The biggest live event of the weekend in a world bereft of such entertainment was the NBA 2K Players Only Tournament, which aired on ESPN and ESPN2 and featured some of the league’s biggest stars live-streaming matchups in the league’s premiere video game. Two Phoenix Suns players, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, participated in the tournament, and each emerged victorious.
On Friday night, Ayton took on Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine in the 7-10 section of the bracket. The players are not required to use their own teams, though as they move through the tournament, they can only select each team once. Rather than get overly strategic in Round One, Ayton opted to play as the Houston Rockets.
The irony of a non-shooting big man like Ayton using the three-point happy Rockets in the game should not be lost on anyone. Still, Ayton happily chucked away with James Harden, and attacked the rim with Russell Westbrook. Though it’s not his game, Ayton found success with a perimeter-oriented team and took down LaVine, who was playing as the Miami Heat.
Two days later, Booker took on Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. Going into the tournament, Booker was the betting favorite to win the whole thing, as one of the league’s pre-eminent gamers. The Suns All-Star satisfied gamblers by taking care of business in the first round, swiftly taking down Porter Jr.
Booker deftly deployed the Milwaukee Bucks, attacking the rim with likely MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and generating tons of threes (not unlike Ayton — teammates think alike). On the other side, Porter couldn’t consistently get defensive stops as the Los Angeles Lakers. True to each player’s score-first form, the Booker-Porter matchup was a shootout, and Booker’s early lead carried him home.
Other highlights and observations
- Somehow, Ayton was sporting a spiffy new haircut. Either he found his way into one prior to Arizona going on lockdown last Tuesday, or he has a secret connection.
- Ayton said his conditioning is nowhere near game shape.
- Booker was loving getting to control his former teammate Eric Bledsoe. After one bucket, he exclaimed, “that’s my boy!”
- This tournament is truly a bizarre but elucidating insight into how competitive and fired up these guys can get even while playing a child’s video game.
- Booker tweeted to clarify that the reason he insisted on not picking the Suns is because his virtual clone isn’t designed properly.
The next round is set to air Tuesday on ESPN2 starting at 7 p.m. ET. Ayton will take on No. 2 seed Trae Young, while Booker will play the 13th-seeded Rui Hachimura.