A Look At Past NBA 2K Video Game Cover Players

The people at NBA 2K last week announced Paul George of the Indiana Pacers will be the cover of their latest offering, NBA 2K17. The NBA 2K franchise is one of the most enduring video game franchises ever as it has been around since, well, all of 2K. Actually, it’s been around since 1999. And it’s been the go-to NBA video game for a long, long time.

I did notice people say that there’s some sort of NBA 2K Cover curse. I found it ridiculous as I thought the 2K Cover has always been kind, unlike the Madden Cover jinx. But just to make sure I am correct in this, I took a look back at all the NBA 2K covers in history. Let’s do this.

NBA 2K: Allen Iverson would be the inaugural cover for the 2K series. And why not, right? Iverson was one of the bright young stars of the league and had quite the personality; he was perfect for the cover. It was definitely a great counter to NBA Live 2000‘s cover of Tim Duncan (while I LOVE Duncan, he’s definitely not a noisy personality compared to A.I.).

How did Iverson do that year? Iverson made his first all-star team. And his Sixers team made it to the second round of the playoffs, where they eventually lost to NBA Finalists Indiana Pacers. Not bad at all.

NBA 2K1: In fact, Iverson would be the face of the NBA 2K series for the next four years. In 2001, he won the MVP award, led the league in scoring, and was in the NBA Finals. That was DEFINITELY NOT bad.

NBA 2K2: Iverson’s team disappointed the following year, going 43-39 and getting ousted in the first round. He did lead the league in scoring once again, though, with a then-career best 31.4 points per. I GUESS you can call this cursed if you want but it’s not like his production dipped at the slightest bit.

NBA 2K3: A.I.’s scoring went down a bit to 27.6 but the Sixers did go to the second round of the playoffs.

ESPN NBA Basketball: The franchise was able to get the ESPN license for this game. Also, the 2K4 name was omitted from the title (but it was on the cover). Iverson stayed on as the cover although this would be the last time. Although he still scored a ton (26.4 PPG), he missed 34 games that season. The Sixers would miss the postseason.

ESPN NBA 2K5: The second and last time this series would have the ESPN license (then-rival EA Sports made an exclusive deal with ESPN afterwards). They would also have a new cover guy in Ben Wallace of the Detroit Pistons. Wallace was the centerpiece of the then-champion Pistons as you all know.

Wallace won the Defensive Player of the Year award for the third time that season. The Pistons also returned to the NBA Finals but, unfortunately, would fall short against the San Antonio Spurs.

NBA 2K6: Shaquille O’Neal would be on the cover for 2K6, the first game released under the 2K Sports banner (all games beforehand were under Sega‘s name). The Heat would go on to win the NBA title that season.

NBA 2K7: Shaq would return as the cover player for the series. But Shaq and the Heat weren’t so great that season. O’Neal averaged 17.3 points and 7.4 boards but only played 40 games. The Heat would get swept by the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs.

NBA 2K8: Chris Paul succeeded O’Neal as the cover player in 2K8. CP3 probably had the best season of his career as he scored 21.1 points per game, dished out 11.6 assists (career-high), and stole the ball 2.7 times. He led the New Orleans Hornets to a 56-26 record and reached the second round (lost in seven games against the Spurs). Paul also finished runner-up to Kobe Bryant in the MVP award.

NBA 2K9: Kevin Garnett, fresh off a title with Boston, got the nod for this game. Unfortunately for KG (and the Celtics), his season was cut short to knee injuries. The Celtics would get ousted in the second round by the Orlando Magic. Garnett, who was again having another great season, played a total of 57 games that year.

NBA 2K10: The cover went to Kobe Bryant. Like Garnett, Kobe had won the title the season before. This time around, Kobe and the Lakers defended their title against the aforementioned Garnett and the Celtics. So that 2K cover had a great year.

NBA 2K11: 2K Sports decided to go a different route by putting a retired player instead of a current one. The honor went to Michael Jordan, only considered by many to be the greatest NBA player of all-time. Really tough to judge a season if the guy’s retired, right?

NBA 2K12: For the first time, the series decided to go with multiple covers. They stuck with the legends in this edition as they had Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson. Again, tough to judge if these dudes are no longer playing.

NBA 2K13: In 2K13, 2K Sports decided to go with multiple guys on the same cover. Blake Griffin (Clippers), Kevin Durant (Thunder), and Derrick Rose (Bulls) were chosen.

Griffin had a career-low 18.0 points per game but, by all accounts, still had a very good season. But the Clippers were eliminated by the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. The same Grizzlies team also eliminated Durant (who had his scoring title streak stopped by Carmelo Anthony that season) and the Thunder in the playoffs (Russell Westbrook was out with injury) when they squared off in the second round.

Rose would miss the entire 2012-13 campaign due to his knee injury from the postseason before.

NBA 2K14: LeBron James would make the cover for this one; it would be the first time LeBron would be on ANY video game cover. That’s kind of funny considering he had been in the league since 2003.

LeBron and the Heat were two-time defending champions at that point and it was tough for them to go up unless they finished undefeated. James wouldn’t win MVP that season after winning two straight (the award went to Durant). While the Heat made it back for a fourth straight NBA Finals, they lost to the Spurs in short order.

NBA 2K15: This time around, it’s a solo cover for Kevin Durant. But that season didn’t go so well for him. The 2014 MVP would only suit up for 27 games with a foot injury. The Thunder would also miss the postseason after making it five straight years. Not a great year.

NBA 2K16: The franchise went back to multiple covers. There are even different covers for different countries (ex. Tony Parker for France and Dennis Schroder for Germany). But let’s concentrate on the three main covers in Stephen Curry, James Harden, and Anthony Davis.

Davis was anointed as THE MAN by many people (including me). While he still had a great statistical season, his campaign was stopped short by shoulder and knee injuries. The Pelicans didn’t make the playoffs.

Harden was voted MVP by his peers in the first-ever NBA Player Awards. But the Rockets had a disastrous season, barely making the playoffs after making the Western Conference Finals the year before. While Harden averaged career-bests in scoring (29.0 points), rebounding (6.1 boards), and assists (7.5 dimes), he did not make any of the All-NBA teams. His defense was laughed at by many fans this season as his lapses were highlighted in social media (and Inside The NBA).

As for Curry, you KNOW what he did this season.

So if we look at all of this, the 2K cover players actually enjoyed success for the most part. And if you’re going to get multiple players on the cover (solo or together), you’re going to get mixed results. Look at 2K16. Harden and Brow had great statistical years but their teams had little success. And then you have supernova Stephen Curry so that cancels everything out.

We’ll see how Paul George does next season.


Follow Rey-Rey on Twitter at @TheNoLookPass for all tweets about the NBA and terrible pop music. Also, check out his podcast, Rey-Rey Is Fundamental.

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