Terrence Ross: Last night was unreal. @EpicGames @FortniteGame thanks for having me. Hope I can come back next year 🤘🏾🤘🏾
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Jeremy Lin: It was awesome being there! First Dota 2 tournament in China! Can’t believe you required makeup for the analyst desk tho 😂 twitter.com/pwrd_dota2/sta…
Rick Fox says he’s got the $100 MILLION Fortnite prize money in his sites — and he’s got his people scouting the world looking to put together the best squad he can find. Fox is one of the big dogs in eSports — his team, “Echo Fox,” is a perennial contender in games like “League of Legends” and ‘CS:GO.’
Even though it had only been one month since the last time we spoke, Franklin’s life had continued to change in ways he never imagined and every day, he was creating incredible memories. The Sacramento Kings players who love video games quickly became friendly with the players on Kings Guard Gaming, which gave Franklin some cool stories he could tell his friends back home. “It’s crazy, man! Literally right before jumping on this phone call, I was playing Fortnite and De’Aaron Fox was just standing behind me, hanging out and watching me play,” he said. “He’s someone who has some of the most potential of any player in the NBA and here he is just being a cool, humble kid! That’s just one example. Jack Cooley has been really great to be around too. I really feel like one of the players. “
“When I was playing NBA 2K12, I consistently put in work every single day,” Franklin told HoopsHype. “Then, once I felt I was prepared and ready to face top competition, I started hitting up every Top-25 team and asking them to give me a chance. Back then, if you were on a Top-25 team, people in the 2K community knew who you were. I was just some random guy and nobody knew who I was, but I became a pest. I messaged every Top-25 team saying, ‘I know you don’t know me, but give me a chance. All I need is one tryout and I’ll show you that I’m one of the best.’ Then, I got a shot and earned a spot on the No. 3 team. Two years later, in NBA 2K14, GameBattles had a playoff with a $2,000 prize – the largest 2K prize pool in GameBattles history – and my team won that. After that, I really knew, ‘Yeah, this is for me.’ I became obsessed with it, doing anything I could push myself and become better.”
“If you told me this would happen 10 years ago, I would’ve told you that you’re crazy. Honestly, if you told me about all this two years ago, I would’ve said you’re insane,” Franklin told HoopsHype. “I’ve loved playing video games my whole life, but I wasn’t really serious about it – nothing like I am with 2K. The majority of my family goes hunting and fishing, but I’ve never enjoyed that. I always loved video games and was a natural at them. They finally stopped bringing me hunting because I’d bring my Game Boy out in the woods, and it would make all these noises and you’re supposed to be really quiet when you’re hunting (laughs). They finally got upset with me and stopped bringing me, so I guess I sort of won that war. But I always knew I wasn’t really into outdoor activities like that; I’ve always loved video games and I was always a sports fanatic, so to be able to play 2K for a living is a dream come true.”
Less than a year ago, Chris Toussaint was a high-school student who loved eSports, but he didn’t have any experience playing NBA 2K. Now, at 18 years old, he’s the general manager of Magic Gaming in the NBA 2K League. How did Toussaint get hired by the Orlando Magic and become the youngest person working in the 2K League? By sending a cold email to Director of Magic Gaming Ryan DeVos. “I reached out to the Magic and Ryan DeVos after I found his email by doing some research online,” Toussaint told HoopsHype. “I sent him a cold email, just like I had done so many times when I was starting out in the eSports world, and he actually responded. That led to a lunch meeting with Ryan, where I was able to talk a little bit about myself and what my aspirations are in this business. About two to three weeks later, I was at the final stages of my interview with the Magic to become the general manager of their 2K League team. Then, I was hired a few days later. This was back in October of 2017.”
“Chris reached out when he was with Misfits because he wanted to learn a little bit more about the 2K League in general and find out what I was working on from a Magic Gaming standpoint,” DeVos told HoopsHype. “Then, we connected more officially when Ben Spoont, the founder and CEO of Misfits, told me that Chris wanted to get into the team management side of things and passed him my way. We had a great rapport from the get-go. We really hit it off and we started working together from there. “I oversee the team and Chris reports to me, but I’m primarily focused on the business side of things. I’m trying to leave the gaming side of things to Chris as much as possible. It is just Chris and myself right now so it is all hands on deck, but I’m mainly focused on the business partnerships, PnL management and things like that.”
