With professional leagues, and sports in general, being shut down the world over, athletes are finding other means to occupy their time and stay engaged.
One of the activities organized by the National Basketball Association (NBA), the first NBA 2K Players Tournament, featured a Bahamian in the mix.
Former No. 1 overall draft pick DeAndre Ayton took on his Phoenix Suns teammate Devin Booker in the final of the interactive tournament on Saturday night. The Bahamian 6’11” starting center of the Suns came up short to Booker, as he was swept two games to none in the best-of-three final. However, it was an impressive run for Ayton, who manoeuvred through the round of 16, the quarterfinals and the semis, in order to face Suns’ All-Star guard Booker in the final.
In the opening round of the tournament, Ayton overcame Chicago’s Zach LaVine. He then defeated Atlanta’s Trae Young in the quarters and disposed of the Los Angeles Clippers’ Patrick Beverley in the semifinals. In the semis, Ayton utilized his own Suns’ team to beat Beverley.
Booker took out Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. in the opening round, defeated Washington’s Rui Hachimura in the quarterfinals and then disposed of the Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell in the semifinals.
Booker, who is the highest active individual game scorer in the league, said he played a lot of NBA 2K while growing up. He said he is quite accustomed to the flow of the game and his success in the tournament was based on timing and eye coordination.
ESPN broadcasted the three-day, 16-player Xbox One competition.
The league’s 2019-20 season is on an indefinite break, due to the coronavirus outbreak in the United States and throughout the world. The last NBA games this season were played March 11, the day Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first NBA player to test positive for the new coronavirus, COVID-19.
As for the tournament, Booker moved through the rounds with ease to set up a date with Ayton in the final. He chose the Houston Rockets in game one of the final and overcame Ayton and the Los Angeles Lakers, 72-62. In the second game of the final, Booker played the Denver Nuggets and that team overcame Ayton and the Milwaukee Bucks, 74-62.
The Suns star guard, the first-ever NBA 2K Players Tournament Champion, is now challenging any player in the league to a duel on NBA 2K.
With the win, Booker earned a $100,000 donation to a coronavirus-related relief effort of his choice, and he chose the Arizona Food Bank Network in Phoenix, Arizona. NBA 2K, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) are collectively contributing $100,000 to the relief effort in Booker’s name.
At this juncture, there is no telling when the NBA season will resume. There has been a number of suggestions from owners and league officials, including a scenario where the season is completed in The Bahamas. But due to the ongoing threat of the novel coronavirus, nothing could be set in stone at this particular time.
COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc around the globe with over 1.9 million cases worldwide and about 120,000 deaths. The United States is the most impacted nation with almost 600,000 cases and over 23,000 deaths.
NBA superstar LeBron James, a three-time NBA Champion and NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP), and a four-time league MVP, has said that there won’t be any closure, unless they are allowed to complete the season. At the time of the stoppage, James and the Lakers led the west with a 49-14 win-loss record and trailed just the east-leading Bucks (53-12) for the best overall record in the league.
As it relates to Ayton, the second Bahamian to be taken number one overall in the NBA Draft, he was having a progressive second season in the league averaging career-high numbers of 19 points, 12 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.7 blocks per game. It’s his second straight season averaging a double-double. He is shooting 54.8 percent from the floor and 76.9 percent from the free throw line.