NBA 2K21 tips: 8 key hints to know before you play

NBA 2K21
(Image credit: 2K)

Need some NBA 2K21 tips to keep you competing at an elite level? You've come to the right place. While this isn't a rip-up-the-rulebook year for the best b-baller going, there are still many new wrinkles to get your head around. This year's best addition is the refreshed shot meter, and that's covered in detail below – along with contested shots, hot zones, and intense defending. Don't tip-off until you've mastered GR's eight key NBA 2K21 tips. 

1. Understand the new shot meter

(Image credit: 2K)

NBA 2K21 has removed the green meter from last year in the hopes that players work harder to score buckets. Instead of filling a bar until it is full, this year you need to let go of the Pro Stick or shot button in between a yellow marker that appears at different positions within the new bar. This yellow marker changes positions depending on where you are on the court, meaning you’re never shooting the same shot twice. It takes time to adjust, but this new way of shooting pushes you to master different areas of the court in ways you may not have thought of before.

2. Turn off the shot meter

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Not keen on the above? Heading into the options and turning off the new shot meter enables you to focus more on the jump of your player. This provides a more natural approach to shooting, and takes away the distraction of focusing on the new meter – which can at times be too small to see properly. If you decide to turn the meter off, make sure you let go of the Pro Stick (or shot button) just before you reach the peak of your jump for the best timing.

3. Avoid contested shots

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Whatever game mode you’re playing in, shooting whilst being heavily guarded almost always results in a missed shot. Finding open space or breaking away from your defender if you have the ball enables you to hit an uncontested shot. In MyCareer, find free space around the perimeter or call for other players to provide a screen (L1/LB) so you can move into open space. This allows you to shoot without having someone potentially blocking your shot or forcing an air ball.

4. Learn your Hot Zones

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There has never been more of a focus on player Hot Zones or Badges as in NBA 2K21. Due to the new shot meter providing a tougher challenge, learning your player’s optimal shooting zones are vital in hitting successful shots. Head into a Freestyle session in 2KU to spend time learning where players are likely to score from, by pressing the relevant button to see their Hot Zones (the TouchPad on PS4). Red and blue zones appear in the D, and these highlight where you’re most likely to pick up success.

5. Earn Your Badges

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Another key ingredient for success is knowing your player’s Badges, and picking the correct ones when levelling up your MyPlayer. Heading to the courts in The Neighborhood is daunting at first, especially as building your stats is blocked by the VC (Virtual Currency) wall. By playing in MyCareer and in The Neighborhood, you acquire points in different areas such as Shooting and Playmaking. 

Once you fill one of these gauges, you are free to pick a new badge to give your player a skill boost. Badges like Pro Touch give forgiveness if your shot timing is off, and the Giant Slayer Badge makes you unstoppable against taller defenders. Decide what kind of player you want, and grab the Badges you need to make you the best you can be.

6. Use ‘post up’ and intense defending

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Whenever you’re off the ball on an offensive break, pressing L2/LT enables you to turn your back to a defender and post up. This allows you to receive the ball with a low chance of a turnover. Once in possession, pressing this button also keeps your back to your defender, and if you are a powerful guy like Anthony Davis or Giannis Antetounkoumpo, you push them back, allowing you to spin near the basket and hit a layup without any kind of resistance. L2/LT also works wonders in defence, as it enables you to guard with more intensity, letting you stick closely to both the ball carrier and the player you are marking with added pressure.

7. Stand your ground

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If you’re faced with someone who can make great plays towards the hoop, standing your ground and forcing a charge can make the difference in the clutch. By holding Circle/B, you plant your feet and stand your ground, meaning if the opposition is running hard for a layup or dunk and they knock you over, they likely make an offensive foul and possession is given back to you. It’s not a sure fire way to earn a foul, but it helps against stronger offensive players.

8. VC is key to building your MyPlayer stats

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If you want to earn currency and haven’t pre-ordered to get 100,000 VC off the bat, earning it can feel like a grind – but there are myriad ways to do so. Playing in MyCareer and The Neighborhood are the most effective means of scoring VC, especially if you win and perform well. Answering questions correctly during episodes of 2KTV, using your Daily Spin in Jeff’s Arcade, earning endorsements, and completing shooting challenges at MyCourt also see you coining it. Persistence is the main way to bag VC without having to spend real dosh.

Freelance Writer

Chris is a freelance journalist, photographer, and charity consultant. He specialises in sports, both in real-life and in the gaming space. He's written for publications including GamesRadar, The Sun, Daily Mail, The Times, The Mirror, and more.