What Does It Take To Become An NBA 2K Cover Athlete?

With NBA 2K having reached an iconic status among basketball junkies, the importance of selecting the right cover athlete each year has become immense.

It’s a scared space strictly reserved for the game’s elite, and with the announcement of the 2K19 cover athlete expected to come any day now, speculation is rampant.

In the spirit of that wild speculation, we’ve broken down what it takes to become an NBA 2K cover athlete by analysing the players who’ve already had the honour, all in an attempt to figure out who’s got next.

And just a note before we get this speculative party started: All stats – except for digital reach – are from the time of the cover release in question.

Ok, let’s do this.


Kyrie Irving – NBA 2K18

Salary: $17.6M

Endorsements (annual): $13M

Digital reach: 15.93M

All-Star appearances: 4

Movies with Kazaam potential: 1

Paul George – NBA 2K17

Salary: $17.1M

Endorsements: $7.5M

Digital reach: 8.5M

All-Star appearances: 3

Impeccable hairlines: 1

James Harden – NBA 2K16

Salary: $14.7M

Endorsements: $20M

Digital reach: 13.54M

All-Star appearances: 3

Beard Wax endorsements: 0 (but surely there’s one coming soon)

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Steph Curry – NBA 2K16

Salary: $10.6M (damn ankles)

Endorsements: $5.5 million

Digital reach: 33.6M

All-Star appearances: 2

Shimmies per game: 7.9

Anthony Davis – NBA 2K16

Salary: $5.6M (you couldn’t even find bargains like that at Costco)

Endorsements: $9M

Digital reach: 4.5M

All-Star appearances:  2

Eyebrows: 1


By running an eye over the past five cover athletes, you’ll notice most of them have quite a few things in common.

  • At least two All-Star appearances, a sign of genuine superstardom.
  • A salary exceeding $10 million (with the exception of Davis who was somehow still on his rookie deal at the time).
  • Enough to have a digital reach approaching – or well and truly exceeding –  10 million followers.

Bearing all this in mind, we can now break down the genuine candidates for the coveted 2K19 cover.

In no particular order, here are our top three candidates:


Russell Westbrook

Salary: $28.5M

Endorsements: $19M

Digital reach: 16.3M

All-Star appearances: 7

Westbrook certainly has the game, popularity and flare to hold a 2K cover. His status among NBA fans has gone to another level since averaging a triple-double across two entire seasons, as well as winning MVP last year.

Damian Lillard

Salary: $26.1M

Endorsements: $14M

Digital reach: 6.05M

All-Star appearances: 3

Lillard has reached hero status in Portland and is similarly loved around the world. The star guard’s image received an additional boost during his wild stretch of clutch performances last season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Salary: $22.4

Endorsements: $13M

Digital reach: 3.29M

All-Star appearances: 2


As deserving as Westbrook and Lillard are, the smart money could be on Giannis here.

An image of the Greek Freak gracing the 2K19 cover appeared on NBA 2K18’s main menu splash advertisement page recently before 2K quickly removed it.

Make of that what you will.

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