For some NBA 2K League retirees, life after pro play is a future in the league
by Robin Mosley
The NBA 2K League is only four years old, but it has made a splash on the esports scene with all its incredible players and teams across the United States. As is typical in esports, the longevity of its players’ careers hasn’t been long, so retirement is on the horizon for many after every season.
So where do they go? Some players just go back to doing non-esports jobs, but others like Brian “Nacho” Traynor and Anmool “ChaChingSingh” Singh went down the route of staying in esports, just in a non-gaming role, which is something that is becoming more of a reality for many.
Nacho is currently the manager of marketing and operations for Hornets Venom GT, but just a few years ago, he was riding the wave of winning the NBA 2K League championship in 2019 with the T-Wolves. He played NBA 2K professionally, but he started with esports “since the old Halo days, Halo 2 and Halo 3,” Nacho said.
Although esports wasn’t as developed at that time, and Nacho had no idea what esports would be, he stuck with playing games including NBA 2K while doing commissioned work as an artist. Eventually, the NBA 2K League was established and Nacho tried out.
“I didn't expect to be part of the 2K League process,” he said. “But then I obviously ended up getting drafted by Orlando.”
ChaChingSingh was entering amateur tournaments before he got drafted, “through that system, I got my way through the bracket. So that's how I got introduced to [NBA 2K],” ChChingSingh said. Similar to Nacho, ChaChingSingh never expected his life would be in esports. In fact, he got drafted second to last in 2019, but he did make HEAT Check Gaming’s team.
“My brother was there at the draft and he watched me get drafted. It was an awesome experience,” he said.
Eventually, both Nacho and ChaChingSingh decided to move on to work outside of playing professional esports. ChaChingSingh reached out to Nacho for advice about the other side of esports. At this point Nacho was firmly in his role and ChaChingSingh was on his way to becoming a part of the league operations team at the NBA 2K League after playing with Bucks Gaming in 2020.
Photo credit: NBA 2K League
But there’s more than just working in management and operations, there’s the brand/content creator direction that lends itself to entrepreneurship. This direction is what Jack “JBM” Mascone, who played and won the league championship in 2021 with the Wizards, has decided to do post-retirement.
He got his start with NBA 2K after his stint with sports and playing NBA 2K with his roommate while he was at Arizona State.
“After I got a slot in the draft, I talked to my parents, and my dad sat down with Brendan Donohue, who's the commissioner of the 2K League and convinced my parents essentially that the league was worth doing,” JBM said.
A pattern between all three retirees is that after their second season, they decided to move on to something new. This decision isn’t a surprising one considering how grueling practicing can be physically and mentally. Just the hours of practicing and strategizing alone is enough for many to realize it’s time to leave by choice rather than to be pushed out for other players. Now they are all living different lives.
“There’s definitely a growing period. There's definitely times when I want to go play, but, you know, I think a couple years from now, I'm going to appreciate the decision I made a couple weeks ago,” JBM said.
Once everyone settled on their next steps, it was all a matter of figuring out how to transition successfully. JBM, is just starting his post-retirement transition as one of the best players in the league to creator/entrepreneur, using the money he made during his time in the league to build his brand.
Photo credit: NBA 2K League
“I'm at the point now where I'm doing some stuff on my own, I'm creating my own video game,” he said. “So I'm investing in a developer to make a video game comparable to Minecraft. And then I'm doing a social media app that's location based. So I'm just trying to mix both worlds, and use my knowledge in the esports space to expand in the real world, and vice versa.”
Nacho found it easy to transition to life outside of professional esports because he was always doing something with the league while he was a player.
“I think what separates me from other people is I knew what my image was. I did a lot of work off the court with [the league]. So streaming, doing coaching roles and content … I think that helped me kind of branch into the other side of the NBA family and where I am now with the Hornets,” Nacho said.
ChaChingSingh loves working on the other side of the NBA 2K League even though his transition is still fairly new.
“It’s been an awesome experience so far. And even though I'm kind of only five or six months in, it's definitely been an awesome transition,” ChaChingSingh said.
He went from playing in the NBA 2K League at 18 to transitioning to league operations successfully after college.
The future for NBA 2K League retirees appears bright with some going on to become league staff or venturing out into the larger gaming world. JBM’s advice for anyone thinking about retiring and transitioning elsewhere is “just follow up with people. [When] you meet someone cool, follow up. That kind of solidifies a friendship or relationship, or at least a cordial tie.”
Nacho’s advice is all about developing your skill set and making yourself stand out.
“I think being open minded and cognizant of what's around you and [asking] what is my skill set now or [asking] what else can I do for esports organizations or teams [helps],” he said.
And for ChaChingSingh, looking inward matters.
“I think finding what interests you the most is definitely important … figure out what really interests you from the beginning and see if there's a career path down that road, and then make the transition,” he said.
It’s a piece of advice that’s useful regardless of what industry you’re in.
Lead photo credit: NBA 2K League