With eSports exploding into a legitimate spectator event, both for in-person viewership and televised events, it was only a matter of time before professional sports leagues got in on the act. As it has been on so many things, the NBA became the first American league to announce it was creating its own eSports league, partnering with Take-Two Interactive and its NBA2K series to power its sponsored competition. When commissioner Adam Silver announced all of this in February, however, he was speaking for the league, but not the individual teams that make up that league. Asked at the time what he expected the participation level to be from individual teams, he said he expected about half to jump into this.
It turns out that projection was pretty much spot on, as 17 NBA teams ave officially agreed to participate in the league, lending their jerseys and branding to the games. Also released were some details about how the league will operate and how the games will be conducted.
The league will draft teams of five players to compete in a five-month season, which will mirror the NBA with a regular season, bracketed playoffs, and a final championship match to wrap it all up. Players will create their own avatars for competition, so no one will be using avatars of the recognizable basketball stars that appear in NBA 2K, like LeBron James or Kyrie Irving.
The Chicago Bulls are not among the teams participating, because the universe hates me and takes every opportunity to make me unhappy. That aside, the NBA’s monopoly on a pro-league-backed eSports league will be short lived. In Europe, a FIFA eSports league is already in the works, with several European clubs buying in.
Netherlands’ Eredivisie, the country’s highest soccer league, will launch its own esports league, the organization announced earlier today. All 18 clubs, among them the “Big Three” (Ajax Amsterdam, PSV Eindhoven, and Feyenoord) will participate in the league. The “E-Divisie” launched in association with EA SPORTS and Endemol Shine Netherlands, a TV production company.
You should expect the other major pro sports leagues to follow suit very, very quickly. As eSports begins to stretch its legs and expand its reach, these leagues are going to want to get in on what the NBA and soccer clubs are doing. And with major broadcast partners like ESPN bringing the product to the market, hopefully with all the polish and production one would expect of them, it’s likely eSports growing popularity is about to explode.