NBA Rumor: eSports

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Spurs Sports & Entertainment today announced it is joining Tribe Gaming’s investor group. The mobile gaming giant is the leading mobile gaming esports organization in North America with over 25 million subscribers worldwide. Tribe’s powerhouse content collective garners 128 million monthly views on YouTube and their esports teams compete in five major mobile titles. “Tribe Gaming and its founder Patrick Carney are visionaries in gaming and esports,” said Joe Donnelly, Associate Vice President of Corporate Development for SS&E. “Through their innovative approach, unique culture and strategic leadership, they have transformed the mobile gaming lifestyle into a thriving business with a global fanbase. We have great respect for what they have already achieved and are excited to be a part of Tribe Gaming’s future.”

There is, however, one venture that O’Neal can’t help but talk about: esports. O’Neal walked his children into the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship back in 2013 and left with a piqued curiosity. “One day I had the children and my boys said, ‘Dad, take us to the Staples Center!’” O’Neal recalled. “As soon as I turn the corner, it’s screaming kids, watching some other kids play video games.” “I never even heard of esports. But 60,000 kids jumping up and down, louder than a basketball game, I knew that this right here, it was going to be the future.”

Fortnite and the NBA are teaming up in a significant virtual collaboration. Dubbed “Fortnite x NBA: The Crossover,” the event coincides with the start of the 2021 NBA postseason. On Friday, players will be able to equip NBA outfits for all 30 teams, and on May 25th can visit a “NBA Welcome Hub” in Fortnite’s Creative Mode, where NBA-themed experiences and content will reside. Player “Locker Bundles” will also be part of the drop, featuring Utah Jazz Shooting guard Donovan Mitchell and Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young. The pair will share their personal favorite items to equip while playing Fortnite and these items will be digitized and available for sale in the Fortnite Item Shop next week.

Luka Doncic signing a deal with 2K?

According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic has broken away from a deal with EA Sports, and he has signed with 2K. No details were revealed on the new agreement, but it makes Doncic the favorite to be the cover athlete for NBA 2K22. Doncic was officially named the cover athlete for NBA Live Mobile back in December 2019, but nothing has materialized for the console version of the brand.

“Man, this is crazy,” Andre Smith told his big brother. “I’m really about to be in the league.” “The league?” Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma shot back. “You’re not in the league. I’m in THE league.” They might both be right — in very different ways. Franchises from the NBA’s 2K League will fill their teams with the best virtual basketball players ahead of the league’s fourth season with its annual draft on Saturday. Smith will be in the player pool of around 250 gamers hoping to land one of the 63 available roster spots.

Kuzma, an avid gamer who has been traveling this season with a video game monitor, saw Smith’s skills explode in a very unbrotherly whooping in the sport Kuzma plays professionally at the highest level. “It wasn’t fun playing with him. … But eventually as time grew and he got a lot better at it. About two years ago, he finally beat me in ‘2K’ for the first time,” Kuzma said. “… He kicked my ass. I was like, damn. This dude got better.”

The NBA 2K growth was in line with the broader esports industry, which drew in 485 million viewers in 2020, an 11.7% increase from 2019, according to Newzoo, while revenue rose 15.7% to $1.1 billion. “The NBA teams certainly can drive local revenue, selling partnerships, selling content, and selling merchandise,” Donohue said. “The model that exists on the NBA side for the most part carries over to the 2K side.” In three years the 2K League has inked partnerships with AT&T, Snickers, New Era Caps, Panera Bread and more.

Dion Waiters, professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers, has invested in Miami-based esports and lifestyle brand, Centric Gaming. The organisation has told Esports Insider it aims to “make a statement”, in Waiters’ hometown of Philadelphia, that “gaming is something that is achievable as a career”. Waiters is partnering with Centric Gaming Founder Kyree Ware, who will be responsible for the organisation’s esports development.

