Jazz Gaming Out To Win Games, Break Misconceptions About eSports

Apr 30, 2019, 3:49 PM | Updated: 5:22 pm
Utah Jazz Gaming...
(Photo courtesy of Utah Jazz Gaming)
(Photo courtesy of Utah Jazz Gaming)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz’s season may have ended last week, but for the Jazz Gaming squad, the year has just begun.

Sitting with a 1-2 record early in the year, the entire Jazz Gaming team nestled into their training facility, a specially designed room in the corner of the upper bowl concourse at Vivint Smart Home Arena. For this day’s practice, they arranged a scrimmage with Magic Gaming and played the Orlando-based team via internet connection.

The game began with the Magic taking an early lead at halftime. After the break, Jazz Gaming implemented some adjustments to try to gain an advantage. They plugged in a full-court press, forced Magic Gaming into some costly turnovers and drained 3-pointer after 3-pointer to tie the game up in the third quarter.

The communication between the players was stunning. While each team member, decked out head to toe in Jazz Gaming gear, had his own monitor and was controlling their own personally-crafted player – no Donovan Mitchell or Rudy Gobert on this Jazz team – they were truly working as one. Screens were being set, plays were being called out and passes were made on time and with purpose. Meanwhile, head coach Jelani “Comp “ Mitchell was watching it all and providing his input.

The fourth quarter began with huge dunk by the team’s up-and-coming superstar, Spencer “Ria” Wyman. The whole team cheered in unison. From there, the game belonged to Jazz Gaming as they rolled to a 67-58 victory.

Once the game ended, the players dropped their controller, leaned back in their gaming-specific chair and took a sip of Gatorade. After all, playing professional video games is hard work. Really.

‘100 Percent Focused’

“It’s really a sport, in terms of the mental aspect,” says point guard Shaka Brown, who goes by his gamertag, Yeah I Compete. “With all that goes into, with film, scrimmages, making adjustments on the fly, you have to be 100 percent focused every single second of the game or the other team will get an advantage.”

While it may seem a bit silly to outsiders, professional video games, known also as “esports,” are a booming business. Forbes estimates that the esports industry, featuring popular games such as League of Legends and Fortnite and broadcast services like Twitch and YouTube, could pull in combined revenues of up to $900 million per year. The NBA thought it would be a worthwhile venture, which is why the league partnered with the makers of NBA 2K to create the NBA 2K League in 2018. The Jazz fielded a team in the inaugural season and finished with a record of 5-9.

This year, they’re looking to improve and have taken big steps to do so. With the first overall pick in this season’s draft, Jazz Gaming selected Wyman, who plays as a center in the game. The team also hired Mitchell, a prominent member of the basketball gaming community, as the team’s first ever head coach to help provide strategic advice and foster the team’s culture. Not to mention, the Jazz also dedicated that practice space at the arena to help the team even more.

With all the investments done by the Jazz organization, Brown appreciates the support and feels the pressure to compete at a high level.

“We feel on our end, like we just want to become a better team, win some more games because they really do a lot for us,” said Brown, who was picked third overall by Jazz Gaming in the inaugural draft. “We really take it to heart when we lose games.”

For their efforts, the players are compensated $33K for a six-month commitment. Returning players, like Brown, are paid an extra five grand.

Offseason Plans, Message To Naysayers

In the offseason, the players go their separate ways, but remain close to their controller. Brown, for example, says he’ll probably return home to work as an Uber driver in New York City. Wyman isn’t sure what he’ll do after his rookie season, but he’ll likely head back to his hometown in Shoreline, Washington to train for next season. Mitchell says he’ll maintain his online presence of creating video game content for his social media channels.

Mitchell acknowledged that some people who aren’t into gaming may think that he and the rest of the 2K community may be wasting their time on video games. His advice to those who think like that is to play with their children and see the effect it has on their lives. As someone who has spent a lot of time working with the youth in his community, he’s seen it for himself.

They’re also welcome to check out the game by watching online or visiting the New York City-based studio, where almost all the games are played on a weekly basis.

“They should come out to the studio and then they should see the impact that it has on the many lives within the 2K community,” said Mitchell.

Broadcast Info

Jazz Gaming will next play Warriors Gaming Squad and then Grizz Gaming on Friday. Games can be streamed on Twitch or YouTube Gaming.

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