Everything that's supposedly wrong about the NBA: An emphasis on style over fundamentals, the death of the mid-range jumper, a hip-hop culture obsessed with tattoos and accessories, and super-athletes who can leap 15 feet into the air. Everything that's right about NBA Street V3: All of the above. The nimble arcade-style counterpart to EA's more earthbound NBA Live series, NBA Street offers complete liberation, not only from the laws of physics, but also from playbooks, boundaries, ticky-tack fouls, goaltending calls, and other restrictions imposed by coaches, referees, and common sense. With the addition of the "Trick Stick," which allows for endless ball-handling wizardry through the right analog controller, V3 brings the game closer than ever to SSX, the EA snowboarding line where winning a race with style counts for more than just getting down the hill fastest. Hitting long-range jumpers or dunking in an opponent's face has rarely been easier—the shooting percentage of even the clumsiest gamer would top 80 percent—but if you don't pull off the Globetrotter moves, it can be hard to win.
While there's no beating the fun of multiplayer mode, which allows you to mercilessly taunt your opponents in person or online, the heart of NBA Street is the intricate "Street Challenge" mode, where your three-person team faces off against NBA players and street legends in a variety of colorful urban venues. Starting with a custom-made baller and two scrubs, you gradually build your "rep" and gain "street points" that let you improve your skills, poach superstars from other teams, make improvements on your dingy home court, and (of course) accessorize with shoes, tattoos, old-school jerseys, and other gratuities. Rather than force you into reusing the same strategies over and over again, the mode offers an impressive variety of choices from day to day, including mini-tournaments, slam-dunk competitions, dunk-only or trick-point games, and an NBA side league to mix things up.
Beyond the gameplay: NBA Street operates with a refreshing minimum of mini-movies or other unnecessary scene-setting, save for the hilariously sober and pseudo-poetic introductions for each venue, which can be skipped with the touch of a button.
Worth playing for: A little random tweaking of the "Trick Stick" and turbo buttons can result in some unexpectedly spectacular juke, which can be combined with, say, an off-the-backboard pass to a cloud-scraping alley-ooper for maximum combination points. Also, it's worth picking up 7-foot-8 street legend Takashi, who can block a shot from virtually anywhere on the court.
Frustration sets in when: Given the impossible feats of dunkdom possible in an ordinary game, the new dunk competition seems unchallenging and superfluous. And the volume can't be lowered fast enough on commentator Bobbit, whose inane catchphrases get old in a hurry.
Final judgment: The Beastie Boys are unlockable characters. Need anything else be said?