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NBA sets deadline for Nets, other teams, to join NBA 2K league

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NBA 2K League Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The NBA 2K League has set a June 29 deadline for the Nets and 12 other NBA teams to decide whether they want to join the league’s eSports operation in the 2019 season, Sports Business Daily reports. That’s nearly two months before the first season is over.

Seventeen of the 30 NBA teams —but not the Nets— were charter members of the league that launched May 1, with the remainder declining for a variety of reasons. The NBA gave its franchises the option of joining but the Nets along with several big market teams, like the the Lakers, Clippers, Rockets and Bulls also declined to join ... and pay a $750,000 fee.

Brett Yormark told reporters last week that the Nets had adopted a wait-and-see attitude on the league’s first year. They are expected to make a decision on next season soon. Barclays Center is already the home venue for large-scale esports events.

“I think we’ll get to 30 teams, eventually, if it’s spread out over the next couple years, that’s very realistic,” NBA 2K League Managing Dir Brendan Donohue told SBD. The NBA declined to say if financial terms had changed since last year.

Viewership for the startup league has stayed around 5,000 average concurrent viewers, according to The Esports Observer Audience Insights, only a fraction of the audience of the top esports games. But Donohue said he has taken heart from a recent rebound in viewership.

Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick, which is the NBA’s partner in the NBA 2K, appeared on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” this week and noted the company is “excited” about the NBA 2K League, though execs “don’t expect any meaningful economic impact yet.”

He said, “It’s helping the brand over time and right now, esports is about a $1 billion market.” Analysts believe esports could grow to a $1.5B market in a couple of years, leading Zelnick to say, “We’d like a big chunk of that.”