If you have been paying attention to the world of professional video gaming, you’ll know that today’s elite gamers aren’t sitting in dark basements, but are training in multi-million dollar facilities and raking in six-figure salaries. Yet despite the size and enthusiasm of its following, the esports field is still considered niche. That’s starting to change, thanks to the attention of celebrity names ranging from Michael Jordan to Post Malone to Mark Cuban.
Although most people would consider comparisons between pro basketball players and gamers a stretch, the NBA is actually one of the leading promoters of bringing pro gaming to the mainstream by launching a parallel league for NBA2K. The inaugural 2018 season featured teams representing 17 franchises, and four more have been added for 2019.
“They understand the importance of not only being professional on the court, but off the court.”
Indiana Pacers Gaming Director of Esports Operations, Cody Parrent, spoke at SXSW 2018 about the integration between the two leagues and says that he expects the same level of professionalism from his team members: “They understand the importance of not only being professional on the court, but off the court. Being marketable and promoting our franchise. The expectations are the same as the Pacers.”
The established basketball brands help build the gaming side, but NBA Players Association rules keep them from utilizing players to cross promote. That hasn’t stopped players such as the Los Angeles Lakers’ Lance Stephenson from tweeting his love for NBA2K, but the bigger trend is retired players investing in the wider industry.