Sep 25, 2019

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

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.

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The NBA faces a geopolitical crisis with China over a single tweet

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A single tweet from Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey escalated into a geopolitical crisis over the weekend, pitting America's democratic ideals and the NBA's progressive brand against the influence of Chinese money.

The backdrop: On Friday night, Morey tweeted an image that read "Fight for Freedom. Stand for Hong Kong" in reference to the pro-democracy protests that have been going on there for months.

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4-time Olympian believes esports will become part of Olympic Games

Axios' Dan Primack talks with Angela Ruggiero. Photo: Axios on HBO

Angela Ruggiero, a four-time Olympian and former member of the International Olympic Committee executive board, believes that esports will eventually become part of the Olympic Games.

The state of play: Don't expect gold medals in Fortnite or Overwatch, due to both IOC rules about profit and fears that what's popular in 2020 might no longer be popular in 2024. Instead, she says a nonprofit governing federation might develop its own game for Olympic competition.