The NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software, the company behind the popular NBA 2K video game, announced Thursday (Feb. 9) plans for a groundbreaking eSports league.
The NBA 2K eLeague is tentatively set to begin in 2018 and will be the first eSports league operated by one of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States.
The plan is to feature 30 NBA 2K teams, each owned by one of the real-life franchises. Each team will be made up of five human players, who will create and use on-screen avatars based on their own preferences.
“There’s going to be an opportunity for this first of a kind league to attract a group of gamers who might be playing some other game,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver told the Associated Press. “Now, they can say ‘Maybe I couldn’t play for the Knicks, because I didn’t have the physical prowess to compete at that level. But I do have the mental and physical prowess to compete as an egamer for the eKnicks.'”
Potential players will go through a virtual combine and enter a draft, where each NBA franchise will select five players to fill out its roster. Then those players will compete in a regular season designed to mirror the actual NBA schedule – 82-game regular season and four-round postseason – according to the Associated Press.
But even before the latest news, NBA teams were already getting involved in the eSports scene. In 2016, the Philadelphia 76ers became the first American sports franchise to acquire an eSports team when it purchased Team Dignitas and Apex Gaming and merged the two, according to Business Insider. The Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, Washington Wizards and Miami Heat have also invested in eSports, either through ownership or strategic partnerships.
And though eSports aren’t considered mainstream just yet, various leagues have shown tremendous growth in revenue and popularity and are finding their way onto television. For example, Turner and WME-IMG recently teamed up to form ELeague, a professional “Counter Strike: Global Offensive” league that is broadcast on TBS and Twitch. There are also international leagues for “Dota 2” and “League of Legends” that draw millions of viewers on a consistent basis.
This announcement indicates the NBA is aware of an industry with a lot of potential and is trying to get in on the ground floor. It will be interesting to see if the other major professional sports leagues follow suit.
What do you think of the idea of a NBA 2K eLeague? And would you be interested in participating in it or something similar? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.