NBA Creates eSports Basketball League
The National Basketball Association is taking the lead on eSports by becoming the first U.S. professional sports league to field its own eSports league.
The league will be based on Take Two Interactive’s NBA 2K video game series and will play with the same structure as the NBA. League franchises will draft and support their own five-member eSports teams. Games are scheduled to begin in 2018.
“There’s an untapped audience on both sides of the equation,” Matt Holt, NBA vice president of global partnerships told Bloomberg News. “On the NBA side, we have a lot of fans who don’t play the 2K game, and I’m sure there are 2K players who aren’t fans of the NBA. This is another chance to engage them.”
The move makes the NBA the first to take advantage of the growing eSports business, which some estimates say could be a $1 billion industry by 2019, according to Bloomberg.
Some NBA owners have already made forays into eSports—including the owners of the Philadelphia 76ers, the Sacramento Kings, the Washington Wizards and the Golden State warriors—and invested in eSports teams.
The new league will be a partnership between the NBA and Take Two. More than 68 million copies of NBA 2K games have been sold.
The league has not announced a salary structure or exactly how fans will be able to access the competition, but a combination of live streaming and possibly television broadcasts are expected. Holt told Bloomberg that the league has spoken to all 30 NBA teams and about half are expected to participate in the first season.
A league spokesman also told the news service that it was premature to speculate on potential gambling associated with the new league.