The rarest Mega Drive game is a very common basketball game found on the Sega Genesis. This is a story of how the world of Sega Mega Drive collecting was completely shaken up. A tale of scepticism, discovery, and riches. This is Lakers Versus Celtics & The NBA Playoffs; the rarest Mega Drive game ever.
Over the years, there has been much debate surrounding the technicalities of Lakers Vs Celtics on the Sega Mega Drive. One thing that’s for sure, it’s absurdly rare. The cartridge inside the Mega Drive release is the same as any regular NTSC Sega Genesis release of Lakers Versus Celtics. In fact, it’s the unique packaging, manual and returns slip which is coveted by collectors. These alone make this, a simple basketball title, the rarest Mega Drive Game on the planet.
Why is Lakers Vs Celtics the Rarest Mega Drive Game?
For a long time, it was believed that Lakers Vs Celtics on the Mega Drive didn’t exist. When a copy eventually surfaced years later, many began to theorise that it was only available through rental stores. After all, rare games in the United States such as The Flintstones: Surprise at Dinosaur Peak (NES) and Clay Fighters: Sculptors Cut (N64) were only available like this.
Another theory was that publisher Electronic Arts ran into licensing issues at the very start of the game’s release in Europe. It was suggested that the game may have been recalled very early on. Like the story of Stadium Events on the NES, perhaps some merely slipped into the public domain before the recall?
The last theory was that the copies that now exist were early releases which were sent out to reviewers. This would explain the limited numbers.
What’s the True Story?
As confirmed by an old EA spreadsheet, 192 copies of Lakers Versus Celtics were produced for the Sega Mega Drive. Many of the 192 copies may well have been destroyed. 13 are known to still exist though and more may have survived. This really is the gaming equivalent to golden tickets in a Wonka Bar.
This information came to light in 2017 thanks to an ex-EA employee and his helpful colleagues. It was also confirmed that Lakers Vs Celtics never made it to an official release in Europe! EA’s license wasn’t approved and so they legally weren’t allowed to sell it under any circumstances. Past theories surrounding this mysterious game were instantly debunked, sparking even more confusion.
Then Why Do Copies of the Game Still Exist?
No one really knows for sure. The most likely theory is that it seemed a shame to waste the games that had already been produced. Personally, I think a few went home with EA employees and over the years made their way into the hands of collectors. This at least seems plausible. Who doesn’t like a freebie?
The review copy theory still has some weight regarding its origins. It’s not something that can be entirely ruled out yet at least.
How Much Is Lakers Vs Celtics on the Sega Mega Drive Worth?
Evidently, it appears to be a lot. Personally, I’ve only seen the game for sale twice before. On both occasions, offers to buy the game reached four-figure sums (which didn’t include the .00 at the end). Clearly, some collectors have a wanton desire to complete their Mega Drive collection at any cost.
In 2017 a copy of Lakers Vs Celtics on the Sega Mega Drive was listed on eBay. The listing quickly gained a large amount of attention from the gaming community and bidding exceed £8000. Unfortunately, some of these bids were found to be false. The game was reported to have eventually sold for £3,380 ($4,468). Still, that’s a hefty sum for what at face value, is a basketball game.
That same year in August, a copy of the game’s instruction manual sold for £354. An impressive amount for a game manual, but considering the rarity of the piece many may regard that as relatively cheap. Still, finding a way to complete the set would be a feat in its own right. At least the cartridge is easy enough to source.
Not All Sports Games Are Worthless
This isn’t the only time a basketball game has ended up being worth a small fortune either. NCAA College Basketball 2K3 on the Nintendo GameCube is also worth a pretty penny. In May this year, a copy sold for £125 ($165) nowhere near as much as Lakers Vs Celtics, but still a fair amount. Still, nothing compares to the mystery surrounding the basketball game that for years, many believed never even existed.
Check to see if you’ve got an old copy of Lakers Vs Celtics on the Sega Mega Drive. Even if you’ve no interest in it at all, you’ll be massively helping a Mega Drive collector. The extra cash is a nice bonus too. With that kind of money, you could take a full trip to America and watch a real NBA game live.
A big Retro Review thank you to Leigh (Gunstarhero) for his input on this topic and for providing the imagery.