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Which edition of NBA 2K21 should you buy?

Pre-orders and next-gen consoles complicate the picture

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artwork of Kobe Bryant in his #8 Lakers Jersey going up for a dunk on the current-gen cover of the NBA 2K21 Mamba Forever Edition
The ‘Mamba Forever’ edition honoring Kobe Bryant packs in a lot of virtual content for $40 extra.
Image: Visual Concepts/2K Sports
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

2K Sports’ flagship product, NBA 2K21, launches Sept. 4. Although 2K is only offering two editions — a standard copy and a special edition honoring the late Kobe Bryant — PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X versions, plus pre-order content incentives, complicate the picture of what’s on offer.

NBA 2K21 will be available on Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One at launch in September. Pre-orders for those platforms are available now.

NBA 2K21 standard edition

The base edition of NBA 2K21, on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One, goes for the usual price of $59.99. It’s the one with the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard on the cover.

“Base edition” means just that, no extra freebies, although 2K Sports is dangling a line of virtual goodies for those who pre-order the game. They include:

  • 5,000 in Virtual Currency, the in-game money that funds your MyCareer player’s progression, wardrobe, and other lifestyle bling.
  • 5,000 MyTeam points, which is a virtual currency used to acquire card packs and other items in the MyTeam mode. Unlike VC, this isn’t for sale in the game for real money.
  • 10 MyTeam Promo packs, delivered once a week for 10 weeks.
  • Nine MyCareer Skill Boosts: These are time-limited ratings enhancements, often for one game only, for use in your MyCareer games.
  • Five pairs of virtual shoes for your MyPlayer avatar(s) to wear.
  • Damian Lillard Digital Collection. This gets you the cover star in MyTeam, plus a virtual T-shirt and watch for your MyPlayer to wear.

Critically, this standard edition does not include any upgrade to the Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 versions, if you buy it on either of those consoles’ predecessors.

Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Walmart | 2K Store

NBA 2K21 Mamba Forever Edition

This is the only special edition on offer this year for NBA 2K21; it’s available for Switch, PC, PS4, and Xbox One. The late Kobe Bryant, who had a close promotional relationship with 2K Sports for the past decade, stars on the cover. It costs $99.99.

This edition starts players out with 100,000 Virtual Currency and gives them the Zion Williamson Digital Collection, which is the same thing as the Damian Lillard Digital Collection above, just with the young New Orleans Pelicans star swapped in.

It also gives owners a code to download NBA 2K21’s standard edition on PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X (if purchased on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, respectively). This FAQ on 2K Sports’ site says that Mamba Edition buyers will get another 100,000 VC in their account when the next-generation version launches (it’s expected in November, but 2K has yet to announce anything official). Those customers will need to launch their next-gen version of NBA 2K21 and redeem the code there to get the bonus currency, but that bonus will be usable in either version of the game. Progression in MyTeam will also carry back and forth between the current- and next-gen versions.

Pre-ordering the Mamba Forever Edition of NBA 2K21 adds another raft of digital content incentives. They are:

  • 10,000 MyTeam Points
  • 10 MyTeam Tokens. This is a special currency within that mode that unlock upgraded versions of star players.
  • 60 MyCareer skill boosts.
  • 40 MyTeam Promo packs, with 10 given at launch, plus three per week for 10 weeks.
  • Sapphire versions of Damian Lillard and Zion Williamson for MyTeam. These are upgraded versions of the same players (otherwise acquired with tokens).
  • The Kobe Bryant Digital Collection: Same items as the Williamson and Lillard digital collections, just Kobe-branded.
  • The MyPlayer shoe collection.
  • A backpack for your MyPlayer avatar to wear.

For big Kobe Bryant fans, pre-ordering the game through GameStop delivers a physical premium — a medallion commemorating the two jersey numbers (8 and 24) that the Los Angeles Lakers retired for Bryant on Dec. 18, 2017.

Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Walmart | 2K Store

NBA 2K21 PS5 and Xbox Series X editions

Zion Williamson is the cover star for the next-gen version of the game, due out this fall. NBA 2K21 on PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X costs $10 more than usual — $69.99 — although the Mamba Forever Edition is still $99.99. However, buying the Mamba Forever Edition for a next-generation console doesn’t net you any bonus Virtual Currency. If you know you’re going to be buying and playing NBA 2K21 on a next-generation machine, it makes more sense to get the Mamba Forever Edition on PS4 or Xbox One, and pocket all of the goodies that go with it (including the total of 200,000 VC).

The physical and digital versions of the PS5 and Xbox Series X Mamba Forever Editions include a code for the previous-generation console’s base copy of NBA 2K21, plus the Damian Lillard collection, but that’s it. Pre-orders of the next-generation version of NBA 2K21 don’t include any pre-order incentives, either.

2K Sports hasn’t said yet how NBA 2K21 will be different on next-generation consoles. When the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launched in 2013, developer Visual Concepts gave NBA 2K14 for those consoles a separate story-based mode that became the foundation for MyCareer, as well as the first MyGM mode. However, the next-gen versions then did not have the LeBron: Path to Greatness challenge series that was a centerpiece of the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions.

Get it here: Best Buy | GameStop | Walmart | 2K Store

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