The NBA 2K Players Tournament ended with the Phoenix Suns‘ Devin Booker beating teammate Deandre Ayton. It was the conclusion of a 16-player tournament broadcast on ESPN in which NBA stars played against one another in NBA 2K20. The tournament, organized in the wake of the NBA season’s postponement due to the coronavirus, had several memorable moments and highlighted some of the best gamers in the NBA. Not surprisingly, the player who came out on top also happens to play video games like Call of Duty on a regular basis. After everything we’ve seen, we had our experts dive deeper into the tournament to answer some questions about what we saw over the past week.
Who is your MVP of the tournament and why?
Arda Ocal: Patrick Beverley, hands down. Actually, let me specify: Patrick Beverley when he is winning. He got a little quiet when the games were competitive, but when he was rolling, on a lead and felt in control, he cranked up the entertainment value. He makes you want to watch him. He’s loud, obnoxious, boisterous, animated and, most importantly, FUN! That’s what I wanted from this tournament — to have fun watching it! And Pat Bev gave that to me in spades. So he’s my MVP — not to mention he has a painting of himself on his wall. That’s a straight baller move.
Tyler Erzberger: Even as someone who grew up in Los Angeles as a Lakers fan, I have to tip my cap to Pat Bev. While I knew he was going to bring the bark and the theatrics, I didn’t know if the actual bite would be there. Well, I was completely wrong. Not only did the defensive specialist keep up the trash talk that encompasses the spirit of competitive gaming, but like any true great in esports, he had the actual talent on the sticks to back it up. I hope one day after his retirement we see Beverley own an esports organization.
Jacob Wolf: Patrick Beverley definitely got the eyeballs, given his on-the-court trash talk translating online, too, but Devin Booker was the real MVP. Booker is a noted gamer, a member of esports team 100 Thieves, and his performance in NBA 2K20 — a game he doesn’t play normally on stream — showed if you’re good at gaming in general, you’re probably a good gamer across the board. Good looks, Book. Good looks.
Emily Rand: The final match was a Phoenix Suns rivalry match between teammates Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker, so ultimately the winner was the Suns. Jokes aside, I’m agreeing with Jacob here and going with Booker. I’ll reiterate this a few times in this piece, but if there was any actual pressure to win this tournament, Booker definitely felt it due to the fact that most people know he games regularly. And if they didn’t know before this coronavirus pandemic, they do now.
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Who in your opinion took the tournament most seriously?
Erzberger: I’m going with Deandre Ayton. When this tournament was first announced, we knew guys like Devin Booker and Andre Drummond were gamers. I had Drummond as my winner after interviewing him last year about his love of gaming and his multiple setups. I didn’t see Ayton coming. From the tipoff of the event, Ayton was going full force, from his silky play to a lethal mouth fueled by new-age gaming lingo that even made Beverley quiet down in their semifinals. After this tournament, I have an urge to interview Ayton — not about being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, but just about his skills in gaming.
Ocal: I agree with Tyler and will expand to include Devin Booker and make it a Phoenix Suns clean sweep. Which is fitting, because the Suns’ organization took content creation during the paused NBA season most seriously. The team brought in athletes from the NBA, WNBA, NFL, MLS, streamers and NBA 2K players to simulate regular-season games. They even had games on a local radio station, the first time an NBA 2K game had ever been broadcast over radio airwaves. So it’s poetic, in a way, to see the Suns achieve success in this tournament after crushing the content game on social media.
Wolf: Ayton definitely shined throughout the tournament. Every single match of his was enjoyable to watch. He was locked in, trash talked later in the tournament, and played super well. His semifinal faceoff with Beverley was one of the most entertaining matches in the tournament while simultaneously being pretty competitive, too. Seeing him use his own team and beat Beverley and the Nuggets, who are the better team in and out of the game, was some good stuff.
Rand: Before this tournament began, I picked Booker to take it all because I already knew how much he gamed. I’ve even watched a few of his Warzone streams with 100 Thieves’ Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag. It’s not a surprise he took this tournament seriously because he does game and stream more than most players, but so what? If anything, he had a bit more on the line because people already knew that he played video games a lot, and he showed up.
Patrick Beverley gets up and walks off after losing to Deandre Ayton.
What was the best play of the tournament?
Wolf: Booker posterizing Montrezl Harrell using Montrezl Harrell in game! That was just cold. Booker had a number of highlights throughout the entire tournament, but this was definitely the highlight to watch. Booker’s reaction, laughing after chirping at Harrell for not trash talking like he does on the court, makes it even more sweeter.
Erzberger: Ayton picking the Phoenix Suns to finish off Beverley in the semifinals was the peak moment of the tournament. Following a close game in their best-of-three series where he sneaked out a close win, the Suns’ big man picked his own team (one of the weakest in the game) to add insult to injury in his march toward the final against his teammate Booker. Not only did he win with the Suns, he crushed with them. Maybe after this tournament the game developers can show a little more love to the boys out in the desert.
