NBA 2K23 has officially launched. Between the excitement surrounding gameplay, player ratings, cover stars, and everything else around the game's launch, Ronnie Singh has been at the center of what is a massive event each year.
Also known as Ronnie 2K, Singh has seen NBA2K reach heights that never felt possible when the franchise first put Michael Jordan on their cover in 2011. In an exclusive interview, Singh covered launch day, player ratings, celebrity involvement, the game's community, and the NBA2K team that makes everything possible.
Note: This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Walk me through this time of year, what does it look like for you?
"This game means so much to the culture, and there are so many people that are in our community, so it's about making sure our player base is really happy. Which also of course includes the NBA players that play our game, the celebrities, the athletes," Singh said. "So today, I'm sending a lot of codes to people. I dropped off the game to Travis, PG, and some of the people that I'm really good friends with. The cultural momentum that this game has, launch day just gets bigger and bigger, and to be honest quite overwhelming, but really exciting as well."
As the face of NBA2K, Singh has an incredibly impactful role in the continued growth surrounding the game. From facilitating the involvement of celebrities and athletes, to personally interacting with the broader community, Singh understands the massive responsibility he has.
What is your role in all of this? You're the face in a lot of ways, so what does that mean for you and your role?
"I think I'm kinda like the funnel when it comes to the mass awareness people. I've maintained relationships with every bigger person who plays our game, but also our community, our player base really relies on me to keep them up to date with what's happening," Singh said. "Our game is no longer just drop it and leave it. There's updates every six weeks, significant ones with new music, new content in the game, new MyTeam cards, new clothing apparel, every six weeks. It's so much. So as the face of it all, I have a massive responsibility to reach our entire consumer base the best we can."
What's it like when you see someone like Klay Thompson talk about his three-point rating?
"I think it's a badge of honor for those guys. Something they definitely talk about in the locker room," Singh said. "Even though Klay said that he hadn't played NBA2K since the Dreamcast, the fact that he cares about his rating so much, I know that that's not true. I can see his gamer tag, he plays it just plenty. But I also think him in specific, he was really upset about an 88 three-point rating. But you know what the funny thing is? That was still tied for the second-highest rating. I think that's part of the issue of having a teammate that's leaps and bounds ahead of everybody, like how do you deal with that? Steph since 2015 has made way more than 10% more three-pointers than anyone else in the league. So at some point, shouldn't the rating be 10% higher than everybody else in the league? How do we deal with that? I think he's just kinda broke that scale."
Singh added that these ratings are something players truly care about, which creates a level of interest between both fans and players. This led into Kevin Durant's recent gripe with his overall rating, and how it was somehow lower than 99.
"I'm sure you saw KD's tweet as well," Singh said. "You know what's funny, me and Kevin are actually really close friends. He's one of the four NBA players that was invited to my wedding. So we were texting literally the night before, then that rating hit and all of a sudden he was upset."
You said you're close with KD, is this something that you guys talk about?
"Look, KD has been in the league 14 years now, he gets the game. It's not like KD is very upset about that, I think he is trying to create conversation. Not that he needs to, he's one of the most talked about athletes in the world, but I think him joining that fray is a nod to how much he loves our game, and loves the relationship that we have. To just involve himself in something that he doesn't really care about, but he knows his fans care about, which is super cool of him. I've got more respect for that guy than pretty much anybody I know."
With the heights that NBA2K has reached, how do you continue to improve?
"I think that the NBA allows us so much opportunity to only be scratching the surface. There's just so many storylines. When you think about the things surrounding social injustice, what we did to answer that, we have a real world point of view that goes into our game about that," Singh said.
Using an example from the game that integrates his personal life, specifically his upcoming wedding, Singh illuminated how NBA2K has integrated so many aspects of real life into their game.
"That's how we try to build our game, and I think our sport is better positioned than any others, in terms of how you really care about the people that play the game," Singh said.
Highlighting the game's emphasis on individuality, Singh said NBA2K wants their community to actually live the life of an NBA star through their game. Constantly adding new features that allow this to take place, Singh said the game is able to evolve alongside the constant evolution of the NBA.
"I remember 2K11, the first time we had Jordan on the cover, I was like, 'How are we gonna get bigger than this?' We had just put a bunch of legends in the game for the first time, this Jordan challenge is amazing, the graphics are so insane, but the evolution of MyCareer has taken that to a whole new level. I think we're just scratching the surface of what we can do."
You dropped the game off for Travis Scott, you have J. Cole on the cover, you had Lil Wayne at your launch event, how have you made those connections?
"The Wayne thing, he's the best rapper of all-time, probably. I had been working on that for a while. When he shouted me out in the middle, I was like, 'What the hell is happening?' I think we've earned our position there, and it's taken years and years of shifting the game, the tremendous amount of work our studio does to be relevant. That has allowed us to put J. Cole on the cover, that wouldn't have worked 10-years ago. But his place in basketball, our place in music, allows that marriage to happen. Wayne, the commercial with Jack Harlow, I worked really hard on that one as well to get him. He was super excited to do it, he brought a lot of his own creativity, so just having these willing participants is amazing, but it comes from the fact that we've worked tirelessly to have a position there where we set up that intersection with music, culture, and fashion."
What is your message to the community this year?
"I think the message was struck early. We put Jordan on the cover, and we said this is the year of greatness, and that's because we believed early that this is the best 2K we've ever had, and it's not even close. We saw early, best gameplay, best feature set, so this is really the best."
Singh added that 2K brought in gamers from across the world to test the game, and they all declared it the best 2K ever. Seeing all the work from the 2K team pay off in that way is something Singh says makes all of the hard work worth it. That combination of consumer satisfaction, along with the rewarding feeling it brings to all of the people who make it possible, is what makes this time of year so special for everyone involved with NBA2K.
As the face, Singh knows the responsibility he has both pre and post-launch; however, the work the entire team has conducted since last year's game is something that will never be lost on him. When the positive feedback comes rolling in from celebrities, athletes, and the entire community, Singh can celebrate alongside the group of people who worked tirelessly for that outcome.
"It's just an extraordinary moment for us to be proud and feel accomplished," Singh said. "But again, there's so much work to do. We're thinking about how to make this the best post-launch experience as well. And then we're gonna start working on 2K24."