11:23 PM ET
Arda OcalESPN Staff Writer
Well, not exactly.
Soon after the decision was made Wednesday to suspend the NBA season because of the coronavirus outbreak, the Suns announced that their games would continue virtually.
Friday night marked the first NBA2K matchup, between the Suns and the Mavericks, who were scheduled to meet on the hardwood on Saturday at American Airlines Center in Dallas.
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) March 13, 2020
Representing the Suns was Antonio “UniversalPhenom” Saldivar, a Phoenix native who plays in the NBA2K League for the Memphis Grizzlies‘ affiliate, Grizz Gaming. The 2K League, which was scheduled to kick off its third season on March 24 in New York, has been postponed due to the pandemic.
“This was put together in as little as five hours, and the outcome was beyond expectations,” Saldivar told ESPN. “We wanted to give the fans something to look forward to with everything going on and just try to interact with them as much as possible and try to bring both gaming and real-life sports together.”
Guiding the Mavs to victory on Friday was the brand ambassador for Mavericks Gaming, Lawrence “Buddy” Norman.
The stream was a success, consistently in the 4,500-5,000 range in terms of viewers. At one point, the stream reached more than 12,000 viewers, which is an impressive number on Twitch for NBA2K game streams. The numbers were also comparable to NBA2K League viewership on the platform, which averaged 4,663 viewers in 2019, with the NBA2K League finals averaging more than 14,000.
“We are going to continue to play games,” Saldivar said. “Might not be me playing every time, maybe someone bigger — hint hint — maybe someone else, but we are working to always have me involved.”