“I’m 18 years old working for the Orlando Magic; I believe I’m one of the youngest employees to be hired by an NBA team on the management side,” Toussaint said. “I want to document this story. I’m learning so much about the world while doing something awesome that I’m passionate about. One of the things that I want to do is create my own content, capturing the best and worst moments of this journey so I can share it with the world. I want to show what eSports is like behind the scenes. People see the tournaments and prize money and all of that, but they don’t see everything else that goes into it. These guys are fierce competitors who care so much about winning, just like their NBA counterparts. I want to capture this journey, from my perspective as a manager and team coach. That’s one of my goals.”
Bilal Almashni comes from a family of bodybuilders, so he understands the importance of peak physical fitness. But as starting small forward on the Orlando Magic’s competitive video game team, the 23-year-old will have a personal trainer and nutritionist for the first time. Physical fitness “makes a difference in esports,” said Almashni, a Chicago native who moved to Orlando for the NBA2K League team last month. “Getting your blood flowing is like a natural caffeine to me.” As the world of esports continues to expand, it has brought into focus the effects of prolonged exposure to video games on players.
The Orlando Magic have worked to address that issue by requiring a 10-minute break every hour during the esports team’s twice-a-day, three-hour practice sessions. “Burnout is a huge issue and while we want to make sure we push them, we want to be cognizant of their mental and physical health,” Magic Gaming Director Ryan DeVos said. The players work out for an hour with a trainer, who puts them through basketball-based routines at RDV Sportsplex in Maitland, an Orlando Magic partner.
Jeff Terrell: I’m thankful to be in the position I am in. We’re excited but understand this is just the beginning. We still have a long way to go and have a lot of things we can improve on. It’s surreal to be the first ever @NBA2KLeague tournament Champs! Thanks for all the support. #together
76ers Gaming Club have announced that they have signed Jeff Terrell as the head coach for their 2K League team, who will look after not only player management but also the performance of the team as well as their practice scheduled. “We are excited to name Jeff Terrell as the head coach of 76ers Gaming Club,” 76ers GC General Manager Michael Lai said. “Jeff stood out to us immediately, having both an intimate knowledge of the competitive NBA 2K scene and extensive experience coaching traditional basketball. Beyond his experience, Jeff demonstrated a thoughtful approach to the game that will put our players in a position to succeed. We are delighted to have him as our coach, and I look forward to working with him toward our goal of winning a championship.”
The Cavaliers weren’t the only Cleveland basketball team to win in thrilling fashion Tuesday. The city’s first pro esports team Cavs Legion GC did it too. In their first-ever game in the NBA 2K League, Sick (Jerry Knapp) took a pass from Hood (Brandon Caicedo) on a drive and kick and hit a game-winning three-pointer with 3.2 seconds left for a 76-63 victory over Kings Gaming. Hood, Cavs Legion’s top pick in the draft, finished the game with 41 points and 8 assists.
The Pistons Gaming Team has won the first game in the history of the NBA’s 2K League, the first official esports league operated by a U.S. professional sports league. Pistons GT defeated Bucks Gaming, the team representing the Milwaukee Bucks, 49-44 in the first game of the league’s season-opening Tip-Off tournament.
My video game participation peaked with Goldeneye for Nintendo 64. Even so, those of us with an interest in court design awaited what NBA teams might do with their virtual floors. They could be more adventurous, and if some nutty out-of-the-box gamble resonated, perhaps they might one day incorporate it into real NBA games featuring real humans playing real basketball. ESPN obtained an exclusive first look at the finished courts. Here they are, in alphabetical order, with some instant analysis: 76ers Gaming Club. Philly may have the NBA’s best top-to-bottom art. The mix of blue, red, and clean nods to history always works. This is a little more audacious, and doesn’t quite match Philly’s usual standards. The empty paint trend mostly phased out of the NBA over the last two or three years, but as we’re going to see, it (unfortunately) returns with a vengeance in the virtual NBA. Lightly shaded logos within each 3-point arc are very much in — see Denver and New Orleans in real life — but this version is clunky. There are just too many shaded objects competing for your eye’s attention.
HyperX will serve as the official gaming headset of the NBA 2K League, in a partnership announced by the sides ahead of the start of the league’s inaugural season.
