Misfits Gaming and Kroenke Sports & Entertainment have acquired slots in the upcoming Call of Duty franchise league, Activision Blizzard Esports announced on Tuesday. Misfits Gaming landed the Florida slot, while Kroenke purchased a Los Angeles slot. Each paid $25 million for a franchise, according to published reports.
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The Kroenke family owns the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, NBA’s Denver Nuggets and NHL’s Colorado Avalanche among other teams. They also own the Los Angeles Gladiators of the Overwatch League.
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.”
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.
Former pro basketball star Rick Fox is close to a sale of his esports company, according to people with knowledge of the matter, after one of his partners used a racial slur. A deal for Echo Fox could be announced Monday, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Los Angeles-based Echo Fox fields a team playing in the North America League of Legends Championship Series. Fox, 49, may leave as part of a deal, they said.
Jeff Eisenband: The @NBA2KLeague is leaving NYC for the second time. “The Ticket” will be June 13-15 in Orlando at @FullSail’s new esports arena, “The Fortress.” The arena opened last month and this will be its “first major event.” 🎮🏀🌴 @orlandosentinel @marcosantana orlandosentinel.com/business/os-bz…
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).
Ronnie 2K: The Warriors are winning in the physical world and digital! Congrats @WarriorsGaming @Warriors for being The Turn @NBA2KLeague champions! pic.twitter.com/yjinlLdtxd
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.
NBA legend Michael Jordan is playing the esports game now, leading a $26 million round of funding for the ownership group aXiomatic. For Jordan and new co-investor Declaration Capital — the family office investing the personal wealth of David Rubenstein, who co-founded and serves as co-executive chairman of the multi-billion-dollar private equity firm, The Carlyle Group — investing in esports looks like a slam dunk.
“I’m excited to expand my sports equity portfolio through my investment in aXiomatic. Esports is a fast-growing, international industry and I’m glad to partner with this great group of investors,” said Jordan, in a statement.
“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.”
Darren Heitner: Post Malone has signed with HyperX as a gaming brand ambassador, joining De’Aaron Fox, Gordon Hayward & Joel Embiid as endorsers.
What is it about eSports that speaks to the interest and talents of guys such as yourself? Chris Bosh: I think the team concept. People are going to be competing on a worldwide basis. And you are competing to be the best at something. That definitely speaks to guys in the NBA because it’s such a small fraternity and we understand how hard it is to get there and how hard it is to maintain.
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.”
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.
Kenneth Faried is pretty good at Fortnite. In fact, back in June, when he was still with the Nuggets, he finished second at the Fortnite Celebrity Pro-Am Tournament. Not bad considering he wound up being paired with a last-minute fill-in. He took home a cool $250,000 in prize money which had to be used for a charitable purpose.
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.”
NBA: Champion. @FrankLikina wins the @NBA2K Celebrity Tournament! #NBA2K19
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.
Nets Daily: When Nets set up their NBA2K League team, likely to be named “Brooklyn Gaming,” they’ll need a studio space. One possibility is the small practice court off main entrance. Virtually unused except on game nights, there’d be little conflict with Nets needs.
The NBA 2K League’s first season ended with a video game version of a real NBA rivalry: Knicks against Heat. In the future perhaps it’s Knicks against London. Or maybe it’s Heat against Shanghai. “We expect this to be a global league,” NBA 2K League managing director Brendan Donohue said Saturday. “That is on our game plan, though when that happens it’s not definitive. But that is our goal.”
Donohue said the season exceeded all the league’s expectations, pointing to weekly increases in viewership on Twitch, the streaming service popular with video-game players, and a social media presence that includes more than 1.6 million followers of the league and its teams on social media platforms. The league will continue to explore ways to find even more viewers. “Right now we’re on Twitch and we’re focused on being on Twitch. We’re focused on them being our partner for a long time,” Donohue said. “We’ll do whatever we can to make sure we get our product in front of as much of the globe as possible, so we’ll talk to partners about how they can help us do that.”
Knicks Gaming are your inaugural 2018 NBA 2K League champions. It’s about as improbable of a phrase as their come-from-behind, series-clinching win during Game 2 of the best-of-three series, as New York trailed by nine points in the fourth quarter – 11 at the end of the first half – to pick up the W on Saturday. In complete contrast to their finals opposition, Knicks Gaming put together a total team effort to claim victory. All five members scored in double figures, marking the first time such a feat occurred for Knicks Gaming during their shocking playoff run. Credit first and foremost goes to Finals MVP, NateKahl, who registered 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting while playing impeccable defense on Heat Check Gaming star forward Hotshot. Two critical three-pointers down the stretch by the “stretch” power forward helped push Knicks Gaming ahead in the contest, and without NateKahl’s defense throughout the multi-series contest it’s possible the outcome could be completely different than what occurred Saturday.
