The NBA 2K Players Tournament has been a delightful and peculiar competition to watch. It has offered a candid peek into NBA players' lives that we wouldn't have had otherwise, set against the backdrop of the global coronavirus pandemic. It also has revealed which players are true gamers.
Esports and gaming enthusiasts are already well aware of how intimate streaming can be, but it's still a fairly novel way for viewers to interact with traditional sports athletes -- except for those who have streamed in the past on platforms such as Twitch.
Throughout the initial tournament rounds this past weekend, one of the most common greetings was something along the lines of, "How are you doing, man?" followed by a short rundown of how players have been affected by the virus. In Donovan Mitchell's case, the response was, "I'm all right. You know, finally recovering," reminding us that he had contracted the virus. Andre Drummond inadvertently gave viewers an update on 2K opponent DeMarcus Cousins' injury, effectively doing an interview with Cousins during their match.
Streaming this past weekend also provided snapshots into players' homes and lives at their most mundane. Additionally, the 2K tournament has given us insight into who games a lot and who doesn't. There's a difference between playing a few 2K games here and there and playing games such as Call of Duty: Warzone as a hobby. Some NBA pros were more prepared for this than others. Here's what we've learned about a few of them.
Kevin Durant was rated as a 1-seed in this 2K tournament, despite his complete lack of a gamer setup.
Why are we in front of a window when it offers terrible lighting?
What is this relaxed posture?
Why is everything smudged? If there's one piece of advice to give to burgeoning traditional sports athletes who now want to stream a bit more, it's this: Clean those camera lenses.
Upon further inspection, this setup looks like KD dragged an office chair in front of a window with a nice view at an office, pulled down the shades to the windows and called it a day.
In contrast, opponent Derrick Jones Jr. obviously plays video games regularly. He was leaning forward in his chair, had his wall of shoes on display in the background and had his headset on. Jones had multiple monitors! A fridge in the background! There's no way he should have been seeded 16th.
Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura's setup was pretty standard -- a lot of white- and cream-colored walls with minimal decor and maybe a plant or two -- but it's his off-screen assist for this tournament that makes his setup worth mentioning.
After his opponent, the Utah Jazz's Mitchell, scored at 2:36 in the first quarter, Hachimura let out a dramatic sigh and called timeout. During the timeout, he was immediately greeted with a towel and a fresh bottle of water from a man off-screen.
There are so many questions here, but the most obvious one is, who is this mysterious man who hangs around Hachimura, offering him a towel and water? Where can the other gamers acquire an assistant?
Hachimura burst out laughing at his own antics during the pause and proceeded to upset Mitchell, who does play video games regularly and was favored to do well in the tournament.
That's the water boy advantage.
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LA Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley might have had an average-gamer setup; it looked like some care was taken to have a relatively comfortable arrangement in the corner of a room, complete with a poster, a ceiling fan and an odd, circular window. But he brought the weekend's best trash talk. Even the smallest wins and losses within the game caused Beverley to jump up and down. At one point, it looked like he was going to launch his controller across the room.
The main piece of advice for Beverley? Get a better mic so people can hear your trash talk even more clearly without audio clipping.
Like Durant, Drummond positioned himself in front of a window. Unlike KD, Drummond made sure that it showcased the best possible view, with infinitely better lighting and no shades necessary. Drummond was ready to game but also ready to show off his admittedly sick apartment. He had his headset over his hat and was fully prepared to play 2K and chat with opponent Cousins about anything and everything, from general life questions to the ongoing pandemic to Cousins' injury recovery.
"It's like something out of a movie right now," Cousins said of the pandemic.
"For real. I don't think I've spent this much time in my house ever," Drummond replied.
Cousins was streaming from what appeared to be his bedroom, which like other bedrooms that were shown this past weekend on stream was dark in style.
Both setups added to the feeling that this was a conversation between two acquaintances catching up, rather than any sort of competition -- but in an amazing and wonderful way.
Devin Booker is a Gamer, with a capital G.
Part of former Call of Duty pro player Matthew "Nadeshot" Haag's 100 Thieves esports organization, Booker plays Call of Duty with Nadeshot and other 100 Thieves influencers regularly. The Phoenix Suns guard's reaction to discovering that the NBA was going on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic took place over voice chat in a Warzone game and immediately went viral.
It should be no surprise to anyone that Booker was ready to go with his gaming chair and headset in place. Like a true gamer, it appeared that his face was less than a foot away from his monitor as he leaned forward. Both he and opponent Michael Porter Jr. showcased a better understanding of strong teams and players within 2K than other competitors in the tournament.
And it's unfortunate Porter had to match up against Booker in the first round; the Denver Nuggets forward might have gone further if he had faced a different opponent.