Seated on an Indianapolis stage, headsets on under the bright lights, five 76ers Gaming Club players and their coach will compete for $1 million.
76ers GC enters the NBA 2K League playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Led by MVP-candidate Dre, the team’s 20-year-old point guard, they will begin play on Thursday evening after a first-round bye.
Head Coach and General Manager Jeff Terrell joined the 76ers Insiders podcast to discuss the league, the season, and much more. Below are some excerpts from the conversation.
Why do you think 2K is so popular?
“2K gives you a different avenue. Obviously you have people that just love playing video games, but I think it’s six percent of [basketball players] who get out of high school and go play in college. So, think about all those kids that have been a part of a sports team growing up, now you can go play 2K, online. It’s not about how tall you are or how athletic you are. Everybody can play it. I think it gives everybody an opportunity to be good, and it gives some players an opportunity to be great. What our league provides is an opportunity. That’s on the player side, the coaching side, the GM side, and it’s been really special to be a part of and watch it grow and evolve year after year.”
What is something that you wish more people knew about the NBA 2K League, or something that you think is misunderstood?
“A lot of people don’t understand that these guys are leaving their families for six months. They think these guys are just playing at home, and that’s not the case in our league. All players are drafted and they move into their respective markets. They’re practicing day in and day out. There are no easy or short days, they’re working hard. Our work is a lot different than going and working in a factory, or working outside in landscaping. But you have to have a strong mental in this. You’re playing a video game for 8 to 12 hours a day. I think just the work ethic of these guys and just how passionate and how hard they work is something that’s misunderstood. It is fun and it’s a blessing to play a video game, but when you’re competing for $2.6 million, it’s a little more than just a video game at that point.”
How have you learned to balance being away during the season, seeing your family only when the team’s schedule allows, compared to being with them the rest of the year?
“When I’m there, I’m very active. I’m with them all day long. I make sure they know they’re my main priority and that I love them a ton. When I’m away, I FaceTime them a ton, probably to where it’s a little annoying I’m sure at times. I just always want them to know that I love them, I’m thinking about them, and I care about them. I know it’s probably tough for them with their dad not being there all the time, but they also love this league. They love watching the games. They think it’s the coolest thing in the world… Hopefully we can bring a championship home and it’s something they can brag about.”
What are your top takeaways from the regular season?
“My biggest takeaway this year is just how we fought through adversity. Both tournaments, we’ve had trades that got leaked before they happened, which is tough. That happens in a lot of sports, but our guys…they fought. They got through adversity, they put it to the side, and they fought through it. With this being such a new league, people have to understand that not everything’s going to be handled the correct way because people have never been in those situations to handle those moments. Unfortunately some of our trades got leaked and we fought through it and made it to the Finals, and [also] won a tournament. I think fighting through adversity was one of my biggest takeaways.
“I think the best thing that ever happened to us was the Sav  trade. Getting 630 was a special day for me because 630 reached out to me last year and really, really wanted to be here. I think for teams to be successful in this league, you have to have players that want to be there and want to work every day, and won’t take the opportunity for granted… It’s special to have him and Dre together. They’ve been really incredible together on court and off court. Dre’s come out of his shell more off court, having somebody that he can relate to a little more. Those are two of the biggest takeaways that I have from our season so far.”
What makes Dre, who just turned 20, such a special player?
“I think the biggest thing for me is just how intelligent he is. He’s so smart on and off the court. Last year, him coming into the league as a 19 year old trying to fill the shoes of who everybody says is the 2K League GOAT in Radiant, I think he did a hell of a job. He was unbelievable. He had a lot of learning moments as a player. He really grew over this offseason. His leadership, to me, is getting right where it needs to be. There’s always going to be something that you can improve on, but he’s growing. The day that I talked to him and I told him I was going to draft him, I was like ‘Man, don’t worry about filling Radiant’s shoes. You be Dre.’ And it’s a project. I’m not expecting you to come in and be Radiant. I want you to be yourself. We joked about it the other day and he was like ‘Thank you so much for just believing in me.’ But I said ‘You did that, though. I can believe in you all I want, but if you don’t take the initiative and do what you’re supposed to do, it’s not going to work out.’ He’s worked really hard, he’s being a great teammate, and there’s not more I can ask of him.”
What are you most proud of during your five seasons with 76ers GC?
“That’s a super tough one. You know, we’ve been to the Finals. We’ve won some banners. But, honestly, my proudest moment is when guys are out of the league and they’ll write me a message or call me. I had Bell’s palsy this year…I had a player call me at like 7 a.m. and he said ‘Jeff, I’m so sorry. How are you? How’s the family? Are you going to be okay?’ Just the connections that I’ve made over the last five years with players, and Sixers personnel, that’s something that’s going to carry on longer with me than just winning a game or something like that. The relationships I’ve built are something that I hold pretty close to me. I’ve been through a lot in the last five years. I lost my grandmother, I’ve moved – there’s been all kinds of stuff – and I’ve always had my players and my team to lean back on. I think that’s special.”
76ers GC’s NBA 2K League action can be seen on Twitch and YouTube on the NBA 2K League channels. Coming off competing in the first-ever 3v3 Championships, 76ers GC enters the 5v5 Playoffs, which run from August 24-27, as the No. 1 seed in the East.
Click HERE for the full podcast interview on the 76ers Insiders feed.