Yes, You Can Actually Make a Living Playing NBA 2K

What if I told you (and your doubting parents) that you could actually make a living playing hours of your favorite video game? This week the NBA and 2K Sports made that a reality with the first-ever NBA 2K League Draft, a historic moment that changed the lives of 102 gamers.

The NBA 2K League is a professional electronic sports (eSports) league created by 2K Sports in partnership with the NBA. Here’s how it works: Of the 30 actual teams in the NBA, 17 joined forces to create a corresponding eSports team made up of six gamers—one for each position that a regular NBA team has plus an alternate, based on the position they primarily play in NBA 2K18. But how did the gamers get chosen to enter this first-of-its-kind draft? Back in January, the NBA held a combine where 72,000 players participated; this was chiseled down to the 102 players who were selected to enter the draft and become the NBA’s first Professional Gamers.

artero boyd nba 2k
Image via Getty/Mike Stobe

When the NBA first announced that it was invested in becoming a part of eSports, it shocked many in the sports industry because, prior to that, competitive video games had never been viewed with the same importance as traditional sports. To bear this out, on Wednesday at the 2KL draft ceremony, held in New York's Madison Square Garden, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced the first three rounds of draft picks just as he does every year at the NBA’s draft. Players came on stage wearing caps representing the team that would be their new home for the season. And each player was college-draft prospect fly, decked out like the fashion-forward hopefuls on any other NBA Draft Day.

College student Rochell Woods, aka ixsplashkingxi, became the youngest player drafted into the NBA 2K League when the Detroit Pistons GT selected him in the third round. The young eShooting guard out of Memphis, Tennessee, said he started playing in the ninth grade and normally spends seven to ten hours a day playing 2K to keep his skills sharp. 

nba 2k draft
Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images

Each player drafted lands a six-month contract of $35,000 for first-round picks, then $32,000 for the lower rounds. On top of their salary, an additional $1 million is up for grabs, split among three in-season tournaments. In addition, players are free to sign endorsement deals as well. The league also covers moving, travel, medical, retirement, and living expenses. Each franchise will have their own apartments or dedicated house for the players to live in. When the season starts, ePlayers will be flown out to NBA studios each week to play in front of an arena crowd just like in traditional eSports settings.

Similar to draftees in the NBA, training and practice with your new teammates comes next. But how does that process look outside of playing physical basketball? The general managers of the new Philadelphia 76ers Gaming Club, Michael Lai and Ian Hillman, helped provide context as to what the players can expect.

“Right now we are focused on bringing them into the market,” says Lai, who has a background in analytics. “A lot of these guys are pretty young and they might not have the experience of living in a new place, so the focus is getting them here, settled in and comfortable to then develop a training regimen.”

Hillman explains that it will be a bit experimental: “In terms of the actual practice of basketball there will be somewhat of a learning in trying out different styles of practice and drills. It is a little more difficult from physical versus digital, but we will definitely try to leverage some of the best practices from the actual Sixers training staff to the staff here with the 76ers Gaming Club.”

the same type of philosophies we practice with our Sixers players we will try to apply with our esports athletes.

He adds that just as with 76ers stars like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, full-body wellness is important for eSports players as well. “When we think about the research behind the effects of sleep and healthy diets on athletes, the same type of philosophies we practice with our Sixers players we will try to apply with our eSports athletes.”

As far as the importance of the NBA 2KL, the Sixers GMs and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver agree that eSports is the perfect equalizer. Thousands of people have hoop dreams but lack the gifts to realize them. In eSports, all you have to do is show up and prove your skill no matter what your physical abilities are.

“We're opening up this opportunity to a much larger pool of players, just by definition, because in the NBA or WNBA you have to have certain physical prowess to compete,” Silver says. “It's a different kind of skill here. But in terms of the gaming community, this is something where virtually anyone can set out to try to achieve at the highest level.”

ronnie 2k
Image via Getty

Despite the groundbreaking nature of the 2KL draft, one thing it was sorely lacking in was female NBA 2K ballers.  Representatives from the NBA noticed as well, say they want to rectify this in the future, and have already launched an initiative to focus on recruiting and developing female 2K League players.

“I'll tell you one thing just to put it on the table that's been a disappointment for all of us so far is that there are no women who are in the initial draft pool, and just to make it clear, whittling down from the 72,000, it's by avatars in essence, it's blind,” Silver explained. “I'm not concerned that there was something wrong with the process necessarily… This is a much larger issue in the gaming community.”

The process to get this level of professional gaming wasn't easy, but the players selected in the inaugural 2KL draft are dispelling the myth that sitting for hours in front of a TV will never pay off. Just like training for a sport in real life, people can put in the time and dedication to craft a skill digitally and take it to the bank as an eSports athlete.

The NBA 2K League season is scheduled to tip off in May.

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How Chance the Rapper Helped ESPN’s Holly Rowe Through Cancer Treatment

ESPN sideline reporter Holly Rowe has been fighting a tough battle with cancer. In May, she announced her cancer had returned and spread after going into remission earlier in the year. The unfortunate news meant more trips to get treatment. In a recent interview with The Players’ Tribune, Rowe revealed the surprising thing that helped her get through this tricky time: Chance the Rapper.

“If I ever meet [Chance the Rapper], I’m gonna just say, ‘Thank you for getting me through chemo,’” Rowe said. She explained that her son, who was helped her through the entire process of chemotherapy this time around, would create personalized playlists during their drives to get treatment. But the most prominent feature on those playlists would be Chance.

