8 May 2017
Two months ago, esports league and Take-Two Interactive announced they were creating a competitive esports league centered on Take-Two’s popular NBA 2k video game. Since that announcement, 17 NBA teams have agreed that they would participate in the NBA 2k esports league’s inaugural season, which is set to debut in 2018. The creation of the league is notable in that it will be the first esports league that is run by a U.S. professional sports organization.
Currently, the season is set to debut with esports teams from the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz, and Washington Wizards.
Each team will have five human players competing in video games over the course of an actual NBA season. There will also be playoffs and a championship round. The NBA has publicly stated that more announcements in the future will follow, but a combine, or pre-draft audition, will be conducted to scout out the best gamers, and a draft itself of those players.
NBA 2k esports league Managing Director Brendan Donohue has stated “[t]his is the first step in what promises to be an extraordinary league, bringing together the world’s best gamers and showcasing elite competition on an international stage.”
Currently, the most popular esports games include titles like League of Legends, Dota 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Although the success of sport-style esports games are yet to be proven, the NBA teams are buying in, with each reportedly paying approximately $750,ooo for a three-year commitment to participate in the NBA 2k esports league. These teams are looking to capitalize on the success of Take-Two Interactive’s NBA 2k franchise, as their most recent title “NBA 2k17” has sold more than 7 million units, and is on pace to become the best-selling NBA 2k title yet. The franchise annually brings in roughly $1.5 billion in annual sales, and is the highest-rated and highest-revenue-generating sports title in North America, and the second-highest sports game globally.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has called the gamers “a completely different set of professional athletes.” In unison with the NBA’s recent efforts to create a more global product, the commissioner went further to state that “[t]here’s a global pool of players. They come in all ages, and sizes and ethnicities and sexes, and then we will at some point have a draft that will look somewhat similar to an NBA draft.”