14 Jul 2021 2:02 PM +00:00

Ranking NBA 2K22 in the top 10 covers of all time

NBA 2K22 made major news today by revealing that three iconic legends of basketball will grace the 75th Anniversary Edition cover for this year's game.

With this gorgeous new addition, we're taking a look back at some of the greatest NBA 2K covers in history to see where the NBA 2K22 75th Anniversary Edition ranks.

Where does NBA 2K22 75th Anniversary Edition rank in the top 10 covers of all time?

2K Sports revealed today that the premium 75th Anniversary Edition of NBA 2K22 will commemorate the National Basketball Association being founded 75 years ago on June 6, 1946 with three legendary cover athletes.

Having multiple cover athletes isn't something that the NBA 2K series has been afraid of doing in the past, but perhaps none have had as iconic or unique a trio as this year's cover will.

The gorgeous 75th Anniversary Edition cover will Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Brooklyn Nets player Kevin Durant making his third cover appearance.

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THE MAVERICK: Luka Doncic become this year's standard edition cover athlete

We also learned that Luka Doncic was chosen for the Standard Edition this year, which Dirk Nowitzki spoke about in a press conference about the cover:

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“I'm of course very honored to be on the legends cover. I think it's, that's a huge honor for me. Of course, with Kevin Durant and Kareem, some of the best players to have ever played this game. You have Luka on the real cover, so two Mavs at the same time on the cover, which is super special, of course, so I'm super happy, super thrilled that I could be on the cover and, you know, with Luka, who I try to help out, who I try to mentor a little bit, and so that's super special. I’m happy for him, what he's been able to achieve in just a couple years in the league and so, I'm so thrilled that it worked out that way,” Nowitzki said.

With this year's epic legends cover in mind, we're taking a look back at the top ten NBA 2K covers of all time to see if the NBA 2K22 75th Anniversary Edition makes that upper echelon.

There's stiff competition, as the NBA 2K series has existed since 1999 and featured over 30 different players on either Standard, Special, or International editions between over 30 different cover designs.

10. NBA 2K11 featuring Michael Jordan

The very first time NBA legend and cultural icon Michael Jordan got to grace the cover of the NBA 2K series was for the release of NBA 2K11.

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LIKE MIKE: The icon was chosen for NBA 2K11

While it came several years after his retirement, it was a fitting cover and game for arguably the greatest to ever compete in the league, and Jordan was later chosen as a cover athlete for NBA 2K12 and NBA 2K16, but it's this classic cover debut that slips in at number ten.

9. NBA 2K9 featuring Kevin Garnett

There aren't a ton of regular Standard Edition normal covers on this list, and that's because the NBA 2K series often pours more design and art into the Special Edition covers.

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THE BIG TICKET: Garnett was the face of NBA 2K9

However, the most striking of the traditional single athlete image covers has got to be Kevin Garnett from with this iconic shot from the NBA 2K9 cover.

8. NBA 2K19: 20th Anniversary Edition featuring LeBron James

NBA 2K19 was really a pivotal year for NBA 2K covers as the series started to tweak their relatively safe formula and realize more unique designs could deliver.

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KING JAMES: It was all about LeBron for this NBA 2K19 cover

LeBron James on the 20th Anniversary Edition was the show-stealing cover for NBA 2K19, with the gold perfectly highlighting King James.

7. NBA 2K13 featuring Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, and Derrick Rose

This year will mark the third time Kevin Durant has graced the cover of the NBA 2K series, but he first did it with a different trio back on NBA 2K13.

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THE ORIGINAL TRIO: Three iconic players joined forces for NBA 2K13

It was the first time the NBA 2K series put multiple players on the same cover, and Kevin Durant was joined by Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose.

6. NBA 2K4 (ESPN NBA Basketball) featuring Allen Iverson

The NBA 2K series was originally published by Sega Sports, but they eventually sold developer Visual Concepts to Take Two Interactive, which led to the formation of 2K Sports who first published NBA 2K6.

