While J. Cole has always put his pro basketball ambitions at the forefront of his rap career, he’s come way further than perhaps even he could have foreseen. At the start of the month, he was announced as 2K Games’ first-ever non-athlete cover model for the latest iteration of NBA 2K. The rap star-turned-hooper features on the Gamestop-exclusive Dreamer Edition cover of NBA 2K23. He’ll also appear in the game as himself; the player will encounter him and Dreamville associates Bas and Elite in the MyCareer mode, helping the player character achieve their own hoop dreams.
As it happens, though, Cole planted the seeds for this idea even before he’d managed to make it onto a Basketball Africa League roster. In a new interview with Complex, 2K’s digital marketing director Ronnie “Ronnie2K” Singh explains how J. Cole actually approached Singh with the concept for his inclusion after giving the world one of his first public demonstrations of hoop talent at the NBA’s 2019 All-Star Weekend. There, J. Cole allowed himself to be used as a prop in fellow Fayetteville native Dennis Smith Jr.’s dunk attempt before attempting a dunk of his own. Although Cole got blocked by the rim — in his defense, he was wearing street clothes and hadn’t warmed up first — he was able to pitch Ronnie2K about being in a future version of NBA 2K.
According to Singh, “Three and a half years ago, when he dunked during one of the breaks of the All-Star Weekend Saturday Night, J. Cole said, ‘Ronnie, I’d love to be in MyCareer and help think about the ideation around that.’ I worked with our team on bringing this to life but it was very fitting to work with him. When we put out that tease, everybody thought it was going to be another basketball player…it allows us live in fashion, culture, music which 2K has a seat at the table now.”