Parents might reconsider getting on their children's case for playing too many video games.
That hobby can pay off — literally.
On Wednesday, the Utah Jazz unveiled a logo and name of their new team, which will participate in the inaugural season of the NBA 2K esports League.
Jazz Gaming will debut in May 2018.
“The exciting part about this is we are taking gamers who play at home and are turning them into professional gamers,” Utah’s director of esports, Josh Barney, said Wednesday at a logo-unveiling event at Vivint Arena. “They have an opportunity to try out for a professional team that’s provided by the NBA. It’s pretty exciting.”
The pro gamers will compete in a 17-team league comprised of franchises associated with other NBA teams. The first NBA 2K season will also include teams from the Celtics, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Pistons, Warriors, Pacers, Grizzlies, Heat, Bucks, Knicks, Magic, 76ers, Trail Blazers, Kings, Raptors and Wizards.
“We are proud to be one of the original teams in this new league, which will offer unprecedented access and opportunity to all gamers based on their playing skills,” Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment chief information officer BJ Vander Linden said. “And we look forward to connecting with a new audience through NBA 2K.”
Each team will feature five video athletes — or gamers, if you will.
And, yes, it is a professional league, meaning they will earn a living doing this.
“They will be paid handsomely for their talent,” Barney said.
The NBA 2K league will hold a draft in March. A tryout mode will be activated in the video game in February. The 17 esports front offices will receive stats and dossiers of information on each of the best gamers. Like the NBA, there is a minimum age of 18 years old.
Barney said the Jazz have already begun scouting potential players on Twitch, a website that facilitates online streaming. Barney pointed out that Utah is looking for gamers who are talented, marketable and will represent the organization on and off the virtual court. The Jazz Gaming players will live in Salt Lake City.
Jazz Gaming’s logos were created — by RARE Design — to pay tribute to the state of Utah as well as the Beehive State’s favorite NBA team. The primary logo is a 3D shape of Utah, with a white U and gold J outlined in navy blue. The secondary logo features the team’s name and includes a pair of eighth notes in place of the A in Jazz.
Barney called the process of creating and unveiling the logo “really exciting.” Early response, he said, has been positive.
“One of the things that we really wanted to do with the logo,” he added, “was showcase the state of Utah in it.”
The NBA 2K league will include a 14-week season and three weeks of tournaments. Teams will travel to neutral studios for five-on-five competitions. Games will be broadcast online in front of small studio audiences.
“We’re hoping,” Barney said, “to get to the point where we can actually maintain venues like the one we’re in today and be able to play here.”
Dream big, right?
“Go big or go home,” he said, smiling.
The Jazz have been preparing behind the scenes for the launch of the NBA 2K league for about a year and a half. Barney credited the University of Utah for paving the way in esports. The university has a varsity-level esports team that provides students the chance to earn scholarships through video gaming. He cited a recent study that claimed there is $1.5 billion in revenue in an esports industry that is in its infancy and reaches a very attractive 18-35 demographic.
“Every year the growth continues to get better and bigger,” Barney said. “Utah has got a unique place in it.”
Barney will oversee Jazz Gaming, and the team recently hired a team manager who will handle day-to-day duties.
Vander Linden joked that he might be in trouble after Karl Malone dunked on Rudy Gobert in one of the video game demos, but that won't happen in NBA 2K action unless Malone and Gobert actually play in the league. The NBA 2K gamers will be themselves.
"They will not be playing as Utah Jazz players in the game," Barney said. "They will have custom avatars that they will use with generic statistics so when they play against the other players it’s truly their skill that shows through and not what the actual avatar that the game has."
Barney laughed when asked if the Jazz’s popular “Super Rudy Block” video game, which you can play at UtahJazz.com, will go pro.
“That,” he said, “would be pretty amazing, actually.”
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