NBA announces partnership for first competitive esports gaming league

The NBA’s footprint was already growing at an unreal rate, with its massive television rights deal, games played on international soil, the expansion of the Development League, virtual reality offerings, and more.

And now, thanks to the expected announcement Thursday of their new “NBA 2K eLeague” partnership with Take-Two Interactive Software, this profile will include a wing for the video game community.

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The joint venture, in which all 30 NBA organizations could potentially have their own e-Teams with five professional players paid to play a version of the popular NBA 2K video game, will be the first official esports league managed by an American League of professional sport. Its launch is slated for 2018, with players expected to play with user-generated avatars, as opposed to those of NBA players.

“They are a whole different set of professional athletes,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told USA TODAY Sports. “There is a global pool of players. They come in all ages, sizes, ethnicities, and genders, and then we’ll have at some point a draft that looks a bit like an NBA draft, where teams will select their players, and probably on top of that, they’ll have to. ‘will have the ability to spot great talent on their own, players who are not identified by some sort of league system. And this is how we will train our teams.

In his three-plus years as a commissioner, Silver has proven to be exceptional enough to stay ahead of the game while growing the NBA brand. So when he followed the meteoric growth of the gaming community and then spoke to Take-Two CEO and longtime acquaintance Strauss Zelnick about the possibility of forming a twinning between their two companies, he saw another chance to reach new legions of fans.

“I think it was kind of a time when minds were alike,” Zelnick told USA TODAY Sports. “Our colleagues on both sides of the table said, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting to formalize that, and wouldn’t it be interesting to start the first true competitive play league, and wouldn’t it be interesting if we co – possessed this, threw our fortunes together and made it an incredibly high priority for both of our organizations. And that’s where we are today.

According to Zelnick, there are “something like 250 million people who avidly consume competitive gaming events, (and) the income associated with the activity (of) competitive games is still relatively low – that’s about a half. billion dollars.

As both Silver and NBA officials knew, that number is growing day by day.

“It is expected to develop rapidly,” Zelnick continued. “We are confident that this market will well exceed $ 1 billion in the near future. Of that audience of 250 million people around the world, about half of that audience – roughly 125 million people – are avid competitive gaming consumers. They watch competitive gaming events, mostly online. And it is nascent. This is just the beginning.

Silver added, “The fans and gamers of these games, who aren’t as expert as these pros, want to step into an arena and watch the best game. So you can imagine a scenario where, (say) the new arena of Milwaukee, where there’s a five-on-five competition just like NBA basketball, (and) it’s projected onto a huge high-definition screen, and fans are watching every move. There are the quarters, there are the halves, and everything that goes with it.

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