This week at the NBA’s Innovation Summit as part of Mexico City Week, the NBA 2K League announced the addition of a new franchise with DUX Gaming. The new team will be based in Mexico and become the first NBA 2K League expansion team in Latin America, and second international team along with the Shanghai Gen.G Tigers, out of the NBA 2K League’s now 24 teams.
At the heart of this new partnership are two things. One, an innovative “club of the future” in DUX Gaming. The other, the NBA’s continuing journey to expand in Mexico which has already hosted more international NBA games than any country outside North America, has their own team — the Mexico City Capitanes — joining the G-League this season, and already hosts the NBA Academy in Latin America. “The opportunity to expand into Mexico and into Latin America, it’s a huge priority for us,” Brendan Donohue, NBA 2K League President told me on a call after the announcement. “The NBA is so big there. And then frankly there’s a very, very active 2k player community there as well.”
Bringing new disruption and innovation to NBA
DUX Gaming is a Madrid-based sports organization founded in 2018 by Xavier Robles and Jordi Torras, and already competes in international esports tournaments and Spanish football leagues, where they are a two-time champion of eLaLiga.
But that’s not all they do. In 2020, they became the first esports organization to buy a semi-professional soccer club with the purchase of DUX Internacional de Madrid. As Robles says that was “a very disruptive move.” Earlier this year, DUX Gaming also founded DUX Logroño, which competes in the second division of Spanish women’s football.
So what’s behind this unusual growth? “The majority of teams out there, they have history, they have 100 years of history. What we would like to do is to create a fanbase.” Robles explained. “How can we have a community? Our answer is through content, and through being disruptive.”
The NBA 2K League is a clear logical next step for DUX Gaming, according to Robles. “Being a franchisee in the NBA, it kind of ticks these boxes. It allows us to make a lot of content associated obviously with the NBA, and it is very disruptive because we are the first team in Europe that has ever entered an NBA competition.”
Donohue explains that approach makes them an ideal partner for the NBA 2K League where many of the teams are also owned by NBA franchises, even if DUX’s journey is unconventional. “They kind of speak our language, they know what it’s like to to run traditional sports organisations, they understand eSports. They are very well positioned to run a successful business as well – they’re already selling partnerships and they’re already doing content.”
Opening up new possibilities for the NBA
For the NBA, the introduction of an NBA 2K team with DUX Gaming represents a host of opportunities, according to Raul Zarraga, VP and Managing Director of the NBA in Mexico. “We’re promoting the participation of basketball in any kind of form,” Zarraga outlines. “Mexico ranks 3rd among the countries outside the US in terms of League Pass, also among international market engagement across social media channels. The content that we generate is crucial for us. [With] a 2K Mexican team, just imagine the level of content that we’ll be able to create on different platforms.”
Then there are the partnerships they can strike. According to Zarraga “80% of NBA fans in Mexico play video games regularly. So it’s a very important market for different brands. It’s a big market.” That means the opportunity to connect together the different strands of the NBA’s presence in Mexico gives them a truly versatile offering. “We are hoping to have future games in Mexico, NBA Games, with G-League, we want to integrate this as part of it so whenever we are approaching a partner… we have for you, any kind of basketball experience that you want – you want live, we have live. We have digital. You want something based in Mexico with a Mexican theme? We have 2K. You want content? We have all kinds of content. So what we’re looking for from the business perspective is something that is aligned with any kind of strategy.”
And as Donohue explains, the presence of a team in Mexico creates new opportunities to engage fans. “it starts to engage that local audience more directly,” he says. “It’s totally different to actually have a team in your market you can aspire to be, to meet and to connect with. I think that it just elevates the dynamic.”
The NBA’s Spanish-speaking franchise
As for DUX Gaming specifically, they bring knowledge, experience, and deep links into the global Spanish-speaking community. “This is something that is very cool to us – to be the team that is the Spanish speaking team,” Robles says.
For the NBA 2K League that’s a hugely important dimension. “We have been looking to connect with our Spanish speaking and 2k fans for some time now” Donohue says. “This is the perfect storm. We have an organisation that has 20 million fans worldwide following the DUX brand. They have incredible influencers, that you know they’re very, very influential in the Spanish speaking community.” DUX Gaming’s roster of talent and social media influencers includes DjMaRiiO, Kolderiu, Gravesen and Chigre.
But as Robles describes it, the move is a vital step for the DUX Gaming’s growth too, whose Spanish-language content “is consumed mostly by Latin American people more than people from Spain” adding “so we had to go to Latin America somehow.”
The NBA 2K League offers them something vital to their mission – a big name partner who can open doors. “It is hard as an organisation as a creator… as a business to enter new markets,” Robles says. “So when you enter a new market, if you do it with locals, or with people that have been there for a long time, and they already give you a base. It’s much better. We’ve done it in the past and the NBA has that, has a name, has people working in Mexico.”
This is just the beginning
For the NBA 2K League, there is plenty more to come. “This plants a flag in a way that’s very unique and very new.” Donohue says “Hopefully you’ll create more teams across Latin America, certainly tap into a very very rabid fan base of 2k and the NBA, already existing there.”
That rabid fanbase will have plenty of new opportunities to get involved too. DUX Gaming will be involved in the NBA 2K League Draft in November. NBA 2K teams typically host tryouts in local markets ahead of the draft, and the NBA 2K League has plenty of experience in running international tryouts too after conducting in-person and remote international qualifying events in Hong Kong, London, Seoul and Shanghai for top players from the European and Asia-Pacific regions over their first four seasons. With the addition of DUX Gaming this offers a new route in for the top talent in the Latin American gaming world.
As for DUX Gaming themselves, Robles is certainly dreaming big. “The interesting thing, at least for me as a businessman, is how you can create the fanbase of the future? We are not Football Club Barcelona — we have not been here for 120 years — or the Lakers or the Celtics. This is something great to have history. But we are building our own history, and this is exciting. We can build it with less attachments to certain stuff,” he muses. “People that are aware of what’s happening in the eSports industry, marketing industry, sports industry. It is a new thing. And it has some interest because we’re trying to answer some questions that nobody has answered before.”