PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Portland Trail Blazers are one of 17 NBA teams that will compete in the first season of the NBA 2K eSports league, which debuts next year.
The league, a joint project between the NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software, will be the first of its kind to be operated by a professional sports league in the United States.
Other NBA teams joining the Blazers include the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz and Washington Wizards
According to ESPN, all 17 teams have committed to the league for three seasons and will be compensated about $750,000 per team. During an interview on SportsCenter about the league, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the NBA's eSports teams will have a slight shift in their names.
"Instead of the Mavericks, it will be the eMavericks. Instead of the Bucks, it will be the eBucks," he said.
So, get ready to cheer for the eBlazers.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that teams of five gamers will compete against each other playing the latest version of the 2K Games basketball game. Real NBA players will not be represented in the games. Instead, each gamer will play with his own user-created avatar.
The league season will last about five months, with a regular season, playoffs and a championship round.
Silver said the league will host a draft before the season begins, where the teams will select from the best professional gamers from around the world. The players will earn salaries and train. In essence, the NBA 2K eLeague will be their full-time job during the season.
“This is the first step in what promises to be an extraordinary league, bringing together the world's best gamers and showcasing elite competition on an international stage,” said NBA 2K esports league Managing Director Brendan Donohue. “Our teams have expressed tremendous enthusiasm for esports, and we are looking forward to forming something truly unique for basketball and gaming fans around the globe.”
Competitive video gaming, known as eSports, is an emerging market with a large following and young demographic.
More than 213.8 million people watched competitive gaming in 2016 and the market is expected to build its global audience to 303 million people by 2019, according to SuperData. Its audiences are mostly male (85 percent) and young, with 46 percent between 18 and 25 years old.
Global revenue for the worldwide eSports market was $892.8 million in 2016, up 19 percent from the year before.
“We jumped at the opportunity to participate in the inaugural season of the NBA 2K esports league,” said Dewayne Hankins, Chief Marketing Officer of the Trail Blazers. “As an organization, we constantly strive to provide unique content and reach new audiences. We commend the NBA for identifying an opportunity in the competitive gaming space and are thrilled to be partners in this endeavor.”
“The League of Legends World Championship Finals last year and the year before both kind of hovering around 30 million total viewers,” said Justin Green, who is in the process of opening what he says will be Portland’s first eSports bar.
Green says he hopes his bar will be up and running in August.
Jared Cowley is a digital producer for KGW.
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