After an amazing 2019-2020 NBA season that saw tantalizing performances from young stars like Luka Doncic, Ja Morant, Jayson Tatum, and Trae Young, your first pick for a cover athlete for NBA 2K21 would, of course, be Zion Willia-oh wait, no one would pick Zion Williamson? So, I’m not the only one who thinks a guy that played less than 20 games shouldn’t be a 2K cover athlete?
True, I’m a Dallas Mavericks fan. (Obviously.) But all of the internet went a little crazy when 2K announced that Zion Williamson would be the cover athlete for the next-gen version of NBA 2K21.
It turns out, 2K has made some crazy decisions over the years with their cover athlete. Here are 10 of the worst cover athletes for NBA 2K, in no particular order because I still can’t think clearly after the Zion Williamson announcement.
NBA 2K Cover Athletes That Just Don’t Make Sense
1. NBA 2K21 Next Generation Edition: Zion Williamson
Ok, yes, it’s number one because it’s still fresh on my mind. But honestly, is there a worse one? 2K says, “The future is here,” and then splashes Zion Williamson on the cover. Really? Is the future a guy who played less than a quarter of the season?
True, Zion averaged over 23 points and 6 rebounds for the “season” (19 games), which is amazing for any 19-game stretch. But if we’re talking about the future, there are more obvious choices. *cough*lukadoncic*cough.
2. NBA 2K20 Legend Edition: Dwyane Wade
Why is this one number two? Because I’m a Mavs fan and Dirk Nowitzki got robbed, that’s why.
For NBA 2K20, 2K decided to create a Legend edition. It just so happens that two “legends” retired from the NBA that year. One of them scored over 30k points, won a Championship, a Finals MVP, a regular season MVP, and literally changed the game. The other guy was Dwyane Wade. So who are we going to put on this Legend cover? Dwyane Wade, of course!
3. One of the Allen Iversons
Yeah, I don’t have a particular year for this, but seriously, the dude was on the cover 5 times *in a row*. From 2000 to 2004, Allen Iverson was the cover athlete for NBA 2K.
Don’t get me wrong, AI is an all-time great and deserved to be on the cover at least once. Maybe even twice. (He won MVP during that span.) But you’re talking about a decade that was dominated by guys like Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, and, oh yeah, Kobe Bryant.
But yeah, let’s stick with one guy for five years.
4. NBA 2K7: Shaquille O’Neal
This was the second time in a row Shaquille O’Neal was on the cover of 2K. It was just after the Miami Heat won their title. If you were going to pick a player from the Championship team to put on the cover, you’d think you would pick-and I can’t believe I’m about to make the case for him, but-Dwyane Wade. You know, the guy that won Finals MVP?
Don’t get me wrong, Shaq had a good year, averaging 20 points and 9 rebounds. But he was clearly slowing down and wasn’t even the best player on his team.
5. NBA 2K12: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson
Ok, so hear me out before you roast me. 2011 was the year of the NBA lockout. The only reason this year’s game didn’t have an active NBA player is because, technically, no one was an NBA player. (Remember when the Mavs won an ESPY for best team and they didn’t know if they could even acknowledge each other or not?)
I mean, Michael Jordan was the cover athlete literally the year right before this. In short, we got robbed. And if I’m being honest, Dirk got robbed. Again.
6. NBA 2K13: Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, and Derrick Rose
Having three players on the cover just seemed like a cop-out to me. Not to mention that a game of “one of these is not like the other” was pretty easy. By 2013, Kevin Durant had inserted his name into the MVP debate. On the other hand, Derrick Rose didn’t play the entire season and Blake Griffin had one Playoff appearance.
7. NBA 2K20: Anthony Davis
What has Anthony Davis done so far in his NBA career? Rookie of the Year? No. MVP? Nope. Scoring Champion? No. Defensive Player of the Year? Uh-uh. Total number of Playoff appearances in 7 years? 2. So yeah, let’s put him on the cover of 2K.
8. NBA 2K16: James Harden, Stephen Curry, and Anthony Davis
Like I said before, I think having multiple athletes is a cop-out. And I already made my case for why Anthony Davis doesn’t belong on the cover. But for crying out loud, Stephen Curry had JUST won MVP. This isn’t a trick question. It’s not rocket surgery. Who out of those three should be on the cover? Steph Curry, and that’s it.
9. NBA 2K18: Kyrie Irving
The timing on this one just seemed weird to me. The year before, I could understand it. The Cleveland Cavaliers had just taken down the 73-9 Warriors after going down 1-3 in the NBA Finals. But the very next year, the Cavs lost to the Warriors in a near sweep. Maybe the cover decision was already made by that point? Kyrie did have a great year, so it’s not the worst decision ever.
10. NBA 2K16 Special Edition: Michael Jordan
Look, Jordan is the GOAT. I’m not saying he’s not. But this was the third time he was a cover athlete. At what point is it not special anymore? Yeah, you got a cool wall poster and 30k VC – enough to make MyCareer halfway playable as a Rookie – but it wasn’t like they put Jordan on the cover for the third time because they had something super-special planned. It seemed like another easy way to sell a more expensive version.
For the most part, 2K has great cover athletes. Even some of these didn’t drive me completely nuts. But there have definitely been some questionable decisions here and there. Maybe Luka will get a cover eventually.