The NBA 2K League was set to tip off its third season on March 24, before delaying play over safety concerns relating to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Now, the esports organization is preparing to host a three-on-three online tournament involving fans, social media influencers, and top 2K gamers this weekend instead. A combined prize pool of $25,000 for Playstation 4 and Xbox One X brackets will be awarded to teams participating in the NBA 2KL Three for All Showdown.
The one-week tournament will be completed in two stages, with only fan-led teams competing initially. NBA 2K League franchises, influencers, and top female gamers – selected from the NBA 2K’s women’s development camp introduced last summer – will join on March 31 to compete against fans.
“With everything going on, we wanted to figure out a way to provide entertainment – even if just for a few hours,” Graham Borden, the NBA 2K League’s community ambassador and tournament organizer, said.
The NBA 2K League does not immediately stand to make revenue from the venture and views the online tournament as strictly an engagement play. The league also declined to comment on potential sponsorship or brand advertising interest in the event.
“We are giving people the opportunity to come together while being socially distant,” Borden said. “Fans will engage on two levels: with the NBA 2K League online and with friends they choose to team up with.”
While other esports leagues and tournaments, including Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch and Call of Duty leagues, opted to continue regular season play online, the NBA is still working with game developer 2K to create a version of the sports title that is appropriate for remote use so it can launch its season.
All regular-season NBA 2K League matchups are typically played at the NBA 2K League Studio in New York City. However, the league is confident online play will hold up for the upcoming tournament, citing the preparation of its operations department. It also may be a reflection of what is to come for the league.
“Right now we are working closely with 2K to potentially build a mode that will allow us to play in-season games remotely. Certainly we believe our studio experience is the best, but at this time right now, we may want to look at remote gameplay as a way to get us through this,” NBA 2K League Managing Director Managing Director Brendan Donohue said in a recent Periscope video where he discussed the league’s future plans.
The league has not specified revised start date for its season.
The 2K League’s latest venture follows the efforts of NBA teams like the Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards to broadcast the remainder of their regular-season matchups on NBA 2K20 – the series’ latest title. The Suns are currently simulating games on Twitch, while NBC Sports’ Washington D.C. affiliate has started to air Wizards games in partnership with Monumental Sports Network.
Fans can begin signing up to play in the NBA 2KL Three for All Showdown this week. Games played using NBA 2K’s My Park mode will be streamed on NBA 2K League’s Twitch and YouTube channels.
“There’s a ton of talent in the 2K community, so it’s great that this tournament is so open,” Jelani Mitchell, head coach of Jazz gaming, said.
Jazz Gaming, the esports affiliate of the Utah Jazz, will be one of the 2K League franchises participating in the NBA 2KL Three for All Showdown while awaiting the regular season. With a prize pool up for grabs, competitors do not lack motivation.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not a 2K league team that wins it,” Mitchell said. “Teams are still preparing for the season and are coming in with a target on their backs, while everyone at home right now has time to practice.”
Most NBA 2K League franchises will be participating in the NBA 2KL Three for All Showdown. That includes CLTX Gaming, the esports arm of the Boston Celtics. Point guard Albano “oFab” Thomallari was also quick to play up the talent spectators will see displayed online – some by players who have just missed out on being drafted into the league.
“Members of the 2K fan base take this seriously. They study players’ games, movement, and what hand they like to dribble with,” Thomallari said. “Our community is one of the smartest gaming communities out there.”
A full list of players and teams competing playing in the NBA 2KL Three for All Showdown will be revealed next week.