The relationship between the NBA and esports continues to strengthen during the coronavirus pandemic. With the NBA season shuttered indefinitely while America is under quarantine, the league planned a special, players-only esports tournament on the popular hoops video game, NBA 2K. ESPN plans to air the NBA 2K tournament that will feature one current roster player representing their own franchise.

NBA 2K eSports tournament Jayson Tatum
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum playing NBA 2K last year during the NBA 2K19 launch event in Brooklyn. (Image: Kevin Mazur/Getty)

The NBA aims to have the virtual NBA 2K tournament ready to go on Friday. The tournament could take up to 10 days to complete, and at least 16 teams will participate with NBA players gaming it up from the confines of their own homes.

Yahoo Sports reported that NBA stars Boogie Cousins, Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell, and Andre Drummond will be among the participants. Mitchell and Durant both tested positive for coronavirus, but have since recovered.

With nearly every professional sports league shuttered, gamblers have no choice but to migrate to the only remaining options, including soccer in Belarus and the newest fad, marble racing. NASCAR quickly pivoted into iNASCAR, which inspired the NBA to test the esports waters with its own NBA 2K tournament.

If you can’t get your NBA fix, at least you can watch your favorite NBA players hooping it up on the virtual hardwood.

The Rise of NBA 2K

Developed by Sega, NBA 2K originally appeared in 1999. 2K Sports publishes the current game, which was developed by Visual Concepts.

Anthony Davis, star center for the Los Angeles Lakers, appears on the cover of the current version of NBA 2K20, created by EA Sports. Last season, Giannis “Greek Feak” Antetokounmpo appeared on the cover of NBA 2K19.

The NBA already has a relationship with a professional NBA 2K esports league. The current NBA 2K League includes 23 total teams, with 22 esports teams affiliated with actual NBA franchises.

The NBA 2K League is also currently suspended due to the pandemic. That didn’t stop two of the top NBA 2K gamers, Troydan and CashNasty, from squaring off in an All-Star team-up match over the weekend. According to a traffic report by Daily esports, they attracted 77,000 viewers on Twitch and YouTube.

NBA Gamers

NBA players are no strangers to video games and the gaming world. During the Fortnite craze in 2019, a significant batch of young NBA players became Fortnite fanatics.

New York Knicks’ first-round draft pick, Kevin Knox, loved Fortnite so much he had a special suit designed with the Fortnite logo and scenes in his jacket lining.

The Knicks were concerned that their young team, the majority of whom were under 25, was spending too much time playing Fortnite and other video games. As a result, the training staff persuaded the Knicks to wear special tinted glasses at nighttime to reduce screen glare and improve sleep (if/when they finally got some).

The Phoenix Suns have been streaming NBA 2K games on Twitch involving their own players. Ty Jerome, manning the controls for the Suns, played against Josh Okogie of the Minnesota Timberwolves on the same date their own teams were supposed to meet before the season got postponed.

Devin Booker is an avid Call of Duty player. The Phoenix Suns All-Star was even in the middle of a Call of Duty: Warzone match when he found out commissioner Adam Silver shut down the league after Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. Booker recently started a charity in conjunction with the Suns to raise COVID-19 awareness.