NBA 2K esports league tabs Brendan Donohue as managing director

When the NBA 2K esports league launches next year, it will be under the stewardship of a longtime NBA executive and with the participation of NBA teams. Dan Steinberg/Invision for NBA 2K/AP Images

NEW YORK -- The NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software will name Brendan Donohue as managing director of the new NBA 2K esports league on Tuesday.

Donohue will oversee the league, which was formed between the NBA and Take-Two and is set to launch with its inaugural season in 2018.

“[I’m] just taking what 2K has already built up in terms of popularity around the game and really building an audience around this,” Donohue told ESPN. “It is the most popular sports title in North America and, most importantly, the most highly regarded in terms of the actual game.”

The NBA is expected to announce in the upcoming weeks the number of NBA teams that will participate in the NBA 2K esports league’s inaugural season. Donohue says “that over half the league will be participating in '18.”

Donohue brings two decades of experience in team and league business development. Most recently, he led strategic planning and management for the NBA, WNBA and NBA Developmental League as the NBA senior vice president of team marketing and business operations since 2009. He will oversee the 2K esports league strategy and operations.

“We're thrilled that we already have in place a seasoned sports executive to lead this new league,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver. “The fact that Brendan knows the NBA inside and out is a huge bonus and will enable us to ramp up this venture in record time.”

Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Wizards, told ESPN that the Wizards will be one of the franchises to participate in the upcoming league.

“It will be interesting,” said Zach Leonsis, vice president and general manager of Monumental Sports Network, which is co-owned by his father, Ted. “Obviously the NBA is very bullish about it. No better platform and partner to make a competitive league than with the actual NBA itself. Think about how expansive the local footprints are of each of these individual teams from a grassroots perspective, from a real estate perspective, from a social media and digital footprint perspective.

“Awareness of these tournaments is going to be very high in the regional locales. ... So the NBA as sort of a first mover into this space is going to be receiving a lot of credit, and I think they will also receive a bunch of people looking into seeing how it is going.”

Now the 2K esports league has Donohue to guide it.

“We are taking an extremely popular game that’s really well done and combining that with a league that is used to operating a successful league,” Donohue said. “And with that combination and our teams, our outstanding marketers, the combination of those three things, we will end up with an exciting game that will be able to engage fans and players.”