Why basketball teams are getting serious about esports

Although basketball is one of the world’s most popular sports, several high profile basketball clubs have shown that they are more than willing to enter the rapidly growing world of esports. From NBA clubs like Golden State Warriors creating their own League of Legends team, to Italian basketball sides such as Orlandina Basket partnering up with esports player development companies, it seems as though the worlds of traditional sport and competitive gaming are merging in fascinating ways.

The most instantly visible part of this trend is the hugely successful NBA 2K League that saw many NBA teams fielding their own gaming squads. 2018 saw Knicks Gaming walk away with the first NBA 2K League title in an event that was successfully streamed live via Twitch. But with the news that many top European basketball teams are also entering esports, it shows that the race is on for clubs to take advantage of this dynamic gaming phenomenon.


© Michelle Farsi/NBAE

The latest basketball clubs to join the esports fray

Just this week it was announced that the Italian basketball team, Orlandina Basket, would be partnering up with Pro2Be Esports. Orlandina Basket had already created news when they signed the esports team QM Nation to represent the club in local and international tournaments. But by partnering with the player development company, Pro2Be Esports, it seems like Orlandia Basket are looking to be real contenders in the competitive gaming realm.

Pro2Be Esports will be helping the side’s gamers with everything from improving their mental focus to managing communication. In addition to this, Pro2Be Esports will provide a helping hand in marketing and promoting Orlandina Basket in the world of esports. This is an important move as the recently unveiled Audi Dome eCup proved to be a big hit for NBA 2K gamers, and Orlandia Basket will want to make sure that they take advantage of this fledgling European esports tournament.

Already many other top European sports clubs such as Bayern Munich have impressed at the contest with their Bayern Ballers Gaming team showing just how competitive these new esports tournaments have become. Whilst such efforts have a long way to go before they can catch up to the hugely popular NBA 2K League in the US, it’s a great start for basketball esports in Europe.

Where next for the NBA 2K League?

The inaugural season of the NBA 2K League proved to be a great success. Although much of the focus was taken up by the gaming triumphs of the champions, Knicks Gaming, the contest proved that esports and basketball can work well together.

A very credible 17 of the 30 NBA teams entered their own sides during the season, and such was the success of the first NBA 2K League, that we can expect teams from Atlanta, Brooklyn, Minnesota and Los Angeles bolstering the ranks in 2019’s tournament.

Some ardent basketball fans may have been a little sceptical about team names like Heat Check Gaming and Wizards District Gaming appearing at the competition, plus there were more than a few concerns about the way in which gamers were selected for the league. These concerns were based on the suspicion that certain players have made the cut as a result of the quantity of followers they had on Twitch and YouTube, rather than their gaming prowess.

Despite these reservations, the first NBA 2K season proved to be popular with online viewers. In total, it was thought that fans watched more than 761,000 hours of gaming action during the season. Whilst this has some way to go before it matched the likes of the International, it’s a strong start for this promising tournament.

NBA teams who have embraced esports

Whilst not all NBA teams entered the NBA 2K tournament, the majority of these sides seem to understand the growing appeal of esports. Such an understanding has even seen certain NBA teams creating their own teams to play esports other than sports simulators.

This was noticeable at the start of the 2018 League of Legends North American season that saw the likes of New York Yankees and Golden State Warriors entering teams alongside iconic esports organisations such as 100 Thieves, Cloud9 and Team Liquid. Houston Rockets entered their Clutch City Gaming team, whilst Golden State Warriors tried a similar format with their Golden Guardians side. After observing such successful partnerships, we can expect a much closer link between esports and basketball in the future.