Serious questions surround the $250K NBA 2K16 Pro-Am competition

Posted February 1st, 2016 at 10:15 am

NBA 2K16 Pro-Am Road to the Finals

With the rise of eSports it was only a matter of time before sports game publishers made their moves into the space. EA Sports with Madden NFL 16 was the first to hold their own event, offering up a relatively small prize but in a tightly defined and controlled competition that has proven to be successful in what it sought out to do. The semi-finals and finals of the event, which uses the game’s Draft Champions mode, will be taking place tomorrow.

On the flip side of things it seems as though 2K Sports threw something together on a whim for NBA 2K16 and did not do near enough planning beforehand. The competition with the game’s Pro-Am mode, which offers up a big $250,000 prize, thus far has been a mess.

The first issue going into the competition related to 2K’s lack of communication. How little clarification the publisher had provided in regards to the structure of the event was incredibly unusual, particularly considering they have always been diligent about required legalese, presenting terms and conditions for everything ranging from the $1 Million Perfect Game Challenge to small giveaways on Twitter.

Originally announced in December, specifics like when it would take place, how to be involved, and any rules and parameters were largely left up in the air. Any tweet or Facebook post from the company about it was followed by comments asking about these things which should have been clearly defined farther in advance. It wasn’t until today that 2K spelled it all out.

Road to the Finals tips off on February 15 in North America with a series of unique, NBA 2K16 in-game events scheduled through May 8. Teams can participate in any of the 16 qualifying events where they will need to win at least four games in order to qualify. Those four games will be scored based on the team’s performance and then ranked on the event leaderboard. The top score of each qualifying event day will be deemed the winner and will move on to the tournament. On May 21, the 16 winners on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will go head-to-head in a single elimination tournament. The console winners will then face off for the $250,000 championship in June while the NBA Finals are taking place.

The even bigger problem however is how the winners are being determined. In an unbelievably misguided decision, the teams that have the largest margin of victory combined with highest teammate grades in their four best games played will move on.


Margin of victory and teammate grades are not the best way to judge a team’s skill. Instead that’s only determining who took advantage of having the largest gap in talent between two particular teams. The best teams to squash the worst teams as opposed to who has succeeded against real competition. There’s no guarantee they’ll be amongst the best of the best, considering a team could dominate four games, lose every other they play, and still advance.

The more pressing concern however is with cheating, which is already rampant in the early “preseason” stages of the competition. Collusion is taking place with one team taking a fall in favor of the other, allowing for blowouts of a practically impossible nature. This is happening because it’s possible to match up against a specific team by coordinating an opponent search as the very same time. If they don’t get matched up, they just back out and try again until successful.

So how will 2K handle the cheating? We don’t know, and that goes back to not having a set of specific rules and guidelines. It’s unclear how they would determine what was a legitimate result vs what was illegitimate…or if they even care.

All of this doesn’t even factor in other flaws in the competition which include an unbalanced playing field given that high ratings can be purchased, exploitable gameplay tactics, being penalized for an opponent quitting, confusing court designs, and disconnects resulting in automatic disqualification. Those things are secondary to the legitimacy of the competition as a whole being in question before it has even really begun. With such a significant prize of $250K on the line it’s astonishing how poorly the Road to the Finals has been organized and handled.