Esports gamers beat real NBA players in NBA 2K. Now Adam Silver says they are athletes.
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Kevin Durant, Paul George, Aaron Gordon, Kyrie Irving and C.J. McCollum made a surprise appearance at the 2K17 All-Star Tournament in New Orleans to face off against a five-man team called Still Trill that had just won the championship.
The NBA players, playing NBA 2K as themselves, proceeded to get trounced in the eSports arena from the moment Gordon had his inbound pass stolen on their first possession. Still Trill in one quarter of play used a barrage of 3-pointers and piled up fast-break points to take a 29-13 lead. Still Trill dished out a backhanded compliment to the NBA players for managing to keep the game competitive. George, the NBA 2K cover athlete, didn’t merely get beaten in his own game. On the Facebook Live stream during the game, Durant was subjected to some trash talk from comedian Hannibal Buress.
Thrilled with winning a $250,000 prize for the championship and getting the opportunity to meet NBA star players, Still Trill didn’t take it easy on the real players. The event on Friday served as a prelude to the NBA launching the NBA 2K eLeague, which is set to debut in 2018. The professional competitive gaming league will not be unlike the actual league, as it comes with salaries and a draft. There will also be a salary caps and general managers, Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. CEO Strauss Zelnick told Bloomberg.
A day after the event, NBA commissioner Adam Silver recognized the athleticism and skill of the eSports gamers, telling reporters Saturday that they were a “different kind of athlete.”
“In terms of the pool available to compete in that league, physical prowess, at least the way it’s necessary on an NBA court, will no longer be necessary,” Silver said. “It may be a different kind of physical prowess in terms of reflexes and your ability to move your thumbs very quickly, but these athletes can be any shape or size and any age and from anywhere. So we’re very excited to move into that business. And an added benefit, in terms of an NBA 2K league, is that it will further engage people in the sport of basketball.”