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Professional Athletes Transitioning to Esports During Pandemic

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Brendan Donohue, managing director of the new NBA 2K esports league speaks at the NBA 2K League draft Tuesday, March 5, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

By Dr. Brandon Spradley |

The coronavirus pandemic has brought a halt to essentially all sport-related activities for the foreseeable future. This has affected every level of sport in the United States and across the world, especially professional sport. All major sports leagues in the United States have suspended their seasons.  

The National Basketball Association (NBA), led by commissioner Adam Silver, was initially hopeful to continue the 2019-2020 basketball season. These hopes have now turned into doubts as there is a good chance that the remainder of the season may get canceled. While NBA fans try to fulfill their basketball cravings in other forms, players are now transitioning into the eSports arena.  

NBA players are now competing in a variety of video games, including NBA 2K. Recently, select players participated in the first ever NBA 2K players tournament, which features players such as Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets), Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns), Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz), Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks), and many more.  

This tournament confirms the notion that the professional sport and eSport industries are not always competing against one another, but rather cooperating with another. As the eSports industry continue to grow and evolve, there will be more opportunities for professional sport leagues to partner with various entities involved in eSports. Although the coronavirus pandemic has also affected professional video gaming (in terms of hosting live tournaments in arenas), the eSports industry is in prime position to capitalize on opportunities during and after the pandemic.  

Click the link below to watch an overview video of the first-ever NBA 2K Players Tournament. The online interaction provides fans with the opportunity to watch some of their favorite players compete against one another. Only this time, it’s not on the court, but online in the comfort of their homes.  

Dr. Brandon Spradley is the chair of sports management at the United States Sports Academy.

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