Due to the coronavirus, all public events and gatherings being canceled to avoid crowds and transmission of the virus. Traditional sports are included in COVID-19 related shutdowns, and with cancellations happening indefinitely, professional athletes are turning to esports in order to continue to compete. Video games were chosen as a way to engage fans, while keeping themselves and others safe. With the NBA 2K League, players are producing content for networks to broadcast and for fans to watch.
The event premiered on April 3rd, 2020 with a game between Derrick Jones Jr. of the Miami Heat, and Kevin Durant, who plays for the Brooklyn Nets. The event was aired on ESPN, Twitch, YouTube, NBA.com, ESPN.com, and on the network’s social media channels.
In their virtual game, Durrant played as the Los Angeles Clippers and Derek Jones Jr for the Milwaukee Bucks. Neither player had an expert setup, to say the least. Jones was playing in what looked like his living room, and Durrant chose a window for his backdrop. The fog soaked city skyline makes for a lovely view, but also left Durrant backlit and blurry on camera.
The game included very little banter from the players, who both appeared like they felt out of their element. In the end Jones won, 78-62. They ended with a quiet “Good Game” to each other.
Fans and players are desperate for some semblance of normalcy among the chaos of social isolation. The general theme of reviews and comments on this game were grateful for Jones and Durant being good sports, trying something out of their comfort zone, and doing what they could to continue to interact with fans.
Others have a much less positive view of this transition to esports. Sports commentators like Felger and Mazz feel that professional athletes playing amateur esports are not an adequate way to entertain sports fans. While Felger and Mazz have a long history of not viewing esports on equal footing to traditional sports, many who appreciate esports share the view that NBA players are not fit to compete in this field.
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