Rand: I have to agree with Jacob on the Booker-Harrell match. The audacity to take out your real-life opponent with his in-game avatar was amazing and as disrespectful as you can get in a video game outside of the beloved tactical crouch in a first-person shooter.
Ocal: Agreed with the above. Montrezl Harrell getting put on a poster by himself is just ridiculous. D-Book has bragging rights for a while after that one. It also perfectly contrasts with Domantas Sabonis, who kept chirping himself in the game — “Oh my God, he sucks … he really sucks.” But for Ayton to pick the Suns, who are ranked 27th in NBA 2K, to defeat Beverley’s Denver Nuggets, who are ranked fifth, to punch his ticket to the final is impressive. Even if it’s not a single “play” it deserves recognition.
Montrezl Harrell gives Devin Booker some grief about his slow internet connection.
Who had the best gamer setup of the tournament?
Erzberger: Adam Sandler would be proud watching Rui Hachimura in this tournament with how much importance he put in having a dedicated water boy during timeouts. Although his setup wasn’t as flashy as others — Beverley with a painting of himself behind him, Drummond with a beautiful lake and cityscape in the background — the fact that he had a water boy for this thing makes me give him the victory. Theatrics are a key element of esports, and Hachimura had that in spades.
Wolf: Hassan Whiteside had a theater room, so that deserves a mention, but Pat Bev’s painting of himself behind him as he played is baller. Kevin Durant‘s was by far the worst, but typical for a west-facing Brooklyn apartment, as the Manhattan skyline sat behind him. Everyone else was pretty basic (except Hachimura, as Tyler mentioned). One day I hope to be as baller as Pat Bev with a painting of myself behind me when I do on-air interviews.
Rand: Hachimura is my runner-up due to his theatrics as previously mentioned, but I want to give a shout-out to Derrick Jones Jr. His setup looked like gamer heaven. It had multiple surfaces, multiple monitors, a stockpile of water, a fridge and a place to display his shoes. This is not someone who simply sat down in front of a part of his house he wanted to show off. This is someone who, if he doesn’t game regularly, at the very least has a specific gaming setup in a room dedicated to gaming.
Ocal: Some of the players had a wall behind them, which is never interesting. Deandre Ayton seemed like he was in a comfortable chair — gamer headset on, mirror behind him — and did a couple wardrobe changes, including wearing an AC Milan jersey during one game. I can dig it. Shout out to Beverley, though, who has a painting of himself on his wall. Like I said above, that’s a straight baller move.
Where does Booker rank among athletes who are gamers (across any game)?
Erzberger: I think we can all agree Booker is dangerous in the gaming world, and not just in sport simulation games. He’s an authentic lover of esports and video games, even wearing 100 Thieves merchandise as he walks into arenas for games, and I respect his skills as one of the best gamers in all of sports. Still, though, there’s one player I really believe this tournament missed out on: Ben Simmons.
The Australian can match Booker when it comes to his love of gaming and has already won a player tournament before, winning a Mobile PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds tournament in 2019 by blowing out names such as Drummond, Lonzo Ball and even reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. If we’re going to get more of these innovative showdowns while players are in quarantine, give me the ultimate battle: Booker vs. Simmons in a series of video games, ranging from 2K to first-person shooters to fighting games. That’s the match I want to see right now.
Wolf: Booker is among the best of them. I’ve seen some other solid athlete gamers, like San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, Memphis Grizzlies guard Grayson Allen, Drummond and Simmons, but Booker is definitely clean in several games. His dominance over Harrell and Ayton shows that those skills transfer from Call of Duty to 2K and presumably to others, too. I’m down for the Booker vs. Simmons series Tyler’s proposing. Book it.
Rand: Honestly, as much as I’ve sung Booker’s praises here, I think this question begets another discussion on gaming generally versus being really good at certain games. I think Booker would take out most in Call of Duty or Warzone, although there are others such as the aforementioned Drummond and Simmons, who may give him a run for his money. Basically, it depends on what game we’re talking about. Could he take on recent Madden winner Derwin James in Madden, for example? Probably not. I have no doubt that there are traditional athletes out there who are better than Booker at certain games, while Booker would be better at others. Gaming is not like one traditional sport, people! There are several games under the larger umbrella of gaming and esports.
Ocal: Very good, actually. He’s actually a gamer. He plays a lot of Call of Duty. He streams. You could invite him to a Fortnite pro am or a Warzone charity tournament and nobody would bat an eye. I’m very happy he won, because he is a good celebrity/athlete representative for gamers everywhere. He seems to genuinely love gaming, and you love to see it. Let’s put it this way — we see a lot of athletes getting into gaming for various reasons. Some do it because it’s good for the brand. Others because it’s the hot thing at the moment. Maybe they are paid to talk about a certain game, maybe they are doing it as a favor to a family member or a friend. I love propping up and seeing the real ones — people such as Booker, Meyers Leonard, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Zach Werenski. They play games and they stream even if there isn’t mainstream appeal for a particular game at the moment. They are just having fun. All signs point to D-Book being in that camp, and I love to see it.