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NBA 2K League makes first foray into Las Vegas market

The NBA 2K League, which features some of the nation’s top gamers representing 21 of the 30 NBA teams, will take a break from its 18-week head-to-head schedule and play a tournament format. A purse of $180,000 is on the line for the event, which runs Thursday through Saturday at Luxor’s 550-seat HyperX Esports Arena.

“We normally fly out to New York once a week to play at the (league) studios,” said Dayne “OneWildWalnut” Downey of the Blazer5 Gaming team in Portland, Oregon. Downey also plays basketball at Santa Monica (California) College. “It’s a five- or six-hour flight. It’s going to be nice to take a two-hour flight right down to Vegas.”

The tournament is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased at luxor.mgmresorts.com, and fans who attend can try out the same sophisticated game system the players use.

NBA 2K began last year as a 17-team league, with Knicks Gaming winning the championship. The teams are backed by the NBA, but they’ve established their own hybrid monikers such as Grizz Gaming, Raptors Uprising GC and the Warriors Gaming Squad. Likewise, they have unconventional nicknames such as Vandi, Gradient and Chiquitae126, the league’s star female player.

The league already plays to a vast audience with more than 1.8 million followers of the 21 teams on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“When we’re traveling through DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport) and when we’re walking through security, people notice us,” said Artreyo “Dimez” Boyd of Mavs Gaming and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft. “Just to be recognized is awesome. To be living this dream, it has changed drastically. I come from Cleveland, Ohio, born and raised, and didn’t grow up with much.”

Each player makes at least $33,000 over six months with the opportunity for endorsement deals. That’s almost equal to the pay basketball players in the NBA’s G-League receive for playing actual games.

Three tournaments, such as the one at the Luxor, offer prize money. Playoff teams also receive prize money, with the champions pocketing $360,000.

As the league continues to grow, it wants to extend its reach. Thus the trip to Las Vegas, a non-NBA market, but one that hosts the league’s popular annual summer league at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion.

“We love the experience that we have in our studio,” league managing director Brendan Donohue said. “The set-up of our stage creates a ton of engagement with the players, so we want to bring that to other places so more of our fans could actually experience it. That was always our plan to go on the road in Season 2.”

The league also is looking to expand internationally.

“We envision a league where we have teams all around the world,” Donohue said. “We think there are a ton of fans around the world, and we think there are a ton of great players around the world who could get a chance to take the league more global.”

Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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