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How NBA 2k's infrastructure sets the bar for esports

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at the NBA 2k league draft
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at the NBA 2k league draft. Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The esports industry continues to tussle with creating viable paths for amateur gamers to turn pro, but the NBA 2k league seems to have come up with something that's working.

How it works: Anyone who owns the game has a legitimate shot at getting into the 2k league.

All you have to do is play in 2k's Pro-Am mode. Once players reach a certain number of wins they qualify for the league's combine where 2k officials evaluate their performance head to head against the competition. Play well in the combine and chances are you'll enter 2k's draft pool.

Why it matters: The league's blueprint for finding talent could eventually become the norm as new games emerge and expand around the industry.

  • "One of the things we do really well at the NBA is we have a funneling process. We wanted to take that and give our teams as solid a base as possible," Director of League Operations Daniel Tsay tells Axios.
  • 2k leans on the NBA to help with "the little things" like creating competition committees and designing infrastructure, Tsay said.

Between the lines: Esports' infrastructure hasn't been established because it's so young and teams are rarely tied to specific esports like the NBA 2k league teams are, esports consultant Rod Breslau notes.

  • "A draft in some leagues means breaking up already established good teams as more are added," Breslau tells Axios. "Fans typically don't want that."

The big picture: 2k's method of digging up talent is working. It might not be perfectly replicable for already-established leagues, but more fledgling esports with already built bases may certainly give it a try.