Tomer Azarly: #Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell gets an 83 rating in NBA 2K20. He’s rated one point behind #Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma and #Hawks’ John Collins. That’s…interesting. Montrezl Harrell: It’s a f****** joke but it’s ok 😂😂😂
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.”
Ryan Ward: Kyle Kuzma’s (@Kyle Kuzma) rating for #NBA2K20 has been released. Kuz comes in with a rating of 84 this year. Did @NBA2K get it right? Too high? Too low? #Lakers pic.twitter.com/8DqEKSvYsQ
From the NBA 2K League, which features gaming squads for 21 of the league’s franchises, to Josh Hart and Reggie Jackson competing at the Fortnite Pro-Am at Epic Games’ Summer Block Party in June, it’s impossible to walk into an NBA locker room without finding a few players ready to throw down in their favorite video game. “The biggest gamer I know personally is Josh Hart,” said Lonzo Ball at PUBG Mobile’s Team Up Superstar Showdown event. “Just being around him, I know he is streaming all the time. He loves games to this day.”