Last night, on the eve of the 2016 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, 2K Sports brought their own basketball finals to a close, naming the first Road to the Finals Champion in NBA 2K16.

Over the past two months, ranked matches in NBA 2K16’s Pro-Am mode saw over 2.3 million games played by over 100,000 different qualifying teams. Looking at the rankings, 2K took the top 16 of those teams and held a single-elimination tournament that culminated in last night’s festivities, which not only crowned a champion, but awarded the winners $250,000. The two teams competing in last night’s final were GFG, a crew of friends who had been playing NBA 2K together since NBA 2K11, and the Drewkerbockers HLZDB, a group that had been together since NBA 2K8, but who had only actually met each other in person for the first time just before the event.

On hand to witness 2K Sports’ first esports championship event in downtown Los Angeles were Lakers greats Kobe Bryant and Rick Fox, former NBA champion Scot Pollard, WWE Tag Team Champion Xavier Woods, and Indiana Pacers all-star and NBA 2K17 cover athlete Paul George.

Kobe1160

GFG came out fast, playing their game by showing power in the paint and slamming a couple of buckets down for a quick 4-2 lead. This would be their only lead of the night, however. Each team showed some jitters early, and it wouldn’t be until a late run in the first that put Drewkerbockers up 17-10 that the offense would really start to click. GFG would answer with a pair of threes, but a bucket at the buzzer gave Drewkerbockers a 19-16 lead at the end of the first quarter, and momentum that they would ride the entire night.

The second quarter was when the themes of the night would really start to show. GFG got away from their gameplay and often tried to make one too many passes, which led to turnovers or ill-advised shots. Meanwhile, Drewkerbockers took advantage of almost every one of those turnovers by converting them into points. Part of this was because they dominated the offensive glass, which led to crucial second-chance points. In a shocking turn of events, GFG, who were favored by many experts, only scored six points in the entire second quarter. This was in large part because they were so badly out-rebounded, finding themselves down 39-23 at the half.

GFG would regroup in the second half, but the damage had been done. Each team scored 20 in the third, playing evenly and trading buckets back and forth, before both teams came out playing fast and loose in the fourth. With the game set at five-minute quarters, there simply wasn’t enough time for GFG to stage a rally. So, even when Drewkerbockers stopped trying to run up the score and tried instead to just kill the clock—leading to some sloppy turnovers on their end—they were already too far gone. If there were a mercy rule in basketball, it would’ve been used here, as the Drewkerbockers cruised in the fourth to a 73-62 win, becoming the first ever NBA 2K16 Road to the Finals Champions.

Champs1160

If you remove that abysmal second quarter, this was actually an extremely competitive game for the most part. It’s also in that spirit of competition that I was alerted to what some would see as a small controversy. As soon as the clock had expired in the fourth, the clearly frustrated team members of GFG began complaining about the controllers used in the match. I approached them once the cameras had stopped rolling and found out that the game had been played on PS4, but that GFG were used to playing on Xbox One—the system they rode to the championship. One member in particular, his handle being “DRAKE GRIFFLN”, said that his team was “blindsided” by the system choice and that he and his team “…didn’t find out until we got here about the controllers.”

The controllers he spoke of are third-party HORI “Horipad FPS Plus” controllers (see below), given to GFG as alternates to Xbox One controllers. The Horipad provides a PS4 layout, except the joysticks are situated like an Xbox One controller. After handling the controllers myself, though, I can attest they feel nothing like an Xbox One controller—and if this was indeed a surprise to GFG, it could have factored into their defeat.

Hori1160

When I asked tournament organizer 2K Sports for comment, Senior PR Manager Ryan Peters gave the following statement on the possibility of GFG not being properly informed about the controllers, or those controllers being of a lesser quality:

“A single platform had to be used in order to make the competition work,” says Peters. “We gave the contestants ample practice time and notice (a week) of what controllers and system would be used. I can also confirm the controllers were in no way sub-standard.”

So, maybe it was simply frustration from GFG over the fact that they were outperformed in a game many expected them to win, or maybe the information was lost in translation between the team and 2K. If it was a controller situation, it does seem odd that GFG’s collapse came in the second quarter and not the first, and that they then bounced back to actually outscore the Drewkerbockers in the second half. If 2K didn’t reach out about the controller/system info, GFG also could’ve reached out on their own to confirm the equipment that would be used in the championship game. At that point, though, it’s still odd GFG was given the Horipads instead of just regular PS4 controllers like Drewkerbockers to make the playing field—at least from a technical standpoint—as even as possible.

If 2K wants to remain in the esports space, maybe this could be a lesson to double-check ahead of time with teams that they know the parameters, and make sure the playing field is completely even from a tech point of view. Either way, congrats to the Drewkerbockers, and hopefully 2K will take what they learned from this experience and build up a bigger and better tournament for next year.

Advertisements