The NBA 2K League is coming in 2018 and information on the brand new esports venture seems to hit the public on a daily basis. I’ve spent a good portion of the last week speaking with gaming directors from a number of clubs, and I’ve been able to unearth some new information and best practices for those interested in trying out for the league.
Following these steps and applying these best practices doesn’t mean you’re a lock to fill one of the 85 slots in the player-selection process, but comprehension and application of the following facts and strategies will help you pursue a career in the NBA 2K League.
It’s NBA 2K League, not NBA 2K ELeague or 2K ELeague
First and foremost, you’re going to want to refer to the league by its official name. Before the logo was unveiled and official information was released, many were calling it the 2K ELeague or NBA 2K ELeague. Cody Parrent, the Pacers Gaming Director of Operations told me that if he sees a Twitch or YouTube broadcast from a league hopeful that refers to the league by the incorrect name, he immediately shuts off the video.
Obviously, Parrent doesn’t speak for all Gaming Directors, but it’s safe to assume this is a bit of a no-no within a community that is working hard to establish its own identity. There’s a lot that goes into a name from a branding standpoint.
Gaming Managers Are Scouting Twitch and YouTube
If you aren’t using Twitch and/or YouTube to stream and publicize your gameplay, you probably should be. As Wizards Gaming director of operations, Grant Paranjape told me, it’s the most effective way to display your skills and connect with the community.
Use The Hashtag
All of the content that you produce online for the purpose of exposure for the NBA 2K League should be hashtagged #2KDraftMe. This is an initiative that was kicked off by Parrent, but other gaming directors like Paranjape, Jazz Gaming and Cavs GC’s Anthony Muraco have agreed to recognize it as a viable way to bring appropriate attention to your content.
Clean Up Your Social Media Act
While we’re on the subject of social media, it’s also important to mention the league and individual team’s views on conduct on the various platforms. As I mentioned, the league is using social media to scout talent and it encourages activity and community interaction, but they would prefer that communication remain respectful.
To a person, every gaming director I spoke to made it clear they would not tolerate offensive social media posts.
What does offensive mean? Slurs of any kind and generally mean-spirited posts would be frowned upon. Even if you represent or belong to a specific ethnicity or group, terms that could be viewed as offensive to others will be viewed negatively.
This isn’t just referring to social media posts made today and moving forward, this also relates to past social media behavior. The Madden esports community was rocked by a minor scandal involving Dubby, one of its top players. Dubby posted racial slurs prior to joining the official Madden competitive gaming community and these tweets became the subject of controversy.
By all accounts, the NBA 2K League will do everything they can to avoid that kind of issue. So, in other words, if you hope to join the NBA 2K League, you’d be advised to go through your social media history and delete anything that could be considered offensive.
Here’s a rule of thumb, if you have a second thought about the post, you probably shouldn’t push send. It would be a shame to lose out on such a promising opportunity for something so controllable. Be yourself, but be the most professional version of yourself.
Clean Up Your Gamertag/PSN IDs
The desire to maintain consistent and respectful branding extends to Gamertags and PSN IDs. It will be hard for the NBA 2K League or one of the 17 clubs to promote someone whose Gamertag cannot be freely publicized.
Some Gamertags/PSN IDs are clearly inappropriate for mass consumption, but others may be a little less obvious. I’d shy away from things like Mr. or Ms. Suicide, or anything that promotes criminal activity.
Consistency Across Your Socials
Another takeaway from my conversations with gaming directors is related to social media alignment and profile uniformity. It would be helpful to gaming directors if NBA 2K League hopefuls used the same profile name for all of their social media accounts and even their Gamertags/PSNIDs. This didn’t sound like a must, but based on the conversations I had, it seems like a strategy that would make an applicant’s online content more accessible.
Notoriety Matters, But Skills Are Paramount
We’ve talked a lot about social media and branding, but make no mistake: skills will be paramount when it comes to the player-selection process. I’ve heard concerns from players with smaller YouTube and Twitch channels who are concerned about their lack of notoriety being a factor in selection.
While I’ll reiterate, having a social media presence is important, every gaming director and league representative I’ve spoken to insists stick skills and effective communication will be the top priorities.
You Need to Know Basketball
I participate in a weekly talk show and soon-to-be podcast called The Sim Hangout hosted by Da Czar aka Nino Samuels, Nelson Blake and Matt Miller and we’ve discussed the possibilities of non-hoops fans with a high aptitude for gaming potentially infiltrating the NBA 2K League based purely on stick skills.
While there will be no official or hardline restriction that impedes the chances of anyone with a desire to join the league, it will be difficult for a player to excel at the requisite level with a limited basketball IQ.
If you’ve been a Counter-Strike, League of Legends or StarCraft player your entire life and possess insane hand-to-eye coordination, chances are you’ll still need to understand hoops to be effective.
Play a Ton of Pro-Am
The NBA 2K League will take place in a Pro-Am mode-like environment. If you’re looking to hone your skills, there’s no better mode to play. I’d also encourage you to put in work in the practice mode. You can gain a handle on different dribble moves and become accustomed to mastering shot releases.
These are the core skills that will likely resonate with talent evaluators.
Be Able To Excel In Your Archetype
Now we’re getting to the nitty-gritty of things. NBA 2K18 allows you to select one of a number of straight or blended player archetypes. One gaming director made it clear, he’s interested in players who are committed to their archetype and who have mastered the nuances and strengths of the specification.
If you’re a Stretch-Five, as Da Czar would say, be a star in your role.
Be Able to Play Within a Team
It’s great to have a plethora of off-the-dribble moves and to be able to generate a high percentage of green releases on your jump shot, but in the NBA 2K League, playing within a team’s scheme will be important.
Setting screens, contesting jump shots, rebounding and being in position on both ends of the floor is something talent evaluators will be paying attention to when they make their selections.
Communication is Important
Talent evaluators will also be watching and listening to the way you communicate with teammates. Are you talking on defense? Are you helping your teammates know where they should be on offense? These are things that can be conveyed during Twitch and YouTube streams. Show the decision makers that you not only have stick skills, but you also make your teammates better with your verbal leadership.
Point Guards Are Huge
I asked every gaming director that I spoke to the same question: “If you were building around a specific archetype, which one would it be?” None of them committed to a specific archetype, but everyone that answered said the point guard position would be the most important.
This is oftentimes the most sought-after position in Pro-Am games as it is, but this information is likely to increase the competition at that spot. Don’t be surprised to see point guards fly off the board in the first three or four picks of the inaugural NBA 2K League Draft.
That said, there are other positions on the floor of major importance. If point guard isn’t your thing, work hard to succeed at a position that best fits your skill set.
Every Player Gets the Same Base Salary in Year 1
Here’s another reason not to get too hung up on playing point guard. Every player in the NBA 2K League will get the same base salary. We still don’t know exactly what that is, but it will be “competitive” by all accounts.
While every player will receive the same base salary, there are a number of other ways to earn extra income. Per multiple gaming directors, there will be in-season tournaments separate from NBA 2K League scheduled games that carry cash prizes. All players will also be eligible for endorsements.
As an example, the player drafted first may receive an endorsement from one of the league’s sponsors. Another may ink a deal with a separate sponsor. Also, players who have Twitch and YouTube channels will be encouraged to continue to produce content.
All of the monies earned on a player’s YouTube or Twitch channel belongs solely to them. The players may not be able to stream or record as much as they have in the past because team commitments will always take precedence, but they will not be asked to completely abandon their YouTube and Twitch brands.
Paranjape was even open to his players streaming and recording gameplay from other games like Call of Duty and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. However, he did mention rules could be different from team to team.