Heading into his office on a Monday morning in the south-west town of Reading, an area of England best known for its famous annual music festival, Harry Hurst, a recruitment consultant would never of envisioned what he is now.
The 21-year-old Hurst is now known as HazzaUK2K – a professional gamer in the NBA 2K League – and he lives the high life of travelling to New York, meeting fellow gamers and playing the one game he loves the most … as a job.
Truth is Hurst had never even visited the U.S. before he was drafted and now lives the life of a professional gamer alongside the other 101 gamers competing in the first edition of the 2K League. Hazza is one of just three European gamers selected out of 102 participants, and is the first Brit to compete in the esports event.
“It’s been great. Obviously coming over here, it may have been hard to adjust, with a different home environment, different weather, different culture but I’ve settled right in,” Hurst said in a conference call to international media, which was admittedly just as surreal to them as it was to the 21-year-old.
“Everyone has been really friendly and the facilities provided for the team are amazing and will help us to progress in the league. We’re also flying to New York once a week, which can be a bit of a drag but it’s great to do something new. American life is very different to England but I’m settling into it and really enjoying it so far.”
Hurst might be enjoying his time with Mavs Gaming who are part of the Dallas Mavericks organisation, but the esports league he is part of is a serious and thriving business. Video gaming events were largely between amateurs until the late 2000s when participation by “professional gamers” and spectators saw a large surge in popularity, which explains why the NBA wanted a part in the culture.
Following a NBA 2K combine, that featured over 70,000 gamers, 102 were selected for the 2K League Draft with Hurst picked and drafted by the Dallas Mavericks gaming organistion.
Mavs Gaming currently lie in sixth place out of a total of 17 teams with a 3-1 record. All players signed six-month contracts and will have their relocation and housing costs covered by the league, as well as benefits such as medical insurance and a retirement plan. Food, transportation, and housing will also be covered during the season when teams travel for games.
Players drafted in the first round make $35,000, while the rest of the players will earn $32,000. There will be four other opportunities throughout the season to win money as $1 million will be split between three tournaments and the league championship. Players are also allowed to sign endorsement deals to earn extra income.
“Speaking for myself and the rest of the team, we want to try and win as many games as possible,” Hurst said. “We have two more tournaments coming up which we would really like to win and the Playoffs which is the big goal at the end which we will be striving to win.
“We lost the first tournament in the quarter-finals where we were knocked out by the 76ers. It was quite a frustrating loss as we knew we were a good team and we had quite a lot of potential. That was the team that eventually went on to win the tournament so we left with our heads hanging as it wasn’t a great start when we had such high ambitions for ourselves.”
You can watch the NBA 2K League live on Twitch