Skip to main content

How the NBL Oz proved everyone wrong in the NBA 2K League

Australian pro HarryVZN shocked the NBA 2K scene with a breakout performance in 2023
  • Author:
  • Updated:

NBL Oz head coach Mitchell ‘Mootyy’ Franklin accepted the position with a vision in his mind to prove doubters wrong. With the help of Harry 'HarryVZN' Spierings, and other talented Australian players, the organization has accomplished much more than that.

Australia has sneakily established itself as a basketball hotbed over the last few years. LaMelo Ball and Josh Giddey both polished their craft in the NBL for one season a piece before bolstering their draft stock to become top NBA prospects.

An exciting pool of NBL basketball talent extended its influence far beyond the basketball court.

The NBA 2K League ramped up its global initiative by announcing a partnership with Australia's National Basketball League. As part of the agreement, NBL Oz became the 25th organization to join the league in 2023 and only the third team outside North America to earn a coveted spot.

NBL Oz not only made a deep playoff run, the organization made it all the way to the 5v5 Finals before ultimately falling to Warriors Gaming Squad. A star-studded roster and experienced coaching played a key role in the team’s first-year success.

HarryVZN headlines underrated NBA 2K League roster

Oz Gaming had plenty of Australian talent to choose from for its first-ever 2K League roster, but the organization has no doubts about who it wanted first. HarryVZN became the organization's inaugural player. He put his name on the map by winning the 2021 and 2022 NBA 2K League APAC Invitational and was named MVP both times.

And to top that off, the Australian point guard tallied a tournament-best assists per game and third-best scoring per game numbers in 2022.

Despite all of the accolades, HarryVZN never envisioned himself earning a roster spot in the league. In an exclusive interview with Esports Illustrated, HarryVZN opened up about his journey to the league.

“I thought it would be nice, but I didn't really think I had a chance, so I just kept playing the game but didn't take it too seriously, and then it all fell into place and happened.”

NBL Oz became the first-ever Australian team to join a global Esports league, and HarryVZN takes pride in that accomplishment.

"I am one of the first Australians to be in the league in general, but I'm also essentially playing for my country, which is like a huge thing for Australians, and it feels extra nice to be able to do that."

HarryVZN hopes that his team's success creates new avenues for Australian players to earn a spot in the league.

"Success speaks for itself. Everyone thought we would be the worst team, and we are performing pretty well."

As for what’s next for HarryVZN, he just wants to continue to play to the best of his ability and doesn’t concern himself with the accolades that may come along the way.

NBL Oz success starts at the top

An integral part of the organization's impressive first season is head coach ‘Mootyy.’ The former 2K League player talked about how his experience helped mold him into a leader.

Mootyy picked up NBA 2K at a young age and stuck with the game as a hobby. While studying as a full-time college student, his Pro-Am team ranked 16th in the world. A $250,000 forced the talented player to put down his textbook and leave class for an entire week.

The daring risk paid off, as Mootty left school and became the fourth overall pick in the inaugural NBA 2K League season. He spent three years in the league before hanging up his controller to pick up a headset.

Mootty spent his first year of retirement as the assistant coach for Knicks Gaming. A promising season garnished head coach offers the following offseason, and he was a finalist for Dallas' head coach slot. However, the prospect of coaching NBL Oz intrigued him.

"I knew coming into this job, they would probably be the most doubted team, and people would think they would be the worst team in the league. I knew if anyone would be up to the task, it would be myself because of my work ethic and experience."

The talented young head coach credits HarryVZN for standing toe-to-toe with the league's best players in his first season.

"Harry has been phenomenal. He is not only freakishly skilled at the game but also just a good person. Harry listens, tries to improve, and has a strong work ethic."

Despite it being "the best job in the world" for some, Mootty experienced first-hand negative situations as a player. The former pro promised he would never put his players in the same position, putting an emphasis on being a positive figure on and off the court.

As a result, Mootty's infectious positivity resulted in a major success story.

"We were projected to be the worst team in 5v5 and one of the worst in 3v3. This season, we are the only team in the entire league to make State play every event. It's surreal to see the vision you had all play out."

After a successful season, Mooty has no intentions of resting on his laurels.

"The American players kind of look down on the international players because of the strength of competition. However, Mootty believes, "You have a couple of guys with stage experience in that region, so I definitely have intentions to look over in that region to join our team next season."

NBA 2K 24 releases on September 8, coinciding with a new season for NBL Oz. It will be interesting to see how far the Australian team goes with a year of experience under its belt.