This one is a little late, but it's not without reason. The NBA playoffs start this weekend and I decided it would be a great time to suggest this great game. Sports games get a bad rep these days, mostly due to the travesty of the Madden series, but 2K has done an exemplary job.
Making a sports game presents unique challenges. Specifically with sports like basketball and soccer, it's very difficult to capture the freedom of movement. Often the motion capture and collision systems end up looking very rigid and unrealistic. This isn't absent in NBA 2K12, but it is a great improvement. If you've avoided the 2K games for fear that the production value isn't on par with EA's games - shame on you. 2K Sports is putting a polish, a finishing quality, on their games that often trumps EA. The motion capture is excellent. Players have very realistic movements and interact with each other believably. When a center sets a pick for a guard and an opposing player runs into him, it looks really accurate.
The visuals are on par with the industry standard, and they run pleasantly (a mix of high and medium setting) well on even my mid-range machine. The presentation is helped significantly by really quality announcers. I cannot emphasize how important it is that the commentary for a sports game be well done. It's really the only aural input the player gets during a sports game aside from crowd noises. Hearing the same lines over and over in a short period can really ruin the experience, but NBA 2K12 has done a wonderful job. After about 12 hours of play, I've only heard two commentary lines repeated. The amount of recordings they have detailing the unique aspects of each team is genuinely impressive.
One of my greatest complaints with sports games is very weak AI. Typically, even a poor player can usually find a trick or gimmick that takes advantage of the computer's programming and ends up being unrealistically effective. In the Madden series it is especially easy to exploit the secondary and it's poor coverage of wide receivers. Again after 12 hours, I've yet to find the gimmick or exploit in NBA 2K12 that will give me an easy victory. To be successful at the game, you need to understand how to be successful at basketball. Moving the ball around, finding open players, having an advantage in rebounds, etc. It's arguably the game's most admirable quality.
However it's hard to suggest NBA 2K12 to non-sports fans. Because one needs an understanding of how basketball works, it can probably be a daunting game for people unfamiliar with the sport. Compounding this problem is the lack of a competent tutorial. There are some "training camp" options that explain controls, but nothing that breaks down the basics of how the game works. That being said, if you are a sports fan you have no business not giving this game a try. It's a wonderful example of how a sports game should be made.