EA Sports announced Thursday that it has tapped Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star Kyrie Irving as the cover athlete for "NBA Live 14," the title EA hopes will loosen the stranglehold 2K Sports has developed on the NBA gaming market in the nearly four years since the last EA NBA release.
The announcement and release of the box art shown above ended weeks of speculation that the 21-year-old point guard would be the new face of EA's dormant flagship hoops game.
“I’m so proud to be the face of this franchise as it makes its much-anticipated return,” Irving said in an EA statement. “I’ve been on the court with the development team and I’ve seen first-hand some of the amazing things EA SPORTS is doing with 'NBA LIVE 14.' The fans are going to love it.”
Here's a brief trailer EA dropped with its announcement Thursday:
And here's another clip EA unveiled at the annual E3 convention last month for the forthcoming edition of the "Live" franchise, which will be available exclusively on the PS4 and Xbox One next-gen gaming platforms following their releases, expected to come this November:
During EA's E3 press conference, "NBA Live 14" executive producer Sean O'Brien noted Irving's renowned handle as a perfect fit for EA given the game's increased emphasis on ball-handling, which is built around a new physics-based dribbling technology. In the new "BounceTek" system, the basketball is separated from the character's hand in every single dribbling animation, which will allegedly allow for more individual creativity in attempting to maneuver around defenders.
You can check out more from Irving and O'Brien's presentation — and some more footage, though it's unclear whether any of it's actual gameplay clips or just computer-generated material put together for the presentation — right here:
EA's unveiling of Irving as the star of "NBA Live 14" follows 2K Sports' revelation that Miami Heat star LeBron James would appear on the cover of "NBA 2K14," the forthcoming edition of their wildly successful NBA game, marking the first time the former Cavaliers star and four-time NBA Most Valuable Player has made the cover of a game.
James was rumored to be the player on the cover of "NBA Live 13" before that title was canceled — just like EA's previous NBA title, "NBA Elite 11," which was shelved after poorly received, glitch-filled demonstrations. It's now been more than three years since the last EA NBA game, with 2K Sports selling copies of its NBA title hand over fist and taking a dominant position in the interim.
O'Brien and his team see the new Irving-led model as an important re-entry to the market, understanding that while fans might wait to see how the new game is received by others (or if it's even released at all) before returning to the fold, a strong showing for "NBA Live 14" could set the stage for a long-awaited comeback.
"[...] we're going to see some success this year. But in a couple years? Look out," O'Brien told GamesIndustry International. "We're going to be in a position where I think we'll be redefining this category."
But only, of course, if gamers dig it. So let's hear it, gamers: Assuming it actually drops, are you going to give "NBA Live 14" a shot, or are you sticking with 2K? Let us know in the comments below.
Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Derrick Rose says he's the best player in the NBA
• Madison Square Garden given 10 years to move
• LeBron James' Team USA career likely done
• Mike Miller set to sign with Memphis