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The History of 'NBA 2K' Covers

LeBron James will be the cover athlete for 'NBA 2K19.'

As both a basketball fan and video game fan, it is only natural that both of my interests meet in some way. For several years, NBA 2K has been just that. NBA 2K allows me to combine my love for the game (basketball) with my love for the game (in video games). I have played 2K for years, and will probably continue to do so. Especially with this new cover.

Earlier this week, NBA 2K announced its next cover athlete for NBA 2K19. LeBron James will be 2K's cover athlete for the second time in his career.  James's first cover was in 2013 for NBA 2K14. He also selected songs for the NBA 2K14 soundtrack. This cover was when LeBron James played for the Miami Heat. 

James's cover for the upcoming NBA 2K19 marks the 20th anniversary of the NBA 2K franchise. The franchise has withstood the test of time and continues to make new games. They've also withstood different game consoles and the ever-changing graphics of video games. For example, the first NBA 2K game came out on the Dreamcast. The most recent one (NBA 2K18) is on the PlayStation 4. A big difference! 

The NBA 2K franchise has had several greats (and future greats) as their cover athletes. Throughout the years, they've had players such as Shaquille O'Neal, Allen Iverson, and Michael Jordan to name a few. I thought it would be cool to chronologically highlight each of the covers. First, I will start with Allen Iverson who was the first cover athlete for NBA 2K.

On November 10, 1999, NBA 2K released their first game. In other words, I literally just turned 5 when this game was released. The game was released on Dreamcast only. I knew of the Dreamcast, and played on the Dreamcast (over a friend's house), but I never owned a Dreamcast. It was a Sega based console, and NBA 2K was published by Sega Sports. Unfortunately, while I have played the Dreamcast (as mentioned above), I never played this game. 

Allen Iverson was not only the cover athlete for this one, but for the next 4 games. Iverson happens to be my favorite basketball player of all-time, so I have no qualms with him being the cover athlete five times. The first three 2K games were Dreamcast games. It wasn't until NBA 2K2 that 2K was introduced to other platforms. Then, in NBA 2K3, the game was only available for Playstation 2, Xbox, and GameCube. The cover athlete changed in 2004, when Ben Wallace was on the cover.

NBA 2K's first cover

NBA 2K1

NBA 2K2

NBA 2K3

ESPN NBA Basketball (Basically NBA 2K4)

Ben Wallace was the first cover athlete post-Iverson. This is honestly one of my favorite 2K games. I loved the soundtrack, the 24/7 mode, but this was also the first 2K game I owned. So, it holds a special place in my heart. I would play this game non-stop on my PlayStation 2. This became the first of many 2K games I would own. In hindsight, I do wish I had the 2K games with Iverson on the cover though.

ESPN 2K5

The next two games featured Shaquille O'Neal on the cover. Shaq was playing for the Miami Heat at the time. He and Dwyane Wade helped the Miami Heat win a championship during his stint in Miami. He was also a two-time cover athlete. While it is not as big of an accomplishment as a championship, it is still pretty awesome. I had a hard time finding a good sized photo of the NBA 2K6 cover, so I couldn't include it.

NBA 2K7

Then, in 2007, Chris Paul was the cover athlete for NBA 2K8. Paul was still a part of the New Orleans Hornets when this game was released. There are two things wrong with this statement. Chris Paul is currently with the Houston Rockets and the New Orleans Hornets are now the New Orleans Pelicans. The Hornets returned to Charlotte, where they originally were from. The Hornets were in Charlotte during the Larry Johnson and Musgy Bogues era. Chris Paul was still a rising star when he was on the cover of NBA 2K8. 

NBA 2K8

In 2008, NBA 2K selected Kevin Garnett for their cover. Kevin Garnett is another one of my favorite players. Garnett played for the Boston Celtics at this time. Garnett was a part of the championship team that beat the Lakers in 2008. The cover has him pounding his chest with the championship design in his jersey proudly showing. Kevin Garnett was rightfully chosen for this game's cover. 

