I first picked up an original Xbox controller when I was 10 years old and my brother introduced me to Halo. Like every kid, I thought I was really good, but I didn’t really know how good – there was no frame of reference.
After I had turned 12, one day, my Mom – a teacher – came home with a flyer that one of her students had shown her. It was for a Halo tournament in the local area. I entered and I ended up getting first place, winning like $300. At that age, winning that amount of money, I felt like I was getting rich playing video games.
That was the beginning for me and from there I got into the competitive scene more and more as I started getting more involved with online gameplay. That’s when I was introduced to Major League Gaming. I didn’t really know much about it at the time, just that it was the mecca of all tournaments for Halo. I dove into it head first.
My first-ever MLG tournament was MLG Chicago in 2006 when I was about 14 years old. I had to beg my parents to let me go and they ended up flying me out to Chicago by myself. I finished in the top 32 out of 400 teams and after that, I was hooked. I got into it even deeper and stuck with it for about five or six years.
As Halo 3 started to die down, MLG eventually dropped Halo tournaments, it was a big hit for me. I started to lose interest and the community lost interest as well without those big headline events. I was in college by now and playing basketball, so that took up a lot of my time anyway. I started playing NBA 2K as a hobby, whether against my real-life teammates or just messing around online.
I picked it up heavy with NBA 2K15 and got into it more because I became a partnered Twitch streamer, which allowed me to build my own community.
When I heard about the NBA 2K League, honestly, I didn’t believe it. The fact that NBA teams were involved in a professional esports league, I had never heard of anything like that before.
Before the combine process began this year, I went to my parents and told them about the league, that you can make a salary and everything, but that I didn’t think I would be going for it.
My Dad was telling me: ‘you would be stupid not to do that. Give it a chance, you never know.’ So I went for it, thinking if I make it, great. If I don’t, it’s not really going to bother me – I’ll just focus on school and I’ll focus on my streaming.
I think the biggest surprise for me was making the initial top 250. That was like my ‘wow, I can do this’ moment. From there, of course, I still had to do the online interviews, but I wasn’t so concerned with that part of the process – I knew if I got in front of someone and I could speak to them, I would have a good chance of making it.
It was making that initial cut from 72,000 to getting that email of being a part of the 250 that really shocked me. I ended up just going through the qualification process, and the next thing I know, two months later, I’m in Cleveland.
Being a professional in Halo and NBA 2K have their similarities, but, for the most part, they are extremely different. Playing Halo at the time, I was living in the comfort of my own home, playing online with teammates and practicing that way. Once a month we’d have a tournament and meet up with these guys, be there for a weekend and compete, and then go back to our houses.
It was a huge culture shock moving to Cleveland. Being a kid that grew up in sunny South Florida, I had never even seen snow before… I’m not used to cold weather. But it’s something that I’m really starting to cherish now, being able to see these new places and experience these new things that I wouldn’t have done if I wasn’t in this league. Really, it’s a blessing.
With the 2K League, everything happened so fast; I got drafted and a week later I was out living in Cleveland. Right now, we’re flying to New York every single week to compete. There is no break with the 2K League. We get back to Cleveland and get back to work, watching film on our next opponent, then we’re back on a plane heading to New York. It’s non-stop.
Probably the main similarity is the mental grind, you have to be mentally strong. Sticking together as a team, working together as a unit, the communication process that goes into it, the practice hours and dissecting the game, building strategies – that kind of stuff is the same as it was with Halo.
One thing that’s really important for me is to win here. Cleveland does so much for us, so it’d be great to win a championship here and do well this season. But really building a friendship and brotherhood with these guys on my team, that’s what’s really important to me, being more than just teammates.
I want to use this opportunity to springboard a career out of it; you never know how long you’re going to be in this. I need to make sure I’m taking advantage of the opportunity I’ve been given so that more can come out of it down the road.
Image Credit: Patrick Brouder/Cavs Legion GC/NBA 2K League