When the NBA 2K League was established in 2018, it was driven by a unique idea. Every NBA team has its own gaming squad, squaring off for virtual supremacy – sounds interesting, right? The somewhat was risky experiment was everything we expected it to be and more, but this joint TwoTake and NBA venture are set to traverse borders yet again.
On Monday, it became known that the 2K League will feature a 23rd NBA 2K team, based in Shanghai. The newest club will be Gen.G, a known eSports powerhouse that already has incredibly successful squads in Fortnite, PUBG, League of Legends and Overwatch. What does that mean for the US-centric NBA 2K League and eSports on a global level?
An Unexpected Addition
NBA 2K has been an integral part of modern basketball culture for some time now, but it was mostly limited to Twitter threads, lyrics by rappers and a more player-centered hierarchy. In 2018, the National Basketball Association and TakeTwo Interactive Software decided to change things up a bit by establishing the 2K League. The central idea was that every NBA team would have its own squad in the competition, building upon existing rivalries (think Celtics vs. Lakers, Mavs vs. Spurs and others).
The first two seasons exceeded all expectations in terms of popularity, with Knicks Gaming and T-Wolves Gaming taking home a title each. Even non-gamers tuned in to follow their team’s squad, but the 2K League became something much more than an extension of several rivalries. It spread globally, prompting an interesting proposal.
Building on Stable Ground
The introduction of Shanghai’s Gen.G next to Hornets Venom GT was a sign that the NBA wanted to go global right away. This method, as noticed by many basketball experts, is seen as an experiment of sorts, allowing the NBA to experiment with potential expansion candidates. New professional teams in Europe and Asia have been an idea for some time, but travel-related problems have prevented the plan from coming into fruition.
Shanghai was an obvious candidate from the start, but there is something more important than mere basketball appeal. It’s good management. Gen.G is a proven powerhouse in terms of international competitions, given the fact that they also own the Seoul Dynasty in the Overwatch League.
NBA 2K League – Implications for American Gaming
A possible goal by the NBA is also fostering a carefully designed pipeline for Asian athletes to come to the United States for specialization. Gen.G will spend time practicing in their Los Angeles headquarters but will travel to Shanghai on certain occasions. As China and the US started “exchanging” talent in 2K, there will surely be a larger number of professional basketball players that are NBA-ready in their early 20s.
Since current NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, the league has embarked on a mission to expand its brand globally, with games taking place in Paris, London, Mexico City and various locations in Asia. Moves like this show the mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship between eSports and their real-life counterparts.
What the Future Holds
The 2K League is treading in charted waters, as there are already existing business connections between Gen.G and the NBA. Dennis Wong, the Los Angeles Clippers’ minority governor is also one of Gen.G’s investors, helping them reach a $46 million goal. He joined previous investors such as actor Will Smith and soccer star Keisuke Honda, amongst many others.
As reported by insiders, in the initial stages of the collaboration between Gen.G and the 2K League, the two will organize training programs, combines, and similar events. There are no details pertaining to the players which will represent Gen.G, but projections indicate that they will assemble a more-than-capable squad by the beginning of the 2020 season.
In a masterful branding move, the 2K league directly impacted the possible expansion of the NBA on a global level. With intriguing free agent moves, rule changes in the G League and the impending salary cap expansion, we might see eSports having a more prominent role in traditional sports.
Despite ongoing diplomatic disagreements between the USA and China, the sports-based bond is bringing the two countries closer together.
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