Sports have a history of curses: the Curse of the Billy Goat, the Curse of Lil B, the Curse of Colonel Sanders (no, really). The most notable curse for sports video game fans is the Madden curse, where an NFL player becomes a cover star for a Madden NFL installment, and then they get injured during the season. Tom Brady, who will be on the cover of Madden NFL 18, did his best to debunk the notion of curses by breaking mirrors and walking under a ladder.
For a while, we all thought the Madden curse was the only sports video game-related curse. But a Twitter user named Eric Fawcett noticed something peculiar about NBA 2K’s covers over the last few years, especially in the wake of early reports Kyrie Irving wanted the Cavaliers to trade him. Almost every currently active player that’s been featured on the NBA 2K cover since 2013 has left their team at some point in the future.
And the curse has continued in 2018 with DeMar DeRozan.
NBA 2K14 (2013): LeBron James leaves the Heat and goes back to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014.
NBA 2K17 (2016): Paul George leaves the Pacers and goes to the Thunder in 2017.
NBA 2K18 (2017): Kyrie Irving is traded to the Celtics before the game even releases.
(Yep, this has happened before. EA Sports had to put out a printable cover for Madden 09 after Brett Favre joined the Jets.)
NBA 2K18 (2017) (Canadian version): DeMar DeRozan is traded to the Spurs in a deal that brings Kawhi Leonard to the great white north.
The only omissions from this trend are James Harden, Anthony Davis, and Stephen Curry, who were on different covers of NBA 2K16 in 2015, and are still kicking it with the Rockets, Pelicans, and Warriors, respectively. DeMar DeRozan looked like a safe bet after he was placed on the Canadian cover of NBA 2K18 thanks to a contract that linked him to Raptors through the 2020-21 season, but he turned out to be the fulcrum that made Leonard’s departure from Texas possible.
So maybe this is all a weird coincidence that most of the NBA 2K cover athletes in recent years would leave their teams in a year or two, or there really is a 2K curse and it’s a messed up version of the tagline from the 2006 movie Stay Alive: “You get featured on the cover, you leave for real.”
Sidenote: Allen Iverson was featured on the NBA 2K cover four times, from 2K to 2K3, and now he’s an active player in Ice Cube’s BIG3 league. So maybe this curse isn’t really about athletes leaving their teams, but instead it’s about athletes eventually ending up in a 3-on-3 basketball league 15 years later.