NBA Rumor: NBA 2K League

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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.

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Even before the pandemic, the N.B.A. showed a penchant for exuberance, announcing team rosters for the e-sports league in a flashy ceremony in New York in February that mimicked the draft for professional sports. The strategy appears to have helped increase the audience for the N.B.A.’s e-sports venture, in which video game players compete in professional matchups. The N.B.A. 2K League still has only a fraction of the viewers that some other leagues draw, but as it wraps up its third season, which concluded with a championship game on Friday, there are signs of growth.

But some cast doubt on the viability of the league when stacked up against more established competitors. Sports video games generally have a harder time captivating audiences than fantasy games, Mr. Breslau said, adding that the biggest criticism throughout the N.B.A. 2K League’s existence is “No one’s watching.” The N.B.A. 2K video game series has a big following on YouTube and Twitch, where amateurs stream videos of themselves playing the games. Overall streaming hours for N.B.A. 2K 20, the game around which the league revolves, were 10.1 million in July, according to data from Newzoo, a gaming analytics company.

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.

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.”

Basketball fans missing their live game action can at least look forward to some virtual competition as the 2020 NBA 2K League tips off next week. The esports league has announced its regular season will begin on Tuesday, May 5 with at least six weeks of remote gameplay. All 23 NBA 2K League teams will play games remotely from their local markets, with the games simulcast live on the 2K League’s Twitch and YouTube channels. Four best-of-three matches are scheduled every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night over the six-week period. Each series will count as a regular-season win or loss.

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.

That tournament kicked off with four games Friday. Four of the 16 participants moved on, and the results were as follows: No. 16 Derrick Jones Jr. 78, No. 1 Kevin Durant 62. No. 10 DeAndre Ayton 57, No. 7 Zach LaVine 41. No. 2 Trae Young 101, No. 15 Harrison Barnes 59. No. 14 Patrick Beverley 84, No. 3 Hassan Whiteside 54. With one day of games in the books, here are our biggest takeaways from the NBA’s attempt to provide fans with some sort of live content while actual games remain on hiatus.

The NBA 2K League was set to tip off its third season on March 24, before delaying play over safety concerns relating to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Now, the esports organization is preparing to host a three-on-three online tournament involving fans, social media influencers, and top 2K gamers this weekend instead. A combined prize pool of $25,000 for Playstation 4 and Xbox One X brackets will be awarded to teams participating in the NBA 2KL Three for All Showdown. The one-week tournament will be completed in two stages, with only fan-led teams competing initially. NBA 2K League franchises, influencers, and top female gamers – selected from the NBA 2K’s women’s development camp introduced last summer – will join on March 31 to compete against fans.

The NBA 2K League kicked off in 2018 with an interesting premise: a group of professional teams, each affiliated with an NBA squad, playing a virtual rendition of the sport. Now, after two seasons, the league is looking to expand beyond the NBA with a new club based in Shanghai. The Chinese team will be the first in the league based outside of North America and the first not operated by an NBA team. The currently unnamed squad will be owned and operated by Gen.G, a multigame e-sports organization that currently has teams in PUBG, Fortnite, League of Legends, and also owns the Seoul Dynasty of the Overwatch League. The Shanghai team will join the league in 2020, and it will be based out of Gen.G’s Los Angeles office. Like all other 2K League teams, it will play games at the league’s studio in New York.

The NBA 2K League kicked out one of its players on Thursday after discovering violations of the league’s anti-gambling policies. Basil Rose, also known as 24K Dropoff, had played for Heat Check Gaming, the esports franchise of the NBA’s Miami Heat. A statement from the 2K League said Rose “violated the league’s rules against tipping on NBA 2K League games by providing inside information to an individual who Rose knew was involved in betting on NBA 2K league games.”

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.”

The 2019 NBA 2K League Draft marks the beginning of the second season of the NBA 2K League. The draft was held on Wednesday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York where a total of 75 players were selected for the 21 teams. Jazz Gaming selected Spencer “Ria” Wyman from Washington with the first overall pick. With Shaka “Yeah I Compete” Browne and Demar “Deedz” Butler returning for the Jazz at point guard and power forward, respectively, locking in a flexibile Center like Ria was what many people expected.

Someone put a microphone in front of her and asked her how it felt. That’s when she finally choked up. “It changes everything,” she said. “It means everything to me.” Evans became the first woman ever drafted into the NBA 2K League on Tuesday night, going in the fourth round to Warriors Gaming, which is operated by the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. A former college and semipro basketball player, Evans is now the esports league’s first female pro, one of the 126 players who will make between $33,000 to $37,000 per season, plus benefits and team housing.

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.

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.
3 years ago via ESPN

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.
3 years ago via ESPN

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.

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.”

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.

Magic Gaming is set to play its first games on Thursday, May 3 as part of “THE TIPOFF” tournament. All games will be streamed live on Twitch. “THE TIPOFF” tournament schedule runs May 1-5. “THE TIPOFF” will officially begin the 15-week regular season, which features both weekly games and tournaments, and concludes with the NBA 2K League Playoffs and Finals in August. All competition will take place at the NBA 2K League Studio Powered by Intel in New York City.
3 years ago via ESPN

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.

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.

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.”
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February 24, 2021 | 9:06 pm EST Update