Traditional sports feel untouchable. New sports do not pop-up to threaten them. The likes of basketball, football, and soccer, for instance, are far too entrenched and dominant for other sports to overtake them. Tennis, golf, and Olympic sports have their moments in the wider culture, but they struggle to sustain that interest outside their major events like Wimbledon, The Masters, and the Olympics. They are not the money-makers that basketball, football, and soccer are.
However, outside the scope of these traditional sports, gaming might pose an interesting alternative, if not an adversary. Many gaming titles have set up competitive leagues and organisations have been set-up so the players have support and structure so they can perform at their best. The NBA’s 2K title has its own league, in which NBA franchises – twenty-three of the thirty – have e-sport equivalents with rosters. The Toronto Raptors go by the name Raptors Uprising GC. Let’s introduce you to them.
The NBA 2K League was announced in 2017 and had seventeen teams for its inaugural season in 2018, including the Raptors Uprising GC. The seasons consist of a regular season with three tournaments played among those regular season weeks. The tournaments don’t count towards regular season records, but they become a key factor in postseason tiebreakers and seeding, plus it gives the chance for teams to win a prize pool.
The league was well-publicised and streamed to Twitch – the live streaming platform that hosts creators who can play games, like slots at Enzo casino or Call of Duty, or simply talk to their audience – and YouTube across its first two seasons, before being picked up by ESPN 2 for its third season in 2020.
After drafting their roster for the season, they performed well, finishing the regular season in the playoff positions before losing in the quarter-finals (a single-elimination match format). The 2019 season the Raptors didn’t make the playoffs, but in 2020, they went unbeaten in the regular season – 16-0 – and won The Tip-Off and The Turn, two of the intra-season tournaments. No team had ever won two of the opening tournaments in a single season. They were dominant, but they couldn’t convert that dominance into postseason success, losing to the eventual Championship-winning team, Wizards District Gaming, in the semi-finals.
The franchise is led by the 2020 MVP Kenneth (‘KennyGotWork’) Hailey and Trent (‘TimelyCook’) Donald, who won Defensive Player of the year in 2020. These are an elite duo, who they’ve managed to tie them down for the upcoming season, and they hope to clinch that title that evaded them last season. KennyGotWork is the team’s point guard and TimelyCook is a lock-down defender.
They’ve also retained Maurice (‘ReeceMode’) Flowers for the upcoming season, another player from the historic season in 2020. ReeceMode was the teams secondary ball handler and his percentage from three was top-five in the league. He is an essential cog in the team.
In a blockbuster trade, the Raptors gave Hornets Venom GT Jerry (‘Sick One’) Knapp, a star centre who appeared with KennyGotWork in the All-NBA 1st team, and acquired Xavier (‘Type’) Vescovi. Type was part of the 2019 and 2020 Defensive Team of the Year, with KennyGot Work and TimelyCook. The Raptor’s front office is hoping that, being surrounded by better talent than he has been, Type, an already elite centre, will raise the ceiling further.
Finally, rounding out the team, and returning to where he started his 2K career, is Trevion (‘AllHailTrey’) Hendrix, who they traded for a draft picked from Cavs Legion GC. Again, another strong defender who doesn’t turn the ball over, he comes in to complement the team.
It’s a big year coming up for the Raptors Uprising. They are the team to beat, despite not being Champions.