NBA 2K League May Have Strong International Presence in Season 3

The third season of the NBA 2K League already promised to have a strong international flair because of its first franchise from outside North America, Gen.G.

The success of the league’s first European Invitational further heightens that quality.

The event’s primary focus was adding the best talent on that continent to the league’s draft pool for Season 3. The picture is much bigger, however. It’s an emissary for much more for the league in Europe.

At Gamingham Palace in London on Dec. 13-14, 20 players from seven countries participated in a double-elimination tournament. Team YKTV finished as the tourney’s champion and its point guard, Marcel “MGoCrzy” Stohl, won tournament MVP honors.

That distinction earned Stohl an automatic place in the Season 3 player-entry draft pool. He wasn’t alone, however. Four other players moved on to the next round of consideration through their play at the European Invitational.

  • Mario “avemario32” Ortega Ariza
  • Jannis “JLB_2K” Neumann
  • Eduardo “eduardopv” Pascual de Vera
  • Jordan “WelshJordy” Polverino

Two days after the European Invitational, the league sent out emails to 171 more players from around the world. These were the gateway to a video interview process to further evaluate players’ suitability.

A spot in the NBA 2K League requires much more than top-flight skill in the game. The league is actually more interested in the marketability of players for its league.

It performs a background check on all potential draftees. In the interviews, it’s looking for any indication that a player might do something that could create a negative situation. Additionally, a player who displays a dynamic personality will receive preference over one who appears less marketable. The league will probably take into account players’ backstories as well.

credit: NBAE/Getty Images

On January 13, 150 of the current 176 prospects will receive conditional offers from the league. The league will then add 51 players who participated in Season 2 but weren’t protected by their franchises to form the player pool for the Season 3 Entry Draft. Inclusion in the pool is not a guarantee of selection.

Teams can carry six players on their rosters, and many such spots are currently filled. Teams who played in Season 2 had the option to protect as many as three players from the expansion draft. Opting to protect three cost those teams a pick in the player-entry draft, however, along with the ability to retain players after the expansion draft.

The two expansion franchises for Season 3, Gen.G and Hornets Venom GT, pilfered a total of five players who were on other franchises’ Season 2 rosters through the expansion draft. Hornets Venom GT added three and Gen.G made two picks, passing on their final selection to receive more picks in the player-entry draft. Gen.G immediately traded its second expansion-draft pick, Rashann “ZDS” Petty,  to 76ers GC for a first- and a second-round pick in the upcoming player-entry draft, however.

Most of the 21 franchises who participated in Season 2 opted to protect two players from the expansion draft and retain those same two players after that event. A majority of the 23 teams for Season 3 have four roster spots to fill, with a handful having either five or three slots open.

The league has not yet announced a date for its player-entry draft. The first two such events took place in April 2018 and March 2019. Another spring date is likely, however. (The league should announce which players qualified for the draft pool sometime in February.)

All of that information is crucial for the immediate future and present. The European Invitational has implications beyond, however.

Having secured a franchise in Asia, the league’s eyes are fixed on Europe now. International expansion is crucial for the league for a couple reasons:

  • It affords the league easier access to the best talent outside North America. That includes a way to work around challenging immigration laws.
  • Additionally, a European franchise is a natural way to boost European fan bases and encourage players on that continent to develop their skills.

So how close might the NBA 2K League be to adding its second franchise outside of North America? That depends on several factors.

A possible Easter egg already exists. Just days after the European Invitational, Take-Two Interactive announced it is moving its European office to London. As previously mentioned, that was the site of the Invitational. There’s no tangible connection between the two events yet, but connecting the dots isn’t difficult. Take-Two is not only the maker of the NBA 2K video game franchise but a serious investor in the league. The turnout for the event and reception it got on Twitch act as proof of concept for demand in London.

As one of the participants, Dario Guirao Grande, said in a press release: “It’s my first time here in London. It’s been crazy. The venue here is crazy. The NBA 2K League is crazy. It’s impressive. I’m glad I came.”

credit: NBAE/Getty Images

Take-Two’s presence and the recent event make London a front-runner for European expansion. Opening up the European continent requires investment, however. Making that happen will require the enlistment of another global esports brand like Gen.G.

Fortunately, there is a path to that. Take-Two is leasing its new office space from Blue Coast Capital. Blue Coast Capital has a history of investing alongside the Raine Group, which also has a London office. Raine currently acts as a financial advisor to a company that esports fans might be familiar with: Epic Games.

Though most well-known as the developer of Fortnite, Epic has also moved into a franchise-model, team-based esports league with its acquisition of Psyonix and buildout of professional Rocket League play.

Although that’s currently a lot of hoops to jump through, getting Epic involved in an NBA 2K League franchise would be, well, epic. It wouldn’t be the first time that the NBA and Epic have crossed paths, either. Earlier this year Fortnite hosted the “Fortnite x NBA Event.” The fact that the path exists is intriguing, though it’s entirely possible the situation could all be mere coincidence.

It’s always easier to build on existing relationships than create new ones in business, however.

The first-ever European Invitational brought new talent to the league for Season 3. Now it’s a portal to much more for the league beyond the upcoming campaign.