The NBA 2K League just finished a highly successful inaugural season. The first esports league sponsored by a major North American sports association reached over 20,000 viewers per weekend stream.
Now, the excitement is spreading, with four new teams set to join the league for the 2019 season. The NBA 2K League announced today that the L.A. Lakers, Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks, and Minnesota would be starting affiliate 2K franchises next year.
This expands the league’s reach to L.A., historically one of the NBA’s most important markets. The Lakers bring a history and pageantry that’s unique among NBA teams. And L.A. is already one of the worlds foremost esports destinations.
“Welcoming these four world-class organizations and their passionate fanbases to the NBA 2K League is an exciting moment not only for the league, but for the entire 2K community,” said NBA 2K League Managing Director Brendan Donohue. “From their innovative spirit to their global reach, we know each of these teams will be a tremendous addition, and we are thrilled that this growth offers the opportunity for new players, coaches and support staff to join the league.”
On a conference call with reporters, Donohue said that many of the teams had interest in joining the league from the very beginning. Some wanted to see how the first season played out, while others were not prepared to join last summer due to other projects the organizations were working on.
Eventually, Donohue believes that all 30 NBA teams will be represented in the esports league. The timing just has to be right.
“The league is a significant commitment,” Donohue said. “We’re actually glad that teams take that thought seriously. We think it makes sense for teams to join when it’s best for them.”
Similar to how expansion works in traditional sports leagues, the NBA 2K League will hold an expansion draft wherein players on existing rosters can be picked by expansion teams. Details on how many players the incumbent teams will be able to protect from the expansion draft have yet to be finalized. Afterwards, the league will hold another player combine and draft next year to bring in new players, similar to the first draft that was conducted last April.
As for the current season, with the conclusion of the regular season, the first playoff field has been set. Playoff play begins on Friday, Aug. 17 at 7pm CT.