NBA creates e-sports league for basketball

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The tie-up is the biggest of its kind in the US

The National Basketball Association has teamed up with video game publisher Take-Two Interactive to create an e-sports league in the US.

It represents one of the biggest tie-ups between video gaming and a major sports league.

Eventually all of the 30 NBA teams will have an e-sports division, but initially only a few will be chosen.

In England, Premier League clubs Manchester City and West Ham have signed up e-sports players.

The basketball e-league – known as the NBA 2K ELeague – will start playing in 2018. The teams, which will be made up of five players, will play a five-month season that mirrors the real NBA season.

Those chosen to make up the teams will be given salaries and play the game as avatars that they create for themselves, rather than representing actual players.

“We believe we have a unique opportunity to develop something truly special for our fans and the young and growing e-sports community,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

“We look forward to combining our best-in-class NBA sports team operators with Take-Two’s competitive gaming expertise to create a brand new league experience.”

Strauss Zelnick, chairman of Take-Two said: “Through the NBA 2K series, which is renowned throughout the world for capturing the authenticity of the NBA and the passion of its fans, we have a proven track record of highly successful collaboration.

“With this new venture, Take-Two and the NBA aim to fuel the accelerating growth of e-sports and take the thrill of competition to exciting new heights.”

The UK is also recognising the growing importance of e-sports.

In May 2016, West Ham became the first club in the UK to sign a professional video game competitor, Sean Allen, who represents the club at Fifa video game tournaments.

Brian Blau, a director at research firm Gartner, thinks that e-sports could grow rapidly in the next few years.

“Some estimates suggest that in the next five years, e-sports could become bigger than real sport, in terms of generating money and fans,” he said.

“It is another avenue of interaction for gamers, that is feeding off the interest in watching others play games.”