NBA 2K9

In 2009, NBA 2K chose "The Black Mamba" for the cover. Kobe Bryant was a cover athlete for other games (like NBA Courtside 2 and NBA 07), but he was never on the cover of NBA 2K. This was the first time he was chosen, and he was also a special edition cover for NBA 2K17. 

The Black Mamba on NBA 2K10

After Kobe Bryant was selected in 2009, NBA 2K did something it's never done before. It chose Michael Jordan as the cover athlete. Michael Jordan is often regarded as, if not the greatest, one of the greatest players to play the game. I won't start that argument/debate here, but it was great to see Michael Jordan on the cover. It was not only the first time he was the NBA 2K cover athlete, but the first time he was playable in NBA 2K. 

Air Jordan on NBA 2K11

Michael Jordan was once again the cover athlete for NBA 2K12, but he wasn't alone. He was joined by two other legends. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were also chosen as the cover athletes. This was the first time NBA 2K chose multiple cover athletes for their game. Since Michael Jordan was on the cover in the previous game, I chose to buy the Magic Johnson cover. 

NBA 2K12 with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird

The next game also featured multiple cover athletes, but this time there were all on one cover. NBA 2K13 has Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, and Derrick Rose on the cover. These three players were the stars of their respective teams. They were three stars with bright futures ahead of them. Today, each of the players have gone different paths. Kevin Durant just obtained his second championship with the Warriors. Blake Griffin missed the playoffs with Detroit Pistons. Derrick Rose made the playoffs with the Minnesota Timberwolves, who were eliminated by the Houston Rockets. As you can see, none of the players are still with the teams they were with on this cover. It's strange how things can change within a span of a few years. 

NBA 2K13

I somewhat discussed NBA 2K14's cover in the beginning of the article. This was LeBron James's NBA 2K and (I think) LeBron's first video game cover period. I remember wanting LeBron James on a cover way before this. But, it came right after the "Big Three" won their second championship. I'll admit, it is a nice cover. 

NBA 2K14

In 2014, Kevin Durant joined the company of players who have had multiple covers. However, this was the first NBA 2K cover of his own. He had a cover with Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose in 2012. Durant was also a (solo) cover athlete for NCAA 08 March Madness and NBA Elite 11. While the cover with Griffin and Rose was nice, it was good to see Durant get his own cover. 

NBA 2K15

Next year's cover(s) were different. The covers were similar to the Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan ones. Fans had the choice of what cover they wanted. There were different covers with different athletes. The choices included Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, and James Harden. I chose the Steph Curry cover for this game. I think there was also a cover with all three of them.

NBA 2K16

In 2016, Paul George was selected for the cover. Kobe Bryant was the special edition cover. At the time, Paul George was the star of the Indiana Pacers. George played for the Oklahoma City Thunder this year, but he is a free agent in this year's off-season. While he is with the Thunder now, he could be with another team before the start of the season. If he is ever a cover athlete again, it will be in a different uniform. 

NBA 2K17

The next cover has an interesting story. This cover is for the most recent NBA 2K game. It is still popular and is played often. The game I am referring to is NBA 2K18. NBA 2K18 features Kyrie Irving as its cover athlete. Irving was chosen for the cover before he was traded to the Boston Celtics. Irving was a part of a deal in the off-season that sent Isaiah Thomas to the Cavaliers. Once the trade was finalized, the cover had to be changed. Irving's uniform was a Boston Celtics uniform rather than a Cavalier uniform. The change was abrupt but necessary. 

Both Kyrie Irving covers for NBA 2K18

The NBA 2K franchise has a long history. It is unbelievable to think it's been around for 20 years. The franchise has managed to stay alive after so many other NBA game franchises have come and gone. The 2K franchise does an excellent job of selecting their covers and NBA 2K19 is no exception. And while I anxiously wait for the release of 2K19, I will continue to play 2K18

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