BBNZ E-Select team geared to play in inaugural FIBA E-sports Open

Basketball New Zealand is excited to announce that an E-Select team will be taking part in FIBA’s inaugural E-sports Open.

The international event will take place from 19-21 June, with gamers from five conferences taking to digital courts to find out which country has the best NBA 2K players.

Teams will be made up of a minimum of five athletes, accounting for each player on the floor. Representing New Zealand is captain Solomona Faitaua-Nanai from Christchurch, Wellingtonians Brent Harrison and Troy McClure, and Aucklanders Aidan Zivkovich Gilmour and Jaden Cruz.

The team was selected and will be coached by NBA 2K League player Jack Stevenson. The 2019 NBA 2K League Pistons GT (affiliate of the Detroit Pistons) team member hand-picked each Kiwi competitor based on their experience and success in events such as the APAC invitational (Asia Pacific NBA League Qualifier), ANZPL (Australia/New Zealand) Pro-am League, NBA2K LPL League and the Maori Basketball NBA 2K tournament.

Contestants will play remotely on a PlayStation 4 console and will battle each other in NBA 2K20’s Pro-Am mode. The matches will be live streamed on FIBA’s Facebook, YouTube and Twitch pages, with BBNZ cross-posting these across their own channels. The Kiwi’s first game is against Australia tonight at 10:45pm.

Stevenson says the possibilities for aspiring gamers is endless and that he was chuffed when approached by BBNZ to lend a hand.

“I started playing as a hobby, but when I put serious time and effort in the game I realised it could take me places. It’s one of the fastest-growing E-sports [NBA 2K] in the world and one of the fastest-growing gaming communities.

“I’m really excited to be working with BBNZ and it was very humbling to be asked to help put the squad together. The team is ready to take on the Aussies and claim the Oceania Conference crown.”

The E-sports industry has shown incredible growth over the past five years, with casual viewership jumping from 153 million in 2015 to 245 million by the end of 2019, and dedicated onlookers going from 165 million to just under 200 million in the same time frame.

Looking more specifically at the game being used at this FIBA-sanctioned event, NBA2K launched its league in 2017 and is owned/run in part by the NBA. Its athletes for the 21 NBA2K teams can be signed to a salary as high as $35,000 USD per a season, as well as receiving prize money for placements in tournaments and the championship.

Basketball New Zealand Chief Executive Iain Potter says the 2020 E-sports Open is a great opportunity to explore an untapped space.

“When FIBA came to us with the invitation, we were more than happy to accept and dip our toes into the water.

“This is a great chance for us to get a better understanding of E-sports and align ourselves with FIBA as they consider future events.

“It’s no secret that E-sports is a huge market and we recognise the pull it has for all basketball enthusiasts, not just those who play the game in its physical form.”

The BBNZ E-Select team will play five exhibition games against Australia over three days, with the winner being the first to three victories.

Game dates and timings (NZST):

Game 1 – 10:45pm 19 June (Friday)

Game 2 – 11:25pm 19 June

Game 3 – 10:45pm 20 June (Saturday)

Game 4 – 10:45pm 21 June (Sunday)

Game 5 – 11:25pm 21 June