With the NBA season suspended because of the coronavirus, Phoenix Suns shooting guard Ty Jerome and Minnesota Timberwolves small forward Josh Okogie got their basketball fix in another way Wednesday: NBA 2K.
With Jerome manning the controller for the Suns and Okogie on the sticks for the Wolves, Phoenix beat Minnesota 93-63, with Devin Booker's 29 points leading the way.
"It's fun," Jerome told ESPN. "We can't really interact with the fans right now, so to find different ways to interact with them, it's fun. It's definitely entertaining for me, and I hope it is for them, too."
This was the second simulated regular-season game presented by the Suns, who broadcast the game on their Twitch channel and on Twitter. Combined, viewership steadily climbed each quarter, consistently in the vicinity of 15,000-20,000 viewers. All signs point to the team continuing to play out regular-season games on NBA 2K, perhaps with a revolving cast at the helm.
On Wednesday afternoon, before the Suns' game on the virtual court, Jerome, along with former Virginia teammate and current Atlanta Hawks player De'Andre Hunter and the Cleveland Cavaliers' Dylan Windler, played Fortnite on a stream. Jerome and Hunter played on Virginia's 2019 NCAA championship team.
Gaming has seemingly become the primary pastime for many athletes whose seasons are on hiatus. Meyers Leonard has been playing Call of Duty Modern Warfare's new mode Warzone, and Booker has also been streaming Warzone on his Twitch account. Even Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic has been asking Twitter for tips on how to put together a streaming setup.
When asked how playing as the Suns in the game felt in comparison to the team on the court, Jerome offered some insight.
"It's really different," Jerome said. "We fed off [Booker], [Ricky Rubio] had six assists, so that's normal. They don't give Deandre Ayton enough credit for finishing on the rim, he was missing a bunch of layups. So certain things are realistic, but it's a video game, so it's never going to be perfect."
Jerome has his own Twitch channel, on which he has streamed Fortnite.
Jerome said although he started playing video games in middle school, he's using it mostly as a way to be social with friends and interact with fans in chat. When asked whether he would like to be invited to charity video game tournaments and perhaps a Fortnite pro-am, he smiled and said: "I don't know if I'd be able to compete at that level in Fortnite, but I'm definitely down to go meet the streamers, meet different people. That would be cool."