Shaka Browne’s eyes lit up. The Jazz Gaming leader known as Yeah I Compete quickly surveyed his team’s new practice space at Vivint Smart Home Arena and smiled.
“I’m sitting right here. I already found my seat,” Compete said. “I’m in love.”
Last season, Compete and his Jazz Gaming teammates practiced in a windowless room. Now the point guard stood in the new Jazz Gaming Lounge Powered by Larry H. Miller Used Car Supermarket. He gazed at the brightly colored mural on the far wall and then out the floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out on the arena’s northwest plaza and the old Union Pacific Depot. It was exactly what the Jazz Gaming squad wanted as they enter Season 2: Get out of the darkness and into the light.
“When you walked in last year, it was kind of a dead mood,” said DeMar Butler, the power forward known as Deedz. “I feel alive walking in here.”
Jazz Gaming got off to a hot start during last year’s inaugural campaign for the NBA 2K League. The team built up a 5-2 record and had its sights set on the playoffs. The team went on to lose its final seven games.
“There were a lot of lessons learned,” Compete said. “Chemistry was a big thing. We all started playing this game in the privacy of our homes. But being on the road with your teammates, it gives you a real feeling of being part of a team. You feel like an athlete. You’re traveling with your teammates. When things aren’t going great, you have to figure things out. You can’t just turn off the game.”
Jazz Gaming expects better things this time around. The team added a new coach, Jelani “Comp” Mitchell.
The team also won the 2K League lottery and drafted 18-year-old Spencer Wyman, known as Ria, with the first overall pick.
“I already know what to expect from Ria,” Compete said. “I’ve played with him a bunch. Safe to say he’s pretty good.”
Jazz Gaming rounded out its squad with shooting guard Bobby “EasyMoney” Wilson, guard/forward Alontae “Gliz” Proctor, and guard/forward Kevin “KevDontMiss” Fennelly.
“I think the roster is constructed really well,” Mitchell said. “We drafted based on chemistry first. But the crazy thing is we managed to get talent at every position. Obviously we’re looking to improve on our 5-9 record. We have a strong chance of going far.”
Jazz Gaming opens its season with play in THE TIPOFF on Friday, April 5, against Bucks Gaming. All 16 regular-season games take place at the NBA 2K League Studio in Long Island City, N.Y. Every game is livestreamed on the league’s Twitch channel.
“Compared to last year, the competition this year is ridiculous,” Deedz said. “There are a lot of teams that can make some noise.”
And Jazz Gaming is one of them.