The announcement of the NBA 2K league was huge—17 NBA teams will be investing in esports teams which will be contracted to compete in a regular season running concurrent with the NBA season. It was enough to pique many people’s curiosity, including our own, but when we went looking for references to any existing 2K esports scene, we came up with more questions than answers.
Sports games have had their own share of the esports scene for a while. FIFA has a fair share of followers, as does the Madden series, to say nothing of Rocket League’s success in the competitive realm. But cursory searches for any mention of an NBA 2K competitive scene continuously come up with little to nothing outside mentions of the upcoming 2K eLeague itself.
This isn’t to say that 2K has no community whatsoever, of course. Tons of people play it, and plenty of YouTube channels thrive on 2K content, whether comedic or high-level gameplay. But the league is promising a 17-team landscape in which players create their own avatars to fill out five-player squads. That’s 85 players total, and there doesn’t appear to be supply to meet that demand.
What tournaments we did find were small, community-hosted events, and those tend to be the most promising. Though view counts vary from the low hundreds to a few thousand, the video creators on YouTube seem to be the ones most prominent in the scene, propping up tournaments like the 2K17 Pro-Am Championship, so it’s disappointing to see little to no mention of them in the league announcement.
Where competition for NBA 2K seems to thrives is at the grassroots level, where local tournaments form followings among both casual and semi-pro players. Though 2K lacks in formal tournaments, it’s not hard to find a local group willing to play. It’s a scene that could, given time and attention,…