i3 - January/February 2018 - 46

NBA 2K LEAGUE

Brendan Donohue, the NBA's managing
director of the NBA 2K League, says the
70-year-old league brings a perfect marriage of traditional sports and interactive
46

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018

NATE NANZER ,
COMMISSIONER
OF THE
OVERWATCH
LEAGUE

JERRY JONES,
OWNER OF
THE DALLAS
COWBOYS

ROBERT
KRAFT,
OWNER
OF THE NEW
ENGLAND
PATRIOTS

MARK
MASTROV,
CO-OWNER
OF THE
SACRAMENTO
KINGS

competition. It also connects the NBA and video game audience, which
intersect as millennial, tech-savvy and multicultural.
"We understand the details and all that it takes to run a successful
league," Donohue explains. "And the relationships we have, both with
potential partners and our 17 NBA teams, also gives us an advantage."
For the inaugural season, the NBA and Take-Two's 2K Sports will
host events at a central studio or two, but Donahue says using NBA
arenas is part of the long-term plan. Popular esports games like
CS:GO, League of Legends and Dota 2 have all sold out events in NBA
and NHL arenas over the past five years.
Donahue believes the ability for everyday NBA fans to try out for
their local team (for the first 17 participating clubs) opens up an
aspirational element that has not existed before for traditional
sports fans. Each participating NBA team will field a team of gamers
to play the five vs. five NBA 2K18 video game, wearing jerseys that
include the traditional team logo. Players will practice in their market during the week and then fly in for games.
I T I S I N N O VAT I O N

Previous Page: League of Nations- STR/AFP/Getty Images, O'Neal- Johnny Nunez/WireImage/Getty Images, Rodriguez- C Flanigan/FilmMagic/Getty Images, Jerebko- Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images, Fox- Rob
Kim/Getty Images. This Page: Left to Right- Tom Pennington/Getty Images, Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images, Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Showtime Networks, Courtesy of Overwatch League.

Shaquille O'Neal, co-owner of NRG
Esports, says this wave of traditional
sports investment vindicates the work he,
Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov (all coowners of the Sacramento Kings) have
done in esports.
"We jumped in early because we saw
the huge fan base, the passion and the
communities that were developing across
all gaming titles," O'Neal says. "More
money, more attention, more professionalism is only good for the esports scene. It
is still early days, but it's growing up fast."
The Philadelphia 76ers and Miami
Heat were the first two traditional sports
organizations to acquire esports teams
(Team Dignitas and Misfits, respectively),
but they are just the tip of the spear.
Michael McCullough, executive vice
president and chief marketing officer of
the Miami Heat, says the organization's
strength across multiple disciplines has
helped grow the Misfits brand through
marketing, retail and fan events, and
activities. The Heat has launched an
exclusive online store for in-house created
and core-culture branded Misfits clothing, which ships out of U.S. and European
fulfillment houses - something the small
esports team couldn't do on its own.
The Heat brought Misfits' CounterStrike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) team to
Miami in November to sign autographs in
the arena plaza during halftime.
"We had a couple hundred people waiting in line for the autographs and pictures
with the team," McCullough says. "Across
social media we saw esports fans talking
about this being their first NBA game.
That event reaffirmed what we could do,
and why we're doing this."
The Sixers and Heat got together for
a double-header, pitting their esports
teams in a competition ahead of the real
NBA action. That type of competition
will become a staple in 2018 when TakeTwo Interactive and the NBA launch the
NBA 2K League, which is comprised of
17 NBA teams. The second year of the
league is expected to attract every NBA
team, with plans to expand into new
territories like Asia.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of i3 - January/February 2018

Contents
i3 - January/February 2018 - Cover1
i3 - January/February 2018 - Cover2
i3 - January/February 2018 - Contents
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