Will Africa Embrace NBA 2K For Esports?

Chris House

Nov 8, 2019 7:38 am

In the world of esports, video games based on real-world sports have had less of an impact than some might have expected a number of years ago. There are some exceptions, with FIFA and Madden having carved out space in various international esports markets. But the sprawling and hugely popular NBA 2K franchise has not had as much luck, and this is particularly true in Africa.


Just this autumn, in fact, 2K Games and ESL partnered to bring about the “NBA 2K20 Global Championship,” seeking to develop a high-end international competition based on this latest version of the game. In the effort to span the globe with said competition, however, 2K Games and ESL elected to focus only on the Americas, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region, with no mention of African participation.


This begs the question of whether or not the African esports community will ultimately embrace the NBA 2K series at all. On the one hand it may at this point seem unlikely, with the bulk of African esports activity revolving around the popular games like CS:GO, Overwatch, and Dota, and little to no NBA activity to speak of. However, there are also some factors that – one might imagine – would work in favor of NBA 2K moving into the African market.

Major Sports-Related Tournaments

Not long ago, we highlighted the FIFA 20 Tournament at the Sandton City Gamers Expo, which is just to say that there are major sports game esports competitions going on in parts of Africa. FIFA naturally has more international appeal than the NBA, given the general popularity of football around the world. The point though is that there is some demonstrated appetite for games beyond the likes of CS:GO, Overwatch, etc. that so thoroughly dominate the esports world.

Growing African Prominence In The NBA

African interest in the NBA in general figures to be at an all-time high simply by virtue of the fact that players from Africa have never had such prominent positions in the sport. Per some of the top online sportsbooks of the U.S., two of the teams with the best odds of making the NBA Finals in the current season are the Philadelphia 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks. Those teams are led by Joel Embiid (a Cameroon nativee) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (the Greek son of Nigerian immigrants), respectively. And for that matter, the Toronto Raptors – led by Pascal Siakam, also of Cameroon – are one of the top teams as well. It would be only natural for African interest in the NBA, and by extension NBA 2K, to increase given all of this.

Motivation For The NBA

This point is more speculative, but it’s also worth mentioning that the NBA may have motivation to expand its own international efforts relating to esports, and focus more on the African market. The league has been busily working to increase African engagement already over the last 10 or 20 years, and now that some of its other international outreach has taken a negative turn, new markets may be in order. It’s a complex issue, but the NBA and China are in a feud, which could have significant financial implications. If that proves to be the case, we could see the NBA – which does directly involve itself in NBA 2K esports – looking to other markets, including Africa, to attempt to drum up more attention.


It will be interesting to see if any of this leads to a little bit engagement with NBA 2K from the African esports world. It could be fun to see though, because this is actually quite a unique sports game.