The Detroit Pistons organization announced today the unveiling of the franchise’s NBA 2K League team name and logo in conjunction with the NBA 2K League’s logo reveal earlier this week. The Pistons Gaming Team (GT) will serve as the official name of the NBA 2K League team set to debut in May of 2018. The Pistons GT logo, created by RARE Design in collaboration with the NBA 2K League and its teams, incorporates branding elements of the Detroit Pistons while presenting an individualized, distinctive logo to exist in the NBA 2K League and appeal to gamers worldwide. The new logo integrates automotive piston imagery into a progressive design that is representative of the toughness, attitude and hardcore spirit of the region and its basketball history.
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Pistons GT will be one of 17 franchises participating in the inaugural season of the NBA 2K League, a professional esports league featuring the best NBA 2K players in the world. The first stage of qualifying for the NBA 2K League will take place from Jan. 1-31, 2018. All prospective players, 18 years or older, need to win 50 games in NBA 2K18’s Pro-Am mode on Playstation 4 or Xbox One and complete an online application by Jan. 31. Players who meet these requirements can be invited to the next round of tryouts held in February 2018. After the final round of tryouts in February, the best players will be selected for an official league draft in March where each team will select five players who will play the game using unique characters. Tip-off of competition will begin in May of next year. “Our goal is to build a global community of gaming and basketball fans across the world,” said Mike Donnay, Vice President of Brand Networks for the Detroit Pistons. “The NBA 2K League provides us with the perfect platform to connect with an entirely new group of fans.”
Jeff Zillgitt: So, the Warriors have hired an esports exec, Hunter Leigh, who will oversee franchise’s team in North American League of Legends Championship Series and Warriors’ NBA 2K league. Will report to Kirk Lacob.
Hayward is renowned among pro athletes for his level of play in League of Legends, perhaps the biggest eSport in the world. While Hayward enjoys competing against League of Legends players, he would like to take on some fellow NBA players too. “I’m still looking for an NBA player that’s better than me at League of Legends. I do know that Jeremy Lin plays DotA. He might be the one guy where, if he played League, he would probably be pretty decent. If he would come over to League, I would take on that challenge.”
“I was on a competitive Halo team and we would enter Halo tournaments for money,” Hayward said in a video interview with Rolling Stone. “When I started getting recruited for basketball, I didn’t really think about it. But there’s a lot of NCAA rules and violations as far as like, making money and doing certain things. “I had to call coach Stevens to ask him if its was okay to play in a Halo tournament. I’m sure that was the last thing he wanted his new recruit to call him about. But he was okay with it and we actually won the tournament. So we won money, which was cool.”
Golden State Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob and his son, assistant general manager Kirk Lacob, have been accepted into the North American League of Legends Championship Series as the newest franchise owners, sources close to Riot Games and the Lacob family told ESPN.
Lin is a big fan of DOTA2, the multi-player online battle arena game, and last year, he reportedly made a deal where he would endorse one of the teams, a joint venture of two Chinese companies. He was in Seattle earlier this month for “The International” the Super Bowl of e-sports. His visit was part of a new TV series on TBS called ELEAGUE Road To The International Dota 2 Championships. It aired Friday night.
He also spoke about how the team aspect of e-sports attracted him. “I don’t like individual sports and I don’t like individual games,” Lin said. “I like when you have to work with your teammates, and DOTA puts you in that position where all five of your teammates have to be clicking together in order to win.”
Magic Johnson: Congrats to my eSports team @Teamliquid, the official 2017 World Champions in @Dota2. What a great victory at #T17 in Seattle! #letsgoliquid
NBA player Steven Adams just got an offer to make big bucks playing another pro sport … ’cause Rick Fox wants the killer Kiwi to join his pro gaming team. Fox is the owner of team Echo Fox, a team that competes in Major League gaming … and when we got him out at LAX and told him Adams is a huge gamer, Rick went all Jerry West. “He’s got time, I’ll talk to him.”