Parker also sees a lot of synergies between esports and the traditional sports. “They can grow together, but esports is its own world and can fill up stadiums just like basketball,” he said. “There’s a lot of strategy that goes into it, coaches and trainers just like a basketball team.” “If people don’t know, they have a hard time imagining it. But these are athletes that practice eight hours a day and are very committed to their sport,” he said.

EA is hosting a Madden NFL 21 tournament called The Homestand powered by ASUS this weekend featuring eight competitors, including several NBA players and an MMA fighter. The Homestand’s first round kicks off Saturday at 4 p.m. ET with a matchup between Dallas Mavericks guard Seth Curry and Golden State Warriors forward Eric Paschall. Their game will be followed by three more first-round matchups, and the tournament’s final will take place Monday at 4:30 p.m. ET.

It’s rare to see a No. 1 overall draft pick winning a championship in their first year of competition. But that’s exactly what happened Friday night as the Washington Wizards-owned Wizards District Gaming won the NBA 2K League title, fueled by a stellar performance by rookie point guard John “JBM” Mascone. “I was just telling my parents I’ve been playing sports for 18 years and I’ve never been so emotional,” Mascone told ESPN after the championship.

Wizards District defeated the Golden State Warriors-owned Warriors Gaming Squad, 3-1, in the best-of-five series to claim their first championship. After Warriors Gaming won the first game, Wizards found their groove and won three straight. “We felt like we came out flat-footed, and we didn’t talk enough,” Mascone said about losing the opening game. “We were blinded by the moment. Going into these things, you try not to hype it up, but also have a sense of urgency… we found that balance starting in Game 2. Game 1 was a blessing in disguise.”

“… In a game like (NBA 2K), where you have a week before, you can’t think about anything else,” Mascone said. “I’m dreaming about this. We didn’t have any time to think going into the game against the Raptors. They were undisputedly the best team in the league. We were just better on that day.” Playoff MVP honors went to center Ryan “Dayfri” Conger. Mascone said Conger was the voice of reason for the team after losing Game 1. Conger helped reset the team’s mentality after the loss and get them back on track for the hardware.

Esports company Faze Clan announced today that two-time NBA All-Star Ben Simmons has joined a Series B funding round that has yet to close. The Philadelphia 76ers star is the latest basketball player to invest in Faze Clan, following the New Orleans Pelicans’ Josh Hart, the Miami Heat’s Meyers Leonard and the Denver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray. Esports have been a hot destination for athletes to place their cash. Kevin Durant, Michael Jordan, Alex Rodriguez and David Beckham are among those with stakes in competitive gaming companies. European soccer stars Antoine Griezmann of Barcelona and Mesut Ozil of Arsenal have started their own esports teams.

Faze Clan was ranked by Forbes in November as the fourth-most-valuable esports company. Terms of Simmons’ investment were not disclosed. “My role with FaZe now goes much deeper than the initial investment,” says Simmons, adding that he was drawn to the company as a teenager because of its cool brand and came to believe in its family gaming culture. “I am going to bring it back to Australia and bring an international side to it. I also want to bring more kids into it.”

Jeff Eisenband: The @NBA2KLeague has introduced the “Command Center” on @Twitch, which allows viewers to watch both ongoing games at once. Main feed has @ScottColeShow and @Dirk_JDR’s call (going back-and-forth between games) and then each game has its own feed with game sounds. pic.twitter.com/gm7vqZv6qA

Leonsis predicts the 2K League will become a way to attract international fans. “Almost 80 percent of the appeal is gonna be outside of the U.S.,” he said. The league and ESPN announced a deal on Tuesday to broadcast this season’s games both domestically and internationally. Last year’s NBA 2K Finals, the second one ever of its kind, exceeded one million unique viewers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch and YouTube, according to information the NBA provided to The Athletic. A league spokesperson denied a request for demographics of 2K viewership in different countries. “People have seen what we’ve been able to do with Team Liquid, which is the best-performing — in terms of players and prize money — team. But it’s also been a really, really great business,” Leonsis said. “And so, that’s what we think will happen here. We try to explain to everyone that there’s more people outside of the U.S. on the Internet than (there) are here and their first exposure to the NBA is probably gonna be through NBA 2K.”

