It seems like a pretty cool thing to get to be on the cover of a very popular basketball video game. Your face and likeness gets emblazoned on the front of every unit sold, giving you a presence and name recognition in the homes and minds of fans and gamers the world over. You’re officially established as a consequential and popular enough player to be counted on to carry the promotional hopes and dreams of an entertainment product that generates hundred of millions of dollars in sales every year; you’re firmly in superstar territory, now. Also, they probably give you a free copy of the game, which is pretty sweet!
There is, however, the nettlesome matter of curses. For NFL players, there’s the “Madden” curse, in which the players chosen to appear on the cover of the annual edition of EA’s “Madden” football franchise wound up struggling or suffering some kind of injury after their game’s release. (The impact has seemed to wane over the past decade.) For NBA players, recent years have seen the rise of the “NBA 2K” curse, in which players chosen to appear on the cover of the market’s marquee hoops simulation have wound up skipping town to join another team just after their selection:
You can understand, then, why Milwaukee Bucks fans who watched LeBron James leave Miami, Kevin Durant leave Oklahoma City, Paul George leave Indiana and Kyrie Irving leave Cleveland after they were picked as cover boys might be feeling a little concerned about the fact that Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to appear on the cover of “NBA 2K19.”
Giannis does not believe in the ‘2K curse’
The 2K curse isn’t a total lock to ruin your preferred franchise — Stephen Curry, James Harden and Anthony Davis all appeared on the cover of “NBA 2K17,” and they’re still with the same squads — but still, superstitious sorts might be a bit spooked. And while Antetokounmpo still has three years left on the $100 million contract extension he signed in September of 2016, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for players with long-term deals to find themselves on the move. In fact, it just happened Wednesday to DeMar DeRozan, whom the Toronto Raptors flipped to the San Antonio Spurs with three years and $83.2 million still left on the five-year maximum-salaried contract he signed a couple of months before Giannis inked his deal … and who, as it happens, was on the cover of the Canadian edition of last year’s model of “2K.”
That fact did not escape the notice of Ronnie Singh, 2K’s digital marketing director:
Nor, for that matter, did it escape the notice of Antetokounmpo, who took the opportunity to emphasize that he doesn’t plan on going anywhere …
… which, as you’d expect, pleased the Bucks quite a bit:
It was a nice gesture by Giannis, and red meat for the base of Bucks fans hopeful that this summer’s pivot — in comes new coach Mike Budenholzer and stretch big men Ersan Ilyasova and Brook Lopez, out goes Jabari Parker — will propel Milwaukee toward the top of the suddenly LeBron-less Eastern Conference. It’s also something that Antetokounmpo might one day find himself regretting, though.
The ‘2K curse’ might not be real, but star player movement is
No one doubts Antetokounmpo’s love for Milwaukee, or Bucks fans or for the organization that took a chance a stringbean mystery out of Greece’s second division with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, only to watch him blossom into a two-time All-NBA selection and the most awe-inspiring young talent in the sport. It’s just that “for life” is a looooong time, especially in an NBA in which player movement — including star player movement — is now much more the rule than the exception.
If things go south for the Bucks over the next three years — if they don’t find a way to navigate through the impending free agencies of Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon to not only stay the course, but actually meaningfully improve their roster to give Milwaukee a fighting chance of outpacing the likes of Boston, Toronto and Philadelphia to vie for berths in the NBA Finals — then Giannis might find himself considering greener pastures. That would absolutely be his right; stories like those of DeRozan, Isaiah Thomas, Blake Griffin and others have illustrated time and again that there’s really no such thing as loyalty when it comes to how NBA teams handle their players, and it’s unfair to expect players to adhere to that construct to the detriment of achieving their full potential or pursuing a higher level of team success. Antetokounmpo has said it himself: if an organization doesn’t make the right moves or the right decisions to create the best opportunity for a player to be great and compete at the highest level, then said player might find his gaze wandering elsewhere, as he considers what beyond money and continuity he might value in his career.
Times, circumstances, attitudes and priorities can all change, sometimes drastically and quickly. If they shift in the relationship between the Bucks and their signature star, Giannis might wind up wishing he’d pulled up on this particular 140-character missive rather than Eurostepping all the way to its conclusion.
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