Echo Fox players in a younger generation might not remember much about Fox, who at age 47 has said of being 6-foot-7, “It’s more than just height.” Fox can still play basketball, and he told WWG last month that nevertheless his esports players have challenged him to one-on-one in basketball. “Yeah a lot of my players do,” Fox said. “A lot of them are too young actually, so they don’t really know Rick Fox the basketball player. They respect the Lakers. They respect the championships. But they for some reason — maybe it’s the gray hair — they think they can just take me. I don’t know what it is. It’s like riding a bike. Put a basketball in my hands, and it’s going to be second nature.”
Eric Smith: The NBA just announced its inaugural season for the NBA 2K esports league. 17 teams set to debut in 2018! I’m officially old; I don’t get it
Much like the NBA, the NBA 2K eLeague will feature head-to-head competition between its 17 teams and an extended schedule that includes a regular season, bracketed playoff system and championship matchup. But instead of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and the rest of the Blazers’ starting lineup, five yet-to-be-determined professional eSports players will don virtual red and black uniforms featuring the Blazers’ iconic pinwheel logo.
The five professional gamers will play as user-created avatars that feature their likeness and compete against other five-person teams that include the Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks.
This competition will not only be broadcast live, most likely on the video-streaming site Twitch, but also played in front of live crowds. By jumping into the next layer of sports and gaming competition — one that extends beyond the boundaries of the traditional sports landscape — the NBA hopes to broaden its appeal to a new segment of fans that might not ordinarily be drawn to basketball.
It’s unclear how the five representatives of each NBA team will be selected and the logistics of where and how often teams will play are not yet resolved. But this much is certain: eSports are coming to Portland and the participants will wear Blazers uniforms.
The NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software will name Brendan Donohue as managing director of the new NBA 2K esports league on Tuesday. Donohue will oversee the league, which was formed between the NBA and Take-Two and is set to launch with its inaugural season in 2018. “[I’m] just taking what 2K has already built up in terms of popularity around the game and really building an audience around this,” Donohue told ESPN. “It is the most popular sports title in North America and, most importantly, the most highly regarded in terms of the actual game.”
“We’re thrilled that we already have in place a seasoned sports executive to lead this new league,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver. “The fact that Brendan knows the NBA inside and out is a huge bonus and will enable us to ramp up this venture in record time.” Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Wizards, told ESPN that the Wizards will be one of the franchises to participate in the upcoming league.
Peter Guber: congrats to @TeamLiquidLoL … a great victory from the heart #TLWIN
During the tour, Fox chatted with Henrik Hansen, a 23-year-old from Denmark who serves as the team’s captain. Hansen competes under the nom de guerre Froggen, a name he says he picked randomly as a 16-year old. Fox has likened Froggen’s leadership style to NBA legends Kobe Bryant and Larry Bird. The two have an easy rapport based on Hansen needling Fox constantly and Fox indulging him. As they checked out the lap pool, Fox gingerly launched into one of the finer points of self-care. “We still haven’t convinced you to eat vegetables,” he says in a mock-scold. “I eat them sometimes, but I don’t see the point,” says Hansen. “I get my multivitamins.” Fox turned to one of the trainers. “Your whole success will be predicated on whether you can get Froggen to eat vegetables.”
Peskin says that though Echo Fox has a lot of money, that may not matter if Riot decides it would prefer to work with the professional sports industry. “Echo Fox doesn’t own an arena. Echo Fox doesn’t have a sports franchise which already has corporate sponsorships,” says Peskin. Fox thinks the other owners should be patient with Riot. At the same time, he had to fix his LCS team itself. Immediately following the summer season, Echo Fox replaced the coach and brought in three new free agents. The newly-constituted team headed for an offseason training and bonding trip to South Korea, where the level of competition is higher and the speedy internet means less latency—the time it takes for each keystroke to impact the actual game. The new formula has had mixed success: The team is 5-7, putting them in the middle of the pack.
