NBA 2k E League

2K Corner Series: An Interview with Wizards’ Grant Paranjape

Imagine you’re back in middle school during the mid 2000’s. All of your friends are out of town or busy with their families, so you resort to playing computer games. You stumble upon World of Warcraft (WOW), and after a few hours, you’re instantly hooked.

This is how it all began for Grant Paranjape, the Director of Esports for the Washington Wizards. Paranjape fell in love with WOW and played professionally. Fast forward to 2017, and Paranjape is using his gaming experience and MBA from Tulane University to take part in building the NBA 2K E League from the ground up.

Breaking into the industry

While it sounds like a great career trajectory, things weren’t always so clear for Paranjape. Like most college students, his entire life plan changed during his tenure at Tulane.

“I was on track to be pre-med, but I missed the deadline to apply because I finished undergrad early”, Paranjape said. As a result, Paranjape pursued the new MBA program at Tulane because it would allow him to finish in one year instead of two.

So with his MBA in hand and professional gaming experience, Paranjape was fielding offers from everyone you can imagine, right? Not exactly.

“There wasn’t a clear path to get in the Esports industry.” It wasn’t until Paranjape reached out to Splyce’s co-founder that he landed his first job as their social media manager.

Bridging the Gap Between Sports and Esports

Paranjape gained great experience during his time with Splyce. He spoke at length about how that experience was tremendous and critical to success at his current position. In August of 2017, Paranjape was hired by Monumental Sports Entertainment. He is now officially known as the Washington Wizards’ Director of Esports. Specifically, he would be working help ensure the success of the highly anticipated NBA 2K E League. Paranjape’s experience in the industry and business acumen made him the perfect candidate for this task.

“The first thing I had to do was explain esports…how the industry works and how to activate interest in our market.”

– Grant Paranjape

People like Paranjape are the key to bridging the gap between sports and esports. A former professional esport player who has experience working in an org, as well as an MBA is a great to unlock the barriers between the two industries. They are capable of explaining not only the consumer and what they are looking for, but also translate their wants and needs into effective business strategies.

Goals for Season Zero

NBA 2k E League

Photo courtesy of the YouTube account: titansfreak28

“It’s early, but we want to win,” Paranjape said of his expectations for this season. Given his background as a professional player, he wants to compete for the championship. However, he’s not alone in that goal.

Over the weekend all of the franchise esport directors gathered in New York to brainstorm and talk about season zero, but they also squared off against each other.

“I can’t include myself in the conversation of best NBA 2K player. Of the directors I’d say Anthony Muraco (Cavaliers), Cody Parent (Pacers) and Adam Rubin (Pistons). I think that fact is substantial. It inspires confidence that they will strive to create the best teams possible.”

One of Paranjape’s goals for the NBA 2K E League as a whole was to viewed as a standalone league.

“I think the phrase propped up is the crux of the issue”, Paranjape said.

While co-branding with the NBA would be beneficial, they have to communicate that this is a standalone league and not one that simply being funneled money and infrastructure by the NBA.

Silencing the doubters

He also spoke to those who may be doubting the league and whether or not people will watch it by saying NBA 2K itself has a distinct advantage. Essentially, you’re still just watching basketball. Unlike other popular esports, there is very little keeping the average fan from watching. If they understand basketball, they will understand the games and be interested in the NBA 2K E League.

 

You can hear the full interview including details about the national tryout and the qualification process to become a professional 2k player in the 2k Corner 3 Podcast by clicking here.

To stay updated be sure to follow Grant Paranjape on Twitter @Keiranthil.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

NBA 2k League

Pacers at the forefront of the NBA 2k League

For years, one of the most popular sport-based video games has been NBA 2k. However, the video game will soon vault into the top of the esports stratosphere with the NBA 2k League.

There haven’t been many details released about the league. We know that 17 NBA franchises have agreed to participate. We also know that tryouts will take place in February, and the subsequent draft will occur in March. And, we know that all players must be 18 years or older to be eligible. And finally, we know that one franchise is setting an example for the other 16 participants, the Indiana Pacers.

It Starts at the top

NBA 2k League

In order to ensure the successful launch of the NBA 2k League, the participants must believe in the idea, starting with the owners. (Courtesy of; Indy Star)

In an interview in May by the Indy Star, Pacers owner Herb Simon had some preliminary thoughts about the NBA 2k League and its formation. “I’m very, very bullish about the league under the present leadership,” he said.

He thinks it could be a useful tool to tap into a younger demographic adding, “The young kids are playing this, and they are playing it all the time.” Simon wasn’t wrong. NBA 2k was the highest-rated and highest-revenue-generating sports video game in North America at the time.

Having the right leadership is critical for any organization or idea to succeed. The NBA 2k League will be no different. If owners like Simon believe in the idea wholeheartedly, then that same attitude will matriculate through the organization. It’s important that everyone on board from the owner to the camera man understands the vision and the value of this emerging league.

