With the NBA season suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, the league has plenty of time to fill and is considering a rather unusual way to ensure fans can watch a live event of some kind.
According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the NBA is hoping to launch a tournament featuring some of its brightest stars challenging each other at NBA2K, arguably the world’s most popular basketball video game franchise.
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Three years ago, the league launched an eSports league around the NBA2K franchise, but the soon-to-be-introduced event will only feature NBA players instead of professional e-gamers.
The 16-player tournament is expected to run for 10 days and games will be broadcast on ESPN, Haynes added. The league is understood to be eager to officially launch the event as early as Friday, although details on the identity of the players remain sketchy.
Reigning regular season MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo featured on the cover of NBA2K19, with Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis replacing him on the front cover this year. Neither has been confirmed as a participant, but Antetokounmpo has a YouTube channel with his brothers, which recently featured them playing NBA2K on a live stream.
Yahoo Sports added four-time All-Star DeMarcus Cousins and Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, who has recently recovered from coronavirus, were also among the names mentioned as possible participants in the tournament.
Dallas Mavericks second-year point guard Luka Doncic and Boston Celtics star Gordon Hayward are also known to be fans of the franchise.
While the identity of the 16 players involved hasn’t been confirmed, it seems fairly likely neither two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant nor Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox will feature, after both criticized the game on Twitter.
The NBA suspended the season on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first player to test positive for coronavirus and it’s been looking to find alternative ways to give its fans something to be excited about.
The broadcasters have faced a similar predicament due to the lack of live sports.
Earlier on Tuesday, ESPN announced it had brought forward the release date of its eagerly-awaited documentary covering Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls.
The Last Dance was originally scheduled to hit the screens in June, but with the season suspended and growing demand on social media to release the documentary, ESPN will air the 10-part series from April 19.
“As society navigates this time without live sports, viewers are still looking to the sports world to escape and enjoy a collective experience,” it said in a statement.
“We’ve heard the calls from fans asking us to move up the release date for this series, and we’re happy to announce that we’ve been able to accelerate the production schedule to do just that.”