With the announcement of the NBA 2K League European Invitational, the third-year league continues a tradition of milestones and expansion. With solid backing from the NBA itself and buy-in from 21 teams (set to currently be 23 in 2020), the NBA 2K League sits upon a solid foundation.
Some fledgling esports league only dream of these sorts of growth opportunities and stories. Here are a few select moments where the 2K League has made an impact.
There were some incredible moments for women in esports in 2019, and Chiquita “Chiquitae126” Evans was part of one of those moments — she became the first woman in the NBA 2K League when she was drafted last March ahead of the league’s second season. She was picked in the fourth round, 56th overall, by Warriors Gaming. NBA commissioner Adam Silver had voiced displeasure in the past with the lack of women in the 2K League, signaling things needed to be more inclusive.
And this wasn’t the first time Chiquita was around the 2K scene. She previously earned a spot in the NBA 2K League Showcase in July 2018, where she became the first woman to score points in a 2K event.
The former college basketball player at Kentucky State University was one of two female players eligible to be drafted in the 2019 2K draft. After being selected, she said “It changes everything. It means everything to me.”
The NBA doesn’t have any international teams, but that didn’t stop the 2K League from looking for interest abroad.
The league announced on Sept. 26 that Shanghai would get an expansion franchise for the 2020 season and become the first 2K League team that is not affiliated with an NBA franchise. Esports organization Gen.G will operate the team, which became the league’s 23rd franchise. The move was the first hint at the 2K League’s international aspirations.
Timothy “oLARRY” Anselimo was one of the victims of a shooting at a Madden championship qualifier in Jacksonville, Florida, on Aug. 25, 2018. The NBA 2K League pro was shot in the chest, left hip and twice in his right hand; though he survived, the wounds to his hand meant he would probably never play 2K professionally again.
But oLARRY didn’t let his injury derail him, even when Bucks Gaming decided not to protect his contract with the team and he entered the expansion draft pool for the 2019 season. There, he was picked up by T-Wolves Gaming with the third overall pick and traded to Cavs Legion, where he played as a starter.
The center’s inspiring year didn’t stop there. On July 10, oLARRY won the first esports-related ESPY, the Esports Moment of the Year, for making his way back to the league. He averaged 10.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists this year.
We would be remiss if we didn’t include the catalyst for this conversation — the NBA 2K League looping in Europe in the 2020 draft. It’s a sign that the dedication to the esport is not only steady, but growing; that not only are more teams going to be added, but international talent is going to be included moving forward. It’s a significant step.
And from here? Well, you can probably bet China is on the road map.