The league is expanding to China. When the season begins Tuesday, it will have its first non-NBA affiliated squad: The Gen.G Tigers, located in Shanghai. It ran games on Tencent in China last season. It scheduled day games to air at primetime in Europe. The long-term goals are bigger. “We envision this being a global league,” 2K League managing director Brendan Donohue said. “We’re in the process and in our near future, we see having an Asia Pacific division, a European division of 2K League teams.”

ESPN will air live NBA 2K League matches on ESPN2 on three Tuesdays in May, the sports network announced today. It’s the first time that the NBA 2K League, which is operated by the NBA, will have matches aired live on TV in the US, according to ESPN. Some league matches will also be shown on the ESPN app and ESPN.com, depending on the day of the week and when in the season you’re watching. On Tuesdays at 7PM ET, starting today through May 19th, you can watch NBA 2K League matches on ESPN2. On Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 7PM ET, you can watch NBA 2K League games on the ESPN app and ESPN.com. ESPN has not yet announced the broadcast schedule for games that take place beginning May 26th.

The NBA 2K Players Tournament culminated in a battle of Valley Boyz. Devin Booker defeated Deandre Ayton as two of the most prominent members of the Phoenix Suns squared off in the best-of-three final. As the champion of the tournament created in partnership by the league and NBA 2K amid the season’s suspension, Booker received $100,000 to donate to the charity helping in the fight against the coronavirus of his choice. Booker took Game 1 of the final series 72-62 using the Rockets against the Lakers. In Game 2, the guard beat his own big man 74-62 using the Nuggets against the Bucks.

Wendi Fleming was one of three women who attended the NBA 2K League Draft in February. None of them were selected. Fleming, who had been passed over in all three NBA 2K League seasons, went back home to Chattanooga, Tenn., unsure of her future with the game and community she had put so much of herself into, only to come away feeling alienated. Then, only a few weeks later, she got a call from the league asking her if she would like to participate in the tournament, which carried a $25,000 prize pool.

“It’s been exciting leading up to tonight, and I’m definitely grateful for the opportunity,” Fleming said on the eve of her first game last Wednesday. “It’s crazy how thing work out. … “I definitely feel like this is another opportunity to prove that point, to show people what they passed up on, my skill and level of play, and how I can contribute as a team player.” Though it’s an exhibition tournament with no regular season or playoff implications, the stakes were also high for current players in the league who, like their NBA counterparts, must stay sharp to fend off the thousands of people who would gladly take their place.

The semifinals begin Saturday at 8 p.m. on ESPN. The matchups are Ayton vs. Beverley and Booker vs. Harrell, providing Suns-Clippers undercurrents in both games. Interestingly enough, both pairs were the only tournament participants from the same team among the original field of 16. Ayton faced the toughest test among the semifinalists on Thursday during his battle with Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks. Booker cruised by Rui Hachimura (Washington Wizards) in the first game and Harrell took out No. 16 seed Derrick Jones Jr., who defeated top seed Kevin Durant during the opening game of the tournament.

Q: What is it like to be involved with the operations of an NBA 2K League team in Wizards District Gaming? What would you say is the biggest difference compared to operating an NBA team? Andrew McNeill: It’s hard for me to say what the biggest difference is in being involved with Wizards District Gaming than from an NBA team because I’ve never been intimately involved in the operations of an NBA team, but I can say that working with a team in the NBA 2K League is incredibly exciting. The 2K League is a very young league with a ton of potential and I’m excited to do my small part to help it grow. And the competitor in me loves doing what I can to help put a team out there that can compete for championships in the 2K League. It’s really a great situation.

