Jeramey Jannene

Bucks Win Another World Championship!

But this time it's for the NBA 2K League video game.

By - Aug 30th, 2022 01:44 pm
Artreyo "Dimez" Boyd poses with Mayor Cavalier Johnson and the NBA2K championship trophy. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Artreyo “Dimez” Boyd poses with Mayor Cavalier Johnson and the NBA2K championship trophy. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Milwaukee Bucks are again world champions. But Giannis Antetokounmpo had nothing to do with it this time.

The team’s esports affiliate, Bucks Gaming, won the NBA 2K League championship last weekend. A celebration was held Tuesday in the Deer District beer garden, with dozens of Bucks employees cheering on the five-member team, their $500,000 cash prize and sizable trophy.

“Whoever told you not to play video games, that’s not really true anymore,” said Bucks senior vice president Michael Belot.

After the esports team’s fourth season ended with a near last place finish, the Bucks brought in a new coach, new general manager and an entirely new roster of gamers. The gamers are given housing during the season, which runs from March through August, and compete virtually in a Bucks-owned facility near Fiserv Forum. The two-week playoff tournament was held in Indianapolis.

“We played with trust, we played for each other, played for one another, played for each other’s families, that’s what made this run special,” said Finals MVP Artreyo “Dimez” Boyd. “We couldn’t have done it without you all, without Milwaukee.”

“It’s been literally called the greatest run in 2K League history,” said general manager Patrick Glogovsky. “We’re only five seasons in, so not too much competition, but it truly was a magical moment for our team.”

The 24-team league competes by playing TakeTwo Interactive’s NBA 2K 22 video game. Instead of controlling actual NBA players, gamers each control a specific, unique character and play an assigned position. Coaches call plays and set strategies, just like actual basketball games.

The league launched in 2018 and is the first professional esports league affiliated with a professional sports league. Twenty-two teams are directly affiliated with an NBA team, including the Washington Wizards affiliate Wizards District Gaming that Bucks Gaming beat 3-1 in the championship.

“This is exciting,” said County Executive David Crowley, a self-described gamer. “People don’t understand gaming a lot of the times and people like this team right here are putting games on the map.”

“I’m a gamer too,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson. “My mom used to tell me to get off the games at two, three in the morning, but when you show your talent, you can go on to win the national championship and bring home $500,000, so take note, mom.”

Crowley and Johnson each issued proclamations declaring it “Bucks Gaming Day” throughout the city and county. And just like traditional basketball team’s 2021 championship celebration, each was happy to pose with the players and trophy, though with tens of thousands fewer onlookers this time.

But the lack of a large crowd Tuesday doesn’t mean no one is watching. Streams Charts reports that more than 10.6 million live streams of NBA 2K league programming took place in the past 30 days on streaming platform Twitch. Those viewers consumed more than 859,000 hours of programming, with a peak live audience of 34,396 viewers.

Each player on the team will receive $75,000, which comes in addition to their salary and housing, said coach Lance Sessions in an interview with Urban Milwaukee.

The NBA 2K League has many of the same rules and mechanics as its traditional sports counterpart. There is a draft to start the season and midseason trades can reshape a team. The playoffs include high-energy player introductions, confetti celebrations and lots of high-fives.

Dimez was acquired in a trade with the Toronto Raptors affiliate in May. But unlike NBA players, who might be constrained by their height and physical limitations, Dimez was able to switch positions from point guard to center to fit with Bucks Gaming. Sessions said he targeted Dimez from his time playing with the Dallas Mavericks affiliate, where Sessions was previously an assistant coach.

Unlike the NBA, the esports teams also compete in two different game formats. The main format is a five-on-five game, similar to traditional basketball, but there is also a three-on-three tournament. The “Bad Bucks,” as they like to be called, were actually favored to win the three-on-three tournament, but were eliminated in the first round.

The Bucks will have a difficult time bringing the entire team back. League rules mirror fantasy sports keeper leagues more than the actual NBA. Teams can protect three players, then must forfeit their first-round draft pick to protect a fourth player. Also unlike the NBA, unprotected players go back into the draft pool instead of to free agency. Sessions said it is unusual for championship teams to be able to return their entire roster.

Other gamers on the championship team included Jeremey Seese, Dawson Thomas, TMP “Cooks” Campbell and Mason “Johnny” Bracken. Dimez was the only gamer on the team who was in the league prior to 2021. Seese, a second-year player, wasn’t at the celebration, having moved to Philadelphia to attend Temple University.

Think you have what it takes to compete? Sessions said he scouts players from the NBA 2K Pro Am league as well as amateur tournaments. He said to follow Bucks Gaming and other league social media accounts for announcements of those events.

Assistant general manager Milt Newton was the highest ranking employee from the basketball operations side of the Bucks in attendance.

Glogovsky said the Bucks hope to eventually have a publicly-visible area the team plays in, but for now the team doesn’t disclose the exact location where the gamers play.


Watch The Championship

Highlight Package

Trophy Presentation

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