After years of playing with “Roster Player #99” during Michael Jordan‘s glory days, the real (digital) MJ is finally a usable character and cover athlete of a video game. Thank you, NBA 2K11, for breaking a drought that existed since, what, Bulls vs. Blazers? It was a ritual for me during the 90s to have to create-a-player and produce my own MJ for the Bulls roster. It was always disappoint for me as a youngster having to use the inadequately rated replica to substitute for Jordan.
If you’re like me, you are probably wondering why Jordan waited until now to be on a cover. He told the Associated Press he wanted to “connect to this generation, when in essence a lot of these young kids never saw me play.”
That statement made me think of all of the other NBA video game cover athletes from the past who are rarely thought of these days. It makes me laugh a little as I think back to some of these players. Here are the top five forgotten NBA video game cover athletes:
Drew Gooden, March Madness 2003 — After his stellar college career at Kansas that resulted in him being picked 4th overall in the ’02 Draft, Gooden made his video-game cover debut. Back then, his future seemed promising. That success didn’t quite translate in the League.
Antoine Walker, NBA Live 99 — In a lockout-shortened season, everything was kind of strange. Case in point: ‘Toine being selected as the cover of NBA Live 99. Not that he wasn’t a big-time player back then, though. The season before, he’d averaged 22.4 points and 10.2 boards a game. But it seems like a lifetime ago that he was actually the face of the Boston Celtics.
Mitch Richmond, NBA Live 97 — For one of the most underappreciated players of all-time, it was nice to see Richmond get some video-game cover love in the first place. Richmond had one of the best mid-range jumpers of all-time, and his pure scoring ability was wasted on some bad Sacramento teams during his prime.
T.J. Ford, ESPN College Hoops 2K4 — As the first McDonald’s All-American recruit in U of Texas history, T.J. led the NCAA in assists and won the Naismith and Wooden national P.O.Y. trophies before going pro. After being picked in the Top 10 in one of the best draft classes of all-time, he posed for the cover of ESPN’s college hoops game. While draft classmates like LeBron, D-Wade, Bosh and Carmelo have gone on to superstardom, T.J. is little more than trade bait with the Pacers.
Steve Francis, NBA Live 2002 — “The Franchise” was one of the most exciting players in the League back when he was on the cover of NBA Live. Recurring knee tendinitis slowed him down and he hasn’t played in a couple of years, and last made headlines over the weekend when he was arrested for public drunkenness. Earlier this summer there were rumors that Francis was trying to get back into the League, but there’s almost zero chance of that happening.