By Alex Amado
PHOENIX – The news that Devin Booker and Diana Taurasi were selected as cover athletes for the NBA 2K23 video game inspired praise – and apprehension – for Valley sports fans.
The standouts from the Suns and Mercury were the first Arizona athletes to land on a cover since former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was featured on Madden NFL 10, along with Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, following Super Bowl XLIII.
“The selection process for NBA 2K cover athletes is a thoughtful one, which takes into account their impact both on and off the court,“ said Alfie Brody, the Vice President of Global Marketing for the NBA 2K gaming franchise. “NBA 2K cover athletes demonstrate elite play on the court and are great representatives of NBA 2K off the court. This year’s athletes represent a mix of some of the greatest athletes to play the game and up-and-coming stars.”
So why apprehension? For those who are superstitious, an array of athletes, from LeBron James to Kevin Durant to Paul George to Kyrie Irving, have left their teams after their NBA 2K cover selections were announced.
The good news for Valley fans is that Booker recently signed a four-year, $224 million supermax contract extension. Taurasi, however, still has to make a decision this offseason: retire, stay with the Mercury or look elsewhere as a free agent.
Booker was selected as the cover athlete for the standard edition of NBA 2K23, while Taruasi was chosen for the WNBA edition, along with Seattle Storm star Sue Bird.
Booker is widely considered one of the best players in the NBA, as he led the Suns to an NBA Finals appearance in the 2021 season at only 24. Taurasi is considered by many to be the greatest WNBA player of all time.
Some have criticized Booker’s selection, suggesting he isn’t deserving of the cover after a Game 7 blowout against the Dallas Mavericks in the 2022 Western Conference semifinals, in which Booker scored 11 points on 3-of-14 shooting.
Booker was thrilled about the selection.
“It’s a dream come true to see myself on the cover of NBA 2K,” he said in a press release. “I’ve been a huge NBA 2K fan since I was a kid, and it’s surreal to finally join the exclusive club of basketball greats who’ve been cover athletes.
“I’m also honored to share this year’s covers with the iconic Michael Jordan, who changed the game for all players who came after him, as well as two of the all-time WNBA GOAT’s, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird, who continue to make a huge impact on the game.”
NBA 2K feels good about its cover choices, Brody said.
“Devin Booker’s rise from budding talent to blazing sharpshooter over the last few seasons has established him as one of the brightest stars in the league, and more importantly lifted his team into the postseason back-to-back years,” he said. “Along with his competitive passion for NBA 2K, Booker is inspiring people with his silky smooth jumper on the court and his philanthropy efforts in the community off it, which is why he’s the perfect choice to be the NBA 2K23 cover athlete.”
The decision to have Taurasi and Bird on the cover was also an easy one, Brody said.
“Taurasi was voted in 2021 as the WNBA’s GOAT and has been dominating the league for almost two decades,” he said. “As the leader of the Phoenix Mercury, she has hoisted the championship trophy three times and is the WNBA all-time leading scorer. The impact both athletes have had on the basketball court and in the community as a whole, makes Diana and Sue a clear choice for the NBA 2K23 WNBA Edition cover.”
In a statement, Taurasi said, “There are so many kids that dream of pursuing a professional basketball career, and they can now also dream of being on the NBA 2K cover, whether they want to play in the NBA or WNBA.”
Valley fans can also appreciate that dream, and hope that Taurasi ends her career in Phoenix.