This year's other two cover stars for the basketball video game are Damian Lillard and Zion Williamson

By Benjamin VanHoose
July 02, 2020 01:31 PM
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Kobe Bryant in 2015
Juan Ocampo/Getty

Kobe Bryant is NBA 2K21's latest cover star.

On Thursday, the video game franchise announced that the late basketball legend will be featured posthumously on two covers for the special Mamba Forever Edition of 2K21, currently available for pre-order for $99.99.

The companion covers show Bryant at different stages in his career, representing the Los Angeles Lakers as No. 8 on one and his late-career jersey number, 24, on the other.

"8️⃣ Relentless. Driven. A true competitor. We celebrate Kobe Bryant as our Cover Athlete for the Current Gen Mamba Forever Edition 🐍 ," NBA 2K21 wrote on Twitter with the first reveal, which shows a young Bryant leaping amid a purple-and-gold background.

Unveiling the second somber cover art depicting a waving Bryant from behind, the account tweeted: "2️⃣4️⃣ Legend. Leader. Champion. We honor Kobe Bryant as our Cover Athlete for the Next Gen Mamba Forever Edition 💜💛."

NBA 2K21 also shared a behind-the-scenes look at the process to pull off the artwork, showing brush strokes coming together for the stunning final pieces. "We love and miss you Kobe," the account wrote with the clip.

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This isn't Bryant's first time appearing on the cover of the popular video game series. The athlete was the cover star for the 2K10 and 2K17 installments, saying in a 2016 press release that it was a "great honor" for him and that it was "exciting to know my fans can continue to celebrate my lifelong career as a Los Angeles Laker" in virtual form.

The video game unveiled two other cover stars for the upcoming entry in the sports series. Portland Trailblazers star Damian Lillard and New Orleans Pelicans player Zion Williamson will appear on other versions of the Next Generation.

"It’s one of those things like a signature shoe, everybody just don’t get it," Lillard, 29, told The Athletic. "To be able to join the line of players that have been on the cover of 2K, it’s an honor."

Last year's cover star for 2K20 was Lakers star Anthony Davis.

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In a statement to IGN, Alfie Brody, vice president of global marketing at NBA 2K, said each of the new cover stars "represent different eras of the game of basketball."

"Damian Lillard dominates the court today, Zion Williamson is a standard bearer for the next generation of NBA superstar and what more could be said about Kobe?" said Brody. "Three athletes representing the current, future and storied history of the game. Today’s exciting announcement is just the first of many for NBA 2K21; it’s going to be a huge year for basketball fans and NBA 2K gamers."

According to IGN, the video game will debut on current-generation platforms on September 4, hitting the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X later in the year.