Can The NBA 2K League Become "The Greatest Show on Earth"? Here Are 30 Ideas.

Industry Guest Post: Brett Morris is a former Senior Vice President for Mark Cuban (MarkCubanCompanies.com) and former President/COO of esports innovator Super League Gaming (SuperLeague.com). He’s now a consultant in esports and other emerging technologies and can be reached at Brett@MorrisStrategic.com


Last week I wanted to completely change the perception of the NBA 2K League from “video game basketball,” (which one journalist recently called it) to the “Greatest Show on Earth.”

So I invited showmen P.T. Barnum and Evel Knievel to a brainstorming session. They invited their friends Roone Arledge (Monday Night Football creator) and Bill Veeck (innovative baseball promoter). Colonel Tom Parker (Elvis’ manager) showed up a little late.

The goal: Take an NBA 2K League broadcast and turn it into must-watch entertainment for gaming, esports and NBA fans — of all ages and levels of interest — while painstakingly retaining the authenticity of the core games of basketball and NBA 2K.

The perspective: To succeed in esports/gaming programming, one must constantly blow the viewers’ doors off. Non-stop flame throwing. Keep in mind, this is an industry that saw its second-most-watched game, PUBG, be replaced by a similar, yet new and now most-watched game, Fortnite, almost overnight.

The brainstorm rules: You can’t recommend changing any of the core programming that Visual Concepts and Take Two Interactive continue to perform miracles on to get ready for the inaugural NBA 2K League season. Any ideas must be additive to the core game. (i.e.: no recommending four point shots, etc).

So, after many drinks and much reminiscing (Knievel’s Wembley Stadium jump stories are tough to beat), here’s just some of the ideas we came up with. Like any brainstorming, some are wacky and some are great, and some we’re keeping secret for other potential clients. In no particular order :

  1. Trash Cash: Reward players who do the best trash-talking and have Twitch viewers chime in with their favorites.
  2. Live Twitch viewer rewards: “Twitch chat participant John Z, you get $100 if Knick Gaming scores on their next possession.”
  3. For casual fan perspective, make sure every NBA 2K League player has an NBA player comparison in terms of describing their game.
  4. In-game money challenges. “Next team to score six points wins $500.”
  5. Hand Cam. Casual fans have no idea how great these guys really are with their stick skills. Show it.
  6. Who’s working on real nicknames, not mostly lifeless gamer tags? And casual fans still want to know real names too.
  7. Pressure? Let’s hook them up to heart monitors and put those stats on the screen.
  8. Savage Interview. Pause the game and interview the player: “Why did you just make that crazy pass?”
  9. Live head coach microphone and cam. Can coaches really make a difference in esports, especially during a game?
  10. Pause the game and let Twitch viewers call one offensive play for each team.
  11. Dedicate one practice game per week as amateurs versus pros with the amateurs being from the home team’s city (and put live on Twitch).
  12. Position games as “shows” and not “events.”
  13. Dedicate a Thursday night game to traditional broadcast TV. Make it the “pub game” of the week and encourage micro bets at local watering holes.
  14. Constantly talk about prize money. As in, if this guy doesn’t step up his game he’s literally handing $5 thousand to his opponent.
  15. Make all the different team uniforms unique and original. Don’t do what Overwatch did and make all the team jerseys the same construction (just with different logos/colors).
  16. Speaking of uniforms, make them complete uniforms from head to toe— i.e., give them pants too (maybe shootaround type pants), not just random jeans players wear in other leagues.
  17. Don’t schedule matchups until the previous week’s contests are complete. Creating early rivalries are key.
  18. Pay Nike or Adidas or Supreme or Wieden+Kennedy to do an ad campaign featuring their products on NBA 2K League “athletes.”
  19. Don’t be afraid to constantly promote individual greatness and create discussion around it. As in, “Fresh Prince JT is the current favorite for MVP.”
  20. Make play-by-play and color casters/announcers a priority. Pay them really well. Nothing will sink the league faster than bad casters. And make sure they know both 2K and basketball — there’s a difference.
  21. Listen-ins to player conversations in headsets.
  22. Come up with interesting new stats like “number of ankles broken,” “number of posters created,” etc.
  23. Make sure to always mention players’ hometowns.
  24. Coach draws up a play viewable to the audience watching online.
  25. Create a dope soundtrack by pairing a classic stadium organist with a DJ.
  26. Hire KingSwish to do more of these play recreations. Nothing shows the realism of 2K better.
  27. Make sure there’s at least one player face on the screen at all times.
  28. Create villains first. Then heroes.
  29. Use halftime to connect with pop culture with music videos and movie trailer premieres.
  30. In future seasons, every team roster needs to have at least one international player or one player from the team’s city.