NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Competitive gaming has exploded in popularity in recent years and on Wednesday, dozens of gamers hit Madison Square Garden to start new careers in professional basketball.
They’ll be earning a living thanks to their skills on the the court — that is, the virtual court.
The more than 70 star gamers were a long way from their homes and Xbox Ones and PlayStation 4s as they assembled at the world’s most famous arena. They found themselves in a brand new league of their own thanks to their skills in the game “NBA 2K.”
Shaka Browne was a first round pick from Mount Vernon, Westchester County. He quit his job as an Uber driver and is set to move to Salt Lake City with the Utah Jazz, one of the 17 teams in the 2K League.
“Gaming is not your typical play this for fun anymore,” he told CBS2’s Dave Carlin. “You can really make a life out of this and a career out of this.”
He and the other players get paid contracts of at least $32,000 per season to play video games head to head in regular season play with a big championship match at the end.
Browne says he also likes playing it this way. His mom worried he was spending too much time with a video game but now he’s changed her tune.
“She understands how real this is, how big this is, and she’s excited for me,” he said.
The first-round pick for the Knicks was Dayvon Curry, out of Spring, Texas.
“I’m ecstatic,” he said. “This is my dream city and I’m just happy to be here.”
Midtown resident Louis Vargas has seven kids and nine grand kids, most of whom play video games. He says he never knew how lucrative it could become for them.
“While we’re sleeping they still be playing,” he said. “As long as they are not involved in drugs or alcohol they’re gonna make some money, play a game, I think that’s good.”
With each new name called out Wednesday, a new e-sport celebrity stepped into a whole new world.