Recently, there has been some speculation about who the cover athlete for NBA 2K21 will be. Some think that it will be Kobe Bryant, to pay respects after his tragic death this year. However, I think that Kobe will most likely be on the cover of the legends edition of 2K21, not the cover of the regular edition. Many people also believe that it will be Zion Williamson because he was in the trailer for 2K21 that was just released. While it is possible that Zion will be the cover athlete, it is actually very unlikely as Zion has only played a small number of games so far in his NBA career and is yet to even be an all-star. The criteria that I looked at when ranking the top 5 players that could be the cover athlete for 2K21 were the following:
1. Would easily fall into the category of star players (eliminates players like Zion Williamson and Ja Morant)
2. Hasn’t been on a recent 2K cover (eliminates players like Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Lebron James, and Kyrie Irving)
3. Is very popular, exciting and easily marketable (eliminates players like Nikola Jokic and Rudy Gobert)
4. Has to have played most of the 2019-20 season (eliminates players like Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant)
1. Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi is easily the best current player that has never been on a 2K cover. This could be because Kawhi has been looked at as too boring or unpopular. However, Leonard led his team to a championship in 2019 and has become known as “Fun Guy Kawhi” so 2K does not have to worry about his popularity with the fans.
2. James Harden
Unlike the other players on this list, James Harden has been on a 2K cover before. Harden still meets the criteria though, as that was back in 2K16 and there were multiple cover athletes that year. Harden is a former MVP, one of the top scorers in the league, and has many unique characteristics, so why not? If not the fun guy, then the beard surely deserves a solo NBA 2K cover.
3. Luka Doncic
Luka Doncic may not have been a star player for as long as James Harden and Kawhi Leonard, but he has definitely been proving himself to be a great player in his first two NBA seasons. Despite only being 21 years old, Luka has been the driving force behind what will likely be the first playoff appearance in a while for the Dallas Mavericks in addition to being an MVP candidate. To top it off, Doncic would be a very marketable player since he is international and is backed by a very large fanbase.
4. Damian Lillard
Despite being a perfect player to have on a 2K cover; the only cover that Dame has been on is NBA Live 15. Lillard has only gotten better since 2015 and is now one of the best and one of the most exciting pointguards in the league. He has many fans and not many haters, so there would be nothing controversial about having Lillard on the cover of 2K21.
5. Russell Westbrook
Like Damian Lillard, the only cover that Russell Westbrook has been on is the cover of an NBA Live game. Since being on the NBA Live cover, Westbrook has accomplished many things and has even won an MVP. Russ is a highly probable cover athlete for 2K21 and he would have been ranked higher on this list if he wasn’t overshadowed by his teammate, James Harden.