On top of that, only two games in the NBA 2K series feature direct ESPN branding, and this first one was also the last to have original cover athlete Allen Iverson.

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THE ORIGINAL: Allen Iverson was the face of the first five NBA 2K games

This iconic pose by Iverson for the only game that didn't include the "2K#" phrasing in the title has stood the test of time, and marked the beginning of a shift as ESPN NBA 2K5 was the final game with ESPN branding or published by Sega Sports.

5. NBA 2K20: Legend Edition featuring Dwyane Wade

Getting closer to present day, we have the Legend Edition of NBA 2K20 which featured this striking color scheme with Dwyane Wade as the cover athlete.

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D-WADE: The veteran got the nod and became one face of NBA 2K20

In many ways, this design and the magnificent background work done for it feels like the precursor to the painted style we've seen since then.

4. NBA 2K18: Legend Edition Gold featuring Shaquille O'Neal

Sometimes all you need is the perfect shot, and that's as true for photography and design as it is for basketball.

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SHAQ ATTACK: Look out for the dunk on NBA 2K18

This unforgettable Legend Edition Gold cover for NBA 2K18 didn't just stand out because of the iconic Shaquille O'Neal, but because of the amazing work by the photographer who captured this moment in time.

3. NBA 2K21: Mamba Forever Edition featuring Kobe Bryant

Following the tragic death of NBA icon Kobe Bryant, it was no surprise that NBA 2K21 chose to dedicate a Mamba Forever Edition to the Lakers legend.

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MAMBA FOREVER: Kobe Bryant took center stage for NBA 2K21

On top of that, the current gen Mamba Forever Edition featured this stunning painted design that shows cover art can be just as artistic as any other medium.

2. NBA 2K22: 75th Anniversary Edition featuring Dirk Nowitzki, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Kevin Durant

The painted design choice from last year has carried over, and major credit goes to Atlanta-based artist Charly Palmer for creating it, because NBA 2K22 nearly tops our list with the 75th Anniversary Edition cover.

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75 YEARS: These iconic big men represent 75 years of NBA excellence

This iconic look at the past and present of the NBA with Dirk Nowitzki, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Kevin Durant is easily one of the greatest covers in series history and rates behind only one in our list.

1. NBA 2K16: Spain Edition featuring Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol

Last, we have the only international edition to make this list, but it's one that can often be overlooked in terms of design, concept, and core photography.

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NBA 2K16 was dubbed "A Spike Lee Joint" as the legendary director was heavily involved in the development of the game's MyCAREER mode with a more powerful story than previous years.

While some criticized the MyCAREER design for being too restrictive, the imagery of that year has stood the test of time, and it was the first year with Special Edition covers in the NBA 2K series.

NBA 2K12 had broken the multi-cover barrier by putting Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Larry Bird on three different covers for a single version of the game, but NBA 2K16 took things up to a whole other level.

NBA 2K16 had eight different covers with all different cover athletes, starting with the trio of Stephen Curry, James Harden, and Anthony Davis all receiving a Standard Edition cover that players who purchased the retail version of the game would get one of at random, with the other two included as inserts so the cover art on the case could be changed if desired.

Michael Jordan was chosen for the Legend Edition cover, Dennis Schroder graced the Germany Edition cover, and Tony Parker was the face of the France Edition.

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INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNIZED: The Gasol brothers were on NBA 2K16's Spain Edition

However, it was Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol on the Spain Edition of NBA 2K16 that we've chosen as the greatest NBA 2K cover in series history today.

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The unforgettable image of these two brothers in battle on the court was a perfect choice, and the photographer who captured that moment deserves as much credit as those who designed this.

The background is filled with a few other images of Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol, the most touching of which has to be the top left image of them side by side.

The power of "INCLUYE A SPIKE LEE JOINT" and "HAZ HISTORIA" (Be The Story) on it is really the icing on the cake, as this cover marries the history, emotion, international appeal, and family that is the NBA all at once.

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