NEW YORK: NBA fans starved for action amid the shutdown forced by the coronavirus pandemic will get a taste of competition in an NBA 2K Players Tournament starting on Friday.
Kevin Durant may have been sidelined all season as he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon, but the Brooklyn Nets star is the top seed in the 16-man field of current NBA players taking on the virtual challenge.
The NBA, the NBA Players Association and game maker 2K announced the tournament, which will be aired in the United States on ESPN over 10 days.
“The winner will be crowned the ultimate NBA 2K20 champion and select a charity beneficiary to receive a US$100,000 donation from 2K, the NBA and the NBPA in support of ongoing coronavirus relief efforts,” the league said.
Rising Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young is the second seed in a field that also features Portland’s Hassan Whiteside, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and Washington Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura of Japan.
The seedings are determined by a player’s NBA 2K rating – Durant is a 96 – and by tenure in the league.
After single-elimination first and second rounds, the semifinals and final will be best-of-three series.
As shelter-in-place orders and quarantines in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic have brought actual sports to a standstill, the popular Nascar stock car series showed that esports can help fill the void for sports broadcasters and fans.
Over the past two weeks Nascar drivers have competed in iRacing events that were aired on Fox Sports, drawing hundreds of thousands of viewers.
The NBA put its season on indefinite hold on March 11 after Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Teammate Mitchell is also among the NBA players who have tested positive, as is Durant.