MEMPHIS – There were about 20 seconds remaining in our first regular-season game in the NBA 2K League, and my Grizz Gaming team was clinging to a 4-point lead against a tough Pacers Gaming squad.
The math seemed to be in our favor – it would be hard to blow such a lead in just twenty seconds, but then again, crazier things have happened. After all, an actual Pacer once scored nine points in six seconds all by himself.
“Use the clock!” I shouted as I paced a few feet behind my players. They probably couldn’t hear me, I knew, as they were wearing headphones so they could communicate with one another, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to remind them, just in case my sound seeped through.
The Pacers were swarming the ball, looking for a steal, so the Grizz Gaming guys whipped the ball around, finding open players, before the ball ended up in the hands of one of our guards, Threat, who was standing all alone on the left wing. There were still eight seconds left on the shot clock and 15 seconds remaining in the game, but as soon as Threat caught the ball at the three-point line, he went up to shoot the dagger. If the shot drops, we effectively ice the game. But if the shot misses, the game is still wide open.
As I found out later, the game’s play-by-play announcer, Scott Cole, immediately recoiled when Threat went up for the shot, saying, “No Threat! What are you doing?”
But I wanted him to take that shot. We all did. If you watch the replay, we all knew it was going to drop. Threat’s backcourt mate, Larell Mitchell, raised a hand high in the air before the shot was even out of Threat’s hands. Standing behind Larell, I raised a hand as well. And when the shot splashed through, I nearly accidentally punched the game’s floor director standing next to me.
Threat drained the shot, and if sports are about moments, that was one that this team had worked very hard to reach. One week earlier, we’d gone to New York City and in the span of 24 hours lost all four games that we’d played. It was maddening, sure. But mostly it was frustrating, because I knew we were a more talented team than our 0-4 record in the preseason tournament demonstrated.
Yet nobody wants to hear excuses; people just want results. And hey, I get it. Sports is a results business, and we had not, as yet, presented any positive results. But looking at the results from across the first weekend of the NBA 2K League, it seems to me that these teams are all much closer than perhaps people expected. The difference between winning and losing in this league may be something as simple as a defensive stop here or a well-run offensive set there.
Details matter, even in a video game. Fans see us walk onto the stage and play the games, but they don’t see hours of watching film or getting up shots or running offensive sets against dummy computer defenses. But working hard in those moments is what translates to those results we are all going after.
And so all of a sudden, with the actual season underway, somehow we are suddenly 1-0. For the first time in a while, it felt like I was able to come up for air, which was a nice feeling. It felt good to smile.
I let myself enjoy it for all of about 24 hours, and then I plopped down on my couch and started watching film of the Cleveland team we square off against this weekend. Details aren’t much fun, but they matter, especially when you’re looking for results.
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