NBA 2K eLeague

Everything You Need To Know Leading Up To The NBA 2K League’s Second Season

The second season of the NBA 2K League is approaching. The league, which is a joint venture between the NBA and Take-Two Interactive, the publisher of the NBA 2K franchise, kicks off on April 2 and will run through the beginning of August (the league announced the full schedule, which you can find here).

Let’s take a look at the league, how it’s structured and some of the changes heading into season two:

  • Each of the league’s 21 teams will participate in 16 regular seasons contests, all of which will be played at the NBA 2K League Studio in New York City.
  • Games will be played weekly on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.
  • All games will be live-streamed on the league’s Twitch channel.
  • The prize pool has been increased to $1.2MM – a 20% increase over last year’s award – and teams will receive a portion of the pool based on tournament wins and league playoff outcomes.

Breaking Barriers

This season will feature a female professional esports player for the first time after the Warriors drafted Chiquita Evans during the March 6 draft. The inaugural season didn’t feature a female player and the league set out to solve the issue. It searched the data and found that male players weren’t passing the ball to female teammates enough during games and it skewed the evaluation metrics.

”It made us put more emphasis on how good a player was when they got the ball in their hands,” managing director Brendan Donohue said earlier this month. ”That’s the only part of it they can control.”

The league also added sessions to its transition program (similar to the NBA’s rookie symposium) to help Evans and other female players overcome challenges they break into a male-dominated space.


Which NBA Teams Are Participating?

The inaugural season consisted of 17 teams and the Knicks took home the championship. This season, four more teams (Atlanta, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Minnesota) were added via an expansion draft. Here’s the full list of NBA 2K clubs:

  • Blazers: Blazers5 Gaming
  • Bucks: Bucks Gaming
  • Cavaliers: Cavs Legion GC
  • Celtics: Celtics Crossover Gaming
  • Grizzlies: Grizz Gaming
  • Hawks: Hawks Talon GC *
  • Heat: Heat Check Gaming
  • Jazz: Jazz Gaming
  • Kings: Kings Guard Gaming
  • Knicks: Knicks Gaming
  • Lakers: Lakers Gaming *
  • Magic: Magic Gaming
  • Mavericks: Mavs Gaming
  • Nets: Nets GC *
  • Pacers: Pacers Gaming
  • Pistons: Pistons GT
  • Raptors: Raptors Uprising GC
  • Sixers: 76ers GC
  • Wolves: T-Wolves Gaming *
  • Warriors: Warriors Gaming Squad
  • Wizards: Wizards District Gaming

* Expansion teams


Format Of The Game And Rosters?

Each team is made up of six players (one at each traditional position and a sixth man), with each participant controlling one player while 5-on-5 competition takes place.

The competitors don’t play with pre-existing created players but rather in Pro-Am mode, where there are presets based on each position to ensure balance among teams, meaning one player will not beat the other because the former has the skills of LeBron James and the latter has Michael Carter-Williams‘ arsenal (sorry, MCW).

How Are The Players Compensated?

The league’s 126 players are compensated between $33-37K, depending on where they were drafted, and each player is on a six-month contract. Relocation and housing costs are provided by the league and the players received health benefits and retirement plan contributions as well.

Teams are made up of professional esports players, thus they are not restricted by amateur status, so they are eligible to sign endorsement deals. Several players are well known in the gaming community and already have deals in place.

Can Players Be Traded?

During the first season, trades were not allowed. For the second, the league added two designated trading periods. One was a two-week period that ended on October 10. The other has yet to be determined, but it will occur during the 2019 season. There have been five trades in league history, per the league’s transaction log.

How Are Playoff Teams Determined?

Eight teams make the playoffs in total. There are three tournaments during the season — The Banner Chain: The Tipoff, The Turn, and The Ticket. The winner of The Ticket clinches a postseason spot, along with the teams owning a top-seven record during the regular season. If The Ticket winner is already in the top seven, then the top eight teams gain entry to the playoffs.

Key playoff dates:

  • Wednesday, July 24, 2019: Postseason begins.
  • Saturday, August 3, 2019: The 2019 NBA 2K League Finals (best-of-five series).

And-Ones: Cuban, Draft, Maledon, 2K League

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban doesn’t mind lowering the minimum draft age from 19 to 18, but points out that it creates another set of issues, as he explained to Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News.

Cuban notes that most players out of high school don’t have general life skills, such as writing a check or signing a lease. He also sees the influence of AAU coaches and teams becoming even more pervasive if the age minimum drops.

