NBA 2K21 represented a dip in form for the best basketball series in gaming – at least where the previous generation was concerned, with its PS4 and Xbox One versions looking handsome yet feeling stale. In contrast, the series’ debut on PS5 and Xbox Series X showed considerable promise, and suggest that a mammoth year is in store for NBA 2K22. What do fans want to see on next-gen, who might be its cover star, and when can you expect the NBA 2K22 release date to fall? All is explained below, in your NBA 2K22 guide.
NBA 2K22 release date: expect a September tip-off
There’s a familiar pattern to release dates of 2K’s beautiful baller. NBA 2K18 hit on September 15, 2018, NBA 2K19 landed on September 7, 2018, while September 5, 2019 and September 4, 2020 were the respective street dates for NBA 2K20 and NBA 2K21. PS5 and XBox Series X versions arrived a little later, in mid-November, but that was only down to the pre-Christmas release of those consoles. Expect synchronicity across all formats and generations to be restored this year, with Friday, September 3, 2021 the most likely NBA 2K22 release date.
June is a massive month in the sports gaming calendar. It’s during this period that publishing behemoth EA usually unveils the first footage of sims such as FIFA 22 and Madden 22 at EA Play Live, and rivals such as Konami (PES 2022) and 2K are therefore wise to utilise summer super-show E3 for their own sporting announcements. For instance, predecessor NBA 2K21 was announced on June 11 last year (by way of a Youtube video), and you can expect a similar time frame for the first NBA 2K22 trailer to emerge. Trust us: the months will fly by…
NBA 2K22 cover: Doncic, Jokic and Beal the main contenders
The tragic death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant at the age of just 41 led 2K to break with convention where the NBA 2K21 cover was concerned. In tribute, it produced a limited ‘Mamba Forever’ edition of the game featuring Bryant on the box, while the standard editions had separate cover stars on each console generation. PS5 and Xbox Series X were fronted by New Orleans Pelicans power forward Zion Williamson, while Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lilliard was made the PS4 and Xbox One focus.
These were the first cover appearances for both Williamson and Lilliard, and if 2K deploys the same ‘debutants only’ strategy there will be no NBA 2K22 cover for Giannis Antetokounmpo: the Milwaukee Bucks megastar already had a turn on the box art of NBA 2K19. In which case three other contenders feel likely: Dallas Mavericks’ Slovenian import Luka Doncic, Denver Nuggets’ Serbian seven-footer Nikola Jokic, and Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal, who leads the league in points scored as I write this. Going by previous years, the final name should be confirmed in late June.
NBA 2K22 ratings: LeBron likely to stay at numero uno
Those potential cover star names are sure to be among the NBA 2K22 elite when ratings are revealed in August, ahead of the game’s release. A look at the brilliant NBA 2K21 ratings database lists 96-rated Antetokounmpo as the third-best player behind LeBron James (97) and Kevin Durant (also 96). It’s hard to see that holy trinity being broken. Rounding out the top five, again with overall scores of 96, are Kawli Leonard and Steph Curry, and both are due another set of colossal numbers in NBA 2K22.
Jokic appears tenth on the current NBA 2K21 best players list with an OVR of 94, narrowly ahead of Doncic (93) – both of which seem fair. Beal, meanwhile, sits 14th with a 91 rating. His outstanding form has sparked rumours of trade interest from the Golden State Warriors, and should it continue then a two-point leap to 93 feels attainable.
NBA 2K22 fan wishlist: player hot streaks and coaching tendencies
While EA efforts such as FIFA 21 and Madden 21 prioritised visuals in their next-gen debuts, NBA 2K21 celebrated its arrival on PS5 and Xbox Series X with tangible gameplay improvements like ‘advanced pro stick’ dribbling, and adaptive triggers – such as the sprint button having a reduced effect when a player is low on stamina. Naturally, the NBA 2K22 features wishlist begins with more of the same.
Operation Sports poster eslimm would like to see player confidence represented on court, in a similar manner to classic NBA Jam games. “Using the gameplay HUD, throughout the game a player [should] heat up or get cold,” he writes. “[The HUD would] highlight the grades [in] green or red, showing a boost or decrease in attributes from their original start point. For example, if D’Angelo Russell’s 3-Point ability is usually an A-, getting cold it’d be a B+ [with that grade coloured] red showing he’s decreased in that category. That way the user knows these ratings have been affected since the start of the game.”
Fellow poster richmo feels that more on-court variety would come from teams representing their coach’s tactical approaches. “Coach tendencies: YES! We had something like this years ago, and it definitely made a difference in team styles. Having coach tendencies would allow you to have one player play a certain way in a coach’s system, but when on a different team/coach he can play either closer or further from his tendencies, without having to edit the tendencies themselves.”
On reddit, tayjkeithftnu switches the focus from on-court gameplay to MyLeague. “I like that we can override end of the season awards, [but] it would be cool if we could edit Christmas Day schedules and MLK day schedules too,” he writes. “After the first season, Christmas Day games look like a regular Monday night lineup in January. Nobody is trying to see the Grizzlies play the Jazz on Christmas Day. Give us five slots, and let us have the ability to edit who plays who on those two days. The CPU can generate the rest of the schedule around those days.”
Like many, he’d also like contract negotiations tweaked: “Free Agents should not be able to just simply reject an offer because the algorithm says it’s below their value. They should just consider the offer. The market drives the price. Maybe most of the league doesn’t have cap space. No NBA player who truly loves basketball will reject the only offer handed to them because it’s ‘below’ their [perceived] value.”