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.”
This weekend, fans in China will be able to watch the NBA 2K esports league finals tip off for the first time ever. The competitive video game league, run jointly by games publisher Take Two and the NBA, signed its first distribution partnership in China with Tencent just last week. The partnership assures that the 2K League can key into a region with long-established avid esports viewers.
According to the NBA, increasing the accessibility and exposure of the esports league could actually bolster the basketball organization’s growth efforts in China. The NBA has grown over the years to become China’s most popular league. The Chinese Basketball Association estimates that about 300 million people play the sport in China, and the NBA launched NBA China back in 2008 as a result of the sport’s growing popularity in the country.
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.