Understanding the Industry

Fast forward to late September, and the Pacers have hired Robert “Cody” Parrent as their Director of Esports Operations. Parrent has an extensive background in CS:GO and Halo, but how does his experience translate to the NBA 2k League?

It’s simple. He understands the consumer. The esports industry, while growing, still has many unanswered questions. For example, will the games be played on PC or console? Will the NBA partner with a streaming service like Twitch to broadcast these games, or promote them on their own network, NBA TV? While those answers may not exist now, the Pacers are confident that Parrent could have the key to unlocking a new consumer for their franchise.

the introduction of gaming

Let’s jump to last night’s game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. On the Fox Sports Indiana halftime program, the Pacers ran a piece on what each player thought of their respective 2k rating.

While this may seem like filler or fluff, it’s exactly the opposite. The Pacers are slowly exposing their fan base to the game. It’s incredibly smart. They want to introduce their traditional fans to gaming on a general level. The best way to do so is to involve the players themselves. Why? It adds legitimacy to the game and the league.

In the piece, it is evident that Lance Stephenson and Myles Turner were fully aware of their rating, and excited to talk about it. Turner went as far as to say he could see himself earning a rating in the high 80’s or low 90’s by season’s end. This kind of excitement from the players is a critical step to ensuring the league hits the ground running. Think about it, if the players featured in the game didn’t find it interesting or fun, why would you?

Let’s examine the timing. The Pacers chose to run this piece at halftime of their biggest game to date. They knew eyes would be glued to the TV when LeBron James, and the always topical Cleveland Cavaliers, hosted the Pacers last night. I’d hardly say that’s a coincidence. One could argue it was calculated and smart to air the piece at halftime of this particular game.

These are small steps, but they are no doubt in the right direction. The Pacers, along with a few others, are setting the standard and are taking the necessary steps to best promote NBA 2k League and its launch in May of 2018.


 

Featured Image Courtesy of Sport Techie

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Mark Cuban is not a fan of player burnout in esports

Mark Cuban is a well-known investor, television personality, and fan of esports, but he isn’t interested in owning a team.

On the SportTechie podcast, Cuban spoke about technology in basketball, why analytics in sports are overrated, and why he has chosen not to invest in an esports team.

“I haven’t been a fan, not because they’re not a good business…the values of the teams are going up, popularity is transitioning more to the US…we’ve seen stadium sellouts,” Cuban began, “The reason I haven’t invested into a team is because of the human side of it.”

Cuban, who owns the NBA team Dallas Mavericks, is very familiar with esports and even made a special appearance at IEM San Jose in 2015 where he played Intel CEO Brian Krzanich in a League of Legends ARAM showmatch. At the event, Cuban pleased the crowd when he declared “this is a real sport”. His decision not to invest into a team, unlike many other NBA owners and personalities, is not because he doesn’t believe in the direction of esports.

“Teams have to practice in season ten to twelve hours a day. Kids are stuck inside practicing all day every day,” he stated.

Cuban has held his stance on investing in esports teams for quite some time. Last October, Cuban told Fusion.net, “Right now, it’s a gold rush to buy and sell and build teams. That’s creating a confused market. But more importantly, I’m worried about how quickly players burnout. It’s a grind to keep up and to become great.”

He is right, burnout is a real thing in esports. Without a list of statistical data to look at, personal experience in the esports scene suggests that players retire from competition in their early 20’s. Few pros, if any, in any esport remain at the top level past the age of 30.

On the podcast, Cuban shared a personal anecdote about a conversation he had with a retired League of Legends pro. The player complained about League of Legends constantly changing, with new champions coming into the game, alterations to existing champions, and rule changes. The player said he retired from the esport at the age of 20.

While the constant grind is necessary for some games, Cuban believes other games, like NBA 2K, will not require endless gaming sessions for players to succeed.

“You can play reasonable hours and get reasonable returns,” Cuban commented about NBA 2K, due to the fact that the game is unlikely to experience drastic changes like League of Legends does.

With NBA 2K making headway into esports, perhaps Cuban’s stance on investing in a team will change.

In 2015, however, Cuban did make an esports investment. He was part of an all-star group that invested in Unikrn, an esports betting website.

At the time, Cuban said, Hundreds of companies every year try to get me to invest, whether on Shark Tank or off camera. However, I only put my money and my name on the companies that I feel will be successful…The rapid growth of esports has created an entire new category of competition and I am proud to partner with Rahul Sood and his team to help bring esports to an even greater audience.”

Other personalities do not feel the same way as Cuban. Rick Fox, for example, founded esports team Echo Fox. Many others have followed suit, mainly investing in existing high-profile organizations.


Image: ESL

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Josh Billy can be contacted at joshuatbilly@gmail.com or you can follow him on Twitter.