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

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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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