The NBA Draft is one of the biggest events on the basketball calendar - and next year, for the first time ever, there will be two.
Dating back to 1947, the annual player draft sees teams from the National Basketball Association (NBA) pick new stars to join their squads. Held over two rounds each June, 60 of the best up-and-coming basketball stars are selected by the 30 NBA teams.
In 2018, however, the NBA will host a totally new kind of player draft. The NBA 2K League, in partnership with Take-Two Interactive Software, is searching to find the world’s best 102 NBA 2K gamers to compete in basketball’s elite e-sport format.
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Seventeen teams, including the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, have already signed up to enter the e-league.
Each of the teams will comprise five players and the season will last 17 weeks - 15 regular weeks and two for play-offs. Digital try-outs will be held in February, the draft is in mid-March and players will relocate to their local markets in April, before the season starts in May.
Speaking yesterday at the Leaders in Sport summit in London, Brendan Donohue, managing director of the NBA 2K League, said: “There are tens of millions of players playing NBA 2K. We will find the best 85 on the planet and bring them together.
“We were the first league to launch a virtual reality game of the week and we have released our connected jersey in partnership with Nike. Our plan is to bring that innovation to the [e-sports] league.”
When asked about the e-sports league’s money-making potential, Donohue said success will be judged on one thing: global growth.
He said: “Our measure of success will be audience size - how can we get global as quickly as possible. If we get that right, the revenue streams will come.”
Nine million copies of NBA 2K17 have been sold since its release last September. In China alone, there are more than 34 million registered users for the game’s online version.
And just like the real-life NBA, the action must be world class.
“We will have an elite game with the best 85 players,” said Donohue. “You have to have authenticity.”
NBA 2K League at a glance
- Launching: 2018
- Number of teams: 17 in year one
- Number of players: 102
- February: try-outs for the 85 spots
- March: NBA 2K player draft
- May: start of the season
- 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
- Washington Wizards
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