What’s new in NBA 2K League? Expanded playoffs, conferences, longer regular season

Mark those calendars for May 19, fans of the NBA 2K League. 

The fourth season of the competitive esports circuit, backed by the NBA, will return that Wednesday to start a 16-week schedule that will conclude Sept. 4 with the 2K League Finals. 

Playoffs will begin eight days earlier with more teams than in the past, as the postseason field will be expanded to 12 (up from 10) in 2021. For the first time in its four-year history, the NBA 2K League has introduced conferences, Eastern and Western, for its 23 teams: 

Eastern: 76ers GC, Celtics Crossover Gaming, Gen.G Tigers of Shanghai, Grizz Gaming, Hawks Talon GC, Heat Check Gaming, Hornets Venom GT, Knicks Gaming, Magic Gaming, Nets GC, Raptors Uprising GC and Wizards District Gaming

Western: Bucks Gaming, Blazer5 Gaming, Cavs Legion GC, Jazz Gaming, Kings Guard Gaming, Lakers Gaming, Mavs Gaming, Pacers Gaming, Pistons GT, T-Wolves Gaming and Warriors Gaming Squad

Teams will play games remotely from their local markets, although commissioner Brendan Donohue has said previously that welcoming fans back to venues sometime in 2021 is a goal. Matchups will be simulcasted on the league's Twitch and YouTube channels.

Heat Check Gaming players are seen on the screens above their seats while action from their game against Knicks Gaming is shown on another screen, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, in New York. (Photo: Brian Mahoney, AP)

The league will hold three in-season tournaments, same as it did last year. All teams will compete in the first two tournaments, while 10 playoff teams — the top five in each conference — won't participate in the third one, which will be a play-in tournament into the postseason for the two teams who emerge. 

Games will take place Wednesday through Saturday (first tip-offs at 7 p.m. ET) over the course of a week, and regular-season broadcasts will feature nightly themes: 

  • “NBA 2KL Block Party Wednesdays”: Highlights voices around the NBA 2K League community, including influencers.
  •  “NBA 2KL Bounce Pass Thursdays”: The most fast-paced nights of gameplay, with four matchups in a three-hour window. Three games could be happening simultaneously and broadcast should have a "Red Zone" feel to it. 
  • “NBA 2KL Friday Night Fire”: Spotlights the week’s marquee matchup with the Game of the Week.
  • “NBA 2KL Saturday Night Showdown”: Explores new broadcast elements, with a focus on "hardcore" 2K fans. 

Earlier this month, the league revealed all games will be played on PlayStation 5, the latest-generation system manufactured by parent company Sony.

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.

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