Kevin Durant and Trae Young lead a players-only NBA 2K tournament on ESPN

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The NBA, like most sports leagues, is nowhere close to resuming a season that was suspended because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, so it will turn to the next-best thing.

Actual, flesh-and-blood NBA players — including top seeds Kevin Durant and Trae Young — will compete in a 16-contestant “NBA 2K20″ video game tournament that is set to begin Friday and span eight days, with ESPN broadcasting it, the league announced Tuesday.

In a joint announcement from the NBA, its players union and 2K, a league official described the tournament as part of “an ongoing effort to stay connected with NBA fans around the world, while also giving back in this time of need.” The winner will select a charity to receive $100,000 toward its coronavirus relief efforts.

For Durant, the event will represent the closest he has come to meaningful basketball competition since he tore his Achilles’ tendon while playing for the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals. Now with the Brooklyn Nets, he alerted his Twitter followers Tuesday to the upcoming tournament by sharing the bracket.

Players were seeded according to their NBA 2K ratings and their tenure. Here is what the field looks like, with the NBA noting it could be subject to change:

  • 1. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets (rating: 96)
  • 2. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks (90)
  • 3. Hassan Whiteside, Portland Trail Blazers (87)
  • 4. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz (87)
  • 5. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns (86)
  • 6. Andre Drummond, Cleveland Cavaliers (85)
  • 7. Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls (85)
  • 8. Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Clippers (85)
  • 9. Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers (85)
  • 10. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns (85)
  • 11. DeMarcus Cousins, free agent (81)
  • 12. Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets (81)
  • 13. Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards (79)
  • 14. Patrick Beverley, Los Angeles Clippers (78)
  • 15. Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings (78)
  • 16. Derrick Jones Jr., Miami Heat (78)

As with Durant, Cousins has not been seen in an NBA game since appearing with the Warriors in last year’s Finals. He subsequently signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, but he tore the ACL in his left knee in August, never played with the team and was released in February.

Mitchell became the second NBA player known to have contracted the coronavirus, following Jazz teammate Rudy Gobert, but all Utah players were cleared last week by the state’s Department of Health following two weeks in isolation. “Let’s get it!!!” Mitchell tweeted Tuesday as he shared the NBA 2K tournament seeding.

From courts to consoles: With live sports canceled, pro athletes join the streaming surge

The NBA is known to have a number of avid gamers among its player ranks. That’s in addition to the league’s three-year-old esports league, which uses pro gamers. The upcoming NBA player tournament would follow the example set by NASCAR, which successfully shifted to esports with races televised by Fox featuring famous former drivers. Fox Sports also showed a Madden tournament this past weekend.

First-round matchups in the NBA 2K tournament are set to air Friday on ESPN and ESPN2 and Sunday on ESPN2. The quarterfinals will be staged April 7 on ESPN2, with the semifinals and final slated for April 11 on ESPN at times to be announced.

“We’re thrilled to partner with the NBA and NBPA to bring basketball back to fans throughout the world and to help those in need during these uncertain times,” 2K executive Jason Argent said in a statement. “Entertainment, especially sports, has the ability to bring communities together — including athletes, fans and families — and we hope that everyone will enjoy the tournament.”

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