“The really bad unintended consequence is you’re going to see AAU programs and parents push harder to get kids featured, maybe at the expense of their education, maybe at the expense of really learning how to play basketball because they’ve got coaches that are telling him, ‘Yeah, he’s got a chance to be a ‘none-and-done,'” Cuban said.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • League executives are already dreading the extra time, money, and analysis it will take to scout high school prospects, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer writes in a lengthy piece on the pros and cons of reducing the draft age minimum to 18. Eliminating the one-and-done prospects could make it tougher for lottery teams to land a marquee player, since there will likely be more steals and more busts in the draft. A system that would allow players to be selected in the draft without losing college eligibility could help the process, O’Connor adds.
  • French point guard Theo Maledon, a Tony Parker protege, could be the top international prospect in the 2020 draft. ESPN’s Mike Schmitz takes a closer look at next year’s international group and notes that the 17-year-old Maledon is now the starting point guard for ASVEL, the club Parker oversees as president. ASVEL is the first-place team among 18 in France’s top league. Maledon could become the second-ever 18-year-old EuroLeague starter, following in the footsteps of Luka Doncic, when ASVEL moves up to the prestigious league next season, Schmitz adds.
  • The NBA 2K League will begin its 18-week season on April 2 and conclude with the Finals on August 3, according to a league press release. All regular-season games will take place at the NBA 2K League Studio in Long Island City, New York, and will be live-streamed on Twitch.

And-Ones: Carmelo, Bazley, Seattle, Rookies

Carmelo Anthony, the newest member of the Rockets, published a letter earlier this week thanking his old team, along with the Thunder fans. As Erik Horne of The Oklahoman details, Anthony said that he wanted to bring a championship to OKC and was “sorry it didn’t work out” while he was there. However, despite only being with the Thunder for one year, Carmelo said he’ll never forget the experience and the support he received from the “incredible” fans in OKC.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Within an Insider article on his observations from the Nike Basketball Academy in Los Angeles, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony notes that there’s speculation among NBA scouts that prospect Darius Bazley may end up not playing in the G League, as was originally planned. Bagley didn’t look great at the event, so if he feels he’s not ready for the G League, he could take the Mitchell Robinson route and forgo competitive basketball for 2018/19, writes Givony.
  • Seattle is in “a class by itself” in terms of cities that are candidates for NBA expansion, Marc Stein of the New York Times writes in his latest newsletter. In Stein’s view, there are a handful of cities that could be options to join Seattle if the NBA decides it wants to expand to 32 teams at some point, but none of those cities are on Seattle’s level.
  • A handful of top NBA rookies spoke to ESPN about which fellow rookie they’re most looking forward to playing, their biggest purchase since signing their rookie contract, and – most interestingly – their pick for Rookie of the Year. ESPN’s Chris Forsberg has the details.
  • The NBA announced this week that the NBA 2K eLeague will introduce four expansion teams for the 2019 season, with the Hawks, Nets, Lakers, and Timberwolves adding affiliates.

And-Ones: Wright, 2K League, EuroCamp, Fines

After leading his Wildcats to their second NCAA title in the last three years, Villanova head coach Jay Wright figures to draw interest from NBA teams this spring. Three NBA clubs currently have interim head coaches in place and will be in the market for full-time solutions in the offseason, and a handful of other franchises could make changes on the sideline too.

Still, it may be difficult to pry Wright away from Villanova, as Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports writes. The school’s athletic director Mark Jackson acknowledged that NBA interest in Wright will be “inevitable,” but he has “no sense” that the head coach wants to go anywhere, he tells Eisenberg. Assistant coach Ashley Howard agrees with that sentiment.

“I think he loves it here at Villanova,” Howard said of Wright. “He’s shown that. He’s had opportunities to go in the past, and he’s shown that he’s committed to staying here at Villanova and continuing to make this program great.”

Wright is currently making $2.6MM per year, Eisenberg notes, but a raise figures to be on the way after the latest championship if he remains at Villanova. Since the Suns are one team that may have interest in hiring Wright, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 did some digging and was told that Wright is expected to have his salary increased to at least $4MM, making it harder for him to walk away from the Wildcats (Twitter link).