Team Misfits, the esports partner organization of the Miami Heat basketball team, has acquired Vainglory pro squad Fates Zero. This will give Misfits and the Heat instant access to one of mobile gaming’s biggest competitive scenes, as Fates Zero has a reserved spot in developer Super Evil Megacorp’s Vainglory league. This new Misfits team will compete for the first time under its new ownership at the Vainglory Preseason Invitational tournament in San Mateo on February 26.
Rick Fox: I think back to the first time I met “Froggen,” a Danish League of Legends player. What struck me were all the similarities he shared with the great players I had come across during my NBA career. This was someone who focused intensely on one thing for 16 hours a day because he was driven to be the best at it. The only difference between him and guys like Kobe Bryant and Larry Bird was name recognition. As competitors — and I’ve been around some remarkable ones — it was obvious to me how many traits they shared. While there are still many outdated stigmas associated with e-sports by people who have never taken the time to try to appreciate them, I’ve always known that just because an older generation couldn’t fully understand what someone like Froggen was pursuing didn’t make it any less meaningful.
Counter-Strike, if you don’t already know, is a first-person shooter that pits terrorists against counterterrorists in a quest to destroy or save the planet. It’s been one of the most popular video games in the world since its 1999 release, and since 2013, CS:GO has drawn millions of viewers as an esport, with its rapid-fire, five-on-five format. It’s also Jerebko’s favorite pastime, so much so that he bought the Renegades, a team of pro gamers, in July. That puts the 29-year-old Swede in exclusive company, as the only active NBA player to own an esports franchise.
Despite the grueling NBA schedule, he is determined to be as involved as possible. That means a daily Renegades call, usually on the drive to Celtics practice, as well as talks with potential sponsors and contract negotiations with new players. While we ate at a Boston taqueria one afternoon, he sent a masseuse to the CS:GO team to help the guys relax after a trip back from a tournament in Malaysia. He tells the players and coaches to text or call him anytime. “Before, all I did was basketball, and I thought about basketball all the time,” he says. “It was too much. Now it’s nice to take my mind off of it. It helps my game.”
What’s your vision with getting further involved in eSports? Gordon Hayward: I’ve actually wanted to own a team for probably the past four or five years. That’s something for sure I’ve been looking at. eSports is definitely the sports world of the future, and kids are playing video games at such a young age now with the technology that we have. And there’s a lot of money involved.
The NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software, makers of the mega-popular NBA 2K video game, are partnering to form a first-of-its-kind esports league centered around the NBA 2K series, officials from both companies told ESPN.com on Wednesday. The NBA 2K eLeague, tentatively set to begin play in 2018, eventually will feature 30 NBA 2K teams, each owned by one of the real-life NBA franchises, according to NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Strauss Zelnick, the CEO of Take-Two. The teams, comprised of five human players, will play out a five-month season that mirrors the real NBA season. It will proceed through a regular season of head-to-head games and then to playoffs and a championship matchup.
Today, the Miami HEAT announced a strategic partnership with the esports franchise, Misfits, a premium organization with professional teams competing in the genre’s premier games. The partnership, with the HEAT acquiring a stake in Misfits, is unique as it calls for the HEAT to assist in all duties including marketing, branding, promotion, retail, digital and sponsorship activation on behalf of the franchise, and to cross-promote the HEAT and Misfits. “The Miami HEAT pride ourselves on being innovative in all aspects of sports and business,” said HEAT Chief Executive Officer Nick Arison. “For us, it made perfect sense to partner with Misfits, a young and ambitious franchise in a sport that is blazing a trail in terms of 21st century recreational competition amongst Millennials.”
More NBA celebrities are taking an active interest in esports, with the latest being former Knicks point guard Stephon Marbuy. He shared a video via his personal Weibo account announcing that he has “exciting news” coming soon. “I decided to march [into the] esports industry to build my own team and recruit players, from my fans, in no time,” Marbury stated in the video. No additional information was revealed so this is essentially a primer hinting that a more formal announcement is on the way.
