Monday Tip-Off: Recreating Game Covers in NBA 2K18

NBA Live 06 Cover in NBA 2K18

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with some recreations of past video game covers in NBA 2K18.

I’d like to tip this week off with something fun. It’s not that I don’t enjoy tackling more serious topics related to basketball gaming, as last week’s feature demonstrates. After all, it’s important that we critique, and share constructive ideas about our hobby. At the same time, we should also celebrate our passion for basketball gaming, and there’s always room for some levity. Although I have my criticisms, I’ve been having fun with both NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18 so far. As I mentioned in Episode #224 of the NLSC Podcast, I’ve enjoyed playing some games with the classic teams in NBA 2K18.

While I was messing around with the retro squads, an idea came to mind. The huge amount of historical content in NBA 2K18 means that the game includes many former basketball video game cover players, spanning as far back as the mid 90s. With that in mind, I thought that it might be fun to try to recreate some of those old covers, using NBA 2K18’s classic teams. The results are a little mixed as some were definitely easier to recreate than others, but hopefully you’ll enjoy seeing what I’ve managed to put together. Let’s tip things off with a classic.

NBA Live 95

I wasn’t able to get the right poses, but I did manage to get John Starks to attempt a layup with Robert Horry in the vicinity. Apart from that, with the ’94 Rockets and ’95 Knicks in NBA 2K18, it wasn’t too difficult to set this one up.

NBA Live 96

I decided to recreate both NBA Live 96 covers. The Super Nintendo and SEGA Genesis cover features an aerial shot from the 1995 NBA Finals. I placed Clyde Drexler on the ’94 Rockets, and then fired up a game with the ’95 Magic, zoomed right out, and took the screen. That one, in my opinion, turned out to be fairly accurate. For the PC and PlayStation cover featuring Shaquille O’Neal, I opted to take a screen of a somewhat similar looking one-handed dunk in 2KU.

NBA Live 97

To recreate the NBA Live 97 cover, I traded Mitch Richmond from the ’91 Warriors to the ’02 Kings, which allowed him to wear the appropriate jersey. I was quite happy with the dribbling pose I managed to capture, though by the mid 90s, Richmond was actually sporting a bald look, as you can see in the original cover artwork.

NBA Live 98

Tim Hardaway’s NBA Live 98 cover was definitely one of the most difficult to recreate. I wanted to get the shot in-game as opposed to 2KU, in order to try to match the background. It was tough though, as either an unsuitable layup animation would trigger, or another player would be in the vicinity. This was my closest effort.

NBA Live 99

There aren’t any classic Boston Celtics squads featuring Antoine Walker in NBA 2K18, but he is available on the ’06 Heat. I ended up trading him to the ’08 Celtics to get this shot, which I feel is reasonably similar to the pose depicted on the NBA Live 99 cover. That version of Walker admittedly is bald and clean shaven however, in contrast to his appearance in 1998.

NBA Live 2000

The NBA Live 2000 cover featured a shot of Tim Duncan from the 1999 season, but it’s recreated here using the Duncan from the ’98 Spurs. The expression and positioning of the ball isn’t quite right, but I’m fairly satisfied with the result all the same.

NBA Live 2001

Replicating Kevin Garnett’s NBA Live 2001 cover was a frustrating endeavour. I opted to take it in 2KU, so getting an appropriate dunk for the pose was easy enough, but the main problem was the instant replay camera. Since it snaps to specific angles and none of them were really suitable, I ended up settling for this one. I think you get the gist of it, though.

NBA Live 2002

Steve Francis had a brief second stint with the Rockets in 2008, so all I had to do was place him the starting lineup, and select the appropriate retro pinstripe jersey. I took four screenshots that were reasonably close to the NBA Live 2002 cover, but I liked this one the most.

NBA Live 2003

The ’02 Nets version of Jason Kidd lacks a goatee, and the expression isn’t what I was hoping for, but apart from that, I believe that I managed to get a good result here.


