Ryan Conger, also known as Dayfri, is a former college baseball player from Texas who now makes his living as a professional NBA 2K player.
Despite originally going against the wishes of his family, the power forward was a second-round pick by his hometown Mavs Gaming in the inaugural NBA 2K League Draft back in 2018.
Conger, once perceived as a toxic teammate, was traded to Wizards District Gaming in 2019. He has gone in to change his reputation, also becoming the first big man to win NBA 2K League Finals MVP in August 2020.
Please note that this transcription is minorly edited for brevity and clarity.
How long are you around today, just so I can be mindful?
Ryan Conger: I’m free. All I do is play video games.
Well, let’s start there. When your friends and family ask you what you do, what do you tell them?
RC: It’s changed over the years. When I first started, my parents were not really fond of it. They really didn’t want me to do something like this because I was a college baseball player before I did this. The only reason I started doing this is I tore my ACL. I was doing rehab on my knee and was taking my classes but I started playing NBA 2K in my free time because I didn’t really have much else to do. I got really, really good really, really fast. It was perfect timing because the combine for the 2K League was announced a month after I tore my ACL. I knew that it was going to be a professional league through the NBA. It was super dope, I thought. I moved back home after my finals and my dad was not with me on this. He wanted me to play baseball but he really just wanted anything besides this. He thought there was no way this was going to work. He was making me build fences and do a bunch of stuff around the house. It was pretty tough.
But I told him the combine was two and a half months long. I told him if he gave me two and a half months and if I don’t make it, I’ll never touch the game again. Obviously, I end up going to the Wizards and we end up winning the championship. It’s kind of funny when I explain it to my friends, though. The baseball guys get it because playing this, I am still on a team. You have to be able to live with these guys and play with these guys and know their tendencies and know how they act and be able to coexist with them in the workplace. That is the biggest similarity.
What was your history with gaming before coming into the NBA 2K League?
RC: My history with gaming is definitely different than most people who played in the league. I didn’t start playing until the start of 2017. But I didn’t play video games growing up. I was a sports guy. My dad would coach me growing up. We didn’t have a video game console. I actually only even got one because when I was in college, I was tired of getting in trouble off the field. My name is Dayfri because I got the console on Black Friday, three years ago. The only advice I would tell people coming up is to handle your business with school or whatever else you’ve got going on. Video games will always be there.
But if the opportunity does present itself, I’d tell anybody that there is no better job than the one I do. I wake up every day and I get to press buttons for lots of money. I can’t ever complain about my life or what I do. I was kind of embarrassed when I first started but I’m so glad I picked this up because it changed my life for the better. If somebody is out there scared to take the next step in playing video games, I want to tell you all that it’s not nerdy or geeky to play videos. I was a jock all my life. All I did was play baseball and football. But the narrative of a guy sitting in a basement drinking Mountain Dew isn’t what the narrative should be. You can make a real career out of playing video games whether it is 2K or whether it is Counterstrike of League of Legends. Video games are changing, eSports are evolving. It is a real career path for some people in the world.
Can you walk me through what a typical day looks like for you as a professional video game player?
RC: This year was a little bit different because of COVID-19 and quarantine. We would usually have film around 10:30 am or 11:00 am every day. So we would watch it on Discord because we couldn’t all be together. We would discuss with each other and we would have scrimmages. We would play other teams from 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm, usually. After that, we would try to go eat food as a team as long as we didn’t want to rip each other’s heads off after scrimmages. We had access to a gym in our apartment so we could go work out. I would try to go at least two or three times per week. I know it is tough because when you sit in front of a screen all day, you don’t want to do anything when you’re done.
We had workouts from the organization, too, and they would put us through absolute hell. It was really good for us and really good team bonding. I try to eat healthily. I can’t eat fast food every day, I can’t use DoorDash every day. It also helped that my roommate Justin Howell (Just_Awkward) didn’t eat meat. He only ate fish. If we had a game the next day, me and Justin would stay up until 3:00 am or 4:00 am and watch film for hours on our own and do our own reports. That was basically a day in the life. It was basically: eat, sleep and play 2K.
It is amazing to see that hard work turned into you winning NBA 2K League Finals MVP, the first big man to win the award. What did that acknowledgment mean for you?
RC: I didn’t really think about it because I thought our whole team played great in those games. I had good stats but our whole year, we played as a team. Nobody really cared about their stats and that was the biggest thing. When we went to the Finals, we knew their weak spots and they had a center who we attacked. I did my job well enough. It is pretty cool to look back on it now, being the first center to win Finals MVP. I think it was more of a team award but it was honestly super relaxing to win the Finals and know that I was a big part of why we won.
You got to actually celebrate on the court, too. What were some of the best moments from that experience?
RC: [Laughs] Man, that celebration was crazy. We loaded up in the van and it was so surreal. We walked into Capital One Arena after playing video games for so long and the jumbotron and every other screen was all for us. The whole time, I didn’t want that night to end. It was just so relieving. We finally did it. When you set that goal at the end of the year, it never feels like it is that close. Then to be able to do it and celebrate and everything starts settling in, it was such a crazy feeling.
What is the role that you played for your team to get there, both when you are playing the game and also just as a teammate?
RC: My first season, I mostly played power forward and center. I was the second-leader on the team because Dimez (Artreyo Boyd) was the first pick. When I got traded, I became the center for the Wizards. I ended up moving to the four again to bring the extra scoring. This year, I was the leader of the team on and off the court. I played center all year and I didn’t miss a game as the center. I was a role model for some of the new guys. Maurice Delaney (ReeseDaGod) was one of the returners for our team and he was the good cop and I was the bad cop. I’d be yelling at guys and he would tell me to calm down, that it was okay. We had a good mix. I’m definitely a trash talker. We weren’t on the stage this year so I didn’t get to trash talk too much and it was more on Twitter than anything.
I was perceived, before the season, as a toxic teammate. I was a hothead. I finally got a team that accepted who I was and bought into what I was talking about. We were all about to talk to each other how we wanted to talk to each other. Nobody ever took it personally. That was a big reason why we had so much success. You always want to win the championship no matter what you’re doing. You want to be the best at what you do. You want the prestige of being a champion. Everybody bought into each other and we all had our own big moments where we stepped up. I truly can’t speak enough about how well we overcame the adversity we faced.
Did you have a similar approach and reputation when you were a baseball player?
RC: I was the catcher in baseball, which means I was the guy who was talking the most on the field. I would always trash talk the other team, try to get them out of their element, baseball is very mental. I was super passionate and I carried that over into the 2K League. I think that was one of the reasons why I was ready for this league and good for this league.
I would love to hear about some of the goals you have for yourself moving forward.
RC: I stream on Twitch. I post informative YouTube videos of how to become a better 2K player. I’ll play with top players. The newest project is I’d like to start my own podcast. I’ll try to bring on guys from the community for insight and things like that. I also host tournaments and leagues. I have my own tournament league called Top Tier Leagues. I run it with some of the other guys in this league, including the coach of the Magic and the coach of the Knicks. It’s basically our scouting tool in the offseason. Outside of the league, I want to start my own business in the next year or two. I’ve always wanted to be a business owner. I want to start a rec center near my hometown. I want to open up a place where people can play basketball, volleyball.