The NBA 2K League Jumps to a Start Exclusively on Twitch

May 14, 2018

The NBA 2K League held the first games of its inaugural season on May 1st (with Pistons GT and Cavs Legion GC advancing). If you want to watch this season play out, there’s only one place you can go: Twitch.

That’s because Twitch and the NBA have committed to a multi-year agreement for Twitch to live stream all NBA 2K League games. This news is not entirely unexpected, since Twitch aired the 2K League’s inaugural draft at Madison Square Garden held in early April.

Twitch will stream up to 199 games throughout the 17-week season (the inaugural season runs through August), including three in-season tournaments, playoffs, and the league finals.

“This is a groundbreaking partnership for the NBA 2K League,” Brendan Donohue, NBA 2K League Managing Director, said in a statement. “Twitch shares our innovative spirit and commitment to putting the gaming community first and is the ideal home to provide our passionate 2K, NBA and esports fans around the world with the opportunity to catch all the excitement of our inaugural season.”

The Twitch streams will feature a host, analysts, and live commentary, similar to an NBA game broadcast. The initial games were missing statistical overlays and endgame box scores, mainstays of traditional sports broadcasts. Twitch stated in the release promoting the announcement, it intended to create extensions, such as interactive custom overlays, that will provide fan engagement opportunities and further enhance the live-game-viewing experience.

The NBA 2K League features a new build of the game that features more realistic graphics, including courts, uniforms, and player likenesses.

“From video games to real games, the NBA continues to innovate around basketball when it comes to engaging with the Twitch community. By partnering with Twitch for the NBA 2K League, that pioneering spirit will continue to be reflected when we elevate this latest entry to the world of competitive gaming with interactive features and our global stage,” said Justin Dellario, Head of Esports Programs for Twitch.

The April NBA 2K League draft saw 102 players selected for the 17 teams participating in the inaugural season of the 2K League. Draft order was purely by chance. Ping-pong balls were drawn from the same ball machine used for the NBA Draft Lottery with every NBA 2K team represented by a logoed ball. The first pick of the draft went to Mavs Gaming.

Photo Credit: Online Gambling

“We think the NBA 2K League is going to have an incredible first season,” said Mark Cuban, owner of Mavs Gaming and the Dallas Mavericks. “We are very much looking forward to putting together the best possible team and organization for the first game in May.”

The results of the draft’s first round were:

  1. Mavs Gaming (Dallas Mavericks): Dimez (Artreyo Boyd)
  2. Celtics Crossover (CLTX) Gaming (Boston Celtics): oFAB (Albano Thomallari)
  3. Jazz Gaming (Utah Jazz): Yeah I Compete (Shaka Browne)
  4. Kings Guard Gaming (Sacramento Kings): Mootyy (Mitchell Franklin)
  5. Pistons GT (Detroit Pistons): Lets Get it Ramo (Ramo Radoncic)
  6. Blazer5 Gaming (Portland Trail Blazers): OneWildWalnut (Dayne Downey)
  7. Heat Check Gaming (Miami Heat): Hotshot (Juan Gonzalez)
  8. Magic Gaming (Orlando Magic): KontruL (Christopher Cantrell)
  9. Knicks Gaming (New York Knicks): GOOFY757 (Dayvon Curry)
  10. Bucks Gaming (Milwaukee Bucks): DRAKE GRIFFIN (Aaron Rookwood)
  11. Raptors Uprising GC (Toronto Raptors): Kenny (Kenneth Hailey)
  12. Wizards District Gaming (Washington Wizards): Fresh Prince JT (Johnathon Fields)
  13. Pacers Gaming (Indiana Pacers): WoLF (Bryant Colon)
  14. 76ers GC (Philadelphia 76ers): Radiant (Ethan White)
  15. Grizz Gaming (Memphis Grizzlies): Winner_Stayz_On (Larell Mitchell)
  16. Cavs Legion GC (Cleveland Cavaliers): Hood Is Glitchy (Brandon Caicedo)
  17. Warriors Gaming Squad (Golden State Warriors): Shawn_Win (Trong Nguyen)

The remainder of the draft was a snake draft, meaning the order of the picks reversed after each round. Each team drafted six players. Mavs Gaming had the first pick in the draft and the last (HazzaUK2K [Harry Hurst] was the final player taken).

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver attended the draft in New York to announce the first pick. He also held a press conference before the draft where he predicted that the league could expand to all 30 NBA markets within three years, and that overseas expansion is a possibility, as well.

Photo Credit: For the Win – USA Today

This should not come as much of a surprise. The NBA is hugely popular in America, and its popularity is climbing abroad. In China, for example, each NBA 2017 Finals game averaged 20.4 million viewers and an additional 430,000 live-streamers.

The pool for the draft was selected from hundreds of thousands of gamers who competed online. The NBA 2K League Combine began in January 2018 and was open to the entire NBA 2K community. January through March that pool was narrowed down first to 72,000 prospects, then 250 prospects, and finally to 102 players. Is there a likelihood that, in the future, this esports draft will mirror the NBA draft even more closely by the majority of players coming from college?

If that seems like a farfetched idea, it’s not. More and more colleges and universities are making sanctioned esports teams an important part of their campuses.

In July of 2016, seven colleges had official varsity esports programs. Just a little over a year later, there were almost five times as many. Thirty-four schools had varsity esports programs by July 2017. There are now 50 programs, and they’re overseen by a national governing body known as the National Association of Collegiate Esports.

These programs have full-time coaches, funding from the school, donations, and, most importantly, scholarships. Many of the schools also accept corporate sponsorships. For example, UC-Irvine, which is the only self-sufficient collegiate esports program, has sponsorship opportunities that range from $25,000 to $100,000. Competitions take place against other institutions, and many of them can be seen on Twitch. The 2016 esports finals had more than 90 million viewers.

Photo Credit: UCI News

“The skills developed by esports-interested students are the very skills most needed for success in the 21st century economy, including collaborative soft skills and computer coding,” said David Cheshier, Director of the Georgia State Creative Media Industries Institute, in a written statement to Forbes. “We see this initiative as building essential links to emerging creative careers in animation, 3D and immersive world creation, and other media industries.”

In fact, maybe other traditional sports forays into esports could pull from players that honed their chops in college. The NBA is not the only American sports league that is jumping on the esports bandwagon. Last year the NFL announced a partnership with Electronic Arts (EA) to create the Madden NFL Club Championship, and the NHL has unveiled its first foray into esports tournaments – the 2018 NHL Gaming World Championship – centered around its EA Sports game.

“I think the internet has changed every industry on the planet, and esports is the next evolution in competition,” said Mark Deppe, the Acting Director for University of California, Irvine’s esports program. “You play against who you want regardless of age, gender, where they live, and you play against people with your ability level. I think that’s really powerful. You don’t have referees messing up your game for you. All the rules are built into the game, so I think our expectations are changing with the internet, and I think esports are going to meet those expectations.”

To discover more about the varied and expanding esports ecosystem, give one of our experts a call at 972-323-6354.