The NBA is taking its talents to the virtual sports world. The league is partnering with Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of 2K Sports, to form NBA 2K eLeague, an eSports organization.
In a news release, Take-Two and the NBA said that the NBA 2K eLeague will be the “first official eSports league operated by a U.S. professional sports league.” The 5-person eLeague teams will be operated by real NBA clubs.
The eLeague will follow a traditional sports schedule with head-to-head matchups during the “regular season,” followed by bracket-based playoffs, and culminating in a championship matchup.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made the following statement:
The popularity of NBA 2K with the young and growing eSports community provides a unique opportunity to develop something truly special for our fans and the gaming community. We look forward to combining our best-in-class NBA team operators with Take-Two’s competitive gaming expertise to create a brand new league experience.
Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two, made the following statement:
eSports is a growing segment of our industry, and we will aim to take the thrill of competition to exciting new heights through our partnership with the NBA.
Take-Two subsidiary and 2K developer Visual Concepts kicked off the Road to the Finals following the release of NBA 2K16. The competition ran for months ending with a championship event in June with a top prize of $250,000. A spectator mode was added to NBA 2K16 so that players could watch Road to the Finals matchups.
Many NBA players and owners have bought in to esports organizations over the last couple years including Rick Fox, Shaq, Magic Johnson, Ted Leonsis and Peter Guber, as well as the Philadelphia 76ers.