Since the dawn of modern technology, one thing that has been synonymous with sports is video games. Short of actually making a pro roster, this is the closest fans can get to playing and managing a team in their sport of choice. From the Tecmo Bowl to Tiger Woods, sports addicts can find a way to virtually participate in pro sports.
Everybody under the sun has heard of the Madden Curse – lying in its wake are standout footballers such as Michael Vick, Ray Lewis, Shaun Alexander and Marshall Faulk. However, there is another curse that has kept a much lower profile but has been equally as harmful to the cover athletes and their teams.
Said curse is linked to NBA games and their cover stars. Both the NBA Live and NBA 2K game franchises have indirectly led their spokesmen (and their teams) to disappointing seasons after their likeness was dawned on the games’ package. The following is a simple breakdown of the curse divided between the two games since their 2005 installments.
After winning a championship and Defensive Player of the Year with Detroit in 2004, Ben Wallace was featured on NBA 2K5. The curse effect was not immediate (he repeated as DPOY in 05) but nonetheless he has met injury woes and has yet to return to the finals. Big Ben was recently traded to the Suns, who are in the process of paying him to go away.
Shaquille O’Neal received back-to-back covers for NBA 2K6 and 2K7. Certainly well deserved as he brought a championship to Miami. However, the next season he was plagued by injuries, fouls and a diminished role. In addition, his run of 14 consecutive All-Star appearances ended and he was shipped to Phoenix. As a Sun in 2009 he failed to make the playoffs for the first time since he played in Orlando.
The NBA 2K8 and 2K9 athletes, Chris Paul and Kevin Garnett, had the curse strike their teams as much as the individuals. After a cover-worthy season the Hornets emerged as contenders in the West. However, they came up short. Paul finished second in MVP voting and the Hornets fell just shy of a Finals appearance. Since then New Orleans has been exposed as a team that relies solely on its two stars who have little to no help anywhere else in the lineup. Garnett’s case mirrors that of Chris Paul. He adorned the 2K9 cover after bringing Boston a championship. The next season though Garnett missed the entirety of the Playoffs as Boston failed to contend with the Orlando Magic.
The NBA video game curse does not stop with 2K Sports as the EA franchise NBA Live has seen a similar effect.
NBA Live 05 cover athlete Carmelo Anthony has never been hurt by the curse statistically, yet it was only the beginning of 5 years of consecutive first round playoff exits for the Nuggets (that they finally shook with the addition of Chauncey Billups – who has never been on either games cover). It was also followed by some controversy as Anthony was cited for marijuana possession, threatened Baltimore resident’s in a video, and was involved in an on-court fight with the Knicks.
The next 3 editions of the Live series (06, 07, and 08) brought up a classic Madden-esque scenario. After winning the championship and the cover, Dwyane Wade missed 62 games over the next 2 seasons while the Heat posted only 59 wins during that time. 07 cover athlete Tracy McGrady has missed 84 games since being featured (that number doesn’t include him missing the entirety of this year’s Playoffs).
Gilbert Arenas is undeniably the pinnacle of the NBA video game curse. He made the Live 08 cover in the summer of 2007 and has hardly picked up a basketball since. Nagging knee injuries and multiple surgeries have limited Agent Zero to a whopping 15 games since being on the cover of Live 08.
It will be interesting to see where the curse goes from here. Tony parker was only slightly affected as the cover of Live 09 (slight injury woes, 1st round playoff exit). The question begs, what will become of our upcoming ballers? Kobe (2K10) and the Lakers look locked in to repeat with Captain Ron onboard, yet have not come to terms with a new contract for X-factor Lamar Odom. Dwight Howard (Live 10) has the toughest road ahead of him; despite acquiring Vince Carter, the Magic will return next season without Hedo Turkoglu who arguably was their best player in this season’s unexpected Playoff run.
***Don’t forget about Trivia!! Drop your answer in the comments section.
Who was the last American-born college senior to be selected #1 overall in the NBA draft?
***last week’s answer: after playing together at North Carolina, Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter were selected 4th and 5th overall by the Raptors and the Warriors, then immediately traded for each other.