Save for NateKahl’s timely threes and excellent defense, the other major component behind Knicks Gaming’s turnaround was the rebounding prowess of center G O O F Y 757. Relegated to essentially the third or fourth scoring option most nights due to recent meta changes, Goofy’s rebounding literally saved New York in the fourth quarter. In one particularly pivotal sequence of events, Goofy corralled not one, not two, but three offensive rebounds, setting the stage for what would a clutch three-pointer for Knicks Gaming to push the deficit under five points. Given iamadamthe1st’s struggles from the field (12 points, 4-of-16 shooting), Goofy’s rebounding and scoring load (18 points on 9-of-14 shooting) was the difference between a series sweep and the possibility of extending to Game 3.
Jeff Eisenband: The first-ever @NBA2KLeague champions: @KnicksGaming. #NBA2KLeagueFinals
Raul Barrigon: The @NBA2KLeague Finals Trophy: pic.twitter.com/5oQ5gMZHmC
Many owners believe that testing the format and giving owners not invested in esports outside of the 2K League a chance to experience the industry for the first time is healthy, according to sources. However, others have been disappointed by the viewership and engagement that have led to struggle in advertising and partnership sales, sources said. The $750,000 franchise fee for the 2K League and subsequent team operating costs are minuscule compared to the level of required capital to enter the more popular esports titles. The League Championship Series required its owners to commit to a multiyear contract that would see its teams pay $10 million to $13 million in franchises fees. The Overwatch League, in its first season, required $20 million over multiple years in franchise payments — and for its second season, it has sold teams for more than $35 million, sources said.
The NBA is expected to welcome franchises owned by the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves to its NBA 2K League ahead of its second season, league sources told ESPN. The four franchises will join the 17 NBA teams who participated in the inaugural NBA 2K League season, which began in May and will conclude with its first finals event on Aug. 25 in New York. The expansion price for the second season is the same as the first, $750,000 for three years of participation, according to sources.
Jeff Eisenband: While @OneWildWalnut2K was posing with his @NBA2KLeague MVP and Defensive Player of the Year trophies, @NateKahl went over and told him, “Those won’t help you next week.” 😂 @blazer5gaming vs. @KnicksGaming in quarterfinals next Friday. #NBA2KLeagueAwards
Gordon Hayward: It’s everywhere now. Everybody plays it. Bleacher Report came out with some article, saying Fortnite had just taken over NBA players’ lives. Pretty much every athlete I know has at least played a little. Everybody on our team plays. A lot of them play on consoles. Most of the athletes I know play on console. I don’t know as many people that play on PC. But another thing that is cool about Fortnite is you can play cross-console. So you can have someone on PS4 and they can be playing against me on PC. People on XBOX can be playing against people on PC. That’s pretty cool. There’s not a lot of games that are like that, and it gives a chance for PC players to play against console players.
Gordon Hayward: I was supposed to be in the Fortnite Pro-Am event, which is in LA right around E3, early June. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it because the second surgery had me immobile for that period of time. I heard it was a really cool event. They paired 50 pros with 50 celebrities. But it would be actually really fun to have an all-NBA Fortnite match or something. I’ve been playing for a few months now, so I’m pretty confident I could come out on top. In fact, I’d almost guarantee it, and I’d be happy to take on anyone from any other sport, too. Anybody up for the challenge?
Golden State Warriors stars Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala invested in multi-game esports organization Swift, the parent company of Team SoloMid and its affiliated businesses, the organization and players announced on Tuesday.
Curry and Iguodala are part of a greater $37 million investment round that was led by Bessemer Venture Partners, a San Francisco and Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm that contributed $25 million itself to the round. Bessemer recruited both Curry and Iguodala, as well as a number of other investors such as Indiana Pacers ownership heir Steve Simon, NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young and a slew of other tech and sports companies and executives.
Terrence Ross: Last night was unreal. @EpicGames @FortniteGame thanks for having me. Hope I can come back next year 🤘🏾🤘🏾
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.”
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August 21, 2019 | 8:07 am EDT Update
Ekpe Udoh has officially signed a deal with Beijing Ducks of the Chinese League for the upcoming season, confirming Eurohoops’ prior reports.
Donatas Urbonas: Mindaugas Kuzminskas on Blatt’s open letter: “I think he did a right move. There was a lot of speculation on his situation. I hope it’s gonna be an example for everyone how to fight the problems and encourage others to follow the same path.”
More than 30 years after his last visit to the White House, Bob Cousy will return on Thursday so President Trump can present him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The 91-year-old Holy Cross and Celtics basketball legend will be the sole recipient during a ceremony scheduled to begin at the Oval Office at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. Trump called Cousy in December to inform him that he planned to present him the honor and Cousy received the official notification from the White House last month. “I’ve thought so much about it,” he said. “For me, it closes my life circle. It’s a completion for me. I will be a happy camper. I’m already the luckiest SOB on the face of the planet and this simply certifies that.”
August 21, 2019 | 4:06 am EDT Update
The best advice RJ Hampton ever got came via DM, courtesy of Kyrie Irving. The NBA All-Star followed the high school All-American on Instagram a while back, and once they got to talking, Kyrie dropped a gem. As Hampton remembers, “He basically said, ‘Be you—don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something. You’re the one that’s going to define your game.’”