The NBA has shown a commitment to eSports that we haven't seen from other professional athletic organizations.
With constant debate on whether or not eSports qualify as “real” sports, one major athletic league appears to be signaling the affirmative. The “NBA 2K eLeague,” a partnership between the NBA and 2K Sports, debuts next year, and it will be the first eSports league officially operated by the NBA or any other professional sports league.
The NBA 2K eLeague, which will commence next year, will feature teams individually operated by separate NBA franchises. Much like the actual NBA season, the league will consist of a regular season, playoffs, and a championship, but each team will only consist of five players using custom user-created characters — there won’t be any substitutions here. Teams are expected to be announced within the next few months.
“Through the NBA 2K series, which is renowned throughout the world for capturing the authenticity of the NBA and the passion of its fans, we have a proven track record of highly successful collaboration,” said Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick. “With this new venture, Take-Two and the NBA aim to fuel the accelerating growth of eSports and take the thrill of competition to exciting new heights.”
The NBA sees the league as an opportunity to attract a new demographic of viewers to not only watch eSports, but also become fans of basketball.
“The large part of my mission is to grow the game of basketball,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver to the Associated Press. “There’s going to be an opportunity for this first-of-a-kind league to attract a group of gamers who might be playing some other game.”
Though the NBA 2K eLeague is the first to be made an “official” eSport by a professional sports organization, it isn’t the first time we’ve seen a game publisher former a partnership with one. Back in December, the NFL partnered with Electronic Arts to launch programming based on the Madden series, airing footage of the “Madden Classic” event on NFL Network, as well as the Madden NFL Club Series, a program featuring live tournaments “produced by participating NFL teams.”