Greatest Of All-Time? These Cover Stars Belong, Too

This morning, NBA 2K11 revealed its box art featuring Michael Jordan, billed as "the greatest cover of all time". But there are many other athletes, also the greatest in their respective sports, who've graced a game's cover. Here's a sampling.

Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson

Fight Night Round 4 (2008)

Let's not forget who has the first lien position on "The Greatest". That would be Muhammad Ali, 27 years removed from boxing when he appeared on this cover, but still a part of the discussion in that sport like no other retired champion. Plus, joining him is Mike Tyson - who may be a punchline or a sideshow now, but anyone who had HBO in the late 1980s remembers how he completely dominated the heavyweight division - until one fateful night in Tokyo.


Pelé's Soccer (Atari 2600)

Both Pro Evolution Soccer and FIFA have seen their share of global superstars in this sport, but none compare to Pelé, the only member of three World Cup winning squads, Brazil's all-time leading goal scorer, and a figure who truly transcends sport. Only Ali is comparable to Pelé in societal impact, and Pelé's is global at that.

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods PGA Tour

Regardless of what is taking place this season, Woods is still the greatest golfer of modern times and still, arguably, the greatest golfer of all time. He won the "Tiger Slam" bridging 2000 and 2001, making him the first professional to be the defending champion of all four Majors at the same time. He has won 13 Majors, Jack Nicklaus has 18. Lee Carvallo has none.

Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky Hockey (1991)

No. 99 remains, without question, his sport's greatest talent. Unlike Jordan, he was active when he made this appearance. Like Jordan, he should return to video games this year as with NHL Slapshot, whose cover art is unannounced, but the game will feature a career mode starring The Great One.

Joe Montana

Joe Montana Football (1991)

Given the Madden Curse's proficiency at deep-sixing careers, and the fact American football is a team sport with different job descriptions, pegging down the greatest ever is a bit more difficult. Generally, people go with quarterbacks, and Joe Montana's four Super Bowl rings does plenty of talking. Montana appeared on stage at EA's E3 news conference this year to showcase Madden NFL 11's new features, demonstrating his continued appeal as one of the game's greatest stars, and relevance to games.

Kobe Bryant

NBA 2K10 (2009)

Let's not forget that, immediately preceding Jordan, 2K Sports landed one of the sport's top stars, not just for that year. Kobe Bryant will absolutely be remembered as one of the NBA's all-time greatest players, in the company of Jordan himself. It helps that 2K also landed Bryant after winning his fourth NBA title. He added his fifth this year. Jordan has six.

Roger Federer

Top Spin 3 (2008)

Pete Sampras had his own game (Pete Sampras Tennis, on the Genesis, a console that dominates this topic) but Federer's 16 Grand Slam titles are the most ever, and generally measure career impact in this sport.

Nolan Ryan

Nolan Ryan's Baseball

Baseball is the sport most under-represented by its greatest talents, probably owing to its long history and the fact it had few truly transforming talents in a time when stars were licensing their names to whole sports titles. Nolan Ryan makes it in here on career value, having struck out more batters and thrown more no-hitters than any other pitcher in history. A first ballot hall-of-famer, he was one of the greatest right-handed pitchers in history and sold plenty of tickets with his 100 mph fastball reputation.


    Kinda sucks that Tyson got replaced with Anthony Mundine on the Australian cover of Fight Night Round 4.

      Um no he didnt thats still Tyson.

        That is the US cover... hence why Tyson is on it...

    However, I HATE that Bryant cover. Looks stupid!

    I agree that NBA 2K11 should be called on their bullshit. For starters its an independent franchise, not "Michael Jordan Basketball 2K11". Thats a killer right there in my opinion.

    Pele is the greatest sportsman in history- revolutionising the sport, training, play, tactics and financial rewards... for eg in the late 70s he was getting paid more at the New York Cosmos than the current NY Red Bulls salary cap 30 years later. Plus he made Viagra cool. Kinda. Well, funnycool.

    Gretsky remains THE hockey game, I preferred the N64 version.

    But what about...
    Tony Hawk various titles (Matt Hoffman too come to that)- esp seeing as Tony Hawk games were genre-bridging blockbusters...?
    Jonah Lomu Rugby?
    Ken Griffey Jr Baseball?
    Shane Warne/Brian Lara Cricket? Please dont mention Ricky Ponting tho.
    Michael Owen and David Beckham Soccer (both at height of their powers. As far as they went. Yes, scraping bottom of a shallow barrel now...)?

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