Sports vs Videogames: When Tyson, Zlatan and LeBron Raged Against The Machine

We look at five occasions where virtual reality and the sporting world did not mix
12:15, 22 Aug 2021

After a drawn-out legal dispute, Manchester United will be renamed ‘Manchester UFC’ on the 2022 edition of Football Manager. While the new name sounds like a North West MMA promotion, it is merely the latest in a long history of battles between the worlds of gaming and sport. Here are five more instances where virtual reality and the sporting world did not mix.

Mike Tyson Throws Jab At Punch-Out!!

An iconic staple of virtual boxing, ‘Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!’ pitted player-controlled pugilist Little Mac against a laundry list of colourful characters, earning a shot at the titular ‘Iron’ Mike. When Nintendo’s license to use Tyson’s image expired, he was replaced by a slightly-altered pastiche called Mr Dream. When the game was re-released in 2019, the Mr Dream version was the one Nintendo chose, perhaps wary of paying the sort of fee Tyson’s resurgent popularity would command. When the former undisputed champion heard this, he took aim at the developers on Twitter, saying “Heard Nintendo was doing the new “Punch Out” without even contacting me. It won’t be the same. My knockouts made the game. That’s whack.” Pricey or not, Mike Tyson is not somebody I would want to get on the wrong side of.  


Rogan Objects To Punk’s Rating


Professional motormouth and UFC commentator Joe Rogan was not impressed when the ratings for EA Sports UFC 2 were released. While boasting an unbeaten record at the time, Rogan felt former WWE star CM Punk’s 0-0 ledger was not enough to earn an 85 overall score for MMA skills we were yet to even see. The podcast host called Punk’s rating “a crime against humanity.” Punk would go winless in his two Octagon outings, proving that EA had perhaps jumped the gun in giving him superior Submission stats to three-time World BJJ Champion BJ Penn.

Zlatan And Bale’s FIFA Rage

Never one to keep his opinions to himself, AC Milan’s ageless Zlatan Ibrahimovic sparked a social media frenzy when he asked on Twitter, “Who gave FIFA EA Sport permission to use my name and face? FIFPro?” Gareth Bale and notorious agent Mino Raiola would also weigh in, with EA Sports eventually succumbing to public pressure and clarifying they had a contract in place to use player likenesses. Some fans did note the irony that Zlatan had talked lightheartedly about FIFA in the past, joking about his Ultimate Team card, and was only now questioning how he’d ended up in the games.


Lukaku Doesn’t Rate FIFA


Players having an issue with their FIFA rating is nothing new. Every release cycle seems to feature numerous posts where players rib each other about a decreased Pace rating, or a superior Finishing stat. But last year, Chelsea new boy Romelu Lukaku thought he saw this ritual for what it was: free advertising. On the now familiar battleground for Athlete vs Developer disputes, Twitter, Lukaku took EA to task. “Let’s be honest, FIFA just mess with the ratings so we players start complaining about the game and give them more publicity... I ain’t with this sh*t. I know what I do.” Ironically, Lukaku’s rant gained the attention of the sports media, providing even more free advertising for the annual football game.

LeBron Ticked Off At 2K

Football is not the only sport where in-game ratings enrage athletes. NBA icon and Space Jam 2 star LeBron James recently took 2K Sports to task. Unusually though, the LA Laker was not criticising his own rating, but rather those of Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. James replied to two tweets, one for each player, saying that the pair should each be rated 99 overall in NBA 2K22. While hardly the biggest issue, it is nice to see ‘King’ James stick up for his NBA rivals in this way.

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