As a country, we’ve become accustomed to seeing Australian athletes making waves in NBA. Yet, the surge in Aussie representatives at the highest levels of basketball competition is not just limited to the hardwood. Australian esport athletes are carving a name for themselves on the digital basketball court.
On February 2 and 3, at the 2019 NBA 2K League APAC Invitational in Hong Kong, six Australians battled against the best players in the Asia-Pacific in a two-day tournament.
The 2019 NBA 2K League Draft Pool will feature players from all over the world 🌏#TBT to the APAC Invitational when @OneWildWalnut2K, @AdamRubinNBA, @CodyParrent and @SamPham20 traveled to Hong Kong to scout potential #NBA2KLeague players. pic.twitter.com/NTXmV0Ve1K
— NBA2KLeague (@NBA2KLeague) February 14, 2019
The reward? The chance to have their name called at the 2019 NBA 2K League draft, to be conducted at the Barclays Centre, the home of the Brooklyn Nets, on March 5.
Kyle Lepua, Meason Camille, Brad Shortland, Billy Hermans, Eugene Pillai and Blake Frankish were Australia’s representatives amongst a field of 20 players from China, the Philippines, New Zealand as well as Australia. They were competing for the chance to step onto one the biggest stages in esports – the NBA 2K league.
The weekend tournament was designed to give players the chance to exhibit their skills in scrimmages and an elimination tournament, as well as provide them with the opportunity to rub shoulders with talent scouts and team officials from NBA 2K League teams who were in attendance looking to add new talent to their squads.
With a shot at the big time the prize, the Australian players left nothing in the tank. The winning team, Kersh1Flood, who incidentally won the tournament without dropping a single game, featured Brad Shortland as one of their key players. Meason Camille and Kyle Lepua were among the other Australians who turned the heads of the present scouts with their skills.
As a result of their impressive showing in Hong Kong, Shortland, Camille and Lepua were selected to be eligible for the draft. On March 5, they will be waiting with bated breath to hear their name called in a draft pool of 205 players and the chance to join the preeminent esport basketball league on the world.
This year will be the second year of NBA 2K League. After last season’s success, 2019 will see the addition of four new expansion teams; T-Wolves Gaming, Lakers Gaming, Hawks Talon GC and Nets Gaming Crew. The new teams open up new spots for players to become a part of the league, increasing the chances we could see some Australians represent an NBA gaming squad.
For a rapidly growing group, the best way to get their basketball fix is playing on a court made out of 1’s and 0’s. Currently, Esports is in the midst of an explosion in popularity, with an audience of 557 million expected by 2021. In only the second year of its existence, NBA 2K League has a combined 1.8 million social media followers across the 21 teams. Now, in a matter of weeks, three Australians could lend their skill to this expanding sporting frontier, and make a living while they do.