Plenty of kids want to grow up and become professional athletes: to be masters of their craft and at the top of their game. But what if your craft includes a controller and joystick? Nowadays, becoming a professional gamer is more viable than ever.
Just ask Dayne "OneWildWalnut" Downey, the sixth overall pick in the 2018 NBA 2K League Draft.
"I realized I could transition my gaming into a professional career as soon as Adam Silver and Brendan Donohue announced the NBA 2K League," said Downey, via Twitter. "I knew I had the skills to be in the league and just needed to give it my full effort."
The NBA 2K League is a joint venture between the NBA and Take-Two interactive. At its inception, the 2K League was the first esports league actually operated by a professional sports organization in the U.S. It's the real deal—fans can watch these games live on Twitch or YouTube and can buy gear to support their squad. Being as heavily involved in Trail Blazers Twitter as I am, I can see that the love for Blazer5 Gaming throughout the Portland fanbase is no joke: Downey earned MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2018, and his teammate, Nidal "Mama Im Dat Man" Nasser, went on to win MVP in 2019.
"Being the inaugural MVP and DPOY was a huge blessing in my life," Downey said. "It showed everyone that I deserved to be in this league and that I'm here to stay and be one of the league's top players for years to come. From these awards, a lot of doors have opened up for me and I am taking full advantage of it."
For some, it might seem weird to celebrate someone's skills at a video game, but there's actually a lot more that goes into becoming an elite gamer than just pushing buttons.
"In the NBA 2K League, each team must co-exist," Downey said. "There are six people on each team and we all live together in the city of the team we got drafted by. Just like real sports, we have to work together to be on top of our game. We scrimmage each week as a team and fly to New York to compete in the studio that we play in. There is a lot of preparation involved—scrimmage blocks, game planning, and film sessions."
In 2020, more kids may try to pursue a career in the video game field. There are plenty of colleges offering esports programs and scholarships to play. Even the University of Oregon is ramping up its new esports program this year with the addition of its new gaming lounge.
"For younger people considering an esports path I would say this: Keep your options open," Downey advised. "Don't be reliant on being an esports player. Put your full effort into doing what you want to do but always have a backup plan or two. I was in school and playing college basketball at the time I was trying out for the league. If I didn't make it, I was still on a path to transfer to a four-year college. But I gave my full effort to something I love to do and it has paid off. So, go for it and give it your all. Esports is here to stay and is growing each and every year."
Watch Blazer5 Gaming at twitch.tv/blazer5gaming