Skip to Content

NBA 2K Cover Athletes | Complete List

NBA 2K is the most popular basketball game available for PS4 and Xbox. Aside from the realistic game-play and improvements to game modes, 2K also generates buzz by creating an event out of who the cover athlete is.

The cover athlete for NBA 2K19 is the star of the Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Known as the “Greek Freak,” Giannis is the first international player to be featured on an NBA 2k game cover.

Since its initial release in 1999, NBA 2K has featured a cover athlete, often the player who is most popular at the time.  

All of the NBA 2K games have been developed by Visual Concepts under the publisher Take-Two Interactive. We’ve generated all the NBA 2K covers and what platform the game was available for.  

NBA 2K

NBA 2k

Cover Athlete: Allen Iverson

Year Released: 1999  

In its first initial release, Allen Iverson was featured on the cover. Iverson, known for his slick ball handles and ankle-breaking moves, was the prime candidate in 1999 to cover NBA 2K. He was also one of the more popular players, which helped the game sell for a lackluster Dreamcast system.

NBA 2K1

NBA 2k1

Cover Athlete: Allen Iverson

Year Released: 2000  

Another game released exclusively for the Dreamcast, NBA 2K1, introduced a streetball variation and a “franchise mode” where the user could act like an owner. These modes have become standard with 2K games over the years.  

NBA 2K2

NBA 2k2

Cover Athlete: Allen Iverson

Year Released: 2001  

This is the first NBA 2K game released for multiple consoles (PS2, Xbox, Dreamcast, and Gamecube). It’s also the last game to be released for Dreamcast, as the console would slowly begin to fade out. Featured in this game are past all-stars such as Bill Russell, Julius Erving, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird and the teams they played on.  

NBA 2K3

NBA 2k3

Cover Athlete: Allen Iverson

Released: 2002  

Allen Iverson once again is featured on the cover. This game is the first of many games in the series to have to license from ESPN. This version is also the last 2K game created for the Game Cube.  

NBA 2K4: ESPN NBA Basketball

NBA 2k4 ESPN NBA basketball

Cover Athlete: Allen Iverson

Year Released: 2003  

The only game in the franchise to not feature “2K” in the title. It’s also the second game to have ESPN licensing. A new playable option is the 24/7 mode, allowing users to create a player and compete in tournaments. Online play is also finally available for the franchise, which would be the foundation block for the growth of present-day 2K.  

NBA 2K5

NBA 2k5

Cover Athlete: Ben Wallace

Year Released: 2004  

The first year not to feature Allen Iverson on the cover. The Detroit Pistons had just won the NBA championship, so it was only necessary to feature a player from that team. Also, the first game to be made under the newly formed 2K Sports.  

NBA 2K6

NBA 2k6

Cover Athlete: Shaquille O’Neal

Year Released: 2005  

The first 2K game to be released for the Xbox 360 and the first game to be released by 2K sports. Shaq is also the first player to win a championship after appearing on an NBA 2K cover.  

NBA 2K7

NBA 2k7

Cover Athlete: Shaquille O’Neal

Year Released: 2006  

The first 2K game is released for the PlayStation 3 and the lat to be released for the Xbox. The game was also the first with a licensed soundtrack. Previous games had exclusive tracks that were made specifically for the game.  

NBA 2K8

NBA 2k8

Cover Athlete: Chris Paul

Year Released: 2007  

Chris Paul is the featured athlete on the cover. NBA 2K8 featured the popular Slam Dunk Contest, in which players would hit the appropriate buttons to complete a special dunk. The soundtrack for 2K8 also featured 23 licensed songs.

See Our Complete List Of Helpful Gaming Articles Here

NBA 2K9

NBA 2k9

Cover Athlete: Kevin Garnett

Year Released: 2008  

Kevin Garnett is featured on the cover of 2K9. No major features are added to this game. However, it was the first game to be featured on Windows.  

