“Toronto saw something in me,” Kenneth Hailey likes to say.
A former member of the Pro-Am team “Still Trill,” Kenny and his team won $250,000 USD in the 2017 Road to the All-Star Game tournament. His experience on the big stage and his consistency in NBA 2K Pro-Am over the years gave Raptors Uprising the confidence to grab him with the 11th overall pick in the franchise-defining 2018 NBA 2K League draft.
“Whether you’re a new fan or someone who has been following competitive 2K for years, Kenny is an undisputed legend,” said Shane Talbot, Esports Manager for Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment.
The Raptors are the only non-American team in the NBA 2K League. Adjusting to a new culture is never an easy task, and when the move bears with it the weight of first-round expectations, the experience for some can be overwhelming. But Kenny’s experience and positivity enabled him to fit in immediately in Toronto.
“They made me feel right at home,” Kenny said. “They welcomed me with open arms.”
He did his part to embrace the city in return. The Raptors engaged in community-building projects throughout the year, and eventually took home the NBA 2K League’s Community Engagement Award. For Kenny, winning the award meant a lot.
“It’s so much bigger than a game,” he said. “Visiting an underprivileged children’s community center, where the team played basketball and hung out with the kids, stood out as a particularly meaningful experience. To see that we made their day was incredible.”
The most fun I’ve had since I’ve been in Toronto. Just an amazing program for amazing people. We were supposed to go and inspire them but they inspired me! I’ll be back soon https://t.co/xb5QMg5kbm
— IG: kennygotwork (@KennyGotWork) August 10, 2018
Kenny wants to continue to make a positive impact on the Toronto community. The fans played an integral part in welcoming him to Toronto, and he’s eager to reciprocate.
“He’s a great representative of Toronto and our culture,” Talbot said. “I think his southern charm and manners from growing up in Memphis go over very well here with our fans and organization.”
Kenny made his mark not only on the community but on the team as well. After struggling at the beginning of season one, Toronto turned their season around with a remarkable 7-1 run that netted the fourth seed in the NBA 2K League Playoffs. Kenny led the charge by moving to small forward, playing on the shot-creating slasher build, which helped the Raptors develop the most balanced offense in the league. But the team fell to Cavs Legion GC in the first round of the playoffs.
Despite the loss, the team held its head high, with the help of the fans. “The support we get is second to none,” said Kenny. He’s intent on recapturing the balance that got the Raptors to the playoffs and demonstrating the consistency that Toronto was so enamored of from the beginning.
Over the offseason, Kenny returned to Memphis. To prepare for the Raptors adding four new players in the March entry draft, Kenny has worked on expanding his game and adapting to NBA 2K19, playing more point guard and center. With fellow protected player All Hail Trey having proved himself at three positions last season, the Raptors are poised to be one of the most dangerous and versatile teams in the league.
Y’all didn’t hear much from me in pro-am this off-season but you will hear my name season 2 @NBA2KLeague
— IG: kennygotwork (@KennyGotWork) February 10, 2019
Teams protected just two players from their season one roster (though some retained more at the expense of draft picks), and Kenny knows that there are plenty of players envious of his spot. But the safety of a guaranteed spot hasn’t changed his mentality. There will be no adjustment to Toronto this time: Kenny is as consistent and as locked in as ever.
He’s ready to take the Raptors and all of Canada past the first round. “I love what they stand for,” Kenny said. “I love playing with the country on my back.”
Before season one, Toronto saw something in Kenny. Now, Kenny sees something in Toronto.
— Raptors Uprising GC (@RaptorsGC) September 3, 2018