The headsets will be worn by both players and casters during all live gameplay throughout the course of the season, including weekly matchups, three in-season tournaments, playoffs and the NBA 2K League Finals “We want NBA 2K League players to have best-in-class equipment, and when it comes to headsets, HyperX is second to none,” NBA 2K League Managing Director Brendan Donohue said. “Communicating with teammates during play is vital for success and partnering with HyperX will allow our players to compete at their best.”
Cavs Legion Gaming Club will tip off its inaugural season in the NBA 2K League with three games on Tuesday. Cleveland’s first professional esports team begin play in the league’s first tournament by taking on Sacramento’s Kings Guard Gaming at 6 p.m. and Milwaukee’s Bucks Gaming at 7 p.m. before closing out the night against Detroit’s Pistons Gaming Team at 10 p.m. All games will be played at the NBA 2K League studio in New York City and streamed live on Twitch.
While Radoncic was on the phone writing instructions, she called a relative from their Brooklyn, N.Y., home. “Ramo! Ramo! He made the NBA,” she shouted into the speaker. Radoncic quickly corrected his mother. The Detroit Pistons Gaming Team’s first-round pick has signed a six-month contract worth $35,000 — a far cry from the $2.8 million Luke Kennard earned for recently completing his rookie season. But the excitement is warranted.
Radoncic, 25, left a job as a doorman at a Manhattan building, betting on the future of the eSports venture. He also left a 4-year-old golden retriever to be cared for by his mother. Radoncic believes the eSports world is only going to grow. “It’s a new era,” he said. “Video games, man. It’s the dream for me.”
Woods, 18, is the youngest player in the league. He made the call to drop out of University of Tennessee-Martin. First-round picks will make $35,000; others will make $32,000. One million dollars in prize money will be at stake over the course of the season. The playoff pool is $600,000 with the league champion receiving $300,000. Eight teams reach the postseason. “(My parents) let me drop out to go for it and just told me to try my best. If I want to change up, I can go back to school,” Woods said. “You can always go to school, but not everybody gets the chance to be a professional gamer. I want to do this. God forbid that I have to go back, I can always go back.”
Their first-round pick Larell Mitchell aka Winner Stayz On has been the face of the franchise early on. Let’s start with him. Larell Mitchell (Winner_Stayz_On): As the elder statesman on the team, WSO has taken the bull by the horns as it pertains to leadership. His presentation and professionalism are exemplary. Now it’s time for him to prove he has the goods on the virtual court. During the combine, he led all NBA 2K League players in assists per game.
The NBA and Twitch expanded their partnership Wednesday, announcing a multiyear agreement for Twitch to live stream all of the fledgling 2K League’s games. The news had been expected for some time, as Twitch broadcast the 2K League’s inaugural draft at Madison Square Garden earlier this month, and a partnership between the two is a natural fit given Twitch’s prominent position in the video gaming community.
Leonsis sees the NBA as a platform, like Facebook — “the good Facebook,” he said Monday morning. And he expects 2K teams will become part of that platform, both as a revenue-generator and a content-provider, along with an owners’ NBA, WNBA and G League teams. “In the short term, it will help us in marketing and help us be more relevant to a younger audience,” Leonsis said. “It will also help us globally. The Twitches and YouTubes are unwired, and available to people around the world.”
“eSports will be a boon for traditional media,” Leonsis said. “The two drivers of revenue and fan affinity will be digital sports and digital gaming and gambling. Outside of the U.S., digital gambling is accepted. You go do digital gambling like you would go to a Starbucks … if you look at things like Draft Kings, if you put a virtual team together, you watch all of the games. You’re really interested. When casual fans bet on games, like the NCAA Tournament or the Super Bowl, the viewership stays really high.”
Now Thomallari has a salary to go with his video-game talents. Along with the other first-round selections, he will be paid $35,000 for the 17-week season. The draft went six rounds, and each team selected a starting lineup and one back-up. Players picked outside of the first round will be paid $32,000 for the season. All players will receive standard medical benefits, as well as housing in Boston paid for by the league (rather than the Celtics). “Fourteen months ago, there was no path to pro,” NBA 2K League commissioner Brendan Donohue told reporters in Boston on Friday. “To go from there to where they are now is great.”
