns.com
Posted: July 26, 2006
It’s been a good year for Boris Diaw. In the 11 months since being acquired by the Phoenix Suns, the versatile forward/center has earned the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award, launched his own web site, served as a color analyst for French television, appeared on billboards modeling high fashion in his homeland, and just last week was named captain of the French national team.
His successful season in the Valley may lead to even more attention off the court this summer, however, as he is expected to appear on the cover for EA Sports’ popular video game NBA Live 2007 in France. Diaw, who would join fellow Frenchman and close friend Tony Parker as an official pitchman in France, spent a day last month in Burnaby, British Columbia, being “motion captured” for the upcoming release.
The process – which is often used in the production of movies and even medical applications – involves an athlete suiting up in a futuristic, black bodysuit covered in electronic sensors. Those sensors identify the movements of the joints and facial expressions as the athlete demonstrates a set of skills, which are sent to a nearby computer that records all of the motion of the subject. The final result, of course, will lead to fluid, lifelike basketball action in the upcoming edition of Live. Participants of EA Sports' “mo-cap” sessions in recent years have included NBA Finals MVP Dwyane Wade and 2004 NBA MVP Kevin Garnett, stars who boast well-rounded games like Diaw’s.
“He’s just an all-around versatile player,” said Matt Lafreniere, EA's assistant producer. “We get all of the Suns' game broadcasts up here (in Canada) because of (Steve) Nash, so I see him all the time. At his age, Boris is just so composed, especially in the post, especially in big moments, as you could tell in the playoffs. He can shoot, he can drive, he can handle the ball, which is amazing for a guy his size. He’s just an all-around excellent player.”
The EA Sports crew captured between 20-30 different moves, the majority of which will belong solely to Diaw, who’s nickname “3D” takes on a whole new meaning.
“It was fun and we had a good time doing it,” said Diaw, who averaged career-highs of 13.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists in his first season in purple and orange. “Once I was in the suit I did regular basketball plays like lay-ups and dunks, and some one-on-one, just to capture the moves I usually do.”
Among those moves, of course, was the familiar Diaw alley-oop pass to Shawn Marion, which the pair made popular during Phoenix's run to a second straight Pacific Division Championship. Unfortunately, the Matrix was not in attendance, but Diaw managed to provide a surprise replacement, his brother Martin.
“His brother can get up,” Lafreniere laughed. “I'd never seen him play but his brother can throw it down, too. I was pretty impressed. It was neat to have him suit up, as well, and have them battle. They ran that play a few times, it worked out pretty well.”
If history is any indication, fans around the world will be attempting the "Southwest High Flying" move themselves, as NBA Live is the most successful basketball video game franchise of all-time. Now entering its 13th season, Live has been featured on nearly ever video game console ever released, selling more than 100 million copies in the process.
Numbers like that are an indicator as to just how far gaming has come since Konami released Double Dribble for the Nintendo Entertainment System back in 1986. One of the first basketball video games, it featured 5-on-5 action on a horizontally scrolling court with just four different teams (Boston, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles) at the users disposal and no actual players.
Only 13 years old when NBA Live made its debut on the SNES and Sega Genesis in 1995, Diaw has practically grown up with the popular basketball title, which featured a photo from the Rockets-Knicks’ NBA Finals matchup on its original cover. In fact, he often played out his NBA dreams as a kid by designing his virtual counterpart through the game's "create-a-player" mode.
“I was so good,” he laughs. “I could play every position, shoot three-pointers, dunk, everything.
“The earliest video game I played was Mario Brothers, that was the first one. I was always playing games. I was playing sports games. They're way more realistic now, though. Before it was like a stick figure moving around (laughs).”
With new features added each and every year, it should come as no surprise that the new edition to the Live family -- which will be available on the next generation consoles, PS3 and Xbox 360, for the first time -- will boast some major improvements over the games of yesterday, as well.
“The big thing we’re focusing on is athletic performance this year and making our players play like real-life human beings,” Lafreniere said. “Players will intelligently look at players setting a screen on them, and tracking the ball while it’s in the air. We just want our players to look like human beings, so that’s our big push this year.”
Several Suns players have been featured on video game covers in recent years (Jason Kidd, NBA Shootout; Stephon Marbury, NBA Ballers; Amare Stoudemire, NBA '06), but Diaw would be the first player to appear on the cover of Live, albeit overseas. The cover athlete here in the U.S. will be Rockets All-Star Tracy McGrady. Whether the rumors are true or not, however, Diaw said the experience of helping to create a video game was one he won't forget any time soon.
“I didn’t really know how they did it in those games, so it was really nice to see,” he said. “It was impressive with all the different materials and different computers. It’s nice to be in the game like every other NBA player, but to get your moves captured is even better.”