The NBA 2K League: Trusting the Process for Selecting 2K’s Top Prospects
It is March and the NBA 2K League continues its process to become an actual sports league with legitimate, professional players. The NBA 2K Combine has finished and the league is letting prospects know whether or not they qualified for the next round of the process. There is no better way to describe the current happenings in the 2K League than a “process” because determining and selecting the best players has turned out to be pretty complicated.
Fans were able to try their hands (and thumbsticks) at playing in the league by competing in online games. From there it was narrowed down to 72,000 players that competed in a combine. The combine presented a handful of windows where these players could compete against each other and prove their worth. After the combine, there was a period with very little information about the league’s next steps.
Things were cleared up slightly when the league started sending emails to the top 250 players from the combine. When players entered the combine, they needed to fill out forms determining their age, email, and other personal information. From there, league officials figured out who the top 250 contenders were.
If you ask many of the players competing in the combine, they will say it was “rigged.” For instance, fans speculate that the NBA 2K League already determined who was going to be in the league before they had it open to the public. But, there are many reasons why this just does not make sense: First, why make it seem like the fans have a chance to compete for a shot at the league if they really do not? The NBA 2K League could have just as easily scouted quietly before taking the guys that were ranked highest online. They could have worked like much of European soccer and signed players they found on their own. Instead the NBA 2K League made it a public option where they might be able to find diamonds in the rough. In fact, it is more complicated to do this process than just teams finding players on their own.
Brian Mazique of Forbes points out that the NBA 2K League had issues getting the right documentation out to the participants and then had to extend the deadline for those documents because of said issues. If the league already knew whom it was picking then they would have kept the original end date for the documentation. Instead, they extended the date to make sure that everyone who was having issues was able to fill out the documents.
Even though the twitterverse is plagued with ideas that the league is “rigged,” it is only because they did not receive invitations for the next round. This can be expected with video games because there are a lot of sore losers out there. By all accounts it seems like the rigged idea is false. Officials from each team are shown on twitter watching live-streams during the combine. Sure this could be all for show, but why break so many hearts for no reason?
The next step in the process for the lucky 250 players is the interview phase. Each player will get an opportunity to interview with league officials. This will be online and will most likely only be accessible to the teams drafting. Players have been screenshotting their emails and posting them all over twitter. It is an exciting time for each player as they are one step closer to being professional gamers. Just how did the NBA 2K League narrow down this group though?
Brendan Donohue, NBA 2K League Managing Director, answered that question in a post on the NBA 2K League website; there were three main categories that played a factor in narrowing the mass of 72,000 gamers to a manageable 250: In-depth statistics, data analytics, and online applications.
First, in-depth statistics are an important part of observing who can play and who cannot. The league used normal NBA statistics like points, rebounds, and assists, as well as more complicated statistics like dribble move count and jump-shot timing. These statistics were compiled during the 2K League combine and only during that time. Due to the fact that this is a video game, there needs to be more factors than just basic basketball statistics.
Second, the NBA 2K League used a data analytics model that took all of the data gathered and found the top players in the world. Using this incredibly complicated model, they narrowed it down to the top 1,000 players. The players were ranked from 1 to 1,000 and pushed on to the next step.
The final step in the process was the online application. This application consisted of answering questions and giving an audio sample explaining why each player would be a good fit. There also was a basketball and 2K IQ test as the final component. After all of these were sifted through, the NBA 2K League had their final pool of 250 players.
Now it is time to narrow that down even further to 102 gamers. The league plans to use the interviews, along with the online applications and combine data to whittle the group down further. Ultimately, the only control gamers have now is their interview. That can be what comes between being a professional and watching from home.