ORLANDO – Magic Gaming accomplished one of the biggest feats in team history on Thursday night.
For the first time in their five-year NBA 2K League existence, they’re headed to the postseason.
Orlando racked up four straight series victories in the Coinbase STEAL OPEN, the final 3v3 tournament of the season, to earn a playoff berth and $20,000.
“I’m really just happy for the Magic Gaming organization,” said Magic Gaming General Manager and Head Coach Jonah Edwards. “Us getting our first banner is just an awesome moment. These guys have worked so hard. I’m telling you, there’s not a single team in the league that’s worked harder than this team this year, despite the results early on. They stuck through it. They’ve worked every day.”
The road to the postseason was not an easy one for Magic Gaming. Early season struggles had them at the bottom of the standings in both 3v3 and 5v5 play. However, just over one month ago, Orlando shook up its roster taking part in a massive four-team trade that helped it acquire Joshua “unguardable” Hunter from Blazer5 Gaming and Wesley “Gen” McNair from Jazz Gaming.
The move has paid huge dividends. Prior to the STEAL, Orlando went 4-1 in 3v3 seed week play. Unguardable was a huge factor in that successful stretch and was rewarded for his stellar play by being named the final 2022 NBA 2K League Player of the Week.
“He’s come in, and really from day one, showcased not only his talent, but his ability to command the court to a degree,” said Edwards of the dynamic guard. “That’s an area where he’s gone above and beyond. He’s been more than just a pure skilled 2K player and scorer. He’s been a point guard, a facilitator, a floor general, and a leader on the court. He’s been great in that way.”
That momentum carried over into the STEAL OPEN as unguardable, small forward Matthew “Matty” Grant, and center Robert “May” May rolled to four straight series victories, with two sweeps along the way, to claim the tournament title.
“It was great to win it for the Magic because I have nothing but good things to say about the organization,” said May. “I love playing here. It was more about that for me than the money. I’m glad we got it.”
Unguardable, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2022 2KL Draft, was named the STEAL OPEN MVP.
“It’s definitely spectacular,” said unguardable. “It’s good for me, but it’s even better for my teammates. It’s special. We did something…I knew it was going to happen. I texted Matty the day I got traded – literally the day I got traded, probably a couple hours after – (and told him) we are going to win the three v. three STEAL. I just knew it. I felt like there was nobody better than me in the East or in the West in three v. three. If we were together the whole year, we were going to be a playoff team (without relying on the STEAL OPEN). But it worked out for the best. We got a banner.”
The tournament victory comes at a time when interest in gaming has hit an all-time high.
In a recent report, Accenture estimates that the full value of the gaming industry now exceeds $300 billion, more than the combined markets for movies and music. The industry added 500 million new and more diverse gamers over the past three years, fueled by mobile gaming adoption and desire for social experiences. The report predicts more than 400 million new gamers are expected by the end of 2023.
Simultaneously, interest in the NBA 2K League has boomed. During its third season in 2020, 2K League broadcasts on Twitch were up 69 percent from 2019 in average unique viewers per stream. The league also saw a 48 percent increase in average minute audience per stream and a 55 percent surge in average minutes watched per stream.
Over 2 million gamers play 2K every day with over 14 million people purchasing the game every year.
The NBA’s decision to continue to invest in esports is clearly a good one for their business. A league study showed that fans of the 2KL are significantly more likely to buy NBA tickets, make league-related retail purchases, and more likely to purchase league pass.
The 2KL even altered its game structure this season to feature both 3v3 and 5v5 modes due to heavy fan interest in the 3v3 MyPark mode on the retail version of the game. While the 3v3 playoffs tip off next week, Magic Gaming also has a chance to qualify for the 5v5 postseason, if they’re able to win THE TICKET, the 2KL’s final tournament of the season in that game mode.
Magic Gaming tips off action in THE TICKET on Friday against Raptors Uprising GC at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Fans can watch games live on the NBA 2K League’s Twitch and YouTube channels. Games will also be available on Dash Radio, eGG Network in Southeast Asia, Loco in India, and Sport1 in Europe.