NBA commissioner Adam Silver will become the first commissioner of the four major North American professional sports leagues to be involved in an esports league draft when he announces the NBA 2K League draft's No. 1 pick on Wednesday, ESPN has learned.
Silver will attend the inaugural draft in New York and announce the first pick by Mavs Gaming, the Dallas Mavericks' NBA 2K team. Silver will also hold a news conference prior to the draft alongside Brendan Donohue, managing director of the NBA 2K League, and Strauss Zelnick, chairman and CEO of Take-Two Interactive. Donohue will announce all the other picks after Silver announces the first one.
The NBA 2K League draft, to be held in The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, will consist of six rounds, with the order of picks reversing after each round. Teams will draft from a pool of 102 players, selected during an extensive tryout process.
Silver has been a major driving force behind the NBA starting its own esports league, although several in the NBA ownership ranks have already been investing in some form or fashion in esports. A total of 13 NBA teams' ownership have invested in or acquired businesses around esports -- a blossoming industry with $1 billion in revenue projections over the next three years, according to current team valuations and several studies on the industry.
By comparison, six MLB teams and three NFL teams share ownership with esports teams.
Silver also wants to promote more diversity and inclusion in the NBA 2K League, which already has launched an initiative focused on recruiting and developing female 2K League players. The league will have industry advocates and leaders help identify and train current and potential elite female gamers in an effort to better understand gender disparities in esports.
A committee has been formed to help identify and remove potential barriers to join the NBA 2K League. The 2K League tryout was open to all gamers, but the league did not ask players to provide their gender since it had no bearing on the selection process.
Once the 72,000-player tryout field was narrowed down to the top 250 players based on their in-game skills, the NBA 2K League became aware of players' genders following the combine. There was just one female gamer among the top 250 players but none to make the final draft pool of the top 102 players.
Silver clearly wants to see improvement in that area, having touted how gamers can come in all sizes, ethnicities, ages and genders.
"In terms of the pool available to compete in that league, physical prowess, at least the way it's necessary on an NBA court, will no longer be necessary," Silver said at the 2017 NBA All-Star Weekend. "It may be a different kind of physical prowess in terms of reflexes and your ability to move your thumbs very quickly, but these athletes can be any shape or size and any age and from anywhere. So we're very excited to move into that business."
ESPN's Jacob Wolf contributed to this report.