The announcement that this year’s NBA season would be suspended, made after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, ended up contributing significantly to public awareness of just how wide-reaching the virus’ capability for disrupting public activities could be. Only a few days into what could be a lengthy NBA hiatus, players and team employees throughout the league are finding different ways to make use of their time away from the league. The Phoenix Suns, meanwhile, are providing NBA fans with newfound downtime and no pro basketball to watch with their own alternative: team-sponsored NBA 2K matches.
The Suns will essentially be simulating the games they would have played during the regular season on NBA 2K20. Kicking off their virtual season was a match between them and the Dallas Mavericks, who the Suns had been scheduled to play IRL on March 14th. The video game version took place one night earlier.
Professional streamer and NBA 2K League player UniversalPhenom was in charge of the Suns for their inaugural virtual game. UniversalPhenom plays professionally for Grizz Gaming, the 2K League team owned by the Memphis Grizzlies organization. His Twitter avatar, however, has been updated with a picture of him in a Phoenix Suns jersey to reflect his newfound team allegiance. Mavericks Gaming brand ambassador Lawrence “Buddy” Norman, meanwhile, was in control of the digital Mavericks team.
The Mavericks were ultimately able to pull out a win in what could be considered the first ever virtual NBA game. Mavs superstar and IRL league MVP candidate Luka Dončić ended the game with an only slightly-absurd 50 points and 19 assists. The final score was 150-136. The digital Suns team is scheduled to play the Minnesota Timberwolves next, who their real-life counterparts would have played on March 18th.
In total, the Twitch stream of the match was viewed by 126,000 unique viewers, though its maximum number of viewers capped out at 12,000. While this suggests that watching a full NBA 2K game is far from a suitable substitute for the real thing, there nonetheless seems to be a demand for a Twitch-based alternative in absence of regulation league play. The Suns will stream future games from their Twitch channel.
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