Excitement, anxiety, and disappointment filled the studio at Terminal 5 in Hell’s Kitchen, New York as the NBA 2K League held the 2020 season draft. The NBA 2K League is the competitive video game league in the NBA umbrella, which includes the NBA, WNBA, and G League.
The event was kicked off with a performance from 10K.Caash, a rapper and Instagram influencer, known for creating the viral dance The Woah. After the performance, the microphone was handed over to NBA 2K League commissioner Brendan Donohue who announced the start of the draft.
Donohue gave the honors of announcing the first pick to Ted Leonsis, CEO of Monumental Sports and Entertainment, via video call. Monumental Sports and Entertainment owns the Washington Wizards as well as Wizards District Gaming. The billionaire entrepreneur announced that the organization would be going with Jack “JBM” Mascone of New York as point guard.
The pick order was based on a lottery that occurred last October, giving Wizards District Gaming the first pick. It wasn’t a totally random lottery however, as teams that performed worse during the 2019 season had a higher chance of being given an early draw.
All eyes were on Shanghai’s Gen.G Tigers, the first international team to enter the NBA outside of North America. With the fifth overall pick, the Tigers picked up Dhwan “ShiftyKaii” White from Brooklyn.
“I didn’t expect to go here. I was completely shocked and surprised when they picked me. I’m a kid from Brooklyn!” said White.
The Tigers’ base of operations will not be in China, but rather in Los Angeles, as all league games will take place in the United States. This year, the 2K League held tryouts in both Europe and Asia Pacific. This expanded the pool of potential players to ten nations. And it’s likely that the Tigers will fly its team to Shanghai to meet with fans at some point.
“It’s going to be something new. Like I said before, I’m a Brooklyn kid” said White. “I haven’t really been outside of New York a lot. So going to Shanghai, because I’m new, I’m just excited”
Unfortunately, not everyone who attended the draft walked away with an embossed hat. Of the 138 players that were in the league during the 2019 season, only 70 were retained. And with 68 roster slots available – and a new pool of talent that qualified for the draft -- some players walked away without a job.
The most notable draft-eligible player was Jamie “DirK” Diaz, who decided to leave the commentary desk and tryout for the draft. Unfortunately, the gamble did not pay off, as Diaz was not selected by any team.
There were some celebrity appearances throughout the event as well. Retired legend Allan Houston from the New York Knicks was on stage to announce the first pick for Knicks Gaming, inducting Christopher “Duck” Charles into the team.
“I’m very excited to play for my hometown team. I feel like we’ve [sic] grown up here for 18 years, and I’ve been able to represent the city. I’m very excited,” said Charles.
It’s a massive career move for the 18-year-old York College freshman currently studying psychology. Charles has every intention of finishing his degree, but will move to more online classes to balance 2K League competition and school.
Of the picks at today’s draft, many did hail from New York, which begged the obvious question: why is The Big Apple such a strong incubator of 2K talent?
“I feel like New York coaches the best 2K players in general. I feel like [we’ve] been able to play basketball, that’s our thing,” said Charles.
During the second round fans get to see this year’s first international 2K League inductee. Pacers Gaming went with Jomar “Jomar12K” Valera Escapa of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. This isn't Escapa’s first stint in the 2K League. He was picked during the inaugural 2K League draft during the sixth round for Blazer5 Gaming, but was released after the season ended and was not picked up during the 2019 draft. Escapa didn’t quit competing however. He went on to win a massive $250k during the NBA 2K MYTEAM tournament, proving he still had plenty of fight.
Shanghai’s Gen.G Tigers, the first Chinese team in NBA history, couldn’t go without picking up one of the two Chinese players eligible for the draft. The Tigers ended up going with 2020 APAC champion Yi “Luck_Yi_Wesley” Hu, who ecstatically jumped out of his chair while watching the event from overseas upon hearing his name called.
The NBA 2K League 2020 season is set to start in the Spring. AT&T is a title sponsor of the 2K League.
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