FIFTEEN DAYS AFTER After the NBA suspension, New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Hart needed a break. He had been locked in a battle alongside Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson in another Call of Duty session.
Between rounds of dodging virtual bullets, each moment streamed live from his home in New Orleans via his Twitch page that has 47,000 followers, Hart zeroed in on his monitor and answered a fan’s question. It was one that became very familiar.
“How is the quarantine?” Hart read aloud when more comments came in.
“Boring as hell!”
For Hart and the rest of the NBA, the past few weeks have been spent desperately trying to fill the void during the coronavirus pandemic.
Individual workouts can take two hours. Watching “Tiger King” in its entirety or filming TikTok videos might take a few more. But without basketball, many players in the league are taking control of video games.
On Friday, the NBA, the National Basketball Players Association and 2K will host the NBA 2K20 Players Tournament which will air on ESPN (7 pm ET) and ESPN2 (8:30 pm ET). Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Trae Young, Donovan Mitchell and Zach LaVine are among 16 players competing for a $ 100,000 prize to give to a charity in support of coronavirus relief.
“[Gaming y streaming] they’re going to be extremely big right now, “LaVine said.” It’s pretty much the only thing people can compete with. “
PAUL GEORGE SIT in his chair, with a portrait of him holding his newborn daughter and a framed number 24 Fresno jersey peeking out of the background. The six-time All-Star donned the headset over a black LA Clippers hat.
Time to play.
It was March 23, and George had joined forces with Hart and actor Jerry Ferrara, better known as Turtle from “Entourage,” in a Call of Duty: Warzone tournament of FaZe Clan celebrities. The event, which featured several professional athletes, including Los Angeles Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, was held to raise funds for COVID-19 relief efforts.
After the first few sessions went awry, Hart asked George what he’s been up to since the league’s suspension.
“Man this sh —” George replied. “[Y] play with my children and exercise. “
With the season stagnant, George plays games to fill his day and satisfy his competitive hunger. He has played video games since elementary school, playing Madden regularly.
“He was so good that he beat his older uncle,” said Myles Williams, one of George’s old friends and his manager. “His uncle wanted PG to play with his older friends for money.”
George probably averaged “30-40 hours a week” of gaming during the season and is likely to spend two or three more a day now, according to Williams.
Various NBA players have played George in games ranging from Call of Duty to Destiny.
“It can be a [jugador de esports] professional if he wanted to be, “said Cleveland Cavaliers center Andre Drummond.
“I feel like he’s the basketball player’s Ninja,” added Drummond, referring to esports star Tyler “Ninja” Blevins.
It’s high praise, but George’s passion goes beyond just playing and broadcasting. In 2018, George collaborated with Sony PlayStation to offer special edition Nike PG-2 colourways, and became a co-owner of the Endemic esports team with its CEO, Mike Reilly, who began playing competitive video games at age 15 and has been in the gaming world for 20 years.
George has also acted as a virtual commissioner for friends and family, hosting video game leagues throughout the year. This season, George ran a Madden league with scheduled regular-season games for active participants, which included NBA players such as Montrezl Harrell and Terrence Ross of the Orlando Magic.
Shortly after Reggie Jackson signed with the Clippers in February, the point guard went to George’s house to ask for help and learn the new playbook. So the two old friends went over Coach Doc Rivers’ offense on an iPad between Madden games.
“Me [no] I joined in this [liga de Madden]but they’re in the middle of the season, “Jackson mentioned earlier this year.” He’s not only been our league’s 2K champion, he’s the Madden champion. Now he’s been very active in Call of Duty, so he’s always looking for new ones. [oponentes]. He keeps looking for a [desafío] regular on the PlayStation network ”.
“He’s also put the crew in some random games. Even years ago, we got involved in Monopoly, just because he found it.”
“He’s the gamer, that’s what he does.”
LAVINE HAS BEEN playing online with friends for years, but never before to keep an eye on someone in a dangerous place.
One of LaVine’s closest friends, Sekou Wiggs, is the starting point guard for Kleb Basket Ferrara in Italy.
