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Everything you need to know about the ‘NBA 2K’ League Draft

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A new era in esports begins Wednesday. Learn more about the NBA 2K League and why it’s important.

Ruffles, the Official Chip of the NBA, and Presenting Partner of the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game unveils 'THE RIDGE' 4-Point During NBA All-Star Weekend Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Ruffles

March Madness is over, and that can only mean one thing: the NBA 2K League draft is coming up! This is an exciting time for fans of the video game and basketball alike.

We’re two sentences into this article, and I know some of you are wondering what exactly all this is. I understand. While people are familiar with NBA and NBA 2K, I understand how the concept of players playing NBA 2K competitively can seem new or overwhelming.

Fortunately, I’m here to answer all the preliminary questions you might have.

What is this, in one paragraph?

The NBA 2K League is a professional competitive gaming league co-founded by the NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. Games will be played in a five-on-five format where each player will take the form of a unique character, not as NBA players. So, for example, a player will not take control of the video game version of LeBron James, but rather a video game version of themselves.

When and where is the draft? Will I be able to watch?

The draft took place on April 4 at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York. The 17 teams in the league took turns selecting from a draft pool of gamers who went through the selection process.

Wait, there are teams? Who are the teams?

There are currently 17 teams in the NBA 2K league. These teams all have dope, unique logos. Each team will have a roster of 6 players that will be drafted!

The NBA 2K League consists of 17 teams, all operated by NBA franchises. The teams are Blazer5 Gaming, Bucks Gaming, Cavs Legion GC, Celtics Crossover Gaming, Grizz Gaming, Heat Check Gaming, Jazz Gaming, Kings Guard Gaming, Knicks Gaming, Magic Gaming, Mavs Gaming, Pacers Gaming, Pistons GT, Raptors Uprising GC, 76ers GC, Warriors Gaming Squad, and Wizards District Gaming.

Think of it as something similar to a Fantasy Football Snake Draft where you have to pick the entire league, as opposed to the NBA Draft, when teams just have to add one or two players to an existing roster.

The draft lottery was held on March 13. Mavs Gaming is on the clock! Below is the rest of the order.

How did the draft go?

Here are the results from the first round:

  1. Mavs Gaming – Artreyo Boyd (Dimez)
  2. Celtics Crossover Gaming – Albano Thomallari (oFAB)
  3. Jazz Gaming – Shaka Browne (Yeah I Compete)
  4. Kings Guard Gaming – Mitchell Franklin (Mooty)
  5. Pistons GT – Ramo Radoncic (Lets Get It Ramo)
  6. Blazer5 Gaming – Dayne Downey (OneWildWalnut)
  7. Heat Check Gaming – Juan Gonzalez (Hotshot)
  8. Magic Gaming – Christopher Cantrell (KontruL)
  9. Knicks Gaming – Dayvon Curry (GOOFY757)
  10. Bucks Gaming – Aaron Rookwood (Drake Griffin)
  11. Raptors Uprising GC – Kenneth Hailey (Kenny)
  12. Wizards District Gaming – Johnathon Fields (Fresh Prince JT)
  13. Pacers Gaming – Bryant Colon (WoLF)
  14. 76ers GC – Ethan White (Radiant)
  15. Grizz Gaming – Larell Mitchell (Winner_Stayz_On)
  16. Cavs Legion GC – Brandon Caicedo (Hood is Glitchy)
  17. Warriors Gaming Squad – Trong Nguyen (Shawn_Win)

How much money is to be made?

This season will feature a $1 million dollar prize pool that will be spread out over the season and playoffs. The NBA 2K League will have a similar format to professional sports leagues. There will be head-to-head regular season matchups and a bracketed playoff system that will lead up to a championship matchup. In addition, there will also be some in-season tournaments.

Is this a job for these players?

Yes. During their time in the league, these players will be full-time gamers

All players will be signed to a six-month contract and start out with base salaries. The first-round draft picks will make $35,000, while other players will make a $32,000 base salary. These gamers will be relocated to paid team housing specific to their team.

There they will live, practice, and strategize for upcoming opponents. Medical insurance and a retirement plan are also included for players.

Why is the NBA so invested in this?

NBA teams have been eyeing eSports for some time now. Mark Cuban first voiced his interest and invested in an eSports gambling startup in 2015.

NBA 2K has been a successful game for a long time now. NBA 2K18 was the second best-selling video game in the United States in 2017, according to a recent report by The NPD Group. With the rise in eSports and the increasing popularity of NBA 2K, it was only a matter of time that the NBA itself would get interested.

When the NBA first announced the formation of the league, NBA 2K league managing director Brendan Donohue expressed his excitement for this new frontier.

“This 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.”

Who was eligible to be drafted?

Not anyone can join this league. There was actually an extensive process that took place over the course of two months.

Here’s how it worked.

  • Players interested in making the league had to win 50 games in 2K’s pro-am mode in January.
  • Those that qualified in that position had the opportunity to participate in the NBA 2K League combine. Did that combine have its kinks? Yes.

From this combine and an application, 250 players were selected by the league. After each player was interviewed by the league, it was whittled down to the 102-player draft pool that we currently have.

Reactions to this process have been mixed at best. There have been allegations that the process was fixed by league managers. Just two days before the draft, an investigation concluded where a manager was barred from the league due to old tweets with racial slurs surfacing. He has since spoken out about the investigation.

There were many more issues, which I compiled into a Twitter moment.

Yeah, that’s how we got here!

Who will be the LeBron James of the NBA2K League?

While this is a great question for those looking to find someone to root for in the league, I don’t think I can do the answer to the question justice.

That’s because the league hasn’t started yet. Yes, there are players that are more noticeable and have been on the 2K competitive scene longer, but I don’t want to go making these kinds of comparisons until we see how all of them do against each other.

What I will say is that this draft pool has plenty of talented players. For example, there’s Artreyo Boyd aka ‘Dimez’ who was on the winning team, Still Trill, at the NBA 2K17 All-Star Tournament Championship, a tournament that will have gameplay identical to the 2K League.

There’s also Mitchell “Mootyy” Franklin, who was on the winning team for the PS4 side of the tournament bracket Throwdown2K. In that same tournament. Still Trill took the overall championship match when the two teams faced off in the finals.

Why would I be interested in watching people play video games?

Think about the greatest competitive moment you’ve had playing a video game. Then think about the greatest competitive moment you’ve had playing a sport.

The NBA 2K League will feature the best of both worlds. It’s a sports game, so the league will still feature all the excitement and competitiveness of an actual hoops game.

For those of you hesitant about eSports, you can find solace in this: at the end of the day this is still about basketball. You already watch basketball on your TV screen. Just think of this as another version of basketball and you’ll have so much fun watching and following the league.

Ball is life.