On Saturday, Sony Entertainment’s Vice President of Brand Marketing John Koller announced a new partnership with the Electronic Sports League (ESL) to deliver a new eSports tournament feature for the PlayStation 4. The first event will be an NBA 2K17 tournament that runs from October 27 thru November 26. This event is open to anyone with a PS4, a copy of NBA 2K17 and an ESL account. Major cup rounds will take place every Saturday. The Top 3 winners will receive a Sony branded prize pack, such as a DualShock 4 and other PlayStation gear.
GamesBeat: What do you think became the point at which the likes of the 76ers and major sports owners started to get involved? Richardson: At a high level, I think the number of people spectating—when you have the League of Legends world finals drawing a larger audience than the NBA finals and the BCS championships, that’s an inflection point. The specific thing is, at the NBA owners’ meeting maybe 12-14 months ago, the NBA actually presented to all the owners. “Hey, there’s this thing out there called esports. We want to walk you through it.” Josh Harris and David Blitzer, the two managing owners of the Sixers – they also own the New Jersey Devils of the NHL, and they just purchased Crystal Palace, the English football club – those guys turned to Scott O’Neil, CEO of the Sixers, and said, “What do you think? This seems like an opportunity we need to get involved in.”
Seventy-five percent of the e-sports audience is between the ages of 18 and 34, tech savvy, and deeply engaged with the sport, according to Deloitte Global. Revenues, though, are still small relative to the massive audiences. Market research firm Newzoo estimates that e-sports will pull in just under $500 million in 2016; in 2015, the NHL had revenues of $4 billion. No wonder that investors are so hot on e-sports; there’s gold in them thar hills.
I also spoke with Leonsis, and he talked about the value he adds to Team Liquid, as someone with several NBA and NHL lockouts in his rearview mirror. “How do you deal with players and one day a union that emerges to represent the players? I’ve been on the executive committee of the NHL, I’ve worked on the CBA negotiations, and that I think will become important one day,” Leonsis said.
Taming e-sports without dampening the tremendous energy of the community will be a challenge. And it’s not clear that e-sports, without outside investment from traditional media and entertainment entities, would be up to it. “It’s endemic,” Leonsis said of the toxicity. “Anonymity drives a lot of people’s courage. And in the gaming industry, that community needs to do a better job of policing itself without coming off like it’s establishment.”
Jeff Zillgitt: Following news that 76ers bought eSports franchise: announced today Peter Guber & Ted Leonsis bought controlling interest in eSports team.
Jeff Zillgitt: Among the investors in eSports’ Team Liquid: Ted Leonsis, Peter Guber, Magic Johnson, Tony Robbins, Rick Welts, Kirk Lacob, Zach Leonis.
Jeff Zillgitt: At an NBA owners meeting last year, Adam Silver/league gave presentation about eSports. twitter.com/gnavas103/stat…
The Philadelphia 76ers will become the first North American professional sports team to own an esports team. The team will announce Monday that it has acquired long-time franchise Dignitas and upstart Apex, which offers a guaranteed spot in the highly coveted League of Legends Championship Series, and operate under the Dignitas name.
SLAM: Jordan Clarkson recently said that aside from himself, you, Larry Nance Jr, Roy Hibbert and Anthony Brown were the top Call of Duty players on the team last year. Is anyone else nice at COD? D’Angelo Russell: I honestly don’t know. We got a lot of vets on our team so I’m not sure if they even know what Call of Duty is, but I would say that’s about it. Maybe Julius [Randle]. He’s a fan and is good at it. SLAM: If you could pick one or two other players and form a squad, would you guys come out with the W against one of these top teams participating in the Call of Duty Championships? D’Angelo Russell: Oh yeah, I’d get my boy Devin Booker and Karl-Anthony Towns and we’d be successful.