“Every day we’d go to chemo—and it’s about a 20 minute drive, and I had to go every day for 30 days—we’d listen to Chance the Rapper,” Rowe said. “Everyday [my son] would be like, ‘all right, what song do you want?’ I’m like, ‘I want “Blessings.”’ I want “Sunday Candy.” We know that whole album.”

Chance, who is known for his charitable acts and insistence on giving back, especially to his hometown of Chicago, has not yet spoken out about Rowe, but we wouldn't be surprised if that happens soon (or has already happened).

Rowe has worked at ESPN as a sideline reporter and play-by-play announcer for nearly 20 years. Just before she announced that her cancer had returned, she received a contract extension that will see her continue to cover college football, basketball, volleyball, softball and WNBA for more years to come.

Another thing that has helped Rowe through her cancer diagnosis has been continuing to work.

“I recently had five days in a row off,” Rowe told the AP in May. “That's a long stretch. I was a mess, I was sitting around thinking about having cancer. It's ridiculous. I've got to stay busy or I'll go crazy. This is the world's best therapy. Every single day I'm working, I'm absorbed in other people. Somebody wins. I need to see people winning and fighting through adversity. That helps me so much.”

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Memo Reminds NBA Players Must Stand During National Anthem, Outlines Ways Players Can Effect Change

NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum sent out a memo to all 30 teams Friday instructing players and coaches to stand during the national anthem. Although there was no mention of punishment should players choose to kneel, he expressed that the league has a rule in place disallowing players from sitting or kneeling during the anthem. 

In the memo, obtained by Complex Sports, Tatum asked that teams use their season openers “to demonstrate your commitment to the NBA’s core values of equality, diversity, inclusion and serve as a unifying force in the community.” The memo continued: 

If you have not done so already, we suggest organizing discussions between players, coaches, general managers and ownership to hear the players’ perspectives.

One approach would be for team leadership to review existing team and league initiatives and encourage players to share their thoughts and ideas about them. Following those conversations, teams could develop plans prior to the start of the regular season for initiatives that players and senior leadership could participate in, such as:

  • Hosting Community Conversations with youth, parents, community leaders and law enforcement about the challenges we face and our shared responsibility to create positive change.
  • Creating “Building Bridges Through Basketball” programs that use the game of basketball to bring people together and deepen important bonds of trust and respect between young people, mentors, community leaders, law enforcement and other first responders.
  • Highlighting the importance of mentoring with the goal of adding 50,000 new mentors to support young people through our PSA campaign.
  • Engaging thought leaders and partners.  A variety of experts, speakers and partner organizations are available to players and teams as you continue these conversations and develop programming.
  • Establishing new and/or enhancing ongoing team initiatives and partnerships in the areas of criminal justice reform, economic empowerment and civic engagement.

Teams are urged to show videos prior to tip-off in their efforts to exemplify unity. It was also recommended that a player or coach address fans directly if a message is to be conveyed. 

Earlier this month, NFL players across the country took a knee during the anthem in protest of police brutality and in honor of Colin Kaepernick's decision to spearhead the gesture. This collective demonstration roused a response from the president, causing something of a sociopolitical tidal wave. NBA players Lebron James and Steph Curry both spoke out in support of NFL players’ decision to take a knee, and publicly criticized Donald Trump for claiming they should be fired for doing so. 

More likely than not, individual NBA players or entire teams are going to express their solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement (something their counterparts in the WNBA have been at the forefront of), whether that be in the form of kneeling during the anthem or not. And it's not because they don't have respect for the NBA or the white men who run it. It's because they should have the right to take a stand against the bigotry and racism that continues to plague this country. 

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J.R. Smith Fires Back at Tracy McGrady Over His Take on ‘No Ring’ Criticism

Tracy McGrady will cement his legacy in the coming months when he's inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Of course, the cloud hanging over McGrady's head will be his inability to win a championship in his 16-year career, and T-Mac is well aware of that fact. 

While speaking at the Hall of Fame's 60 Days of Summer Program, McGrady addressed the criticisms regarding the “no rings” talk. “Social media can give a lot of people voices these days, and the first thing they say is 'No rings, no rings,'” McGrady said, according to MassLive.com. “You have to have a great team and some luck to get a ring, right? Unfortunately, I wasn't blessed with that. But I go back at them with this: Anybody can win a championship. Everybody can't get in the Hall of Fame.”

McGrady's stance on the “no rings” conversation struck a chord with Cleveland Cavaliers guard and NBA champion J.R. Smith, who called T-Mac's argument “dumb as hell.”

Of all the current NBA players to criticize McGrady about his comments which seemed to put personal accolades over winning, it's shocking that Swish would be that guy. 

McGrady, along with former Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self, WNBA player Rebecca Lobo, among others, will be inducted into Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 8.

Send all complaints, compliments, and tips to sportstips@complex.com.

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Kevin Durant Claps Back at Twitter Trolls Who Are Talking Trash

The NBA Finals are over, which means Kevin Durant is back on Twitter.

KD has a lot of time on his hands, basking in the glory of his first NBA title. Apparently, he has so much time that he took it upon himself to address a few Twitter users who have been all up in his mentions with their hot takes and other random insults. Here’s him going in a few days ago:

Today, Durant is still being a savage. It all started when he complemented Phoenix Mercury’s Diana Taurasi, who became the WNBA’s all-time scoring leader following the team’s win against the Los Angeles Sparks (90-59) in L.A. From there, KD was having some fun, getting into an argument with one superfan from OKC. A “fart in your face” insult was actually hurled.

At this point, you're probably wondering why KD is even engaging in social media at all. Everyone needs to blow off steam somehow, right?

But this might be the real reason. Says “the legend”:

LOL. Nice curve.

Keep doing you, KD.

Send all complaints, compliments, and tips to sportstips@complex.com.

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