New Lynx signee also an avid esports gamer

Photo courtesy of Twitter Aerial Powers’ likeness in an NBA 2K game

The fourth annual NBA 2K League Draft will be held virtually on March 13. It will be live-streamed on the NBA 2K League’s Twitch and YouTube channels.

Additionally around 100 prospects and select team “war rooms” are expected to join the four-round draft broadcast through live look-ins from their locations around the world, and more than 250 players, unretained players from last season, and players who earned eligibility through the NBA 2K League Draft Prospect Series, international qualifying events over the last two off seasons, and the NBA 2K League Women in Gaming initiative.

The NBA 2K League was co-founded by the NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software in 2018. The Minnesota Timberwolves’ T-Wolves Gaming team is among the 23 league clubs and won the league’s 2019 title.

“The 2K League is like my family,” said new Minnesota Lynx forward Aerial Powers. Powers has been a gamer since she was a youngster growing up in Detroit, starting out on Nintendo 64. During the 2019 WNBA season she officially launched her Twitch channel, POWERzSURGE, and plays several popular esports games including NBA 2K.

Last fall, NBA 2K20 created a full WNBA career mode that allows players to control their favorite WNBA team. It’s called “The W” but it only works for one single season, unlike the NBA players that are set up for multiple seasons.

MSR News Online Aerial Powers as a gamer

Having her WNBA compatriots on the popular esports game is a welcoming start, stated Powers. “I never thought I’d see myself in the game,” she said proudly. “I came home one day [and] my dad was playing the NBA [2K] and he’d never really been with 2K. He’s playing as me.”

Her father then reported, “You got 60 [points] and it’s only the third quarter,” chuckled Powers.

Yet esports still is slow in gaining traction among Blacks, girls and women. “We women make up 48% of gamers, and not a lot of people know that,” Powers pointed out. “[Gaming] looks as if it is male dominated…and it’s not.” 

Several HBCUs have been involved in esports in recent years. The HBCU Esports Alliance is a diversity and inclusion initiative designed to increase the participation of HBCU students, alumni and fans on school campuses or virtual HBCU campuses.

The gaming industry is a $150 billion industry, and more Blacks need to be involved, said CIAA Assistant Commissioner Ben Baxter. The longest running Black athletic conference in the country last November partnered with the Alliance and CSL Esports, which works with high schools and colleges to provide life-changing opportunities in education through esports. “There are job opportunities besides gaming,” Baxter stressed.

During Super Bowl weekend earlier this month the NFL hosted its inaugural Madden NFL 21 HBCU tournament, which featured 16 games from Black colleges. The grand prize winner won $5,000, and second- and third-place finishers each won $2,500.

The MEAC and SWAC conferences in 2016 helped formed the NFL HBCU Initiative to develop programs focused on Black colleges to educate and connect students to careers in football administration and the sports industry at large. 

Baxter pointed out that more HBCU schools and conferences are getting more involved in esports. “I don’t think it’s going anywhere. It’s a multi-million-dollar industry,” he said. 

Powers recently signed with Team Liquid, a pro esports organization. She also will chair its diversity and inclusion task force as she is an active promoter of gaming. She also has hosted an all-woman NBA 2K tournament, “Powerz Up,” and has been a broadcaster on NBA 2K League games on ESPN2.

“This is where I come in and try to change that,” said Powers on getting more girls and women into gaming.   

About Charles Hallman

Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at challman@spokesman-recorder.com

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