The NBA 2K League (NBA2KL or simply 2K League) is an eSports league joint venture between the National Basketball Association and Take-Two Interactive. The league was announced on February 9, 2017. On May 4, 2017 it was revealed that 17 of the 30 NBA teams would have their own NBA 2K League team during the inaugural season in 2018. On April 18, 2018, the NBA 2K League and Twitch announced a multiyear partnership to live stream all games. The inaugural season began on May 1, 2018 and on August 25, 2018, Knicks Gaming won the inaugural 2K League championship.
For the inaugural season, the qualifying stage was open to anyone who was 18+ years old and owned NBA 2K18 on either Playstation 4 or Xbox One. To qualify, players had to win 50 games in NBA 2K18's Pro-Am mode and submit an application following this requirement between January 1–31, 2018. Following that, the players who qualified participated in a combine that ran from February 2–February 21, 2018. The top 102 players out of the 72,000 who qualified were then drafted on April 4.
The inaugural season lasted for 17 weeks, beginning with the tip-off tournament from May 1-5, with the first weekly match ups taking place on May 11-12. There was be an additional two tournaments during the season before the playoffs began on August 17, concluding with the NBA 2K League Finals on August 25. All games will be live streamed on Twitch and available to view on demand after the live broadcasts.
The league used Pro-Am mode for the games, which consisted of 5 on 5 matches where players used archetypes with preset skills instead of their own MyPlayer or NBA players to keep the ratings similar to everyone.
Point guard: Shot-Creating Slasher, Shot-Creating Sharpshooter, Slashing Playmaker, Sharpshooting Playmaker or Playmaking Shot Creator
Shooting guard: Playmaking Slasher, Sharpshooting Defender, Slashing Shot Creator, Sharpshooting Shot Creator or Pure Sharpshooter
Small forward: Shot-Creating Slasher, Sharpshooting Shot Creator, Pure Sharpshooter, Slashing Defender or Sharpshooting Slasher
Power forward: Slashing Rim Protector, Rebounding Athletic Finisher, Slashing Post Scorer, Two-Way Rebounder or Sharpshooting Rim Protector
Center: Post-Scoring Athletic Finisher, Slashing Rebounder, Pure Rim Protector, Slashing Stretch Five or Rebounding Post Scorer
A special build of NBA 2K18 on PC was used for the league, with equipment provided by Alienware and Intel. HyperX is the league's headset sponsor, while Scuf Gaming provides controllers for all matches. To go along with the league sponsors, each team also has various sponsors and displays the logos of the sponsors on their in-game uniforms. All games are played at the NBA 2K League Studio in New York.
The regular season takes place over 15 weeks with 12 weeks for weekly match ups and the other three being for tournaments. All teams will play in a minimum of 19 games, including 14 regular season games and the tournament games. The tournament games will not count towards regular season records, but will be used as a tiebreaker for the postseason. Weekly match ups will take place on Fridays and Saturdays.
The tip-off tournament contained a $100,000 prize and featured pool play with teams competing in four groups over the course of five days. The top two teams from each group advanced to the single elimination playoff rounds. For The Turn and The Ticket, seeding was determined by the records of each team over the four weeks since the previous tournament. The tournaments were single elimination and contained a play-in game between the 16th and 17th seeds. The Turn and The Ticket contained prize pools of $150,000, with the winner of The Ticket receiving an automatic playoff berth.
For the playoffs, seeding is determined by regular season standings. The seven teams with the best record will make the postseason along with the winner of The Ticket. If The Ticket winner has one of the top eight records, then the top eight teams will make the playoffs.
The quarterfinals are single elimination, while the semifinals and finals are best of three. The playoff prize pool will be $600,000, with $300,000 going to the league champions.
All players signed 6 month contracts and will have their relocation and housing costs covered by the league, as well as benefits such as medical insurance and a retirement plan. Food, transportation, and housing will also be covered during the season when teams travel for games.
Players drafted in the first round will make $35,000, while the rest of the players will make $32,000. There will be four other opportunities throughout the season to win money as $1 million will be split between three tournaments and the league championship. Players are also allowed to sign endorsement deals to earn extra income.
On December 11, 2017, the official logo for the NBA 2K League was revealed, with the logos for each of the 17 teams being revealed over the course of the following days. On August 15, 2018, it was announced that the league would expand to 21 teams in 2019 with the addition of teams from Atlanta, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, and Minnesota.
During the first season, there were no trades allowed. For the 2019 season, two trade periods were added: September 27 – October 10, as well as a TBA period during the season. All trades must have a 1:1 ratio, meaning two picks can't be traded for one player and vice versa. Before the expansion draft each team protected two of their players from the 2018 team, while the rest of the players were eligible to be selected in the expansion draft. Following the expansion draft, teams were allowed to retain up to two more of their 2018 players who were not selected. To retain more players teams had to sacrifice picks in the 2019 draft. If a team had a player selected in the expansion draft, to retain one player they had to give up a third round pick and to retain a second player, they had to give up a second round pick. For teams who had no players selected in the expansion draft, to retain one player they gave up a second round pick and to retain two players, they gave up a first round pick.