Tim Bontemps: The NBA 2K League has announced its schedule for its inaugural season. Teams will play 14 regular season games, with eight teams making the playoffs (seven qualifying by record, and the eighth either by record or winning the final of three in-season tournaments).
Tim Bontemps: The quarterfinals of the playoffs will be single-elimination, and the semifinals and finals will be best-of-three. Teams will be competing for $1 million in prize money for the postseason and three tournaments, including $300,000 going to the league champion.
Yesterday’s draft was the first real step on that journey. It was a promising start, but just that: a start. Silver said he expects that all 30 NBA franchises will field esports teams by the third year of the gaming league — another sign that the NBA and Take-Two are in this for the long haul. But that’s a long way off. “Things aren’t going to be perfect in the beginning, but we’ve just got to get out there,” said Silver during the press conference. “We’ve got to begin operating, and we’ll learn as we’ll go.”
On the 14th floor of Two Penn Plaza in Manhattan, actor Jerry Ferrara is getting nervous. “It’s the feeling I get right before a big scene,” said Ferrara, most famous for his role as Turtle in “Entourage.” “If I start laughing, it’s not because I’m not taking this seriously. It’s just what I do when I get nervous.”
The Knicks have the ninth pick, not the greatest spot in the snake draft. Things follow to form — Mootyy goes fourth to the Kings, Walnut is picked sixth by the Blazers and KontruL goes to the Magic at No. 8. Ferrara takes control of the room. “We all comfortable with Goofy?” Ferrara asks, referring to Dayvon Curry, a 21-year-old from Virginia Beach. “I kind of cried when I was talking to him.” The group agrees. “Do I have to say Goofy underscore 757?” Ferrara asks before calling in the pick. The voice on the other line asks for the player’s gamer number. It’s 66. They then wait for the pick to be announced and congratulate themselves. At the theater, Goofy_757 is there with his father, Kelvin. “I’m shocked, but I’m really proud of him,” Kelvin Curry said.
For two straight August nights in 2015, the only thing hotter than the sweltering concrete in Manhattan was the esports action that filled Jim Dolan’s Garden. The North American League of Legends Championship Series Finals drew a total of 22,000 feverish fans, including one wide-eyed NBA commissioner who soaked everything in. Millions more watched and chatted about the action online live.
“I remember thinking, it was a hot summer night in August, who in the world would be at Madison Square Garden for this competition?” Silver told ESPN. “I knew it had sold out, but I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of an audience.”
“I can’t take credit for having sort of a crystal ball here,” Silver said more than a year before the NBA 2K League would hold its first draft. “And the jury is still out. [But] I am incredibly excited — I mean, you can tell right now — about us going into this business. We will soon see what the crossover is between traditional NBA enthusiasts on one hand and gamers on the other hand. Even those gamers that are playing NBA 2K may be largely a different audience than those who play basketball or attend and watch NBA games.”
Once upon a time, David Stern’s vision was to expand into Europe, Asia and Africa and make the game global. Now, the next horizon looks as clear and vibrant as a 4K screen: one of Silver’s missions is to bring the game to every fan’s fingertips via smartphones, consoles and computers and reach every corner of the planet as easily as Giannis Antetokounmpo reaches the rim in one stride from the free throw line. The NBA isn’t ready to start a franchise in Europe knowing how international travel would negatively impact players’ rest and health.
Beginning in May of 2018, the team will compete with 16 other NBA franchises as a charter member of an NBA 2K eSports League. The franchise has chosen the name “Kings Guard” as their team name and on Monday morning, they announced that former NBA superstar and minority owner of the Sacramento Kings, Shaquille O’Neal, has been named the General Manager of Kings Guard Gaming.
“I’m looking forward to my role with Kings Guard,” O’Neal said in the team’s official press release. “Just like I dominated the hardwood, music industry, showbiz, nicknames and broadcasting, I plan to help build the most dominant 2K franchise in history.”
As the first active NBA player to serve a majority ownership role of an e-sports organization, Jerebko doesn’t have time to run the day-to-day operations, but he’s certainly engaged with what his Renegades are doing. “My focus is basketball, but every time there’s a big decision or new teams or players that need to be signed, we’ve got a group text together that we talk through,” Jerebko said. “Other than that, I let my partners run the day-to-day stuff while I’m doing my thing over here.”
