The NBA 2K esports league announced today that 17 NBA teams will participate in its inaugural season, set to debut in 2018. One of those teams is the Dallas Mavericks.
“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,” said NBA 2K esports league Managing Director Brendan Donohue. “Our teams have expressed tremendous enthusiasm for esports, and we are looking forward to forming something truly unique for basketball and gaming fans around the globe.”
Set to launch in 2018, this is the first-ever official esports basketball league operated by a U.S. professional sports league, and it comes at a time when interest in esports has never been higher. NBA 2K is currently the highest-rated and highest-revenue-generating sports title in North America, and the second-highest sports game globally, behind FIFA. Hundreds of thousands of players attempted to qualify for the NBA 2K17 All-Star Tournament, with Team Still Trill winning the $250,000 grand prize.
Each of the 17 league teams will be composed of five players who will play the game using newly created avatars, not existing NBA players. The Mavericks, for example, will not play as Dirk Nowitzki or Harrison Barnes. However, they do play as a team, just as the Mavs do, running plays and establishing a philosophy. Basketball is a fast-paced game, and anyone who’s played 2K before knows how quickly that game can move, so that team dynamic is going to be very interesting to follow. Typically a sports video game is 1-on-1, with each user controlling the entire team, but not in this case.
Globally, the esports market grew 41 percent from 2016 to 2017, with total revenue reaching nearly $700 million, and the audience is expected to reach 385 million people. By 2020, the industry is expected to grow to $1.5 billion worldwide.
Mavs proprietor Mark Cuban was among the first affiliated with the NBA to express any level of interest in esports, even competing in a League of Legends exhibition at the Intel Extreme Masters San Jose in 2015. He also invested in a legal sports betting platform called Unikrn that same year. As always with the proprietor, Cuban and the Mavs will take any and every chance to be on the cutting edge of sports technology and innovation. In 2001, for example, a Mavs/Kings game became the first ever streamed live over the internet by the NBA.
Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson, and Rick Fox are among several other individuals affiliated with the NBA to have invested in the industry in recent years.
The other teams competing in the league are Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Golden State, Indiana, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Portland, Sacramento, Toronto, Utah, and Washington.
In the coming months, the league and its teams will make a variety of announcements related to participating players, team branding, league structure, and business updates.