“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.”
With the Philadelphia 76ers in first place in the Eastern Conference, you better believe Joel Embiid is in top troll form. The Sixers center appeared in a video from YouTuber ChuBoi centering around his love for the FIFA video game series. At one point, the host asked Embiid a pointed question about a FIFA game mode and the star power forward of the Los Angeles Lakers: “More difficult, playing FUT Champs or guarding AD?” After a few moments — likely spent calculating the most mischievous answer possible — Embiid responded: “Playing FUT Champs.”
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.
“When ‘NBA Jam’ hit the arcade, I was barely tall enough to reach the joystick and view the screen at the same time,” says Menard. “But while literally standing on my toes, I was completely immersed in a game that allowed me the creative freedom to perform out-of-this world feats of athleticism. This was during a tipping point for the NBA as the league was bursting with excitement and culture that was appealing to a younger fan base. “Our film is more than just an original story about the most successful sports game of all time. There are various sub-plots that detail how gaming was transitioning from arcades to home entertainment and how it would eventually lead to the demise of Midway,” adds Menard.
“Getting to work with Sean and learning his vision for a film about the remarkable history of a game I love is obviously a huge thrill for me,” says Sussman. “This documentary will not only be a trip down memory lane for older audiences but will reveal to a younger generation how it all started with a gaming industry today worth many billions of dollars.” Producing the NBA Jam film with Sussman are his partners in BestCrosses Studios, Terence Richards and Peter A. Sussman.