Less than an hour after officially receiving the NBA’s top regular season honor as MVP of the league, Kevin Durant took some time out of a schedule packed with awards ceremonies, the second round of the playoffs and (presumably) flying around on rocket shoes to talk about being chosen as the cover athlete for NBA 2K15.
On a conference call set up by 2K Sports themselves, you knew he wasn’t going to have anything bad to say about the game, but Durant is a confirmed NBA 2K devotee (“He’s gone on the record saying he plays more NBA 2K than he actually practices,” noted 2K) and he positively gushed about his selection.
To be the NBA 2K15 cover athlete is just as important to me because this game is so authentic to who I am as a person.
“It was always one of my goals,” he said about being named MVP. “But to be the NBA 2K15 cover athlete is just as important to me because this game is so authentic to who I am as a person. It brought me and my family together so much, just enjoying the competition of the video game. It’s something that I’ve been longing for for a while.”
Although he appeared alongside Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin on the cover of NBA 2K13—and in the center, no less—making a solo appearance puts him in the company of players like Allen Iverson, Chris Paul, Kevin Garnett and Michael Jordan (well, and Ben Wallace). For someone whose star is not only rising as one of the best players in the league but also a lifelong 2K player, that’s gigantic. To put it in perspective, Durant was 11 when NBA 2K came out, and now the NBA is his entire life.
But he still views the game as an escape. “It’s still basketball but I enjoy playing the MyPlayer mode,” he said. “Just taking your guy through a season and getting drafted. Sitting on the bench to being a starter, just trying to get better. I feel as though that’s how it is as a real NBA player—the games are so real. It’s just about a journey and that’s what I’m on right now, is a journey. Helping somebody else out—even though it’s a game—on their journey.”
Some gamers cried foul at the lack of modes and some confusing design choices in the 2K series’ first foray onto next generation consoles this past fall, but the transition from the previous generation was always going to mean a product more solid than expansive. Modes like Durant’s favored MyPlayer (or technically MyCAREER, now) brought the experience up to the edge of something genuinely new and different with the incorporation of storylines and rivalries. (No word from Durant on whether a MyPlayer of his ever got drafted to the Thunder and then bullied into wearing a clown nose by himself.)
Asked about what 2K gets most right about the actual NBA, Durant ticked off things like the facial features, the postgame interviews, the exact moves of the players. “It’s on another level, man,” he said. (Sidenote: During training camp, before the next-gen consoles had dropped but just after NBA 2K14 had come out for PS3 and Xbox 360, I asked Derrick Williams—then with the Timberwolves and another big 2K fan—if he had had a chance to play the game yet. “Nah,” he said. “Do I still look like Klay Thompson?” He still kind of did.)
Discussing what teams and players he likes to use, Durant was diplomatic, refusing to name names while managing to dap Oklahoma City. “I never play with our team on the game for some reason, but everybody else does and they always kill me. We play random in my house. You have to pick a random team. That’s how you really see how good you are. I’ll play with anybody and I know all these players and I know their games so I got a little advantage, playing in the NBA.” Essentially, no matter how deep your knowledge of the game itself is, you’re probably in deep trouble should you ever come up against Durant, even if he’s using the Bobcats.
“I know how to work these teams,” he said.