Last summer, the Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA championship. This summer, the organization’s esports team won the 2022 NBA 2K League championship — and $500,000.
“To see another championship coming right back to Milwaukee two years in a row, we have to say that this is something to celebrate,” Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said at a Tuesday news conference at The Beer Garden in Deer District, celebrating the victory.
“This is an exciting moment for all of us because people don’t understand gaming a lot of times, and people like this team right here are putting gaming on the map,” he continued.
The Bucks Gaming team defeated
The NBA 2K League, a joint venture between the NBA and Take-Two Interactive, is a professional esports league that’s made up of 24 teams, 22 of which are affiliated with NBA teams, according to the league’s website. It had its inaugural season in 2018, which Bucks Gaming was a part of.
Gamers compete in five vs. five gameplay using unique characters (not-existing NBA players).
It was Bucks Gaming’s first time winning the championship and second time making the playoffs.
“Together we made this possible,” said 2022 NBA 2K League Finals MVP Artreyo “Dimez” Boyd. “We couldn’t have done it without y’all, without Milwaukee. Nobody else had us but us, but the city of Milwaukee. We did it.”
At the news conference, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Crowley, both gamers themselves, proclaimed Aug. 30 Bucks Gaming Day in the city and the county, respectively.
“I never thought in my life in this city that I would see a celebration like this downtown, right in the shadow of Fiserv Forum for video gaming,” Johnson said. “My mom used to tell me to get off the games at 2, 3 o’clock in the morning. But look what happens when you really show your talent.”
In addition to Boyd — who nicknamed the team “Bad Bucks” — Bucks Gaming is made up of Jeremy “Seese” Seese, Dawson “dawsix” Thomas, Michael “Cooks” Campbell and Mason “Johhny” Bracken.
“They’re just as skilled, they’re just as respectful and talented as the players we see on the court right there in Fiserv Forum,” Johnson said. “Milwaukee is proud of its Bucks on the actual court and on the virtual court as well. These types of victories only bring more positive attention to Milwaukee and our thriving sports team — both online and on the court.”
“When you’re passionate about something and you reach that ultimate goal you’ve been working for and dreaming for, that’s what these gentlemen did,” said Michael Belot, Bucks senior vice president of Bucks ventures and development.
“It was really just a translation from my real-life love of basketball into the game,” the Cleveland native told the Journal Sentinel.
After years of gaming — both playing and watching — he entered his first tournament with friends: NBA 2K16 “Road to the Finals,” which had a $250,000 prize on the line.
Boyd’s team lost in the first round. The next day, Boyd said, he woke up and immediately started grinding for the upcoming year’s competition.
Boyd and his Still Trill team would go on to win the NBA 2K17 All-Star Tournament, winning the $250,000 grand prize, tickets to the All-Star Game and bragging rights over NBA stars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, CJ McCollum and Aaron Gordon, who they beat 95-52 in a 2K exhibition game after the tournament had concluded, according to a USA Today report.
And when the NBA announced its new 2K League in 2017, Boyd started preparing for it right away.
“I’m like winning every tournament, super locked in, trying to make sure I get drafted,” he said.
Mavs Gaming had the No. 1 pick in the league’s first draft; they selected Boyd.
Boyd spent about three and a half years with the Mavs, then about one year with Raptors Uprising GC before being traded to Bucks Gaming. While 2022 marked Boyd’s third playoff appearance, it was his first making it past the first round.
During the playoffs, Bucks Gaming took down Mavs Gaming, 2-0, Warriors Gaming Squad, 2-1, and T-Wolves Gaming, 2-1, to advance to the Finals. The Finals drew 1.7 million unique viewers on the league’s Twitch channel, a news release said.
“We played with trust, we played for each other, played for one another, played for each others’ families,” Boyd said. “That’s what made this run special.”
Bucks Gaming’s head coach is Lance Sessions and its general manager is Patrick Glogovsky.
“It makes us so proud that we brought another championship to Milwaukee,” Glogovsky said. “Just like the Bucks championship is for all of us, the Bucks Gaming championship is for the whole city.”
At the news conference, it was said that this was each of the players’, the head coach’s and the GM’s first year with Bucks Gaming.
“It was really a remarkable turnaround with a new general manager, a new head coach, an incredible roster,” Belot said. “And this group of guys was able to go from one of the worst records in the entire league to an NBA 2K champion this year.”
Contact Hannah Kirby at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @HannahHopeKirby.