After six months of preparation, which included a two-month layoff due to covid-19, Wizards District Gaming center Ryan “Dayfri” Conger unveiled his first smile of the playoffs while gazing at the jumbotron that displayed his and his teammates’ picture along with a single word: Champions.

Prior to the celebration, Conger had sworn against showing any sort of emotion — an ode to his favorite player, Kobe Bryant — until he and his WDG teammates had finished the job. At that moment, following WDG’s 70-55 Game-4, series-clinching win over Warriors Gaming Squad, it didn’t matter he was standing on the gray cement floors of Capital One Arena instead of the Wizards’ usual hardwood court, long since stripped away. It was just Conger and his teammates, and as the last NBA 2K League team standing, perhaps it was fitting they were alone.

“It’s nuts, every year you set these goals to win a championship, but it always feels like it’s so far away,” Conger said. “But then suddenly it was all right there in front of us.”

For Conger, who was named NBA 2K League Finals MVP, winning a championship also put an end to the narrative that he wasn’t a winning player. Despite routinely filling the box score with stat lines like his six-point, 10-rebound, nine-assist, four-block, two-steal performance in Game 4 Friday, Conger had failed to reach the playoffs prior to this season’s triumph. As a result, much of the focus had centered around his perceived brashness and willingness to talk trash.

“Honestly, man, it was tough because I’m just going out there and being myself and trying to have fun, but because we were losing, people were calling me a cancer,” Conger said. “But for me to finally win it with these guys after not making the playoffs my first year, then getting traded last year [to the Wizards] and missing out again, this win is just validation that all of the side chatter doesn’t mean a thing.”

Following a late-season slide, which saw the team slip from its perch as a 2-seed to the postseason tournament’s No. 4 slot, WDG swept the Kings in a best-of-three opening series. In the semifinals, WDG swept previously undefeated Raptors Uprising GC to reach the 2K League Finals, despite the team’s leading scorer and 2K League Rookie of the Year, Jack “JBM” Mascone, dealing with Internet connectivity issues in the days leading up to the match.

“We had issue after issue come up and as a result, we didn’t have our best practices leading up to the playoffs,” Mascone said. “But regardless of what happens, you still have to show up ready to play and we did.”

After dropping Game 1 of the Finals, 65-53, the rest of the night and series belonged to Wizards District Gaming. The team went on to win the next three games in dominant fashion before popping celebratory bottles of champagne on the floor of Capital One Arena.

“Doesn’t matter what you think coming into the season, there’s no real way to prepare for winning a championship, especially in a weird season like this,” Conger said. “We spent six months not only playing together but living together and basically only seeing one another, so the journey wasn’t always rainbows and sunshine. But for it to end with this result is nuts, man.”

In addition to joining the Mystics, Valor, Nationals and Capitals as the fifth District of Columbia team to win a championship in the last three years, WDG will also split a $420,000 purse on top of each player’s respective yearly salary.

“This just means so much to me after all of the time and practice we’ve put in. It honestly feels like winning the NBA Championship,” WGD small forward Maurice “ReeseDaGod” Delaney said. “But getting that championship bonus and being in a better position to not only take care of ourselves but also our families, it really doesn’t get much better than this.”

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