Pro Gamers Like Mel East Are Crucial For The NBA 2K League’s Future

    Last week, the NBA 2K League successfully launched their first competitive tournament called “The Tip-Off,” amassing over 1 million viewers on Twitch. 

    The program’s virtual success doesn’t come as a surprise considering the game’s cult following, the tournament’s accessible streaming integration and the competitive, yet at times, down-to-the-wire games. This full combination creates a highly engaging online experience with limited pauses in between.  

    But, the excitement and comradery that lives online for gamers didn’t fully equate to the actual in-person experience. 

    While attending Group D’s session on Friday, I noticed that there were several lull moments and minimal audience engagement in pockets throughout the competition. Most of the interaction and audience commentary came from other players within the league who were waiting around for their time to play. This could be a bad case of timing on my part for when I attended the games, but I don’t view this as a major problem and simply see it as an opportunity for growth considering this is the league and the NBA’s first time with such a highly sophisticated gaming competition.

    The Shadow League on Twitter

    TSL contributor @erinasimon is on the ground at the NBA 2K League Tip-Off Tournament. Here are a few pics early on. #NBA2KLeague

    But, the biggest question moving forward is how will the league mimic and match the engaging environment online with the in-person experience at the location?

    We probably won’t get the full answer any time soon, but while attending Group D’s games, I consistently saw one person who may be a piece to the puzzle – CLTX Gaming‘s Ahmed Kasana, aka Mel East.

    76ers Gaming did end up winning the first NBA 2K League tournament in a dramatic fashion, but even with that, I could definitely see Kasana winning the hearts of viewers with his energized charisma, catching the eyes and ears of many. His competitive nature and tenacity were infectious, sparking chants from other players who waited for the moment to compete against him. This alone grabbed my attention and created such an electrifying experience in-person.

    Like in most competitive environments, there’s always the hero that you would come to love and the villain that you would come to hate but love for his/her undeniable skills and intensity.

    NBA2KLeague on Twitter

    A teammate that hypes you up like @MelEast2k : https://t.co/v1LLynxNVO https://t.co/cf6kxd1h6v

    Over time, we will see which role Kasana will either fall into or embrace. But, no matter what position he takes, the aura that he projects is one that the league should grasp and push forward to hopefully create a more engaging environment in-person.

    Erin Ashey Simon is a writer, producer, host and contributor for The Shadow League. Host of Cheddar Esports and Grass Routes Podcast, a former college athlete who passes the time playing flag football. Simon has previous work experience at Cycle Media, REVOLT TV, The Wall Street Journal, and more. Originally from New Jersey, Simon graduated from the University of Kentucky.