The most famous sport in China is known to be basketball. Around 300 million Chinese people play the game, and in 2008, the NBA established NBA China. Ever since then, basketball has been growing more and more popular, attracting even more young citizens in China. Just recently, NBA 2K, a competitive video game league, secured a partnership with Tencent. They have agreed to work on streaming the games in regions with esports enthusiasts. This coming weekend will be the very first time that Chinese fans can watch the NBA 2K esports league finals.
NBA 2K eSports League
The NBA 2KL is an esports league, which is run jointly by the NBA and Take-Two Interactive. They founded it in 2017 and began with only 17 of the 30 NBA teams. Tencent, the Chinese counterpart of Youtube and Twitch, is planning to stream the finals between the two 2K League teams: the 76ers and the Minnesota Timberwolves. This decision will allow China’s basketball organization to gain more attention and flourish even more. The exposure and easy accessibility of the esports league could boost the popularity of NBA China.
The NBA 2K franchise has a similar fanbase to the traditional sport, in that they are massive and loyal. A PC-based version of the video game, which is free, has around 40 million Chinese accounts registered. Avid fans of the esports league are said to make up half of the audience. Based on the company’s estimates, out of 201 million watchers around the world that they recognize as esport enthusiasts, 75 million will be found in China. These numbers prove that China has the most esports enthusiasts across the globe.
There are some obstacles that the 2K League will have to face. The most notable would be trying to engage with an esport audience that had started with multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs), like DotA and League of Legends, in the past. This type of genre isn’t a sports game, but trying to appeal to lovers of such will increase their fanbase. Fans of MOBAs are the ones that usually crossover to sports games, which is why the company has to produce content that is compelling to this specific audience, too.
Earlier this year, the esports league held the NBA 2K League APAC Invitational. In this event, 20 players from the Asia-Pacific region tried to qualify and join the North American-based NBA 2K League. This competition was the very first international qualifying event. Out of the 20 participants, only six players were deemed qualified for the league’s draft, which will be in April 2020. Although none of the six were from China, the presence of the esports league in the country can undoubtedly boost the traditional NBA entity.
Brendan Donohue, 2K League managing director, said that the presence of the esports league in China helps in engaging the passionate fans in the country. Although these fans will always be loyal, NBA China will need to provide even more enjoyable content in return for the love they have shown for the league. He also shared that they are looking forward to when Yao Ming, the Chinese legend, would be added to the game. He says that this could bring in an entirely different audience.
Way back in the 80s, NBA broadcasted the finals for the very first time in China. David Stern, the commissioner at that time, asked the country’s state-run television network, CCTV, to air the games nationwide. In 1994, CCTV aired all the NBA finals live in China. When Houston Rockets drafted Yao Ming in 2002, more Chinese people joined the NBA fanbase. Over 200 million people watched the first game he participated in, which was against the Lakers.
The organization started operating in 2008 and has continuously worked hard in helping the sport receive more love. They even began working with the Chinese Ministry of Education. Together they made programs specifically aiming to discover talented players and to train them into becoming future basketball stars. Other than that, NBA China partnered up with China Central Television (CCTV), which increased its media presence in the nation. They set their partnership to last for three decades.
The league partnered up with many more Chinese companies like Tencent and Weibo. Weibo is a popular Chinese microblogging website, with more than 400 million users. Their partnership led to NBA posting and sharing game highlights, interviews, pictures, stats, and even behind-the-scene videos that fans would be interested in watching.
Derek Chang, CEO of NBA China, mentioned that they commit themselves into providing live NBA games and other entertaining basketball-related shows to all of China. He also said that the recent expansion of their partnership with Tencent could allow Chinese fans to enjoy NBA content whenever and wherever. Their actions and determination show and prove how much effort they have put into pleasing and entertaining their beloved fans.