Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to basketball video games, the real NBA, or another area of interest to our community, either as a list of five items or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.
The cover players for NBA Live and NBA 2K are admittedly an insignificant detail in the grand scheme of things. Nevertheless, it’s a subject that still manages to capture our attention every year, before the official announcements are made. In between talking about what we want to see out of NBA Live and NBA 2K, and speculating on each game’s features and improvements as we learn about them, we usually find ourselves asking: who’s going to be on the cover?
It’s a fun talking point, even if it does have little bearing on the games themselves. Throughout the years, we’ve seen some huge names lend their likenesses to the cover art of NBA Live and NBA 2K, as well as a few unorthodox choices for cover players. Since it’ll be a few months until the preview season really gets underway, I thought that for this week’s Five, I’d throw out some predictions as to who we might see on the covers of NBA Live and NBA 2K…perhaps as soon as this year.
1. Stephen Curry
Alright, it’s an obvious suggestion, given the amazing season he’s having. I stand by what I said in Episode #148 of the NLSC Podcast about the “move over Jordan” talk being hyperbole, but Stephen Curry is definitely having a season for the ages, so let’s give credit where it’s due. He’s the talk of the NBA, seemingly a shoe-in to win the Most Valuable Player award for the second straight season, and will very likely add the NBA Finals MVP trophy to his collection in June, along with another ring. Things are going very well for Curry, who is of course one of the three cover players for NBA 2K16.
And that’s why I think he’ll also be the cover player for NBA 2K17. He’s obviously a hot commodity right now, and Mike Wang’s interview in which he discusses the difficulty in accurately representing Curry’s play in NBA 2K is getting a lot of traction. It wouldn’t surprise me if they’ve already signed him to appear on the cover of this year’s game as well, and needless to say, he’d be an excellent choice if so. It remains to be seen whether he’d be the lone cover player, but if 2K does offer up multiple covers again, I’m predicting that he’ll be on one of them.
2. Paul George
Paul George is a player that I feel sometimes flies under the radar. It’s not that he isn’t well-known to basketball fans, but following his gruesome leg injury and the downfall of the Indiana Pacers, it seemed as though not a lot of people were talking about him. He’s bounced back with another All-Star season this year, once again appearing at the midseason classic where he tied Russell Westbrook’s all-time second best scoring mark of 41 points. He’s healthy, and his numbers are right back to the level they were at before that devastating injury.
PG-13 is already a digital cover player, as he’s essentially the face of the MyNBA2K app for NBA 2K16. However, with his strong comeback and re-emergence as one of the top stars in the league, I expect there’s a good chance that he’ll graduate to being a main cover player in the not too distant future. If NBA 2K does run with multiple cover players, I could see him perhaps joining Stephen Curry as one of the faces of NBA 2K17. Failing that, EA Sports might snap him up for NBA Live 17. His triumphant comeback is a motif I’m sure they’d like to incorporate into their marketing, as they also strive to return to past form.
3. Karl-Anthony Towns
The Minnesota Timberwolves are once again lingering in the NBA basement, with a record of 19-42 as of writing. On the bright side, the future seems promising with some of the talented young players they have on the roster, a group headed up by first overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns. His skill set and solid play so far this season – 17 points on 53% shooting, 10 rebounds per game, and around two blocks for good measure – suggests that within a few years, he’ll be one of the best players in the NBA.
There’s still a ways to go of course, and to that end, it seems a pretty safe bet that Towns won’t be gracing the cover of NBA Live or NBA 2K as early as this year. In a few years, though? I would suggest that he’ll have established himself as an All-Star calibre player, and therefore a more than suitable candidate to appear on the cover of a basketball video game. Not counting Ricky Rubio’s appearance on the Spanish cover of NBA 2K15, that would make Karl-Anthony Towns the first cover player from the Minnesota Timberwolves since Kevin Garnett in NBA Live 2001.
4. Kawhi Leonard
This is my dark horse, slightly off-the-wall pick. Kawhi Leonard was selected to his first All-Star Game this season, a couple of years after winning a championship with the San Antonio Spurs, a series in which he was named NBA Finals MVP. He’s also the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and seems to have taken the torch from the Spurs’ Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. At this point, he’s pretty firmly established as a star player, and star players are generally good choices for basketball video game cover players.
However, I’m guessing that he’s not a frontrunner for either cover right now. While his play makes him a suitable candidate, he’s not exactly the most marketable player. He’s not grabbing attention like Stephen Curry, and he’s not as firmly established as someone like Paul George. As is the case with the San Antonio Spurs in general, he’s often overlooked, while quietly achieving. Still, he should have many great years ahead of him, and even though his stellar play may not generate a lot of noise, his status as one of the best two-way players in the league, along with the success he’s already had, gives him a decent chance of being a cover player at some point.
5. John Wall
Finally, let’s throw another overlooked player out there: John Wall. Do you even remember that John Wall was the first pick in the 2010 Draft? Unfortunately for him, his rookie campaign was upstaged by Blake Griffin, whose debut coincided with Wall’s after Griffin missed what should have been his first season, due to knee surgery. Wall has had plenty of critics throughout his short career, but these days he’s generally ranked as one of the best point guards in the league. So far, the Washington Wizards’ 2016 season may have been a little disappointing in the wake of their 2015 campaign, but Wall is helping them turn things around, while having a career year.
Because the Wizards aren’t one of the top teams in the league at the moment, Wall may not be one of the top candidates to appear on the cover of NBA Live 17 or NBA 2K17. As he enters the prime of his career, however, I expect that the offers will come in. It’s also worth noting that he was tapped as part of the talent roster for NBA Live 14, having worked with EA Sports in recent years. Perhaps he’ll be on the cover of NBA Live 18, a full ten years after former Wizard Gilbert Arenas was the cover player for NBA Live 08.
Who do you think will appear on the covers of NBA Live 17 and NBA 2K17? Who else can you see being a cover player in the near future? Sound off in the comments section below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.