In line with its “Prove Yourself” hashtag, the developing NBA 2K League is proving itself as the next esports league to take seriously. Last Friday, the league released some details about player compensation and benefits. Of course, these aren’t flashy deals when compared to what the NBA’s pros get when they ink their rookie deals. But the groundwork is solid: a $35,000 base salary for each of the 17 first-round picks, and a $32,000 base salary for all other players, with insurance and a retirement plan for the duration of the six-month inaugural season, in addition to the ability to secure endorsement deals with outside partners and collect revenue from streaming. All of this serves as the baseline, with teams who win the major tournaments collecting part of the $1 million prize pool for the year.
Speculation shows that between all of the above factors, the best (or most popular) players could see a six-figure income, while even the bottom-tier player stands to see at least $40,000. Not bad for the average demographic of professional gamers. The league, after all, is still ahead of its very first season. Some other games didn’t see these income levels for players until three or four years later. Some still have not provided this level of stability. So these long-awaited details provide some key proof that this league begins with a certain level of legitimacy, a trait other leagues have lacked as they transitioned from casual to professional. Before today, we relied on the NBA’s reputation to assume that 2K players could see real opportunity, but now it’s pretty surely validated as the real deal.
Of course, the base salary is likely a temporary measure. After a season or so, we could expect that the player market would become freer, with organizations offering competitive salaries like we see in other games, and in the NBA itself. The rate at which this happens will be directly proportional to the league’s initial popularity, and getting the word out and people watching has been something the league’s pursued aggressively over the past months. So with a good amount of viewership, be prepared to see the league really take off, and hopefully create additional tournaments and events.
The league is currently in its combine stage, in which over 70,000 amateur players compete to be one of just 102 players who will be drafted and sign contracts in March. The season is set to begin in April.
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