I’m not going to bring somebody in that’s going to mess up our culture and what we are building over here.
The Heat Check Gaming ended the inaugural 2018 NBA 2K League season with a heartbreaking series loss to Knicks Gaming in 2K finals.
After the first season, Heat Check Gaming was able to retain three players from their 2018 team. This still left their six-man roster half full. Those spots were filled with #1 pick Lytel “Lotty” Martin, #62 pick Jordan “JMoneyRep817” Martinez and #84 pick Anmool “ChaChingSingh” Singh; pieces Heat Check Gaming hopes will help solve their problems.
“You’ve got to piece them together. It’s really like a puzzle. Everything’s not going to fit, no matter how good someone is,” Heat Check Gaming coach Derric “Famous Enough” Franklin told The Shadow League.
TSL spoke with Famous Enough before and after the draft about the team’s drafting process, how personality means more than talent, and how sometimes you have to take care of real life to ensure the games continue.
Personality Is Everything
For Famous Enough and Heat Check Gaming, their entire draft mentality is centered on the person more than the player.
Famous said, “The first thing I wanted to do was check out personalities because that’s where we’re going to start. Once people make it into that draft pool, everybody’s good. But, everybody is not a fit on your team, no matter how good they are.”
One way he judges who would mesh well with the team is by watching countless hours of online NBA 2K streams from players. That way he can see how they play with strangers, which the Heat Check Gaming essentially would be for the potential draftees.
“If you see somebody playing with somebody they’ve never heard of and they’re kind of standoffish to them or they’re not getting them involved or something like that, it’s going be the same thing when you bring them to the house.”
The team’s #1 pick Lotty has played with others in Heat Check Gaming and traveled to the NBA 2K League studio in New York last season because he had friends playing in the league. That familiarity and Famous Enough viewing Lotty as a “good guy” — in addition to being a talented NBA 2K player — made him the perfect choice for the team’s first pick.
Before the draft kicked off, players were reminded that no matter where you end up, you represent your team both on and off the sticks. Eric “Timelycook” Donald was suspended for 2019 NBA 2K League season because he violated the league’s player code of conduct by “sharing of inappropriate and offensive videos over social media,” according to the league’s press release about the suspension. With the possibility of damaging a team’s roster, it’s imperative that a player’s comments and actions outside of the league are taken into account.
“It has to be a factor. I’m one of the managers that wants you to be yourself. But, if being yourself is too extreme, then it’s a no for me,” Famous Enough said. “I’m not going to bring somebody in that’s going to mess up our culture and what we are building over here. I love people to be themselves. But, just show us your momma raised you right. Don’t go too far.”
Famous Enough may value personality over skill, but you still need to know how to ball to be on the team. To determine that requires the Heat Check Gaming coach to watch more NBA 2K games than he can remember.
Watch Film And Knowing Your Needs
For three weeks in December 2018, the NBA 2K League held Combine tryouts where prospective draft talents played in five-vs-five games against each other online. The best 200 players from the Combine moved on to the interview stage, speaking with NBA 2K League team representatives. That’s when Famous Enough was able to get his best look at the personality of the players. But, just like this season, it was a team effort.
“I don’t interview anybody by myself because I already have pre-determined notions of somebody. So, I bring like four or five different people from the Heat and we interview them together.”
After the interview process, the NBA 2K League committee whittled the list of 200 players down to 150. Once that list of players came out, Famous Enough started forming the potential draft order for Heat Check Gaming. Thankfully for Heat Check Gaming, he did his homework well before the Combine started.
“I go into [prosepective draftees’] streams and I’m watching them. A lot of times if it’s somebody I don’t know, I won’t even announce that I’m watching them. I just want to see how they are in their own environment. Just pick them apart without saying nothing. Then, next time I come around, I might say, ‘I’m in here’ and see how they change.”
After all of the interviews were done and the games had been played and meticulously analyzed, it was time for the draft night. But, months earlier, Famous Enough was prescient enough to know the Lotty was going to be their draft pick and it required the Heat Check Gaming coach to go beyond the game to make sure that happened.
Help Beyond The Pixels
Unlike traditional sporting drafts, a lot of the NBA 2K League hopefuls have work obligations outside of NBA 2K League, so, sometimes adaptation needs to occur months in advance. Drafting someone who has to choose between quitting their job and playing NBA 2K for four to 4 1/2 months is risky. Lotty’s life as a Mount Vernon police officer could’ve precluded his involvement in NBA 2K League if Famous didn’t take his support beyond the pixels and controllers.
“I helped him orchestrate his in-season plans. When he was making the pool he asked me to get in touch with the [Mount Vernon Police Department] so [NBA 2K League Managing Director] Brendan Donohue could talk to his police chief and they figure out how to work.”
Thanks to extra effort from Famous Enough and Donohue, Lotty will be able to take a break from police work to compete in the NBA 2K League and once the off-season starts he can go back to the same job.
Stories such as that one highlight the most valuable talent to have during the draft night: adaptation.
Adapt on Draft Time
The nature of any draft is unpredictable, so adaptation can be the difference between scrambling to get a player that eventually is a bust and being prescient enough to pick a diamond in the rough. Chemistry is the key to success at Heat Check Gaming, but sometimes, when a superstar talent lands in your lap, you have to adjust your draft mentality on the fly.
“I had J. Money as a first-round pick. He was somebody I didn’t even interview because I figured he’d be taken in the first round before we even picked him. But, as he started sliding it was a great fit to complete the team.”
Heat Gaming Check’s original choice for a third-round pick was selected earlier in the draft, leaving Famous Enough with roughly 20-25 minutes to decide on his team’s future lineup. The draft night surprise pick of JMoneyRep817 may be the final piece in the next NBA 2K League super team. Or, at least, that’s what Heat Check Gaming hope.
“I told my guys, ‘You aren’t going to be able to build a dream team in two seasons, it’s going to take time,” [Famous] said. “But, when J. Money started sliding I was like, ‘Wait a minute, we might be able to do it this year. So, I took him.”
Like all drafts, we won’t know how good or bad Heat Check Gaming did until the season opener on April 2.