Covering athlete predictions for sports video games in 2023

Good year.

Sports players are eagerly awaiting the next round of annual calendar releases. Here’s an educated guess at the cover athletes of the most popular sports video game titles slated for release this year.

NBA 2K24 – Ja Morant

You could argue that Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies is the most exciting player in the NBA today. From an athletic standpoint, you could probably count on one hand how many guys can pull off some of the mid-air moves Morant performs every night.

Morant is not only explosive, he is also a performer of substance.

The 23-year-old superstar has established himself as a legitimate MVP contender averaging 27 points, 6.2 rebounds and 8.1 assists per game this season. Plus, Morant’s Grizzlies look set for a long playoff run and that generally helps add consideration. Finally, Morant’s style connects well with 2K’s primary age demographic.

Why it might not work

Memphis is still a small market team. Because of that, 2K might be looking at someone like the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, who they’ve had a relationship with since joining the NBA.

MLB The Show 23 – Julio Rodriguez

Sony also likes to target young rising stars. Last year’s game had Los Angeles Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani, and the year before, Fernando Tatis Jr. of the San Diego Padres was nominated.

This year, the cover athlete could be young Seattle Mariners star Julio Rodriguez. J-Rod won the American League MVP award and just turned 22 this week, he’s another young and dynamic fit for cover athlete duties.

Why it might not work

Rodriguez is still very young and it is possible that this honor is a year too premature.

Madden 24 – Justin Jefferson

The Griddy Dance has become the NFL’s most popular celebration. EA put it in Madden and it makes sense to put Justin Jefferson, the guy who popularized it in the NFL, on the cover.

Jefferson on the cover would be more than a dance. The Minnesota Vikings star is closing in on a record-breaking 2022 season. In Week 16, Jefferson has 1,756 receiving yards, which means he is 209 yards short of breaking Calvin Johnson’s record of 1,964 receiving yards in a single season.

Of course, Megatron achieved the goal in 16 games. Jefferson would need a monster performance against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday to get there.

Either way, he’s having a huge year and it’s the kind of season that could land the 23-year-old on the cover of Madden 24.

Why it might not work

If there’s a QB under consideration, primarily Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills or Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals, Jefferson might be offended by the sport’s glamorous stance.

NHL 24 – Cale Makar

When it comes to young NHL stars, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more productive and promising one than Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche.

The 24-year-old is averaging more than a point per game in his young NHL career and has scored 57 goals. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s one of the few really good NHL players under 25 to have played a major role on a Stanley Cup-winning team.

Tampa Bay Lightning’s Mikhail Sergachev was great early in his career and helped the Lightning win two Stanley Cups, but the cover athlete probably won’t be a great defenseman, so we’ll go with Makar.

Why it might not work

EA might choose to go with a more established star, maybe even a legend like Sidney Crosby on the cover.

EA FC 24 – Kylian Mbappe

Kylian Mbappe has been the cover athlete since FIFA 21, although he shared the honor with Sam Kerr for FIFA 23. Kerr could return to share the honors with Mbappe, but the PSG star appears to be a lock to remain the face of EA’s football title.

While France failed in their bid to win the World Cup in 2022, Mbappe’s performance in the tournament was legendary.

Punctuated by his three-goal exit in the final against Argentina, Mbappé won the Golden Boot for the best player at the World Cup. Unless EA goes in a whole new direction, Mbappe is expected to be the cover athlete for the new game.

Why it might not work

I can’t think of a reason why it won’t.

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