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The NBA is getting serious about eSports – this thing where people play video games competitively for prizes and glory – and the Bucks are joining right in.

The team plans to field a six-person team for the league’s pro-team-only NBA 2K18 league, wherein 17 different franchises will field a team, from Orlando to Toronto. It’ll be either the start of something completely new or a one-off experiment.

eSports is on a roll.

The field of eSports is expected to grow from about $700 million in worldwide revenue in 2017 to $1.5 billion in 2020. Wes Edens, co-owner of the Bucks, chairs the NBA’s eSports committee and purchased an elite League of Legends team in late 2016.

The Bucks will make money by selling advertising inside a video game. Probably.

The team isn’t 100 percent sure yet how it will make money from eSports. T-shirts and other merchandise are a given, and the NBA will probably do some form of revenue sharing with the clubs.

Some of the players will have started out as amateurs. 

Each NBA team will select six players in April after a complicated qualifying process open to players at home, and the e-teams (including Bucks Gaming) will compete over four months, traveling back and forth to a gaming/TV studio that could seat something like 1,000 spectators. The NFL recently dipped its own toes in eSports with a pair of tournaments at the 2018 Pro Bowl and Super Bowl LII in which 32 qualifiers played Madden NFL.

Bucks gaming hopes to build a mystique around its players. 

They’ll be expected to have a strong web presence on Twitch and other video platforms. The team even plans to house the e-team in a large house within a short distance of the new arena. Parties won’t be outlawed, but the gamers will still have to adhere to the NBA code of conduct.

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Not burning out, mentally or physically, will be a real challenge for the squad.

In the nascent world of eSports, it’s becoming clear that if you don’t look after the overall well-being of your players, they only stick with it for two to three years. Therefore, the Bucks are envisioning eight- to 10-hour practice days, including time for film analysis. Practices will take place in a dedicated space the team will build for the six gamers, and they’ll also have access to the organization’s slew of health professionals.

Team manager Andrew Buck is pretty intense.

Near the end of a January interview in Bucks President Peter Feigin’s office, Andrew Buck (name coincidental) paced back and forth near the door. Despite his seeming agitation, he occasionally interjected answers in a calm voice. Buck has been running his own company, Vault eSports, since 2014 and until very recently was the handler for a bomb-sniffing dog at the Mall of America near Minneapolis.


‘Bucks Gaming’ appears in the March 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning February 26, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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