NBA 2K League Betting Advice and Expert Handicapping
This is where I show how old and out of touch I am. I was cruising around the Bovada website the other day just looking to see what was on offer - as I often do. While doing so I was reminded that the NBA 2K League gets underway on Tuesday. I am absolutely fascinated by this league on so many levels. I can't pretend to know anything about it, and you will have to go elsewhere for in-depth handicapping - at least before the games start. But it is so interesting, and potentially influential, that it is worth talking about.
I'm not convinced that betting on it makes a whole lot of sense now - everyone is making it up as it goes along right now. But the level of commitment that NBA teams have made to this, and the popularity of the game - NBA 2K outsold all other video games in 2017 - means that this could be just the beginning of something interesting. So, let's go back to the very beginning and look at the NBA 2K League and the betting that could be a big part of it.
Esports is big business. They generated total revenues of $655 million last year, which is a 32 percent increase from the year before. They expect that to more than double by 2020. NBA-sized arenas are sold out for events, with 20,000 people gathering to watch people play video games, and many thousands more watch online. And while there hasn't been major NBA 2K league play before, the popularity is staggering. A pro gamer named Ninja drew 635,000 viewers to his stream on Twitch at the same time recently.
The league is a partnership between the NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software, the makers of the game. Originally they planned to have just 12 teams in the inaugural season, but interest among teams was so high that 17 different NBA teams will be represented this year, with an ambition to have all 30 teams in the league soon.
Each of the 17 teams has six players. They will play games of standard 5-on-5 basketball, with one player on the bench. They don't use NBA players or their own custom players but rather standard, consistent players - games will be won by the most skilled players, not those that have created the most powerful characters.
And where did they draw these six players from? This is where things really get crazy. First, people had to qualify online - to show that they had enough game to be considered. A total of 75,000 (!) people did so. That group was narrowed down to 250 draftable players, who then went through a Combine before entering the draft. Top draft picks get $35,000 for a six-month commitment, and the rest of the players make $32,000. On top of that, the players get living expenses and benefits as well as all travel expenses for games. There is more than a million dollars in additional prize money available as well. Players can earn additional endorsement income, too, and top players will make many times their salary.
Teams will play a 17-week season, which includes 14 weeks of regular season play and three tournaments. At this point it is not clear if the league will play games in arenas at some point or if they will have the popularity to support that. For now, though, players will travel to the NBA 2K League Studio for games, and people will be able to watch the games on Twitch.
So, why is this so interesting?
Esports is a very big deal, but it is a niche event. NBA owners have been flirting with the industry for a while now - 13 different teams had financial interests in esports before the NBA 2K League came along. While existing esports leagues have strong marketing infrastructures, they are within gaming circles. The NBA has a global audience of well over a billion people they can access. That means that this league can expose esports to a much wider audience and help to push and expand the industry into wider circles - and more aggressive growth.
What does it mean for betting?
The NBA isn't a league that is terrified of betting - not like the NFL. While betting is far from the driving force of this venture for the NBA, it also isn't something they are going to actively discourage. If the 2K League is popular out of the gate then it will spawn strong online coverage and analysis, and that will in turn make it easier and more attractive to handicap the league. And the NBA 2K League could be another access point for people to bet on other esports more. It's a brand-new day - and how often do you get to be right at the very birth of a whole new sport?
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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