By Aaron ‘Big Greens’ Callaghan
The NBA 2K League APAC Invitational has been run and won for another year, and a new MVP was crowned and subsequently established himself as a serious NBA 2K League draft candidate.
The tournament of course established in part to identify regional talent did just that, as 20 of the very best players from the region put on a show of extremely high level NBA 2K basketball befitting of the end-goal, a chance to impress team management and talent evaluators alike and be drafted onto a NBA2K League team.
Seoul, South Korea was the venue, a fitting backdrop for a rapidly growing esports venture in the NBA 2K League. The event was a double header in that the League made a special announcement by officially unveiling and welcoming the Gen.G Tigers of Shanghai as the 23rd franchise.
— NBA 2K League (@NBA2KLeague) January 20, 2020
Enough of the formalities however. It is time to look at how the tournament played out. I thought it would be interesting to provide some overarching thoughts on how the tournament played out including any outstanding individual efforts.
Michael ‘BearDaBeast’ Key from T-Wolves Gaming said it best in his pre-tournament interview with Jeff Eisenband – “The competition is great. I’m not gonna lie to you. I tell you the truth (sic). I didn’t think these guys could play on the level we play on, so that has shocked me the most”.
The standard of play at the APAC Invitational has been extremely high considering players are thrown together in a short space of time and expected to perform underneath the bright lights of the stage and broadcast cameras which is exactly the type of crucible which forges strong willed players who find a way to win.
The Chinese and South Korean playing contingent impressed me with their overall skill and knowledge of the game. Their task made all the more difficult with language barriers and limited experience on the retail version of NBA 2K. Zhang ‘Cherry_Zi’ Wenxuan on a lock build and Haoyu ‘Ironman’ Li particularly impressed, Cherry_Zi was everywhere on defence and set the tone, perhaps didn’t stuff the stats but snuffed out actions before they happened and Ironman blew game two wide open with some impressive sharp shooting. An honorable mention to Poon Shing Ki ‘TR-Gobert-AP’ George of whom has potential, perhaps didn’t have the best outing but was active, engaged and in the right spots to contribute.
As expected the tournament was a hard-fought battle between ball-handlers and lockdown builds as every game turned into a point guard dual to create space and scoring opportunities. Lockdown builds as expected had a huge say in each game in particular in trying to keep a lid of their matchup.
It was difficult to select a ‘first-team lockdown’ with a three-way battle between xMonaa-, iAmMarioXXIII and Cherry_zi. All three set the tone defensively for their teams by disrupting the point guard play as best they could, blowing up screen-and-roll-actions and jumping passing lanes. However, it was Eugene ‘iAmMarioXXIII’ Pillai who rose above and took first team honours, managing to give a much needed scoring boost to the team with transition buckets and flying around the court on defence picking up the opposing point guard full court.
The story of the tournament was the extreme proficiency, scoring and shot creation shown by Jordan ‘JaeDubb’ Walden at point guard on ‘Team L5’ leading them to a tournament victory and in the process – collecting a much deserved and unanimous Most Valuable Player Trophy and really announcing himself on the world NBA 2K stage. Jaedubb is well known to the NBA 2K community in Australasia for point guard play. Jaesubb’s performance across both games were complete all round ‘floor general’ performances – setting the table for teammates and scoring at will dropping 34 points and 11 assists in the final.
— NBA2KLeague (@NBA2KLeague) January 21, 2020
JaeDubb moves into the draft pool for the upcoming season three NBA 2K League and undoubtedly skyrockets up the draft boards as teams are still searching for franchise cornerstone ball handlers. Season two champions T-Wolves Gaming BearDaBeast showed just how important it is to build around dynamic point-guard-play.
It’s time to nominate this writer’s All-Tournament-First and Second teams. In the interest of fairness, players were selected by position only. There is no fluidity however I’m aware many players are skilled at many positions.
Please note the following is the opinion of the author and not that of the NBA 2K League.
PG Jordan ‘JaeDubb’ Walden – MVP.
SG Eugene ‘iAmMarioXXIII’ Pillai
SF Lynard Clark ‘PBE_Clark’ Banzon
PF Li ‘Ironman’ Haoyu
C Meason ‘Milo’ Camille
PG Aiden ‘TheGoldenDunk-’ Fleming
SG Zhang ‘Cherry_zi’ Wenxuan
SF Aminolah Jr. ‘PBE_Rial’ Polog
PF Benjamin ‘iki-ll_illuminati’ Teitzel.
C Poon Shing Ki ‘TR-Gobert-AP’ George
Team ‘L5’ are your 2020 APAC Invitational champions. Their starting line-up included:
1. Jordan ‘JaeDubb’ Walden – MVP.
2. Zhang ‘Cherry_zi’ Wenxuan
3. Aminolah Jr ‘PBE_Rial’ Polog
4. Benjamin ‘iki-ll_illuminati’ Teitzel.
5. Hu ‘Lucky_yi_Wesely’ Yi
— NBA2KLeague (@NBA2KLeague) January 21, 2020
There are many extremely talented players in the region. What is undeniable is the appetite for NBA 2K basketball in the Asia-Pacific region. The local scene is growing year over year both in regard to localized tournaments and active participants on the five versus five Pro-Am game mode. The establishment of the Gen.G Tigers of Shanghai is an incredibly important milestone in the league’s trajectory and for global expansion coupled with the APAC Invitational which is a fitting capstone event that brings all the Asia-Pacific countries together to compete for all the marbles – glory on the virtual hardwood and spots in the NBA 2K League draft pool.