Suns players Booker, Ayton take over NBA 2K Players Tournament, $100,000 to go towards COVID-19 relief


SteamXO (Flickr)

Phoenix Suns player Devin Booker won the recent NBA 2K Players Tournament.

Ole Olafson, Reporter

Since the NBA postponed their regular season on March 12, after a player from the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus, basketball fans everywhere have been left wanting for televised games.

The NBA deserves credit for quickly utilizing current technology to create new content for their fans by recognizing the growing popularity of esports and using that as way for fans to stay engaged during the suspension of play.

In late March, just a couple weeks after the season was suspended, the league organized a tournament of sixteen current NBA players competing head-to-head, online, from separate locations, playing the video game NBA 2K.  Actual players were reportedly seeded according to their electronic namesake’s rating in the video game and the NBA would donate $100,000 on behalf of the winning player to a cause benefiting COVID-19 relief.

The NBA 2K Players Tournament began Apr. 3 and was televised over four days on ESPN.

Not surprisingly, the youngest team in the NBA excelled at this sort of tournament and Saturday’s four-hour finale came down to a battle between Phoenix Suns teammates Devin Booker, 23 and DeAndre Ayton, 21.  Booker (5) wound up sweeping Ayton (10) 2-0 in the best-of-three championship series.

Coincidentally, Booker and Ayton’s semi-final opponents were also teammates, Montrezl Harrell (8) and Patrick Beverley (14) from the L.A. Clippers.

Interestingly enough, the “Good Old Boys” from NASCAR were the first sports organization to tap into the popularity of esports to keep the fans engaged during their season’s COVID-19 suspension.  Drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Bobby Labonte have been racing against each other online since Mar. 22 in the NASCAR iRacing league.

The technology reportedly uses an advanced racing simulator to pit driver drivers against each other in a virtual race.  The series is scheduled to continue through May 3 and is being televised on FOX and FS1.

Even though it’s only virtual racing, drivers are finding out it’s still possible to make very real bad career moves in iRacing.

Two weeks ago, driver Bubba Wallace quit a nationally televised race out of anger after being wrecked.  His real-life sponsor, Blue Emu, fired him after he admitted it on social media, according to an AP story by Jenna Fryer in the Orlando Sentinel on Monday.

On Sunday, Kyle Larson used a racial slur during an iRace not officially part of the NASCAR series.  Fans were able to hear the comment on a live stream on the gaming app Twitch.  Larson was dropped by nearly all of his sponsors and ESPN reported Tuesday afternoon that he had been fired by Chip Ganassi Racing.