While living in the mountains of Salt Lake City during the NBA season, he continues to run the organization like any other professional sports team with a strong circle of business partners such as chief operating officer Jeff Zajac, manager Chris Orfanellis and coach Aleksandar “Kassad” Trifunović. “There is everyday communication (with Jonas),” Zajac said. “Our primary focus is making sure we continue to grow and provide the best environment for our players, teams and partners who support us.”
“Do I see it as a sport? Yeah, I see it as a sport,” Jerebko said. “It’s a lot of team work and it’s a team game. E-sports is competitive, and you need to be on top of your game to be the best in the world.”
NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said the basketball league is looking to turn its new esports league into a “truly global sport” that can coexist alongside the physical game just as the WNBA and G League have coexisted alongside the traditional men’s league. “We’re going to have teams eventually from Team Beijing play Team Dehli play Team London against the Celtics and create truly global competition,” Tatum said at a South by Southwest panel discussing the evolution of basketball.
“Twitch is a completely different experience than watching on TV, it’s information overload. But that’s how this young demographic is consuming the sport today,” said Tatum. “We need to be in [esports] because we need to attract those younger demographics.” The NBA was first alerted about esports a few years ago when it learned that entire basketball venues were being sold out for esports competitions, according to Tatum. In 2015, Madison Square Garden, the midtown Manhattan home of the NBA’s New York Knicks, reached a sold-out capacity of 11,000 people for a championship round of League of Legends.
The Mavericks’ front-office problems continued to grow on Wednesday when they suspended their general manager of Mavs Gaming, Roger Caneda, after a racist tweet from 2016 was uncovered, a source said. There were further unconfirmed reports of more controversial comments on Twitter in 2017, although the source said it was uncertain whether Caneda’s account had been hacked at that point.
On Monday, Cavs GC and Muraco sent me this statement on the matter. Muraco said: “No team, or team personnel like myself, have any influence whatsoever on who is selected by the NBA 2K League. In an attempt to show my personal support and encouragement to Stylez, I mistakenly created the perception with him that I had involvement in the player selection process. This is not true, and I deeply regret that my communications suggested otherwise.”
Also, official statements from an NBA 2K League spokesperson offered more clarification and explained why Stylez and another player received emails later than others: “Teams have absolutely no input on which players made the Top 250. The comprehensive process was led strictly by officials from 2K, the NBA 2K League, and included Genji Esports, a third-party analytics firm. The players were selected based on a range of factors, including performance from the combine and an online application detailing their knowledge of the game of basketball – for example, running a zone defense and executing a pick-and-roll – as well as their understanding of the NBA 2K video game and reasons for why they want to play in the league.”
Today, the Miami HEAT and premier esports organization Misfits Gaming announced they have selected Alienware technology for a competitive advantage for esports players. Misfits players will be training and streaming utilizing all Alienware hardware. The full list of technology includes Alienware Aurora desktops, Alienware 15 laptops, AW2518H 240Hz monitors and mixture of Alienware keyboards and mice, ensuring a world class experience.
“We couldn’t be more excited to announce this foundational partnership with Alienware,” said Misfits Gaming CEO Ben Spoont. “Alienware will power and enable all our Misfits athletes across the world with high-performance PCs and equipment. We look forward to a long-standing relationship with Alienware.”
The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors renew their rivalry once again on Sunday. Don’t double check your NBA schedule, though, because the battle isn’t being played on a basketball court. It’s being decided in a gaming arena in Los Angeles. That’s where 100 Thieves, the eSports team owned by Dan Gilbert, takes on the Golden Guardians, the team owned by the Warriors, in a North America League of Legends Championship Series (NA LCS) match.
The Cavaliers owner is among the growing list of major league sports team owners to invest millions of dollars in eSports, or competitive video gaming. In addition to 100 Thieves, Gilbert owns the Cavs Legion Gaming Club of the new NBA 2K League launching in the spring. So, who is the other sports franchise in Gilbert’s life? We caught up with 100 Thieves founder Matt “Nadeshot” Haag and president and COO John Robinson to find out.
“This year, the top players just broke $1 million in salary for the first time ever,” Robinson said. “That gives you a sense of how valuable these players are to the teams.” In addition, the NA LCS doled out $200,000 in prize money last season. At worlds, nearly $5 million was awarded to the winning teams.