Tyler Erzberger of ESPN interviewed Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward on his Twitch stream and asked him who was more toxic, NBA players or League of Legend (LoL) players. Without hesitation, Hayward answered LoL players. “Dude, definitely League players. 100,000% League players, man. League of Legends players are so toxic, I can’t imagine being on a team in the NBA where they are as toxic as they are in League of Legends. Like if you missed a 3-pointer or something, everyone on the team starts flaming you.”

The Miami Heat were at least able to pick up some sort of victory while the NBA is suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak. On Saturday, Heat forward Meyers Leonard led his team to a victory in a Call of Duty tournament for NBA players. The match was broadcast on Twitch, a live streaming platform for gamers. Leonard teamed with NBAers Donovan Mitchell, Zach LaVine, Mario Hezonja and high school player Bronny James, son of LeBron James. They defeated a team comprised of Josh Hart, Ben Simmons and Royce O’Neale and high school player Terrence Clarke.

A professional gaming team owned by the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks is getting blasted by artists for holding a design contest without a cash prize and telling graphic designers to “get a job” when they asked for compensation for their work. On November 11, Bucks Gaming took to Twitter to ask artists to design a new header image for the team, offering up free merchandise and credit in the team’s profile description to the winner. Some people expressed interest in the contest, but several designers replied with joke designs and called for the team to pay artists for professional work.

In March, Evans became the first woman drafted into the NBA 2K League, joining not only the fray of gamers who have to prove that what they do constitutes sports, but also the bevy of women in gaming and sports at large who have to prove that they simply belong. A Chicago native who played basketball from AAU up to college and semi-pro, Evans has had to face and overcome the kind of roadblocks you’d expect from two industries that tend to treat women as outsiders.

More than five months after being drafted and with more than enough validation from her league and teammates, Evans has learned to take the hate in stride. “It’s still there. It’s going to always be there. That’s something that you can’t change,” she told The Athletic during the first round of the NBA 2K League playoffs last week. “I can’t quit or give up just because a few people who obviously have problems with themselves, they’re bothering me. I can’t let them get to me and ruin who I am and you know my goal as a 2K player. I will say one thing that keeps me moving and keeps me going is the positivity and the support outweighs the negative.”

That landscape might be changing, if at a snail’s pace, aided in part by efforts to create women-only leagues and tournaments and raise awareness about the level of vitriol women gamers face. But while women supporting women is important, siloing them away from the mainstream gaming world isn’t the answer, especially with women fans representing a growing share of esports fans. According to market researcher Interpret, 30 percent of esports watchers are women, a 6.5 percent increase from 2016. As a woman in a man’s league, Evans is experiencing these shifts first hand. “I get inboxed all the time from a lot of women that I’m an inspiration. A lot of women who play 2K now, when they get into the 2K League, they’re gonna get better to improve their games,” she said. “I get messages from a lot of guys, too, but definitely a lot of women, a lot of younger females.”

And yet, gaming kind of is his day job now. Sheppard, a 50-year-old hoops lifer, was tapped this week to run an esports franchise. In the recent creation of Monumental Basketball, under which the four basketball-related properties owned by Monumental Sports & Entertainment will operate, Sheppard has been tasked as the general manager of the Wizards, their G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, and most curiously, Wizards District Gaming of the NBA 2K League. Though Sheppard is in discovery mode about his role with the esports franchise, which recently completed its second season in a video game league that has drawn more than 293 million video views across social media platforms, his attention will be mostly focused outside the virtual world.

