We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

NBA 2K21 release date, gameplay, and more

Here's a full overview of NBA 2K21, including its release date and all the new features and improvements basketball fans enjoyed.

Usually, the NBA 2K games launch around about a month before the NBA season itself starts. However, due to long delays caused by the pandemic, the NBA season has been thrown out of step in 2020, with the Finals being switched from April all the way back to October. Luckily, the virtual companion, NBA 2K21, kept trucking on.

2020 was been a strange year all around, but for basketball especially. One legend of the game, Michael Jordan, was further immortalised through the documentary The Last Dance, while another legend, Kobe Bryant, passed away aged just 41 after a helicopter crash. The NBA was consistently at the epicentre of the pandemic in the USA too, being one of the first major organizations to close after several major players tested positive. A videogame, shorn of all the real life drama, was a welcome break for basketball fans.

Right out the gate though, NBA 2K21 was hit by controversy. While the gameplay of its predecessor NBA 2K20 was well received, the loot box mechanics increasingly became the focus of the series. Publisher 2K also broke ranks with most companies who are offered free new-gen upgrades when purchasing the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One versions. NBA 2K21’s upgrade was only be available if you purchased the special Black Mamba edition of the game, which in turn only grants access to the Standard edition on next gen.

NBA 2K21 release date

NBA 2K21 released on September 4, 2020 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia, and PC. It was also one of the first games to hit new-generation consoles when they launched. NBA 2K21 hit Xbox Series X|S on November 10, 2020, and then arrived on PS5 two days later on November 12.

NBA 2K21 platforms

Whatever your platform of choice is, NBA 2K21 had you covered. The game came to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia, and PC.

NBA 2K21 crossplay

NBA 2K21 did not have cross-play.

All previous NBA 2K games didn’t include cross-play, and despite fans asking the question, 2K never seemed particularly interested in including it.

It did, however, have cross-progression across console generations for anyone who upgrades.

NBA 2K21 trailers

NBA 2K21’s trailer was first shown as part of the PlayStation 5 reveal, where it showed a very sweaty Zion Williamson (one of this year’s cover athletes) practising his shots in an empty gym, all to The Siege’s ‘Run For Your Life’. The footage was taken from pre-alpha PlayStation 5 gameplay.

YouTube Thumbnail

Following that, 2K released a new gameplay trailer, this time captured from current generation consoles, which highlighted the game’s biggest stars. Particular attention is paid to another cover star in the shape of Damian Lillard, while the soundtrack is Stormzy’s ‘Audacity’.

YouTube Thumbnail

NBA 2K21 gameplay

The biggest change to NBA 2K21 was the Shooting Stick, which opens up shooting aiming. Initially, it had a big difficulty curve, but has since been hotfixed to be more forgiving on the lower difficulties. This switch to a Shooting Stick also means more opportunity for dribble and skill moves, which can now be chained much easier.

Button shooting is still there, if you’re a traditionalist.

2K20 had probably the best defensive mechanics of any NBA game ever, and NBA 2K21 hasn’t tinkered with them.

NBA 2K21 cover star

There are four different covers for the game (one for each edition of the game for each generation), but only three cover stars. The Standard Edition cover star for the current gen is Damian Lillard, then of the Portland Trail Blazers, while the honours for the next gen edition went to Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans. The Black Mamba Edition covers both depict Kobe Bryant, which is no real surprise given the edition is named after him.

The current generation version shows a younger Bryant in mid air, wearing his original number 8 jersey for the Lakers, while the next generation version has a shot from his final season, wearing the legendary (and now retired) number 24.

NBA 2K21 soundtrack

NBA 2K21 delivered a bigger soundtrack than ever before, and the full playlist can still be listened to on Spotify. It includes artists like Stormzy (also in the gameplay trailer), The Weeknd, Travis Scott, Juice WRLD, and many more.

And that’s everything you need to know about NBA 2K21.