The NBA 2K Players tournament started with a bang Friday night on ESPN.
No. 16 seed Derrick Jones Jr. upset No. 1 seed Kevin Durant 78-62 to lead off the evening. Jones Jr. and Durant faced off in a tense matchup — this time not on the court, but on the sticks — as the players queued up for a game of “NBA 2K20” in which Jones Jr. would select the Milwaukee Bucks and Durant the LA Clippers. Sitting at their homes in Miami and New York, respectively, Jones Jr. and Durant competed in a 24-minute game that ended with Jones Jr. upsetting the Brooklyn Nets superstar.
Evan Turner wasn’t at all surprised Jones Jr. pulled the upset.
@KDTrey5 you know damn well you can’t play these 90s babies in video games. Every kid born after 95 is a top chef
— Evan Turner (@thekidet) April 4, 2020
It was a fitting kickoff to the 2K Players tournament, which will feature 16 players competing over the course of the next week in “NBA 2K20” with bragging rights and a $100,000 donation from the NBA, NBPA and 2K to a coronavirus relief charity of their choice on the line. Friday’s participants included Jones Jr. and Durant, as well as other NBA notables Trae Young, Zach LaVine, Hassan Whiteside and Patrick Beverley.
Throughout the night players discussed their home lives amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has Americans, including these players, placing themselves self-quarantine to prevent the spread of the virus. Durant, who is recovering from an Achilles injury suffered in the 2019 NBA Finals, said he has not touched a ball “in a while,” while Jones Jr. said he has been trying to keep his basketball skills sharp by shooting around on the roof of his Florida home.
The third match of the night brought the largest landslide, with Atlanta Hawks guard Young dominating Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes 101-59.
Young, who in an Instagram post said he had only just started gaming seriously, used the Bucks, who would become a favorite choice across the four matches. The Bucks were picked for three of four games and players using them averaged a total of 87.7 points per game and held their opponents to a mere 58.3-point average, per ESPN Stats & Information research. During their matchup, Barnes and Young discussed their favorite on-the-court matchups, with Young saying he enjoyed facing Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard. Barnes noted LeBron James, who he defeated in the 2015 NBA Finals while a member of the Golden State Warriors.
The other two matchups of the night were Chicago Bulls guard LaVine versus Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton and Portland Trail Blazers big man Whiteside versus Clippers guard Beverly. LaVine would defeat Ayton in a close matchup — with LaVine, using the Houston Rockets, defeating Ayton’s Miami Heat 57-41 — while the two bantered back and forth over the mic.
During the Whiteside and Beverly matchup, Beverly popped off after a monster slam by Giannis Antetokounmpo. “Stop playing with me, man!” Beverly yelled at Whiteside as he stood up out of his chair. “I’m the best ever!” Beverly would go on to win 84-54 using the Bucks versus Whiteside on the Los Angeles Lakers.
Action in the NBA 2K Players Tournament will resume Sunday at 6 p.m. on ESPN2 as a part of ESPN Esports Day, featuring gameplay of Madden NFL 20, Formula 1, Rocket League and Apex Legends. Sunday’s matches will pit Domantas Sabonis versus Montrezl Harrell; Donovan Mitchell against Rui Hachimura; Devin Booker versus Michael Porter Jr.; and Andre Drummond against DeMarcus Cousins.