When invited to cover the Raptors 2K team I did not know what to expect. Rolling up in my Uber, I arrived in front of what appeared to be a little cozy two-story house near Lake Ontario. Peering through the window were two eyes requesting my information. As the door swung open, I was confronted with an atmosphere similar to a college frat house; the aroma of food in the air, groups of people congregating. And finally, team members from the Raptors Uprising 2K team huddled around a ping pong table playing as if it was the finals of the US Open Tennis Championship.
And then to my surprise, a young man named Yusuf Abdulla abruptly sprang out of the basement corridor yelling and cheering his teammates on.
”I got next!” he exclaimed to them as they were playfully weary of relinquishing their paddles.
Abdulla is the only Canadian player on the Toronto Raptors Uprising NBA 2K League team. He attended Centennial College where he played on the men’s team coached by NBA guard Cory Joseph’s father, David Joseph. But Abdulla did not limit his basketball time to on the court. He transitioned his knowledge of the game to the virtual world and began participating in NBA 2K video game tournaments at his college. These contests usually ended with Abdulla as the victor.
”Being able to physically play the game is such an advantage,” says Abdulla. “A lot of people think it’s just pressing buttons and looking at a screen, but having an understanding of the game of basketball is important.”
It was online where he saw a posting to be a part of the NBA 2K League. Not thinking anything of it, Abdulla decided to try his luck where he would be put through a process that consisted of over 70,000 gamers who played a series of NBA 2K games to get a spot on a roster. To his surprise Abdulla was sent on his way to the second round of vetting, where it was cut down to around 230 contestants.
”I knew I was really good at this,” said Abdulla. “But beating out all those people really let me know that I had something special!”
Abdulla would make it out of the last round to finally be chosen to become one of the six members of the Toronto Raptors Uprising NBA 2K League team. He’s positioned as a 7’1’’ centre, averaging 16.4 points and seven rebounds. Yes, it’s not the same as making the NBA (or actually being 7’1”), but the competition is very real.
”I never thought in a million years that I would get paid to play videos games,” he joked. “But it’s an honour to play for Toronto. There was a good chance that I was supposed to end up in a different city, but I’m glad I’m here.”