NBA 2K League Contributor Jeff Eisenband Talks The Rise of E-Sports and the 2K League

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Yesterday Knicks Gaming won the inaugural 2K League Championship. The rise of e-sports, as well as the video game market as a whole, has taken a big leap as of late. Fortnite a game that just released last fall has already generated over $1 Billion in revenue. After a somewhat slow start in viewership on the leagues Twitch channel, the 2k league viewership has seen a significant rise in the number of people watching the games.

Despite the fact, 2K League Social Media Contributor and Senior Editor of The Post Game, Jeff Eisenband thinks that people need to understand that numbers don’t always tell the whole story.

“People need to understand that this is a league that is just starting. I don’t think that people necessarily complained about the first time that the NBA was put on TV back in the 50’s. I don’t know how strong those numbers were right off the bat when they were competing with other sports” said Eisenband on a recent appearance on the Unnecessary Roughness Podcast.

You can listen to the full interview below:

“It’s pretty naïve for people to say oh well the 2K League broadcasted a Friday night game during the playoffs when there were no NBA games on that night and people didn’t watch. That’s not really fair because, for the average NBA fan, that’s a night off for them because they’ve been watching games every night for the past two months during the playoffs. For the NBA this is an investment and it’s understanding that you might need two or three years to get it right. There are still some kinks to be worked out but the fact that people would judge something after maybe three weeks is ridiculous.”

The league has seen its average unique viewership grow from 137,168 to 284,250 fans. In total, fans have spent more than 761,000 hours watching the NBA 2K League this season according to Forbes.

NBA 2K League kicked off this past February and the MLS and NHL are not too far behind. Though it will be interesting to see exactly how these e-sports leagues will compare to their major league counterparts, the leagues are being viewed as complements, not competition.

“I think people recognize that it’s going to take a long time. They’re not going to try to compete with these leagues but be more of a complement to the league, Adam Silver even called it the fourth league to go along with the G-League and the WNBA. People don’t look at those leagues and ask when they are going to be able to compete with the viewership of the NBA”

Though the demographics of 2K League is the younger generation, that hasn’t made it any less of a phenomenon. With the pros of the 2K League including fewer commercials and shorter games, it’s no wonder the league has been such a success and to some degree a preference of the younger generation according to Eisenband.

“If you ask a lot of 14-year-olds if they would rather watch an NBA 2K league game featuring two average teams or a game like the Magic versus the Kings I’d like to see what they’d choose and I think you’d be surprised how many of those young people who are so tapped into 2K would choose to watch the 2k league over the NBA. That’s not to say that I think the NBA product is failing youths I just think that’s how this generation is brought up. FIFA for example, so many American kids just know soccer players because they play a ton of FIFA and I think they are more tapped into the FIFA video game than they are into the Champions League. The MLS and NHL have also bought into their own e-leagues coming up and because people love these games so much the leagues are going to develop so credit the NBA for stepping in and saying since we license these games anyway why don’t we take ownership.”

To go along with the league’s Success as a whole, the players have started to become superstars in their own right. As the league trends upward so will the players and over time we could start to see 2K League players become household names the same way NBA players have.

“I think it’s going to take some time especially because the demographic is so young. However, you look at somebody like Dimez who was the first overall pick, people in the basketball world just know him because he’s the first overall pick. Over time as the league progresses especially over the summer, you’re going to see a lot of NBA franchises put more of their marketing dollars toward their NBA 2k league teams because they won’t be competing with the NBA season. The more grassroots things that they do in the community these guys profiles will start to become bigger.”

Eisenband even curated The 102 Podcast to talk to members around the 2K League to learn some of their stories.

“I just love learning these guys’ stories. All of these gamers none of them expected this, they were working warehouse jobs, there’s a guy on the Blazers from Brooklyn who was delivering packages in the same neighborhood as Madison Square Garden and then he got drafted at Madison Square Garden. Fab who was the number two pick on the Celtics nobody knew what he looked like for years but he was a big fixture in the community. Just learning these interesting stories about real people who were living their lives and never expected this all to happen.”

The inaugural season of the NBA 2K League ended with Knicks Gaming hoisting up the championship trophy, however, the success of the league as a whole is a win for everybody. It will be interesting to watch the trajectory of the league moving forward.

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