Two weeks after the Trail Blazers lost their grip on the promise of a productive post-season and lost four straight to the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, the team’s eSports imprint blew through its first tournament and landed in second behind Philadelphia’s digital franchise, 76ers Gaming Club.
The Tip-Off Tournament was broadcast on Twitch, a streaming platform for video games that will also host all NBA 2K League games this season on the organization’s official channel. The big question is how Blazer5 Gaming will handle threats – or a lack thereof – from the 11 teams from the regular season, because the boys from Portland look like they have a virtual open net to the first of two mid-season tournaments, which begins June 8. Blazer5’s first regular season matchup comes Friday against Magic Gaming, which Portland beat handily 73-59 in their second game of the Tip-Off Tournament.
It’s the May 19 game Portland eSports fans should keep an eye on, when Blazer5 tips off against a team they haven’t yet faced on the digital hardwood: Knicks Gaming. Same goes for the Bucks Gaming, who face Blazer5 the following week on May 25. A win there secures Blazer5 Gaming a playoffs spot at the end of the season. There are plenty of teams Blazer5 Gaming hasn’t faced and plenty of time for clubs bested by the Portland squad in the Tip-Off Tournament to study and catch up. Blazer5 Gaming also landed one of the league’s best defensive players.
Center Dayne Downey is No. 2 in rebounds, with an average of 12.1 per game. With the Trail Blazers out of the playoff picture, maybe Portland’s eSports franchise is the city’s last, best hope to bring home an NBA championship in 2018.
eSports are shifting the focus of Australia’s sporting passion
In Australia, the eSports fan base has more than doubled in the past two years, and the vast majority of those fans are between the ages of 18 and 34, and mostly male. Year over year the global eSports economy has been growing by more than 38%, with audience growth is not just across hardcore video gaming enthusiasts, but also occasional viewers and non-gamers. eSports has leveled up into a multi-billion dollar entertainment industry, and Aussies are hooked!
The legitimacy of eSports has been on a steady increase with groups such as the Australian eSports Association forming in 2013 with the mission of getting eSports formally recognised by the Australian Sports Commission. In December 2017, the Esports Games Association Australia launched to legitimise eSports in Australia and New Zealand. By 2020, the eSports industry is estimated to be worth US$1.4 billion.
Worldwide there is a movement made up of 48 nations through the International eSports Federation and others to establish international competitions and rules around eSports, with the eventual goal of seeing eSports become part of the Olympic Games.
Australia recently landed its first high performance centre for eSports at the home of one of the country’s most iconic sporting venues: the Sydney Cricket Ground. The Australian Esports League – a provider of eSports competitions in Australia – has its own Twitch channel. If your children are after professionally run eSports you can check out programs run by the Australian Sports Camps focusing on eSport.