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NBA considering Chinese eSports league - Report

Basketball league's ambitions to expand in the country and competitive gaming could overlap

Why start one eSports league when you can start two? According to CNBC, the NBA may supplement its announced North American NBA 2K league with a separate eSports league in China.

"When you factor in not just filling arenas, but the content offering and what that can do with the millions of people watching it online, we think the sky's really the limit," NBA China CEO David Shoemaker told the outlet at the Consumer Electronics Show Asia yesterday.

The league is reportedly considering whether to have the Chinese NBA eSports league be a separate entity or to simply have Chinese teams participating in the North American league that was announced earlier this year.

There would be hurdles to an integrated approach. While the North American market plays the NBA 2K series on consoles, 2K Sports partnered with Tencent to create a separate title, the free-to-play NBA 2K Online, with Chinese gamers specifically in mind. On top of that, the North American NBA 2K eLeague will consist of squads run and operated by existing NBA teams. If the goal is to eventually have a mirror league with every NBA team running a direct eSports counterpart, it's unclear how Chinese entrants would fit in.

Logistical questions aside, it's clear the NBA has a strong interest in expanding its footprint in both eSports and China. And given the popularity of eSports in China--the country accounted for 57% of all online eSports viewing globally last year, according to IHS Markit--it seems like a natural intersection of the NBA's interests.

"The reality is most of our fans still can't buy that ticket and 99-point-something percent of our fans will never get to go see an NBA game, so we're focused a little bit on tech and how we can use tech to bring that NBA experience to our fans," Shoemaker said.

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