I talked with Lang Whitaker, the Grizz Gaming GM, to get as much information as I could get so that all the fans could know what to expect for the upcoming inaugural season in the NBA 2K League. You should treat this like a FAQ for Grizz Gaming, as this new venture is exciting, but also could use a bit more explanation.
Here is what Lang had to say:
Where are you guys at in the qualifying process?
The first step to qualify for people is that you have to get 50 wins in the game in the 2k pro am mode between January 1 and January 31, so there is about 5 days left for people who want to qualify, that’s step 1. Step 2 they have not announced yet, but there will be another game mode or goal you’re gonna have to hit in that second round but for now we’re still in the step 1 and we knew starting January 1 that this mode was our start and people could try to hit that 50 wins and by like January 2, January 3, I was getting tweets from people who had already won 50 games and were already on the road.
Does it matter where you are from?
No, you could be in Memphis, you could be in Europe or Asia or wherever as long as you do that 50 wins. I mean that’s one of the great things about the NBA and 2K is that it’s an international audience, video games and eSports are huge all over the world.
When is the draft?
They haven’t set a date yet, but the timeframe that I have heard is mid March to the end of March, probably about two months from now. When the NBA gets the date set, though I am pretty sure that we will all know.
Have you been able to start scouting people?
So eventually the player pool will get down to the draft eligible pool of players that we can pick from, so right now I can’t tell you, of the people who have won 50 games some of them aren’t going to make the final cut. I have watched some of the people, I have watched some of the streams on Twitch. So, I’ve got an eye some things and there some players out there that are pretty well known eLeague players in the 2K community who you would assume are going to be in that final cut of players but until they get it down to that final player pool I am kinda taking a more of a wait and see approach, lets see who makes that final pool.
Once I get there then we know who we can draft from and who is available, then it’s gonna be for me easier to say, this person’s strength is this or this person’s strength is that. This is the kind of team we we are going to put together. You will be able to look at that player pool, there is not a lot of defensive centers, so maybe we want a stopper or maybe we want to go the other way and draft another wing scorer. I am waiting to see who makes that draft eligible pool and go from there.
How many players on each team?
I have heard some different things there. It’s basketball so you have to have five on five. So we will have five people on our team. I have heard some different things talked about in terms of maybe the league having a contingency pool of players available in case someone gets sick or has a family thing or something, but for now I am focusing on getting five guys or girls who are awesome at this game and putting together a team of five people who will represent Grizz Gaming and are able to grit and grind. It’s gonna be five on five and to me that’s the thing that makes it so relatable, even if you have never watched eSports or watched a video game, if you have watched the NBA its gonna like the NBA.
How many teams are there?
There are seventeen gaming teams around the league. I know that Brendan Donahue, the managing director, has said that 3-5 other teams have already said that they want in on year 2, but for now at least for the inaugural season there are going to be 17.
How many games do you expect to play?
I believe that it’s between 12 or 16 games. I know that we don’t have a schedule yet, but the way it works is that we will play one team per week. We will also have the ability in there to have one-off tournaments and things like that, where it will be like a single elimination all day tournament with all the teams involved, mixed in there as well. I think for this first year and as we get close to the date, the schedule will come out and we will know exactly how many games, but I think it is 16 games in this first season.
Are the games going to be played in a central location?
We are going to travel every week. Our team will get on a plane and go to a studio. Last I heard, they had it down to two locations, and they were trying to figure out which is the one, but it will played in a studio cause it’s going to be broadcasted. So we will fly to that city and play our games each week. It will be road games for everybody, so to speak.
How are we going to be able to watch the games?
I think they are going to announce that pretty soon. I don’t know, I would assume it’s going to be available online and maybe there is going to be a broadcast component as well.
Will there be anything played in Memphis?
I think that is a possibility, one thing that I have been focused on getting this started up, is we are building a practice facility here in Memphis for this team and I want it to be something that you can experience and is cool. I want to put together a practice team of people here in this city who can give us a good run and make it competitive. The five people who are on our team are gonna five of the best video game players in the world at this game. Hopefully we can find some people here to come in and see the guys, meet the team, play against them, and that would be pretty cool.
Will all the players live here in Memphis?
After the draft, the will move here. They will have housing here, we will have the practice facility done by then and we’ll practice. I still don’t know what days the games are going to be on and how the travel impacts that, but we will practice regularly. We’ll stream those practices so if you’re at home you can watch us practice and interact with us. I think as we get personalities here, one thing I am looking forward is getting to know these people. The thought of having our people move here and making them Memphians, finding out what makes Memphis go, the history of this city, and the personality of this city, I think there is going to be a lot of opportunities around that.
Is the draft going to be in central location and will we be able to watch the draft?
I don’t know where people will watch it, but I think they said it’s going to be broadcast somewhere. I do think that it’s going to be at a central location but I don’t know where that’s going to be. Last I heard, they were talking about finding a central location for the draft and for all of us and to make it something that people can experience.
When will you start playing games?
They have not set the start date yet but the talk was having the draft mid to late March and then getting players to your city in April and then competitive play starting in May. The league will run from May through August with a playoff after that.
For people who have never watched other people play video games, what is that like?
So basically what we are going to do, you have to sort of zoom out and explain what eSports is, because for people like my mom, she has no idea what eSports are and once you start explaining that people realize that this is a real thing. 1.6 million people play 2k for a median 70 minutes per day, this is a game that clearly is super popular and a lot of people are playing it all the time. Last year a game from the Stanley Cup final and a game from the World Series, those combined did not have more viewers than the League of Legends final. People are watching this sport in huge numbers and tuning in from all sorts of different platforms.
I think the bigger picture to take away from this, is just because you don’t know about a sport or about this league, or about eSports, just cause you don’t know about something, doesn’t mean it’s not a “thing” or it’s not important to a lot of people. It’s huge, around the world its a big thing and for the 2k league it’s great to have the NBA and the game developer involved in this. For the first time, having the professional sports league backing this and making this league go.
Where can people start getting their Grizz Gaming merchandise?
Right now we have some initial stuff, we posted the t shirts and we had some other stuff but it’s not in the team store yet. That is stuff is coming soon, I promise.
Thanks to Lang for his time and to the Grizzlies for setting up this Q & A opportunity. Follow Lang and Grizz Gaming on Twitter, and continue to follow GBB for more information as we begin our coverage of the newest part of the Memphis Grizzlies organization, Grizz Gaming.