In both NBA 2K23 and NBA 2K24, the developers of the games took the concept of their cover stars one step further by designing playable moments to have you recreate some of their finest hours.
First, it was being transported back to the ’90s in NBA 2K23 so you could properly experience the dominance of Michael Jordan during the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty. Then in NBA 2K24, the game paid tribute to Lakers legend Kobe Bryant by giving you the opportunity to re-live some choice performances from throughout his illustrious career. With both of these games, there was an emphasis on capturing the authentic look and atmosphere of the NBA in these earlier eras. It leaves you wondering what other legends would be fun to see receive the same treatment in NBA 2K25.
Here’s a look at five options the creators might want to consider and what some of those moments for each superstar could potentially include. To make it even more interesting, I’ve restricted the choices to only players who are no longer active in the NBA, which helps weed out a few obvious candidates.
Though it’s only been slightly more than a decade since Allen Iverson last played in the NBA, many have probably forgotten or perhaps, if they’re younger, never even knew the greatness of the man they called The Answer. The 11-time All-Star may not have an NBA championship on his list of accolades, but he came close when his Philadelphia 76ers fell to the Lakers in 2001. In his prime though, Iverson was a threat to go off on any given night, which is how he hovered around the top of the scoring leaders at the end of the season throughout most of the 2000s. Just don’t have him participate in any moments that will involve practice.
This one also gets bonus points because AI was of course the original cover athlete for this series for multiple years.
Possible Moment: In Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Iverson and the Sixers upset the Lakers in the only game they would win in the series, thanks in large part to Iverson’s whopping 48 points. 2K will need to include the ability to sink a jumper and then step over Ty Lue if they want to make it as realistic as possible.
The Indiana Pacer teams that Reggie Miller led in the ’90s may have come up short of winning an NBA title just like Iverson’s Sixers, but Miller himself was electrifying nonetheless. As a gifted 3-point shooter at a time when an offense based around the 3-ball was not considered all that viable, the big-eared brother of Cheryl Miller helped pave the way for the likes of Steph Curry in today’s league. Aside from his scoring talents, he was also notorious for his ability to get under the skin of not only the players on opposing teams but also their fans. His contentious interactions with director Spike Lee during a playoff series between the Pacers and Knicks was heated and entertaining enough to warrant its own 30 For 30 documentary.
This one also gets bonus points because it would perhaps be a way for Reggie to finally choose to be in 2K.
Possible Moment: Try to achieve the nearly impossible feat that Miller managed in a 1995 playoff series versus the Knicks by scoring 8 points in 9 seconds to pull off a miraculous comeback win. Make sure to add insult to injury by staring down or gesturing towards a digital Spike Lee that 2K will surely have to add to the front row at Madison Square Garden.
With big men rarely receiving the kind of respect by NBA 2K to land them on the cover of any installments in the series, it may be time to remedy that by giving the honors to one of the best to ever roam the paint, Shaquille O’Neal. It’d actually be a fitting time to heavily feature Shaq considering how there’s been a bit of a big man resurgence this year with players like Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren getting a lot of attention after Jokic and Embiid have dominated the MVP ballots in recent years.
Basketball has perhaps never seen anyone before or since though with the kind of raw strength and power of O’Neal. He showcased the natural ability to take over a game by virtue of there being few that were capable of guarding such a force of nature. While throwing down dunks and grabbing boards would likely be main components of any Shaquille O’Neal moments, you’ll probably want to avoid trying to notch points via free throws.
Possible Moment: You can step into Shaq’s size 22 shoes by finishing off the Pacers in the 2000 NBA Finals as you score 41 points and secure 12 rebounds in a clutch performance in Game 6.
While Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and the rest of the ’80s Lakers had a bit of a resurgence thanks to the HBO series Winning Time, the Celtics and Larry Bird took a villainous backseat. The tenacity and competitiveness of Bird were on full display in the series though, qualities that weren’t exactly contradicted by stories of his infamous trash talk and clips of him cursing out Michael Jordan post-game while simultaneously embracing him in the docu-series The Last Dance. With three titles and five championship appearances under his belt, it could be a good time for 2K to remind people of Bird’s passing prowess and sweet shot. If the game wanted to ride the coattails of that HBO show a bit, they could even go with a Bird/Magic dual cover as a bit of an homage to an earlier 8-bit title.
Possible Moment: In a game that Bird himself has called his personal best, he amassed 29 points, 12 assists, and 11 rebounds in Game 6 of the 1986 NBA Finals in the process of closing out the Rockets.
Should the folks behind NBA 2K want to dig deeper into NBA history for their cover star, they may want to consider choosing someone like Wilt Chamberlain to help ensure that his legacy remains alive to younger generations. There may be no better way to illuminate just how dominant Chamberlain was during the ’60s than to have players be forced to try to recreate some of the ridiculous stats he was able to achieve. Did you know that Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points during the 1961-62 season over 80 games? It would also be fun to give the art department for NBA 2K the task of bringing back to life how basketball looked 60 years ago.
Possible Moment: There’s no way you could introduce Wilt Chamberlain moments in an NBA 2K game without including the famous 1962 game in which he posted an incomprehensible 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors in a matchup against the Knicks. Passing the ball while trying to achieve this feat will rarely be an option if you want to reach that elusive century mark.