NBA 2K League fans from all around the city gathered Friday night, as Raptors Uprising, in partnership with Coors Light and Boston Pizza, hosted its $2500 Pro Challenge at Boston Pizza in Toronto.
The event, hosted by TSN’s Digital SportsCentre Host Marissa Roberto, was an overall success with fans getting a chance to interact with, and even take on Raptors Uprising professionals.
“We just got back from New York, as we had our final regular-season game last night,” explained Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Esports Manager Shane Talbot. “Tonight, we’re running a 2K party where we have the final regular-season 2K League broadcast on. We also have local teams from Toronto out here competing against our guys, where our expectation is that our guys are going to win every game. But the way that we structured the challenge is that the team that walks away with the lowest point differential at the end of the night will take home $2500.”
In an entertaining last game of the evening, local team Witness The Grind, led by Ryan ‘Devillon’ De Villon who actually played in the league last year with Mavs Gaming, hung around just long enough with Raptors Uprising to earn the lowest point differential and secure the $2500 prize money. But as the Toronto-native mentions, it’s about more than just competing for the prize money.
“I’ve been to other events hosted by Raptors Uprising,” said Devillon. “They’re always really fun. It’s always great to see esports as a whole coming together in Toronto — and even Canada. My teammates and I, we all know each other through the game. We had never met in person, but we honestly became good friends by coming to these events. We come here and we have a great time with people you play with online all the time.”
Devillon says he’s hoping to return to the NBA 2K League one day, but certainly hasn’t taken his professional experiences for granted.
“It’s fun to sort of experience everything all in real life,” added Devillon. “Being on the stage last year was one of the best feelings in the world, and I hope every one of my teammates gets a chance to do that because there’s nothing better than doing something you love as a career.”
No one in the league knows that feeling more than Raptors Uprising second-year pro Kenneth “Kenny Got Work” Hailey, who has appeared in every game for Toronto over the past two seasons and is expected to return for a third. The Memphis-native, who now considers Toronto to be his second home, has witnessed first-hand how much an event like this helps grow the NBA 2K scene in the 6ix.
“Anytime we can get together and compete for prize money, all while getting the opportunity to engage with fans, it’s a lot of fun,” said Hailey. “I’ve also seen the growth from the first season to the second season. When I came in year two, as soon as I went downtown, fans would come up to me and ask for a picture, and they’re pointing and saying ‘it’s Kenny Got Work!’ It’s pretty crazy.”
— vRobar (@vRobar2k) July 20, 2019
None of that exposure would’ve been possible without events like this hosted by Raptors Uprising, Coors Light, and Boston Pizza. Moreover, an event like this wouldn’t be possible without the platform that the NBA 2K League provides.
“I love what the NBA 2K League is doing,” said Marissa Roberto. “I think it’s really tough to sell something new to people, especially when they’re used to seeing people playing basketball in real life, but they’re building something special here and something for the community — and you can tell. Everybody that is part of the community loves it and they take part it in. That’s what it’s all about.”
Raptors Uprising and MLSE hope that continuing to host events like this around the city will further help foster the development of Toronto’s NBA 2K community. However, as Talbot points out, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
“The turnout we have today is incredible,” said Talbot. “Where we are going to be 10 years from now is hard to imagine, to be honest. Today, we are just excited to be here planting the seeds.”