NBA 2K22 cover, ratings, features, and everything you need to know

NBA 2K22
(Image credit: 2K)

NBA 2K22 still isn't the finished article on PS5 and Xbox Series X, but it's showing signs of a return to form two years into the new console generation. Still weighing up a New Year's purchase? Then everything you need to know is below, including the NBA 2K22 release date, cover star, trailer, ratings, new Neighbourhood details and more. Welcome to GR's NBA 2K22 guide.

Watch the NBA 2K22 trailer

It isn't exactly teeming with in-game footage – indeed, there's barely any at all – but the appetite-whetting first trailer for NBA 2K22 was released on July 14. You can view it below…

And here's the NBA 2K22 gameplay trailer

A one-minute-35-second gameplay trailer for NBA 2K22 finally dropped on August 30. It's light on tangible improvements, instead focussing on new animations, facial likenesses and big dunks – although there's no denying that it all looks sublime. Again, you can watch it right here, right now:

NBA 2K22 release date was September 10

NBA 2K22

(Image credit: 2K)

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. 

Synchronicity across all formats and generations was restored this year, with Friday, September 10, 2021 the confirmed NBA 2K22 release date. You can nab the game on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC – although note that the latter version uses previous-gen tech, which has caused justified controversy.

NBA 2K22 cover stars are Parker and Doncic

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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.

NBA 2K22 again smashes conventions but in a very different way, with Chicago Sky power forward Candace Parker the first ever female NBA 2K cover star. Parker fronts the game's WNBA 25th Anniversary Edition, with one catch – her cover variant is only available in North America. Shame. Still, it's a welcome breakthrough move.

The main NBA 2K22 cover star is Mavericks guard Luka Doncic. “Making the global cover of NBA 2K22 is special for me,” says the giant Slovenian. “I’m proud to represent my country in a special cover that honours the colours of the Slovenian flag. Basketball has given me so much, and I’m excited to give back and work together with 2K Foundations this year to help the lives of young kids around the globe.” 

In total there are four different editions of NBA 2K22. You can see them all at the official NBA 2K website.

NBA 2K22 ratings see LeBron share top spot

NBA 2K22

(Image credit: 2K)

Luka Doncic might have earned cover star honours. but he only sneaks eighth place on the NBA 2K22 ratings list. And whereas LeBron James was the standalone top player in NBA 2K21, this year he shares premier billing with Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Steph Curry, all of whom earn overall ratings of 96. (James scored 97 one year ago.)

These are the ten best players in the game, going by the NBA 2K22 ratings at launch:

  • Lebron James (Los Angeles Lakers, 96)
  • Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets, 96)
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks, 96)
  • Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors, 96)
  • Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers, 95)
  • Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets, 95)
  • Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers, 95)
  • Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks, 94)
  • James Harden (Brooklyn Nets, 94)
  • Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers, 94)

NBA 2K22 features offer a 2K deep dive

NBA 2K22

(Image credit: 2K)

Like its predecessor NBA 2K22 looks fantastically, eerily lifelike, but 2K insists that it's making huge strides in terms of gameplay too. On offense you're promised a faster overall feel, new signature moves, precision jump shooting, dunking in traffic, and much-improved basketball IQ. On the defensive front, the developer is focussed on a revamped shot contest and blocking system. "Playing suffocating defense on the perimeter and in the paint has never felt more rewarding, giving elite defenders the ability to truly change the outcome of the game," says Visual Concepts. 

Visual Concepts published additional details on some of these in a late August gameplay deep dive. For instance, the best players in the game now feel truly individual: "KD’s big hesi crosses, Harden’s around/thru the leg moves, Steph’s quick machine gun crosses, and Luka’s methodical rock back and forth dribbles are all now under the gamer’s direct control rather than a preset movie," says NBA 2K gameplay director Mike Wang. 

The publisher is also keen to emphasise improvements to defensive AI. "A lot of legacy issues were addressed through complete and thorough rewrites of almost all of the major defensive systems in the game," says Wang. "New on-ball defensive positioning logic gives defenders more consistency in their positioning regardless of their distance from the basket… [also] we now have the ability to have both single and double rotations to take away the first or second passing lanes once help defense is triggered."

Away from the court, MyTeam – the basketball answer to FIFA's all-conquering Ultimate Team – is inevitably a significant area of focus. MyTeam Draft takes its bow on PS5 and Xbox Series X, enabling you to build a fresh line-up from a constantly updated pool of players, and MyTeam progress and collections are transferable between PS4 and PS5, or Xbox One and Xbox Series X.

"Throughout the year in NBA 2K22, new challenges, rewards, and events make every Season fresh and unique in MyTeam," adds Visual Concepts. "On top of the many new features debuting in MyTeam on Day 1, even more additions are coming throughout the year, including an original new game mode this holiday season."

A massive new change for next-gen sees the traditional Neighbourhood, in which you level-up your created player and leap into online matches, replaced with the City. It's said to be bigger than ever before, and now incorporates MyCareer into what's being sold as a single, cohesive experience. You can even take on side projects, such as starting up your own fashion business or dipping your toes – or, rather, mic skills – into hip hop. Very, very interesting. 

Got the game and looking to improve your skills? Then jump on over to GR's NBA 2K22 tips guide.

NBA 2K22 fan wishlist is a little redundant now

NBA 2K21

(Image credit: 2K)

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 began with more of the same.

Operation Sports poster eslimm wanted 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 felt 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 switched 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 also wanted 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.”

Ben Wilson

I'm GamesRadar's sports editor, and obsessed with NFL, WWE, MLB, AEW, and occasionally things that don't have a three-letter acronym – such as Chvrches, Bill Bryson, and Streets Of Rage 4. (All the Streets Of Rage games, actually.) Even after three decades I still have a soft spot for Euro Boss on the Amstrad CPC 464+.