What some may see as a cover curse for the “NBA 2K” franchise — afflicting the respective franchises represented rather than the players themselves — struck quickly for “NBA 2K18” with a trade between the Cavs and Celtics which sent Kyrie Irving to Boston. Irving appears on the standard edition of the game due out Sept. 15.
With just over three weeks until the game’s release, it’s somewhat unlikely that publisher 2K Sports will be able to ship the game with new cover art that features Irving as a Celtic. Games are finalized, a term known as having “gone gold,” sometimes over a month in advance to allow enough time for manufacturing and shipping of the product to retailers.
— NBA 2K 2K18 (@NBA2K) August 22, 2017
It’s rare that a cover star’s place in the league changes dramatically while the game is being promoted or shortly after the player appears on a cover. Video game publishers intentionally select players considered to be stable, reliable and obviously valued by their organizations. They’ll shy away from anyone who has personal troubles off the court/field, is a free agent or has been involved in trade rumors. The Irving drama came as a surprise to everyone.
The highest-profile move to affect a sports video game release took place shortly after Brett Favre appeared on the cover of “Madden NFL 09.” It was the first time publisher EA Sports had chosen a retired player for the cover of the storied franchise, but Favre would unretire and force a trade to the Jets. The deal happened too late for the company to do anything but produce a downloadable cover of him in his new uniform that fans could print out and insert into their game boxes.
Besides the cover art, 2K’s concerns will now also relate to any marketing programs that have rolled out or will shortly, including commercials that could feature Irving in a Cavs jersey. There are also areas inside the game such as menus and loading screens that will need to be updated.
While there are many arguments being made as to which team “won” the trade for the upcoming season and beyond, with “NBA 2K18,” the team that will clearly benefit the most is the Cavaliers.
The key pieces to the deal in the immediate future are Irving and Isaiah Thomas, who rate out similarly in the game. Irving is rated 90 Overall, while Thomas is an 89 Overall. They’re both exceptional shooters, and while Irving has better ratings as a dribbler, Thomas shakes out as a better passer.
Both players are deficient on the defensive end of the court with grades of F for Inside Defense with a C (Irving) and C- (Thomas) for Perimeter Defense.
Going beyond just those two players, Jae Crowder, who has an 80 Overall rating, should become a solid contributor on the Cavs. The unprotected pick that originally belonged to the Nets also sets the team up for a future with or without LeBron James. Thomas is a free agent after this coming season however while Irving is under contract through the 2019-20 season.
“NBA 2K18” will let you play through a story as a general manager, joining its other story-based mode which is centered on being a player. The game will release Sept. 15 to those who preorder. Shaquille O’Neal is featured on the two pricey special editions of the game, which will be sold for $150 and $100, respectively.
Bryan Wiedey posts sports gaming news and analysis daily at Pastapadre.com, is co-founder of the sports gaming site HitThePass.com, hosts the “Press Row Podcast” and can be reached on Twitter@Pastapadre.
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