While the 76ers gear up for the NBA conference semifinals, its gaming club is getting set for a tipoff of its own.
The 76ers Gaming Club announced its first-ever coach on Friday, a week after its first sponsorship materialized with an official gaming chair. And on May 3, its squad of thumb-dunking NBA 2K18 pros will begin play in the inaugural NBA 2K League tournament.
During the season, they’ll be competing on the NBA 2K18 video game for $1 million in prize money spread across three tournaments and the league’s playoffs. The tipoff tournament will throw down from May 1 to 5 in New York and boasts a prize pool of $100,000.
Jeff Terrell, a former college point guard with three years of coaching experience at youth, high school, and Amateur Athletic Union levels, will lead the 76ers Gaming Club during the league’s inaugural season.
“Jeff stood out to us immediately, having both an intimate knowledge of the competitive NBA 2K scene and extensive experience coaching traditional basketball,” general manager Michael Lai said in a release. “Beyond his experience, Jeff demonstrated a thoughtful approach to the game that will put our players in a position to succeed.”
Terrell, who is a father and an experienced NBA 2K player himself, will lead six of the 102 players who made it through an open combine and were drafted on April 4 by 17 NBA-owned teams. The coach will oversee the team’s player management, practice schedule, and day-to-day performance, the release said.
The gamers live in Philadelphia and practice their basketball video game skills at the Sixers’ facility in Camden. The lineup is led by Ethan “Radiant” White, who is joined by Antonio “Newdini” Newman, Mihad “IFEAST” Feratovic, Alexander “Steez” Bernstein, Tilton “xTFr3sHxX” Curry, and Rashann “ZDS” Petty.
White, a first-round pick, will make $35,000 during a six-month contract, while the other players will get $32,000.
The 76ers Gaming Club is starting to generate revenue through sponsorships. The team already announced the Raynor Group of West Hempstead, N.Y., as its official gaming chair provider. Raynor made Sixers-branded chairs just for players that feature Outlast cooling materials. The firm plans to sell those same gaming chairs without the Sixers brand to the public for $299 this summer through its new Raynor Gaming brand.
Marc Fries, president of the Raynor Group, which makes office chairs and uses the slogan “we stand for sitting” — said executives decided to launch the new brand to the public after they were approached by the Sixers to make chairs for the team. “The Sixers organization inspired us to dedicate our energy and resources to this exciting new market,” he said.
The NBA 2K League is hoping to tap into a growing audience for live professional-gaming competitions. Though popular games like League of Legends and Counter-Strike fill sports stadiums and attract massive global audiences, sporting games like NBA 2K are still finding their footing.
The league signed a deal with Amazon-owned Twitch to stream the games over that platform. The NBA previously broadcasted G League games on Twitch to tap into the site’s more than 15 million daily active users, 55 percent of which are ages 18-34, according to a comScore report. This group is increasingly valuable to advertisers as millennials continue to find their entertainment online on platforms like Netflix and Twitch.
Viewership will be the league’s biggest sign of success, according to the league’s managing director Brendan Donohue.
In a news conference before the draft, Donohue cited the 1.6 million viewers for last year’s NBA 2K17 All-Star Tournament on TNT as a harbinger of good things to come.