Regardless of the circumstances, the makers of the “2K” video game series would have received some attention for putting LeBron James on the cover of their latest edition, because, well, he’s LeBron. However, there are a couple of aspects to that cover that generated major chatter Tuesday, when “2k19″ was revealed.

For one thing, James is shown in close-up, as opposed to being displayed in a Cavaliers jersey, which only further fanned the flames of speculation that he is not long for Cleveland. Also of interest was that among the phrases surrounding him — which James chose himself — was “G.O.A.T.,” as in “greatest of all time” (not that many reading this post need that spelled out).

So there you have it, people: The long-running LeBron-vs.-MJ debate has been settled. If James says he’s the GOAT, then Michael Jordan will just have to settle for second place, right?

Of course, James is also shown with self-aggrandizing phrases such as “King” and “Chosen One,” but those have been associated with him since before he entered the NBA. Calling himself the GOAT, particularly by an athlete who has made no secret of his burning desire to surpass Jordan in NBA annals, appears to be a statement of having reached that mountaintop.

Meanwhile, James appears to be well on his way to losing again to the Warriors in the NBA Finals, which would bring his personal record in the championship round to 3-6, which in turn would prompt countless Jordan advocates to gleefully note that His Airness went 6-0 with league titles at stake. In any event, the folks at NBA 2K were content to describe James as “the most iconic athlete of this generation.”

“LeBron’s carefully crafted wording on the NBA 2K19 20th Anniversary Edition cover encapsulate the passion and drive that have elevated him to all-time greatness making him the perfect cover star,” marketing executive Alfie Brody said (via Bleacher Report’s Tyler Conway).

“We were able to do something really unique for the cover that represents everything that drives me and inspires me — from my family to where I come from and words I live by,” said James, whose edition hits the market in September. “I’m honored my journey can be part of this special time in 2K history and I’m excited for fans to see it.”

This is the second time James has graced the cover of the video game, after an appearance on the 2K14 version. That one showed him in his Heat uniform, which he would soon drop in a return to the Cavs, a sequence that very likely informed this year’s cover-art decision.

James has an opt-out clause in his contract that many expect him to exercise this summer, allowing him to hit unrestricted free agency. While that would not preclude him from re-signing with the Cavs, the rumor mill has long been churning with claims that he is all but set to join the Lakers, with more recent speculation sending him to the Rockets or 76ers.

When asked recently by ESPN’s Rachel Nichols if his strained relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert would be a factor in his free-agency decision, James simply replied, “We’ll see.” That could hardly have been comforting to Cleveland fans, who know all too well that James’s ties to his home state can’t be relied upon to keep him from bolting, especially given that he has already delivered on his stated intention of “bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.”

Certainly, an underwhelming supporting cast in Cleveland, which has impressed no one even while emerging from the Eastern Conference, would seem to provide motivation for James to take his talents elsewhere. In addition, James’s 2014 move from Miami to Cleveland was just the first in a stretch for 2K cover athletes that saw Kevin Durant (2K15) waste little time in shedding his Thunder jersey for a Warriors version, while Paul George (2K17) and Kyrie Irving (2K18) also changed teams soon after being featured.

In other words, the 2K makers may be done for good showing any player’s jersey on their covers, not just that of James. The company seems much more secure in labeling the Cavs star as the GOAT, though, as the phrase appears not just on the cover, but in a promotional video in which he is also called “the greatest of the great.”

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