The NBA announced Thursday (Feb. 9) that it has partnered with Take-Two Interactive, the makers of the NBA 2K video games series, for the launch of the NBA 2K eLeague, a professional gaming league.
The deal marks the first official eSports league operated by a U.S. professional sports league.
Set to debut in 2018, the competitive gaming league will consist of teams operated by actual NBA franchises. The founding teams, each composed of five professional eSports players who will play the game as user-created avatars, will be announced in the coming months.
The NBA 2K eLeague will follow a professional sports league format: competing head-to-head throughout a regular season, participating in a bracketed playoff system, and concluding with a championship matchup.
“We believe we have a unique opportunity to develop something truly special for our fans and the young and growing eSports community,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “We look forward to combining our best-in-class NBA sports team operators with Take-Two’s competitive gaming expertise to create a brand new league experience.”
Since its launch in 1999, the NBA 2K gaming franchise has sold over 68 million units worldwide. The most recent release, NBA 2K17, is the highest-rated annual sports game of the current console generation and the highest-rated title in the history of the series. To date, NBA 2K17 has sold-in nearly 7 million units, with sales headed toward it becoming 2K’s highest-selling sports title ever.
2K launched its second official eSports competition in December, the NBA 2K17 All-Star Tournament, offering gamers the chance to win a trip to NBA All-Star 2017, and featuring a $250,000 grand prize that will culminate on Feb. 17 in New Orleans.