NBA 2K10

NBA 2k10

Cover Athlete: Kobe Bryant

Year Released: 2009  

2K10 took a page out of Madden’s book and used fan voting to determine which cover image they would use. This was used to generate hype around the game and get fans involved befo10 also released “My Player,” which would be renamed My Career and be a staple in the 2K franchise in later versions.  

NBA 2K11

NBA 2k11

Cover Athlete: Michael Jordan

Year Released: 2010  

Featuring arguably the best basketball player ever to play, Michael Jordan is highlighted on the cover. Jordan also has several game modes, such as “The Jordan Challenge,” where the user must complete several Jordan’s achievements, such as scoring 69 points in a game.  

NBA 2K12

NBA 2k12

Cover Athletes: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson

Year Released: 2011  

2K12 is the first game cover to feature multiple athletes. It also featured a game mode called NBA’s greatest, where players would compete in games using historic NBA players and teams to complete achievements.  

NBA 2K13

NBA 2k13

Cover Athlete: Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose

Year Released: 2012  

2K13 was unique because famous rapper Jay-Z was the executive producer of the game. He also is credited with stringing together the soundtrack, which featured 24 different songs.  

NBA 2K14

NBA 2k14

Cover Athlete: Lebron James

Year Released: 2013  

As Michael Jordan was previously featured on the cover, today’s best player Lebron James is highlighted. This is also the first game to feature teams from the Euroleague.  

NBA 2K15

NBA 2k15

Cover Athlete: Kevin Durant

Year Released: 2014  

Kevin Durant highlights the 2K15 cover. Players are also now able to take advantage of some pretty cool technology. Players can scan their faces into the game and create a real-life replica of themselves via creating a player mode.   Pharrell Williams curated the 27 songs for the soundtrack.  

NBA 2K16

NBA 2k16

Cover Athlete: Stephen Curry, James Harden, Anthony Davis

Year Released: 2015  

Director Spike Lee worked on Career mode, where a created player was challenged with multiple scenarios as he builds his career. The soundtrack featured 50 songs, all curated by famous DJs – DJ Khaled, DJ Premier, and DJ Mustard.  

NBA 2K17

NBA 2k17

Cover Athlete: Paul George

Year Released: 2016  

NBA 2K17 loads up on the commentary featuring commentators and a new sideline reporting featuring Kevin Harlan, Clark Kellogg, Greg Anthony, Brent Barry, Chris Webber, and Steve Smith, & David Aldridge.  

NBA 2K18

NBA 2k18

Cover Athlete: Kyrie Irving

Year Released: 2017  

2K18 had different variations for covers, including Shaq, as well as DeMar DeRozan for the Canada edition. It also doubled its soundtrack having over 50 licensed songs.  

NBA 2K19

NBA 2k19

Cover Athlete: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Year Released: 2018  

2K19 features superstar in the making Giannis Antetokounmpo. Oddly enough, the cover athlete for the Australian and New Zealand version of the game is Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers, another young star in the making.

NBA 2K20

NBA 2k20

Cover Athletes: Anthony Howard & Dwayne Wade

Year Released: 2019

NBA 2k20 features NBA superstar Anthony Davis in the standard edition and Dwayne Wade in the legend edition.

NBA 2K21

NBA2k21

Cover Athletes: Damian Lillard & Kobe Bryant

Year Released: 2020

The NBA 2K21 cover athlete is Damian Lillard for the standard edition. There is also a Mamba Forever edition which featured Kobe Bryant on the cover.

NBA 2K22

NBA2k22

Cover Athletes: Luka Doncic & Dirk Nowitzki

Year Released: 2021

The NBA 2K22 cover athlete is Dallas Maverick’s star Luka Doncic. The 75th-anniversary edition stars retired Dallas Maverick star, Dirk Nowitzki.

Conclusion

The NBA 2k games are the most popular NBA video game. They are what Madden is to football. These games have a popular release every year and even feature pro competitions.

What’s your favorite NBA 2k game? Let us know in the comments below!