The NBA 2K League has had “tons” of interest from established competitive gaming organizations in joining the National Basketball Association’s esports property, according to its managing director Brendan Donohue.
The Shanghai-based Gen.G have acquired an expansion team for this year’s competition, making them the first non NBA team-affiliated franchise in the league. The Gen.G Tigers of Shanghai are also the first competitors based outside of North America.
According to Donohue, there has been significant interest from similar esports organizations, which he believes will help expand the NBA 2K League’s global presence in the coming years.
“In terms of the interest we’ve had in terms of people wanting franchises, I can tell you we’ve had tons of it,” Donohue told reporters at the NBA 2K League Draft in New York on February 22.
“We’re not just seeking a cheque here, we’re seeking partners who can help us scale this league. You’re going to see us continue to create great franchise partnerships from all over the world, who will help us scale this league. We’re adding teams every single year, I don’t see that stopping any time soon,” he said.
Donohue believes that the arrival of Gen.G specifically has opened doors throughout the esports community for the NBA 2K League. Gen.G also hosts teams in League of Legends, Overwatch, PUBG and Fortnite. Additionally, it manages the Seoul Dynasty spot in the Overwatch League.
“Gen.G is the first step of several, whether it’s building out our Asia-Pacific division…we fully expect in the near future to build out a European division. What Gen.G helped us do was awake the esports community. The level of respect they have in the esports community is real and it’s deserved,” Donohue added. “They are also going to help us find players in the Asia-Pacific region specifically, they have already begun hosting tournaments. They are an amazing addition for us.”
Last year, the NBA 2K League took its events outside of New York City for the first time. That will continue in 2020 and beyond, both in the United States and internationally. The league has already had qualifying events in London and Seoul.
“We are going to take at least one of the events on the road this year. We’re potentially looking at different venues for the finals in the future as well,” Donohue said. “Some of it will be dictated by the expansion growth. If all of a sudden we have a number of teams in a European division, it’s going to make sense to bring some events there. We also need to let our teams and their fans in their market feel this product. Teams will start to host games on a select basis this season.”
Of the league’s plans for the coming years, Donohue added: “I think we are going to be a true global entity, at least across Europe, Asia-Pacific and North America. I’m excited to see a day where a London team and a Shanghai team play Knicks Gaming and having Knicks Gaming go to London and play a team over there. It’s not going to be a European division playing each other, its going to be one big league.”
Last year, the NBA 2K League Draft was held at the Barclays Center, the home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. This year, the event – which was sponsored by Panera Bread – was moved to the more intimate Terminal 5 in Manhattan, which is primarily a music venue. Around 1,000 fans were in attendance, creating a vibrant atmosphere, while there were also musical acts as well. “We flew through our tickets that we made available, which is exciting,” Donohue said.
Zach Leonsis, the senior vice president of strategic initiatives for Monumental Sports & Entertainment, was in attendance to see the organization’s NBA 2K League team Wizards District Gaming select the No.1 Draft pick, John “JBM” Mascone.