CLTX Gaming, the Boston Celtics organization’s NBA 2K League team, announced today their official partnership with Splyce, a professional video gaming esports organization. The partnership is the first of its kind, dedicated to building the foundation for a successful NBA 2K League team. In preparation for the inaugural NBA 2K League season, Splyce will collaborate with CLTX Gaming on initiatives such as roster personnel and player development, while assisting with the design and layout of the training facility and team living space in the Boston area. Already fielding top competitive gaming teams in League of Legends, Call of Duty, Rocket League and Counter-Strike, Splyce will also contribute to CLTX Gaming’s competitive analysis and gameplay strategy. “NBA 2K is one of the top sports simulations in the world,” said Jim Ferris, Managing Director, CLTX Gaming. “By combining our rich history in basketball with Splyce’s ability to field top teams of competitive gamers, we believe we are well positioned to create a top NBA 2K League team in CLTX Gaming.”
When the NBA 2K League launches in 2018, Blazer5 Gaming will be among the 17 teams participating in the inaugural season. The new Blazer5 Gaming squad will begin play in May 2018 with a roster of five players who will live in-market during the season. Blazer5 gaming will be announcing staffing, including an Operations Manager and Team Manager, in a future release. During the inaugural season, all games will be played in one or two central studios. The official gaming platform, media carriage partners and other marketing partners will be announced at a later date. Fans and prospective gamers can connect with Blazer5 Gaming content, information, announcements and other special promotions at http://www.blazer5gaming.com; and by following the team Twitter handle @blazer5gaming.
The inaugural NBA 2K League season is booting up and ready to tip-off in May 2018. The official name of the team that will rep Cleveland on the virtual court is Cavs Legion Gaming Club (GC). In addition, Anthony Muraco has been named Director, Gaming Operations and HOT POCKETS© signed on to be the first founding partner of Cavs Legion GC. Cavs Legion GC is one of 17 NBA 2K League teams participating in the inaugural NBA 2K League season. The Cavs Legion GC official team colors are wine and gold, consistent with the look and feel of the Cavaliers NBA team franchise. The official team logo features a contemporary adaptation of the Cavalier profile, set above the team name in a sharp typeface that’s inspired by the edges of a sword.
Pacers Sports & Entertainment Tuesday officially announced a fourth team to its family of Indiana sports teams. Joining the NBA Pacers, the WNBA Fever and the G League Ft. Wayne Mad Ants, will be Pacers Gaming, one of 17 teams in the NBA 2K League, which debuts in May 2018. The NBA is the first U.S. professional sports league to operate an official esports league. The NBA 2K League is a partnership between the NBA and the game publisher Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. NBA 2K is a video basketball simulation game with gameplay that simulates a typical game of basketball. The Pacers Gaming team will field a roster of five players who will be selected from a pool of the world’s best gamers via the League Draft in March.
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.
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.”
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June 18, 2018 | 10:18 pm EDT Update
Brad Stevens: First of all, if you bring our whole group back, that’s great. Our group was really connected. We’re going to obviously add two really good players that weren’t playing at the end of the year. We’re kind of in a unique situation.
What did you think of Jayson Tatum’s growth? Brad Stevens: I think he can get a lot better. He did some incredible things. No. 1 is his durability. He played 99 games. My only concern going into the playoffs was his minutes. We were very alert to that, especially because he dipped a little in January, and really took to heart how important nutrition, the weight room, and the training room are. I think if you talk to anyone down there, he took it to a different level in those areas and just continued to rise as the season went on and played great all season. But he can get better.
Brad Stevens: Two years ago we knew we were picking Jaylen. It was clear as day. And Terry Rozier the year before was pretty clear. Q. Terry was clear in the days leading up to the draft? A. A month. Right after our season ended I remember Danny walking in and talking about, ‘Watch Terry Rozier.’ He wasn’t listed necessarily quite that high, but Danny was really sold on him. Every year is a little different but you can kind of tell what he likes.
Kyle Neubeck: “We’re going to go deep into July I think before they really start talking to candidates,” Woj says of the #Sixers front office search on ESPN’s draft show.
June 18, 2018 | 8:53 pm EDT Update
Sagar Trika: When asked if the decision at #1 has been made, McDonough said he’d draw out the suspense for another 72 hours or so. Says they’ve narrowed it down to a tier of five guys (in no order): Marvin Bagley, Luka Dončić, Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Mohamed Bamba.