“The opportunity with basketball with the Wizards, the Go-Go, District Gaming is fantastic to me because if you think about the explosion of esports, that’s something I’m getting my arms around, I can’t wait to be part of it,” Sheppard said of the NBA 2K League, the first professional esports operation run by one of the four major American sports leagues. “But my focus is the Washington Wizards and the Go-Go right now because that is our core business that needs the most help.”
2 years ago via ESPN

Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, owner of Arsenal, the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Gladiators, has agreed to a deal that will see it acquire Echo Fox’s League of Legends Championship Series slot for $30.25 million, sources familiar with the deal told ESPN. The deal is pending Riot Games’ approval and comes after the expiration of a Monday deadline set by Riot that put Echo Fox, which was cofounded by three-time NBA champion Rick Fox, in jeopardy of losing their League of Legends Championship Series slot, as reported by ESPN on Friday. Since the weekend, Echo Fox has scrambled to strike a deal with a suitor.

Magic Gaming and locally-owned and operated Papa John’s in Central Florida will team up for a first-of-its-kind partnership in the NBA 2K League offering fans a winning combination – the Papa John’s MGWIN promotion. The promotion offers Central Florida fans 50 percent off their regular menu price online order the day after any Magic Gaming victory when they enter the promo code ‘MGWIN’ at PapaJohns.com. The Papa John’s MGWIN offer will be available for all Magic Gaming matchups during the 2019 NBA 2K League season. Magic Gaming plays again Wednesday, May 15 when they take on Pistons GT. The game will be livestreamed on the league’s Twitch channel. Magic Gaming has played five of its 16 regular season games and currently stands at 2-3 (4-2 in tournament play).
3 years ago via ESPN

The NBA 2K League will have $1.2 million in its prize pool for the 2019 season, up $200,000 from the inaugural season last year. Players will receive a base salary of $33,000 for a six-month commitment, with up to $38,000 for players retained from the 2018 season. Meanwhile, the prize pool will be spread out over four tournaments and the league playoffs, with $120,000 up for grabs in the season-opening “THE TIPOFF” tournament. “THE TURN” and “THE TICKET” tournaments each will have $180,000 available in prize money, while the league playoffs will be worth $720,000.

“The next generation of sports fans are esports fans,” said Ted Leonsis, co-executive chairman of aXiomatic and the founder, chairman, chief executive and majority owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment (which owns the Washington Wizards, Capitals and the WNBA Mystics franchise), in a statement. “Esports is the fastest-growing sector in sports and entertainment, and aXiomatic is at the forefront of that growth. We are thrilled to welcome Michael and Declaration Capital to aXiomatic and look forward to working together on some truly cutting-edge opportunities.”

Bosh is a person with varied interests: travel, cooking, coding/technology, guitar, family. Add a new one to the list: esports. Bosh has joined esports franchise Gen.G Esports as a player management advisor. Bosh plans to bring his experience in sports to esports: leadership, communication, teamwork, championship ideals, dealing with pressure and off-the-court issues. “It’s a dream for me to be able to work with these guys,” Bosh said. “The way I look at it, competing at a high level, whether that’s business, art or film, athletics, anything you do, there’s a certain way to go about it. Being in the NBA, being successful, being able to win championships at the highest level in the world, there’s certain core values that you have, certain things you have to follow.”

Gen.G competes in several games, including League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm and the Los Angeles-based Overwatch League. How did this come about? Bosh developed a relationship with Gen.G co-founder and vice chairman Phillip Hyun. “We talked a lot and were just hanging, and he said, ‘Why don’t you come see what it is we’re doing with Gen.G?’ ” Bosh said. “I took my kids to watch, and it was pretty cool. Phillip asked if I wanted to become involved in some sort of way, and it just came together.”
3 years ago via ESPN

On Monday night, over 891,000 viewers tuned in for the first-ever Riot Games-sanctioned friendly match between two professional international teams: Clutch Gaming and Bilibili Gaming. To celebrate Clutch Gaming’s recently announced partnership with Chinese video sharing site Bilibili, the two squads faced off in one serious match, followed by a trio of unorthodox exhibitions. In the lone serious match of the night, Clutch Gaming, the Houston Rockets-owned 2018 North American League Championship Series newcomers, took home the win, destroying Bilibili Gaming’s nexus after thirty minutes of focused play. Though Clutch fielded a mixed squad featuring representatives of the organization’s LCS and Academy teams, the victory showed the depth of talent on the organization’s roster. The match featured strong performances by jungler Galen “Moon” Holgate and support Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme.