Jerebko brought the five-man team over from Australia to suburban Detroit to train and prepare for its next event. Jerebko, 29, was an avid video game player in his youth and seized the opportunity for team ownership. “Sports and computer games were my childhood growing up,” Jerebko said. “Basically, I started off playing all types of games. I started playing CS:GO in sixth grade and it kind of kept me away from partying and going out and doing stupid stuff. It was video games and sports. It helped me stay focused. Playing in the NBA, you are always gaming and you get your work done and you’ve got a lot of hours to kill, so video games come natural for a lot of NBA athletes.”
Boston Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko has bought the rights to the Renegades franchise from Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles. “The opportunity to own Renegades and bring some of my knowledge from professional basketball to eSports is incredible,” said Jerebko in a press release. “I grew up in the video game era, and I was exposed to Counter-Strike at a young age. I have watched the eSports world explode and, for me, it’s really exciting to be a team owner and help push the industry forward.”
Although Jerebko said he’s aware that esports has very much turned into the wild, wild west, he hopes he can lend credibility to the sport. That means that Jerebko, who has served as team player representative for the National Basketball Players Association, doesn’t have a problem with pro gamers having rights. “The Call of Duty players we were negotiating with were under contract last year and weren’t getting paid for three to five months,” Jerebko said. “That’s not going to happen with me. You get a paycheck on time.”
Ending off the podcast, Arnovitz asked if Morey could see himself pursuing opportunities outside of the NBA. While Morey reassured him that he will continue his work in the NBA, he said that if he were to go anywhere else, it would be esports. “I think it’s the 1950s basketball right now, where there’s that kind of opportunity,” he said.
Lin was one of the thousands of fans who packed the KeyArena for five days leading into Sunday’s final. He has been playing Dota since he was 16 years old with his brothers Josh and Joseph. He says he still plays three to four times a week, even during the NBA season, especially on the road, when he’s in his hotel room. “They were playing and I started playing just because I wanted to hang out with them,” Lin said of his brothers. “At first it was an awful game, because I was going 0 for 10 every single game with Bounty Hunter. How do you go 0 for 10 with Bounty Hunter? But eventually when I started to learn the game and get better, I started realizing this is like basketball. It’s about having each other’s back, being loyal, being at that right place at the right time, outsmarting the other team. And there’s this huge mental component in this competition that I’ve always thrived off of. That’s why I love playing it.”
“They’re doing something that everyone loves doing, but they just do it at another level and they’re extremely talented. That’s why you have this fanaticism, and that’s why you have people lined up at midnight asking for autographs.” “It’s really not any different than sports,” Lin continued, “except with sports there’s more of a physical component of you doing it yourself, whereas in video games you’re just controlling a hero that does the same thing. It’s the unique talent of the players that is the draw.”
For The Win: What has it been like learning more about this different sort of (eSports) world? Rick Fox: That we’re not so different. Just mastering excellence is I think what defines you as a pro. Playing and competing and winning under pressure, having a career where you’re idolized by young men and women who want to do exactly what you’re doing, jumping out of bed and being passionate about your career, I like at all those things and I look at the people that surround the players that are on Echo Fox. I see their dedication, their focus, their work ethic, how much time they put in, and it mirrors a lot of what it took for me to get as good as I got. And then I interacted with them just as I interacted with many of my former teammates. There’s so many different forms and expressions when it comes to professional sports and what makes it a professional athletes. I know eSports in general is grabbing more respect and inclusion is something that I subscribe to in general, so having them join the fraternity of professional athletes actually is no longer a debate. It must happen.
FTW: What’s your stance on eSports and has that changed? Recently, ESPN has been getting into it, it’s now seen more of as a legitimate sport whereas before it was viewed as just video games and not a real sport. KB: I think people are really interested in watching people problem solve. It doesn’t matter what industry. People are very fascinated by that — seeing the struggles people go through and how they overcome it. I think this was just a matter of time before it caught fire. To be able to sit and watch a performance on TV and watch how the gamers are figuring out those challenges amongst themselves, you can’t help but be interested.
NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal became one of the latest sports stars to jump into eSports when he became part owner of NRG earlier this year along with Alex Rodriguez. NRG fields a pro League of Legends and Counter-Strike team, and beginning May 24th NRG will compete in the new Counter-Strike: Global Offensive ELEAGUE, which will be televised on TBS. Shaq says he now has a Ph.D. in CS:GO, and in this hilarious video became part of the scenery on a few different maps.
The Nets parent company, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment announced Wednesday that ESL, the world’s largest esports company, will bring the East Coast’s largest esports tournament to Barclays Center in October. ESports are online video game competitions. Now, as esports grows, big tournaments will be conducted live in large venues like Barclays. Barclays Center will play host to a US$250,000 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competition, with more games joining the tournament’s lineup to be announced in the coming weeks. Esports has become a top priority for BS&E, Mikhail Prokhorov’s “mother ship” for sports and entertainment, particularly CEO Brett Yormark.
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“The whole thing with Markelle is messed up,” Embiid says. “It should not have happened. Obviously, it has something to do with his shoulder– I saw that they said it wasn’t the shoulder, but I don’t believe it. “With Jahlil, I really appreciate that he didn’t want to cause a scene,” he says. “If it was me, I feel like I would have lost it. I don’t know if I could have handled it.”
Embiid makes headlines and ruffles feathers when he talks like this. Same as he did when he co-opted “The Process” as his nickname. Teammates mostly are amused by it. “He loves to poke the bear– he thrives on it,” Stauskas says. “I’ve never really seen anything like it. It’s different, but it works.” In the end, trusting the process really means trusting Embiid. “We encourage him to explore and be a little bit unfiltered,” Brown says with a smile. “That’s how he lives. And that’s how he plays.”
Embiid says he’s reached out to Bryant on several occasions, drawn to Kobe’s supreme confidence. How do you shoot 30-plus times in a game and never feel even the smallest twinge of guilt about it? “After 15 to 20 shots, I feel like my teammates might be looking at me,” Embiid says. “I don’t want that to be on me. But I feel like sometimes I need to.”
Bryant didn’t take all those shots because he had no conscience. He took them, Embiid says, because he knew he could make them. “He was always working on his shot, so that’s why he felt like he could. “When everyone else was partying, he was working on his shot. I have to get a little of that.”
“He’s out for probably a good couple of games,” said Rivers, who was already without opening night starters power forward Blake Griffin due to a left MCL sprain and point guard Patrick Beverley, who is out for the season after undergoing right knee surgery. “I guess he took a pretty hard fall in the fourth quarter,” Rivers added of Gallinari. “I honestly never saw it, then I got a call after the game about it, and then you go and look, and it was a pretty good fall.”
You created your own clothing line with Honor The Gift. Why the name, and what are you trying to do with it? Russell Westbrook: Obviously fashion is something I love and do and embrace. Going back this past year and half, just trying to figure out the name, and I came up with Honor The Gift. Obviously ‘Why Not?’ is my motto but I believe that it all relates back. Because I believe that everybody’s been given a gift, regardless of what it is. I think everybody in the world has a gift. It’s something that’s not just a regular name, but something to relate to, because I think it’s important.
ESPN: Has becoming a daddy changed you? Russell Westbrook: I think the moment we knew we were having Noah was the moment it changed me. For the good, obviously. You start to think about the things that best benefit him. Everything in life revolves around him. Do you look at your job differently now that you’re a dad? Are some things less important, more important? Russell Westbrook: Yeah, you know what, it’s a balance. I like to get to the gym early. I get here first and work on my game. But Noah wakes up really early, and I might have been gone on the road for six or seven days, and he hasn’t seen me in a while. Then I’m staying at home. Which is OK, because that’s more important to me than anything. That’s just something I’ve had to get used to.