LaVine learned how serious the coronavirus pandemic was, getting a preview through Wiggs. Italy has reported more than 13,100 deaths from COVID-19 as of Friday, according to the World Health Organization.
“I was trying to get out of there before it really got bad,” LaVine said.
Wiggs remained isolated indoors until he was able to recently return to the US, according to LaVine. But back home in Seattle, the coronavirus was also spreading. The Seattle area was home to the first coronavirus case in the country, and 37 of the first 50 deaths in the US occurred there.
“Obviously I called him, and it was easier to talk while playing video games for hours,” LaVine said.
Gaming is also how Golden State’s Eric Paschall stayed in touch with Mitchell, his childhood All-Star friend, who was the second NBA player to test positive for the coronavirus after fellow Utah Jazz teammate Rudy. Gobert.
While Mitchell was in mandatory isolation for two weeks, Paschall often sought him out through the video game.
“We do FaceTime all the time,” Paschall said. “We play Xbox all the time. It’s okay. I feel like it’s a lot better now. It’s gotten a lot better just because it gets to [jugar videojuegos]”.
Third-year Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins always takes his Xbox on AAU tours to join his teammates in hotel rooms. But now isolated at his home in Atlanta, Collins has been able to use his console to keep in touch with his high school friends and Hawks teammates like Young, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Brandon Goodwin.
“If I wake up and see one of my friends online,” Collins said, “I could play with them all day. Because if they’re online all day, I could play with them all day.”
“Gaming for me has always been a defense mechanism,” Collins added about video games that have become an escape from the pressure and criticism of social media. “It is [también] a bonding tool … that brotherhood. “
Collins said he is playing “a minimum of six hours” a day and meeting virtually new people.
“At NBA2K, if you’re familiar with ‘The Park,’ they checked me out at the parks,” Collins said of the game’s social feature. “When I go into the park, it’s really me. Sometimes I try to meet new people and play Xbox that way.”
SEE PLAYERS STREAMING it has been an escape for many, including his fellow players. Drummond is constantly doing laundry at his home in Miami, he didn’t bring enough clothes for the extended hiatus, but between runs, he saw Miami Heat big man Meyers Leonard streaming Call of Duty and was blown away.
He is not alone.
Leonard boasts of saying he is the “best COD player in the NBA” and recently backed him up by winning Slam magazine’s Call of Duty tournament on a team that included Hart, De’Aaron Fox from Sacramento and Grayson Allen from Memphis. . He will be streaming live for 24 hours with other celebrities, athletes and gamers starting Sunday to raise money for COVID-19 relief on ESPN’s Twitch esports channel.
NBA players have flocked to Twitch during the stoppage. The platform reached historical figures for hours watched and hours broadcast between January and March, surpassing 3 billion hours watched for the first time in its history, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Drummond, Collins, and Chris Boucher from Toronto have reached out to their agents to start their own Twitch pages. LaVine recently set up his own page and ordered broadcasting equipment from his Seattle home.
“Honestly, I would do the same too if I couldn’t watch basketball,” Hunter said. “I would just watch a basketball player play video games. People watching me. I feel like it’s a really cool feeling.”
For Boucher, the absence of basketball made him realize how much social distancing he had already been doing.
“My life was not really any different from quarantine,” the Raptors forward said. “I feel like I was doing the same thing. Outside of the fact that you can’t go out. Most of the time I was at home playing video games.”
During the first two weeks after the season was suspended, Boucher’s average playing time increased to “seven to eight hours” per day.
But what Boucher, and almost all players, has lacked is the daily schedule of practices, games and team performances.
“I miss the structure a lot,” Warriors guard Mychal Mulder said. “You don’t realize how much your day revolves around basketball until they take it away from you for a minute.”
Gaming is now the new routine for many.
“A couple of weeks ago I probably played every few days,” Hunter said. “Now I play every day.
“I wake up, have breakfast and go straight to play”
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When watching NBA stars play video games is the only show available