If you could choose anyone to squad up with on COD, who would it be? Wagner: Probably my roommates from last year, Duncan Robsinon and my two other roommates. I’m not going to say their names because nobody knows them. It’s no secret that you’re a pretty expressive and emotional guy on the court. Are you the same way with other things like video games? Wagner: You don’t want to be around me. I curse a lot playing video games and all that stuff. I’m a very emotional guy. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad so I just try to find a happy medium, but so far it’s been good to me.

This week, Faried announced that he’s using the winnings to establish a foundation, Kenneth Faried HAT (for humble, appreciative, and thankful). “With the money I won for charity, I started a foundation called Kenneth Faried HAT. ‘HAT’ means humble, appreciative, and thankful,” he told Joe Lemire of SportsTechie. “I’ve been a person my whole life who believed that, through obstacles in life that you see, you may have good and bad, but you should always remain humble, appreciative, and thankful for everything—no matter what heights you reach in life or what you receive in this life.”

Kenneth Faried on Family (Video) Games: “I got into gaming because of my dad and, weirdly enough, my mom. My mom and my dad both were gamers. My mom has a TV in her room beside her bed where she has an Xbox she likes to play. My dad has his Xbox set up to his TV and uses it for the cable and knows how to do all that. He plays his Xbox with me—like we’ll play against each other in Madden or we’ll play with each other in Dynasty Warriors. I try to get him to play Fortnite, but he’s not real big into that. He likes sports games and RPG games. “I’ve got my parents all the way up to the Xbox One. We’re going to keep going. Whenever a new system drops, they’re going to get it with me. All those times they said, ‘Go on and go play your game and get out of my room’—it paid off with Fornite.”

Team Dignitas, the renowned esports franchise of the Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment portfolio, has announced a multi-year partnership with global athletic apparel brand Champion Athleticwear, marking the brand’s first esports team and franchise partnership and foray into the esports ecosystem. Champion will become Team Dignitas’ Official Jersey, Casual Wear and Athletic Wear Provider, launching a new casual, fan-focused apparel line and online store alongside the franchise’s highly anticipated Fall 2018 rebrand. Acknowledging the growing women’s esports fan and player base, heightened by the popularity of Team Dignitas’ World Champion Women’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Team, Champion will develop a Team Dignitas-branded women’s apparel line. “The opportunity to partner with the apparel company that pioneered one of the most essential retail pieces in any esports player and fan’s wardrobe — the hoodie — is truly appropriate,” said Team Dignitas CEO Michael Prindiville.”

Hurst’s eyes have already returned to his screen, but he continued: “I would’ve driven it right down the lane,” where an undefended basket was awaiting him, he said. Hurst is 21 years old and plays NBA 2K professionally in a league funded by the NBA on a team affiliated with the Dallas Mavericks. He moved nearly 5,000 miles last April for this job, arriving in Dallas from Reading, England. You might play video games when you get off work; this is Hurst’s work, a job that pays him a $32,000 full-time salary for the league’s five-month duration. He’s likely among the best 100 players in the world. And still, even he can’t escape something that has plagued almost anyone who has ever picked up a controller: sometimes, the game just doesn’t do what you want it to do, damn it.

Jannis Neumann may have eight Dirk Nowitzki bobbleheads perched on his desk, but he had never actually met Nowitzki. On a Thursday earlier this month, after two morning scrimmages online, that changes thanks to an interview set up by a German television station. “If someone had told me I would meet Dirk, I would have told them they’re crazy,” Neumann said. This is Neumann’s first time living in the United States after growing up in northwest Germany, near the Netherlands border. He’s one of three international players on the roster – along with Ryan de Villon, or Devillon, from Toronto, Canada, and Hurst, from England – who relocated internationally.
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