Photo: (Photo By Michelle Farsi/NBAE Via Getty Images)
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In early 2018, Indianapolis native Xavier Vescovi was working three jobs, taking care of his mother and playing popular video game “NBA 2K” in his free time while taking a semester off from classes at Indiana State.
Just a few months later, he found himself living in the Bay Area, earning tens of thousands of dollars playing 2K, and living in an Oakland apartment subsidized by the Golden State Warriors.
“When I was young, I told my mom I wanted to make it to the NBA,” Vescovi told SFGate. “This was my virtual way of doing it.”
Hoping to find a way into the fast-growing Esports phenomenon, the NBA launched a professional 2K league in 2018 with 17 NBA franchises creating their own gaming squads. Each squad consists of six players, and games are played with six-minute quarters. Every team has a coach, manager, and access to professional facilities for team practices.
Vescovi — who uses the gamertag “Type” — was a fourth-round pick in the league’s inaugural season and was one of two players the Warriors retained after the season. The rest of the roster was sent into an expansion draft as the league expanded to 21 teams in its second season.
“Bringing me back for a year two was the best thing to happen, I really wanted to be back,” Vescovi said.
“Type” is a digital 7-foot-tall center described by the team as a “slashing rebounder archetype.” In order to get into the league, Vescovi/Type had to play 40 games and beat out thousands of interested players competing for just 102 spots in the league’s inaugural draft.
The team pulled off a first-round playoff upset over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night, with Type averaging 14 points and 16.5 rebounds in the series. Type and his teammates are heading to the league semifinals Friday night, against an opponent to be determined.
Players receive an annual salary of about $35,000, and the team pays for travel, housing, food and medical benefits. Additionally, players can make more money from winning tournaments, as well as from streaming on gaming platforms such as Twitch.
Is that enough to get by in the notoriously pricey Bay Area? Vescovi says the supplemental income from winning tournaments is key.
“Winning the tournaments has helped me,” he said. “If it was just the base salary and no other sources of income, I’m not sure if I could live in the Bay Area.”
One tournament the Warriors won this year offered a payout of $90,000, which was evenly split between the team’s six players. Vescovi said the team did not win any tournaments last year, and he was a little more loose with his money than he would have liked.
“I’m obsessed with shoes and clothes,” he said. “My first season I definitely overspent, but this year I’m making so much more, so now it’s about looking to the future and investing.”
Vescovi estimates he made an additional $22,000 from tournament winnings this season, and recently purchased a 2019 Dodge Challenger. If the team didn’t pay for his housing, Vescovi thinks half of his salary would go towards the Oakland apartment he’s staying in.
“Yeah, it’s insane,” he said of Bay Area housing costs. “I was looking at the apartments near me and it’s like $4,300 a month, when the average in Indiana is $800 to $900. A lot of people back home ask me if I pay for housing, and I say, ‘No, thank god.'”
Vescovi does not make any supplemental revenue from Twitch streams, but says a number of other players in the league do.
“There are a few guys in the league who get a lot of money from Twitch, including last year’s #1 pick [Artreyo Boyd],” he said. “If I had to estimate what he makes, I think it’d be $60,000 to $80,000 a year, so they make a good amount of money streaming.”
The league’s playoffs are underway, and games are streamed on YouTube and Twitch. Even more NBA franchises are expected to join the league next year, and Vescovi hopes that as interest rises, player salaries will also see a bump.
“I think the league will last as long as we allow it to, just as long as we don’t ruin it,” Vescovi said. “Later on, hopefully the salary goes up and we get to negotiate contracts. Making $35,000 is great but I would like to make more as I get older.”
With the offseason looming, Vescovi doesn’t know for sure if the Warriors will retain him again in advance of another expansion draft. It does appear somewhat likely, since he’s the team’s second-leading scorer behind Alex Reese, or “Bsmoove,” who was also retained after last season.
Vescovi spent last year’s offseason back in Indianapolis working on his game and communicating with Reese and team manager Rustin Lee about which players to target in the expansion draft.
Even though Type is in the conversation for winning the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award, Vescovi is unsure if the Warriors will retain him again and what he’ll do this offseason.
“It’s kind of hard to tell right now,” he said. “I like the organization and I like the culture, the goal is to win, and they train you hard. I like it here, and I don’t want to go anywhere else.”
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/warriors/article/Warriors-35K-a-year-play-NBA-2K-Xavier-Vescovi-14120097.php.