The video game NBA 2K has its own league–a joint venture by the NBA and Take-Two Interactive–and its teams are open for drafting.
The NBA 2K League Asia-Pacific (APAC) Invitational, a regional videogame tournament that currently features 40 players from the Philippines Australia, China, Indonesia, and New Zealand, is being held in the country for the first time at the High Grounds Cafe in Quezon City from November 17 to 18, 2023.
Five tournament winners will be given eligibility to join the 2024 NBA 2K League Draft–just like a chance to be inducted into the NBA. A $5,000 cash prize also awaits the champions.
Teams are playing 5 versus 5 using unique characters – five minutes per quarter – and players cannot use existing NBA players.
Heavy favorites coming into the tournament are the members of eGilas Pilipinas, who were recently crowned regional champions of eFIBA Open Season 2 (Asian qualifiers).
They even snagged 100+ point victories in the qualifiers against India twice.
Bannered by esports team Laus Group Eagles, Clark "LGE_ZaavaLCB" Banzon, Isaiah "LGE_ice2fast" Alindada, Prich "LGE_DonPriich" Diez, and Julian "LGE_LeSocial" Mallillin alongside Joshua "LGE_JMac" Machado who is not part of the original eGilas squad were expected to represent the Philippines even against the visitors and take it all.
But NAOS Esports, a fellow Philippine esports team, dealt a stunning loss to the Nite Alparas-led gang, 2-1, in a best-of-three series on Friday.
Game 3 saw a back-and-forth affair, with neither team edging a huge gap. The match was even tied at 36-36 coming into the payoff period.
However, NAOS' Michael "NAOS_LikeMike" Villegas sparked a run in the fourth by sniping threes to steal the victory from LGE. He led the squad with 20 points and shot a whopping 86 percent from beyond the arc. Juan Gabriel "NAOS_SpamGod" Dela Pena also contributed 10 markers and seven rebounds.
Team captain Enzell "NAOS_Youngimba" Socrates told ABS-CBN News in the pre-match interview that they were not scared of any qualifying team, including players from Australia, China, Indonesia, and New Zealand.
In the postgame interview, he said that composure was key for them to snatch the series. "Our tactic is just to play our game, stay composed, and always do our best," Enzell said.
Asked what Michael was feeling when he was draining his threes in the fourth quarter, Enzell said he became "emotional."
"The emotions are coming out... especially against LGE, the best team in the Philippines, so we are the underdogs," he said.
LGE's Clark Banzon also shared the woes his team faced and added that they lacked specifically in defensive stops.
"No one was communicating, too many offballs, too many (miscommunications). Felt like the offense was there but defensively, we were just... we're not like we did," he said. "NAOS did a good job, but for us, I felt like we could have done better."
Round two of the tournament proper, including the semis and the finals, will take place on Saturday at the same venue.
Several Philippine teams are still competing in the APAC Invitational as of writing.