Allen Iverson graced the cover of the first five NBA 2K games. The first four covers feature very similar poses with AI dribbling the basketball, while ESPN NBA Basketball features a studio headshot. I decided to just recreate the NBA 2K3 cover, using the ’01 76ers version of The Answer. All that’s really missing is his headband.

NBA Live 2004

Dribbling poses aren’t too difficult to set up, but trying to match the position of a player’s off-hand, legs, and head does complicate things a little. Vince Carter is looking in the wrong direction in this recreation of the NBA Live 2004 cover, but compared to the alternate shot I took, the rest of his body is a bit more accurate.

NBA Live 2005

I used the ’08 Nuggets version of Carmelo Anthony for the NBA Live 2005 cover. The colour of the accessories is incorrect, and the face 2K used isn’t quite young enough, but he does have his braids.


After a bit of messing around, I managed to get Ben Wallace to hold the ball up and to his right in the triple threat position, and I feel that I was able to decently replicate his pose from the ESPN NBA 2K5 cover. Unfortunately he’s not looking into the camera, but apart from that, I’m happy with it.

NBA Live 06

Getting Dwyane Wade into the triple threat position to recreate the PC cover of NBA Live 06 was fairly easy. Similar to the Ben Wallace cover, he’s not looking into the camera, but there’s not much I can do about that. I didn’t have much luck trying to replicate the Xbox 360 cover, but hopefully, you get the basic idea.


Shaq is backing down a defender on the NBA 2K6 cover, and that isn’t too tough to replicate, though he is looking the wrong way. Incidentally, the full version of this shot features a rather hilarious expression from his defender, the ’06 version of Pau Gasol.

NBA Live 07

The photo of Tracy McGrady on the NBA Live 07 cover is an action shot of him driving, but I tried recreating it in the triple threat position instead. He’s turned a little too far away from the camera, but other than that, I like what I was able to do.


In real life, Shaq didn’t spend a lot of time dribbling out on the perimeter, but I found that it was the best way to recreate his driving pose from the cover of NBA 2K7.


Since Gilbert Arenas is absent from NBA 2K18, I couldn’t replicate the NBA Live 08 cover. No such problems with Chris Paul however, especially since his ’08 Hornets are one of the new retro teams in this year’s game. This is probably one of my favourites.

NBA Live 09

The Tony Parker from the ’05 Spurs was a suitable choice to replicate his NBA Live 09 cover artwork. Aside from the expression and the stylised artwork, this is another one that I’m particularly satisfied with.


Although I tried, I just couldn’t get a shot of Kevin Garnett thumping his chest. I settled for this celebration animation after a three-point play, but I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not quite the NBA 2K9 cover.

NBA Live 10

2KU was the best place to get Dwight Howard to easily throw down a one-handed dunk that looked a little like the pose on his stylised NBA Live 10 cover. This was another shot that was made especially difficult by the rigid camera angles in NBA 2K18’s instant replay. I also had to use the current Nike uniform, as the 2010 version isn’t available.

NBA 2K10

I wish that I could end this feature on a better note, but Kobe Bryant holding out his jersey is something I just couldn’t recreate. This shot of him holding out his arms during a post-basket celebration is the closest I could get, and I’ll admit that it’s not that close. I wanted to give it a try, though.

For the moment, I’ve stopped at the games from the 2010 season. Some certainly turned out better than others, but all in all, it was a fun exercise. It’s made me eager to spend a little more time playing with the historical teams in NBA 2K18, and I might also try replicating a few more covers at another time. If you’d like to try your hand at recreating some basketball video game covers in NBA 2K18, I’d be interested to see the results. Feel free to share your attempts in the NLSC Forum!

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October 3, 2017 1:46 am

Cool idea! Nice inventing. Tony Parker’s is the most authentic, T-Mac – wrong. To not make a very big article I’d cut Live and 2K separately, but once again we see a very cool non-standard approach. 🙂

October 3, 2017 3:08 am

Pretty cool idea Andrew, is it just me or does Kobe look like Glen Rice in that picture?

October 3, 2017 9:11 am


October 6, 2017 12:25 am

Imagine the pain of recreating NBA 2K13