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.
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.
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
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.
Riot Games Announces VALORANT Esports EMEA Partnership With Unilumin
With the start of the 2024 competitive VALORANT Esports season now underway, we’re proud to announce our partnership with Unilumin, a world leading LED display solution provider!
Unilumin has been instrumental in helping us level up the fan experience at the all-new Riot Games Arena with their industry-leading LED display technology, of which 250 square meters will now feature across the Riot Games Arena in Berlin. We’re so excited to welcome them on board as an official supplier for VCT EMEA, VALORANT Game Changers EMEA, and VALORANT Ascension EMEA.
Unilumin’s screens will light up the stage at the Berlin arena – and their logo will feature across various VALORANT Esports EMEA broadcasts throughout 2024. They’ve supplied display solutions globally from Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium to the Mercedes-Benz Arena, a mere stone’s throw away from us at the Riot Games Arena in Berlin. They’ve also worked with some of the biggest names in entertainment venues and global sports stadiums to illuminate events across the globe with grandstand, perimeter, and centerhung screens alongside scoreboards in major competition venues.
As we continue to level up the fan experience throughout 2024, we know Unilumin is the perfect partner to help us bring the most immersive experience and exciting atmosphere to the Riot Games Arena in Berlin, for our fans.
“Unilumin Sports is pleased to bring our solutions and technologies to the Riot Games Arena in Berlin and be a partner of VALORANT Esports in EMEA”, said Oscar Feng, the Global Director of Unilumin Sports. “We will use our well-designed products and fast response services to cooperate with Riot Games for their events and show the ultimate audio-visual experience to their fans.”
“After working with Unilumin for the refit of the Riot Games Arena, we’re delighted to welcome them as a supplier for our various VALORANT Esports EMEA events in 2024,” said Daniel Ringland, Head of VALORANT Esports EMEA. “Unilumin has helped us enhance the fan experience for those watching from home and joining us on-site, and we can’t wait to use their display technology throughout the season.”
Tundra Esports Announces Addition of Ludwig ‘Zai’ Wahlberg as Dota 2 General Manager to the Team
The veteran offlaner and captain will serve as the cornerstone for Tundra Esports’ Performance Management Team
Tundra Esports is delighted to announce the addition of Ludwig ‘Zai’ Wahlberg to its Dota 2 Performance Management Team, taking on the role of General Manager.
A household name in the competitive scene to both fans and peers alike, Wahlberg brings over tens years of experience, numerous championships and four top-three finishes at The International to the Tundra Esports tribe. Alongside his impressive tenures on some of the highest profile rosters in Dota’s history, he retains the impressive record of a 66.6% win rate across his 2,000+ game career; the highest of all pro Dota players*. For someone with such an intimate relationship with success in Dota 2, Wahlberg is expected to bring about a new level of excellence to the team’s management style and gameplay.
*With more than 200 pro matches played
Wahlberg’s addition further cements Tundra Esports’ commitment to growing and evolving its performance management team and the move marks a significant milestone for the organisation’s continued journey towards competitive success in the world of Dota 2.
“I’m thrilled to welcome Ludwig ‘Zai’ Wahlberg to Tundra Esports as the Dota 2 General Manager and support his journey into management after his illustrious playing career,” the co-founder and Esports Director for Tundra Esports, Anthony Graham, said. “We are doubling down on our approach to Dota and I don’t think there is a better person to lead our Dota operations going forward than Wahlberg.”
Wahlberg joins the already star-studded 2024 Tundra Esports Dota roster, consisting of:
1 – Ivan ‘Pure-‘ Moskalenko
2 – Topias ‘Topson’ Taavitsainen
3 – Ivan ‘MinD_ContRoL’ Ivanov
4 – Edgar ‘9Class’ Naltakian
5 – Matthew ‘Whitemon’ Filemon
“After an extensive break from the game, I’m very excited to be involved with Dota again but in a different capacity,” Wahlberg said. “I’m looking forward to stepping into a new role as General Manager for Tundra Esports and to use my previous experiences and insights as a player to manage and influence its Dota division.”
Fans will get to witness his impact on the team’s performance first-hand in its upcoming match against The International 12 champions Team Spirit this Sunday at DreamLeague Season 22.
Esports to Beat Football? SOFTSWISS Shares Sports Betting Trends for 2024
Esports is raising its position among top sports by bets in 2023. The product team of the SOFTSWISS Sportsbook, a top sports betting software provider, reflects on the past year.
Esports Unstoppable Rise
Over the past three years, the top three sports by bets remain unchanged, with football, tennis and basketball maintaining their leadership. In contrast, esports has demonstrated a consistent upward trend, progressing from the seventh position in 2021 to the fourth in 2023. Notably, Counter-Strike stands out, claiming the sixth position among the top ten disciplines by the number of bets.
Alexander Kamenetskyi, Head of SOFTSWISS Sportsbook, comments: “Considering the rise of esports, we guide our partners to focus on cyber disciplines, engaging audiences beyond traditional betting demographics. Highlighting the cybersports potential for operators, Newzoo’s report projects 640 million viewers by 2025.”
Mobiles Drive 92% of Operator GGR
Another notable trend in sports betting, which has remained unchanged for several years, is the consistent growth in bets made from mobile devices. According to the SOFTSWISS Sportsbook, 80% of bets in 2023 were placed via mobile versus 70% in 2022 and 68% in 2021. This trend solidifies as players increasingly opt for mobile convenience, especially in live betting scenarios. More importantly, it was mobile devices that contributed 92% to the operators’ GGR.
Kamenetskyi adds: “Mobile betting is one of our main focuses in product development. We put much effort into improving our mobile application and mobile website. It is specifically important for locations facing challenges with internet connectivity and regions like LatAm and Africa where internet coverage is still growing.”
Casino Turnover Drops During Major Sports Events
The SOFTSWISS Sportsbook team has repeatedly emphasised shifts in player behaviour around major sports events. Specifically, there was a 10–20% drop in online casino turnover, coinciding with the World Cup 2022. This highlights a dynamic wherein a significant portion of casino players redirect their focus towards sports betting based on seasonal patterns. Considering audience preferences, reinforcing casinos with sportsbooks is a logical step.
Kamenetskyi adds: “This pattern underscores the strategic imperative for iGaming stakeholders to recognise the synergistic relationship between casino ventures and sportsbooks. Combining these options not only enhances casino appeal but also maintains player engagement, especially during sports events. In this context, it is worth mentioning that the SOFTSWISS Sportsbook is compatible with any casino platform on the market.”
Additionally, the SOFTSWISS Sportsbook team notes the strengthening of other trends like regulation and responsible gambling that have recently been highlighted in the iGaming Trends 2024 report by SOFTSWISS. The SOFTSWISS Sportsbook team will be glad to discuss all learnings during the first SBC Summit Rio at the stand D360.
SOFTSWISS is an international tech company supplying software solutions for managing iGaming projects. The expert team, which counts over 2,000 employees, is based in Malta, Poland and Georgia. SOFTSWISS holds a number of gaming licences and provides one-stop-shop iGaming software solutions. The company has a vast product portfolio, including the Online Casino Platform, the Game Aggregator with thousands of casino games, the Affilka affiliate platform, the Sportsbook Platform and the Jackpot Aggregator. In 2013, SOFTSWISS was the first in the world to introduce a Bitcoin-optimised online casino solution.
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