Sacramento Kings to build training room for NBA 2K e-sports team

8 December 2017

Sacramento Kings stars will soon be training alongside the team’s squad of basketball video game players.

The Kings announced plans Thursday to build a special training room, broadcast center and gamer lounge inside their year-old arena for the franchise’s entry in the new NBA video game league, which is called the NBA 2K League.

The Kings, Golden State Warriors and 15 other NBA franchises will participate in the league, which will start qualifying rounds next month for “NBA 2K18” players around the world who hope to be drafted. The video game, which accurately simulates NBA games, was developed by Visual Concepts of Novato.

The tech-centric Kings management wants to be the first to create a permanent e-sports training area inside a pro sports arena. The $556.6 million Golden 1 Center opened last year with the latest in arena technology, including more than 1,000 Wi-Fi access points, software-controlled acoustics, and artificial-intelligence technology for crowd, traffic and maintenance monitoring systems.

The 2,100-square-foot e-sports room beneath the stands will give the Kings’ five-member video game team access to everything available to stars like Zach Randolph and Vince Carter, including the weight room, health care facilities, dining area, oxygen bar and “beverage bar with fresh kombucha and nitrogen coffee to keep players refreshed and ready to play,” a news release said. It will also have a 360-degree camera to give fans a look inside the room.

“This state-of-the-art facility will set a new standard and provide the best-in-class tools that the next generation of superstar gamers need to train, compete and win,” Vivek Ranadivé, Kings co-owner and Silicon Valley entrepreneur, said in a statement.

The fact that the NBA is investing in an e-sports league highlights the rise of video games as a powerhouse entertainment competitor to traditional physical sports.

While the league is not by itself a validation of e-sports, it is an “acknowledgment by traditional forms of entertainment that times have changed,” said Joost van Dreunen, CEO of video game industry research firm SuperData. “To stay relevant, sports leagues, teams and broadcasters are incorporating interactive entertainment into their offering.”

NBA 2K League Managing Director Brendan Donohue revealed Wednesday in a Reddit ask-me-anything session how players can qualify for the league, which is open to anyone age 18 or older who owns a copy of “NBA 2K18” for the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One consoles.

Starting Jan. 1, players can register online and must win 50 games in a five-on-five mode by Jan.31. The players can compete as part of a team or as a “walk-on” competitor for another team. Those who complete the requirements will be invited to another round of tryouts in February, Donohue said.

In March, the participating NBA teams will draft the 85 top players, who will be paid “a competitive, guaranteed salary, along with housing and benefits,” Donohue said on Reddit. “In addition, players will have the opportunity to earn additional $$ during the season.”

The season tips off in May, and games will be broadcast live.

Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov have also started the San Francisco Shock, an e-sports team in the fledgling Overwatch League, which is based on a video game called “Overwatch.” The team split its first two preseason matches Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob and his son, Kirk, are owners of an e-sports team named the Golden Guardians in the 10-team North American League of Legends Championship Series. The name and logo of the NBA 2K League team, operated by an affiliate of the Warriors called GSW Sports Ventures, will be announced next week, said spokesman Matt de Nesnera.

“From an audience perspective, there exists a clear crossover between real sports and e-sports,” van Dreunen said.