Conger and WDG can finish the job Friday in the NBA 2K League Finals against Warriors Gaming Squad. The best-of-five game series, a digital rematch of the real-life 1975 NBA Finals between the Washington Bullets and Golden State Warriors, will be streamed on Twitch and YouTube and broadcast on ESPN2 beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern time. The winning team will receive $420,000 from the league’s $920,000 postseason prize pool.
“Two more days and then we can smile for six months,” WDG rookie point guard Jack “JBM” Mascone, who scored 28 points in the series-clinching win over the Raptors, said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “We’re so set on doing everything in our power to put us in the best position come Friday. The no smiling thing is obviously a symbol that nobody’s content. [Dayfri] hasn’t really smiled since Saturday. We haven’t really either.”
While the players continue to adopt the Mamba Mentality, Zach Leonsis, the senior VP of strategic initiatives for Monumental Sports & Entertainment, can’t help but smile at what the team has already accomplished this year. One of 17 original NBA 2K League teams when the league launched in 2018, WDG qualified for the playoffs in its inaugural season before missing the postseason last year. The franchise won the NBA 2K League draft lottery and used the No. 1 overall pick to select Mascone, who averaged 21 points and 5.5 assists as a rookie, helping WDG to a 13-3 regular season record.
“We caught our lucky break,” Leonsis said of landing the No. 1 pick. "… We’ve always said we want to compete for a championship in every single sport that we play, and esports is no different.”
Washington Wizards point guard John Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, was among those who congratulated the team on its first trip to the finals this week.
Amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the NBA 2K League postponed the start of its season from March to May. Rather than having teams compete against one another inside a centralized studio in New York as in previous years, games this season have been held remotely, with teams playing from their respective home markets. WDG players are housed in an apartment building a few Metro stops from Capital One Arena.
“It’s been crazy,” WDG shooting guard Maurice “ReeseDaGod” Delaney said of not being able to travel this season. “In the studio, you can get up and rattle [opponents] and talk to them across the stage. This year, you’re not able to do that.”
That difference is perhaps most hard on Conger, who, in addition to being a finalist for the MVP and defensive player of the year awards to be announced Friday, is considered one of league’s best trash-talkers.
“That win wasn’t just for us, that was for the whole league,” Conger said after averaging 14 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in WDG’s upset of Raptors Uprising, which went 16-0 during the regular season and won both of the league’s in-season tournaments.
Mascone said the team has spent a lot of the past few days watching video of Warriors Gaming Squad, which is led by point guard Charlie “CB13” Bostwick, the sixth-highest scorer in the league. WDG will have to do a better job containing Bostwick on the virtual hardwood than the ’75 Bullets did against Golden State’s Rick Barry in the Warriors’ four-game sweep. If they do, they could follow the Washington Mystics, Capitals and Nationals — all title winners in the past three years — in joining the District of Champions.
“We’d love to bring another title to D.C.," Leonsis said.