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The draft for the NBA’s new 2K eLeague took place this week, and the league is putting its weight behind the new esports venture — as Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee writes, Shaquille O’Neal will run the Kings‘ 2K squad (Kings Guard Gaming), while commissioner Adam Silver is looking to make his mark on North American esports, per Ohm Youngmisuk and Jacob Wolf at ESPN.com. We won’t be covering the league on a regular basis, but for more details on the NBA’s foray into professional gaming, check out Alex Kennedy’s FAQ at HoopsHype.
  • As Adidas withdraws its support from the annual EuroCamp for international prospects, the NBA is looking to salvage the event, reports Jonathan Givony of ESPN.com. The Eurocamp will take place from June 2-5 in Treviso, Italy and will be rebranded as the NBA Elite International Camp, according to Givony. In a separate story, Givony also takes a closer look at the new Next Generation program, an event organized by the NCAA, NBA, and USA Basketball for prospects during the Final Four.
  • Nets forward Quincy Acy and Pistons center Andre Drummond were fined $25K and $15K by the NBA earlier this week, according to the league. The two players engaged in a shoving match during Sunday’s game in Brooklyn, resulting in ejections for both.
  • Grand Rapids Drive center Landry Nnoko, who was in camp with the Pistons in the fall, was named the NBA G League’s Defensive Player of the Year for 2017/18. Peter J. Wallner of MLive.com has the details.

NBA Announces Lineup For First eLeague Season

Seventeen teams will compete in the first season of the NBA 2K eLeague, according to A.J. Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today.

The venture, a joint project between the NBA and NBA 2K’s Take-Two Interactive, will be the first eSports league run by an actual U.S. league. It will give top basketball video game players a chance to compete for real NBA teams.

The 17 franchises will each employ up to five professional gamers, who will be paid to run their teams in NBA 2K. Play will be conducted similar to the real NBA, with head-to-head matchups in a regular season schedule, followed by playoffs. The gamers will compete with user-created avatars rather than avatars of actual players.

“This is the first step in what promises to be an extraordinary league, bringing together the world’s best gamers and showcasing elite competition on an international stage,” said NBA 2K eSports league managing director Brendan Donohue. “Our teams have expressed tremendous enthusiasm for eSports, and we are looking forward to forming something truly unique for basketball and gaming fans around the globe.”

Teams participating in the first season will be the Celtics, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Pistons, Warriors, Pacers, Grizzlies, Heat, Bucks, Knicks, Magic, 76ers, Blazers, Kings, Raptors, Jazz and Wizards.

NBA To Launch eSports League In 2018

The NBA is poised to announce a partnership with Take-Two Interactive Software, the makers of the popular NBA 2K video games, according to reports from Sam Amick of USA Today and Zach Lowe of ESPN.com. The two companies will work to launch a professional eSports league in 2018, which will feature competition between professional NBA 2K players.

According to both Amick and Lowe, the NBA 2K eLeague will eventually feature 30 teams, one owned by each of the NBA’s 30 franchises. Those teams, made up of five human players apiece, will compete in a season that mirrors the real NBA season. While all 30 NBA franchises may not be ready to launch their own eSports teams by 2018, commissioner Adam Silver hopes that at least half of the league’s franchises will have teams for the first year of the eLeague.

“These are a completely different set of professional athletes,” Silver told Amick. “There’s a global pool of gamers. They come in all ages, and sizes and ethnicities and sexes, and then we will at some point have a draft that will look somewhat similar to an NBA draft, in which the teams will select their players, and presumably on top of that they’ll have the ability to spot some great talent on their own, players who aren’t identified through sort of a league system. And that’s how we’ll form our teams.”

According to Lowe, specifics on the schedule, structure, and salary cap of the NBA 2K eLeague remain “hazy,” but players are expected to compete using their own user-created avatars, with no real NBA players represented on screen. Gamers who play in the league will receive salaries and will “essentially treat the NBA 2K eLeague as full-time jobs during the season,” per Lowe. Meanwhile, the league will hold events, sell tickets, and even negotiate licensing rights so that fans can watch games remotely.

“Fans and players of these games, who aren’t as expert as these professionals, want to come into an arena and watch the very best play,” Silver told Amick. “So you can imagine a scenario where, (say) the new arena in Milwaukee, where there’s five-on-five competition, just like NBA basketball, (and) it’s being projected on a huge, large high-definition screen, and fans are watching all the moves. There’s quarters, there’s halftimes, and everything that goes with it.”

As Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick explained to Amick, the eSports industry already has a significant consumer base, and is still on the rise, so the NBA and Take-Two are confident that the new NBA 2K eLeague has significant potential as a moneymaker.

“We fully believe that it will be well over a billion dollars as a market in the near future,” Zelnick said of competitive gaming. “Of [a] 250 million person audience worldwide, about half that audience – about 125 million people – are avid consumers of competitive gaming. They watch competitive gaming events, largely online. And this is nascent. It’s just beginning.”