As more games enter the realm of eSports, it was only a matter of time before games which focused on sports themselves would join the forefront. The most recent example of this, and the topic of this article, is the world’s first NBA 2K League, which recently tipped off at the start of May. Based on the incredibly popular and celebrated NBA 2K series, we can’t help but get our hopes up. So, how is it shaping up so far, what can we expect, and who are the players to watch?

Before We Begin

What’s the point of starting up a mainstream eSports league if nobody is around to see it? Well, for fun, but that’s not the point. Checking out these games can be done in a couple of ways, prime among them is NBA TV, for those subscribed, or through the unstoppable juggernaut and increasingly collaborative outlet of gaming entertainment known as Twitch. The Twitch channel is especially helpful, as the linked channel lists all of the upcoming games, along with links to relevant Twitter and Instagram channels to keep all viewers informed and up-to-date. These links are particularly useful as this is the first eSports NBA league to be followed by major gaming sites like Betway, so staying close to the stats of the game will be a major component for the success of any gamblers, just as with the real NBA.

Who Is In?

There are a total of 17 teams supported by this NBA 2k League, each of them officially owned by major NBA franchises. These are the 76ers, Bucks, Cavaliers, Celtics, Grizzlies, Heat, Jazz, Kings, Knicks, Magic, Mavericks, Pacers, Pistons, Raptors, Trail Blazers, Warriors, and the Wizards.

The players involved are those who showed a continued interest and skill in NBA 2K18, where those who won at least 50 games in the Pro-Am game mode were able to apply to be part of the official league. This proved to be hugely popular, as ESPN reported that they had 72,000 of these entrants, who were then reduced down to the top 250, with further work from the managing director reducing this to a draft pool of 102 players. Unfortunately, this also means that the league’s only female player was dropped, though, hopefully, the female player base will grow with the inclusion of the WNBA in competing game NBA Live 18.

Following this, the teams are each able to select six players from the pool, reversing the order and going between odds and evens to keep the draft as fair as possible. Since this is the very first iteration of this particular league, we might see changes to this process in the next series, such as players being tied to specific teams, but, as it stands now, geographic location is not related to team placement, nor is the placement based on the player’s personal preference.

Setting the Stage

The games themselves will take place as 5v5 matches, with the sixth player being available as both a substitute and for outside strategy. In these games, the players are not able to use the characters which they created themselves and will, instead, have to rely on a character generated by the league; each has a rating of around 90. One of the more surprising parts of this league, and something we admire and wish was more common among the growing eSports movement, is the payment of the involved players. Those who drafted in the first round will earn $35,000 for their effort, whereas those drafted in the remaining rounds will receive $32,000. These are far from the greatest payouts in eSports (Dota 2 player Kuro Takhasomi has taken home $2,831,532.60 in winnings) but they still stand as a strong start. This is a great way to both reward player skill and encourage engagement in later leagues, and something we hope to see more of in the future.

Interestingly, the first three draft picks, Artreyo Boyd for Mavs Gaming, Albano Thomallari for Celtics Crossover Gaming, and Shaka Browne for Jazz Gaming, all play the position of point guard. We will be interested to see if this becomes a pattern in later leagues. These three are also the players with the most hype surrounding them, though it remains to be seen how well this hype will translate into mainstream eSports success.

The Next Step

Early indications are that this is proving to be one of the most promising leagues in eSports, especially when you consider it’s just entering its first season. Through both the popularity of the game and the involvement of pay and interest from real sports teams, this league has really set itself apart from the standard fare. We have to wonder what this might indicate in the future world of eSports, especially in terms of integration between eSports and the official sports teams. One thing is for sure – this is one of the strongest recent leagues in eSports, and we can’t wait to see what comes next.