Basketball is a part of Ziah “Ziah” Minor’s DNA. The phenom made history as one of the few women drafted in the NBA 2K League in early March and is the first woman drafted by Mavs Gaming after participating in the Women in Gaming Development Camp.
The Washington, D.C., native is notable for being a woman making her mark in esports, especially in the NBA 2K League, which, like most other esports, has been overwhelmingly male since its first draft in 2018. In 2019, Chiquita Evans became the first woman drafted into the league, and this year both Ziah and Alaina “DjLayyy” Haney became the next two women drafted.
There has never been a doubt in Ziah’s mind about her talent and ability to make it in this league because she has been preparing for this since she was young by playing 2K and other games like Call of Duty and Madden with her family.
“I first started when I was like, 13, just playing my career and fooling around with my dad in the basement,” Ziah said.
When playing with her father and her brothers, she would lose, but growing up in a supportive and competitive gaming family sparked her own hustle. From there, when she had the time, she would follow other esports news until she saw an opportunity to get into esports herself.
“Yeah, so, I've always, always followed esports in general, when it came to like, just even other games. And so with me just being of like, competitive nature, when I found out about esports moving into 2K, I was like, ‘Oh, this is the perfect opportunity.’ she said. “I just, I've always loved being able to be better than everybody and then be able to showcase how good I am at everything. So that's definitely like what catapulted me more so in that direction ...”
Since the 2018 draft, the NBA 2K League has tried to get more women into the league. It was clear that women played 2K competitively, so the 2K League created a pipeline -- the Women in Gaming Development Camp. Ziah took part in the second iteration of this initiative in January. The 21-year-old knew she was good, but she didn’t think she would be drafted.
“I think this year because it was made such a big deal that a girl didn't get drafted last year … they definitely tried their best to put their best foot forward and make it so that women had the platform to get drafted,” Ziah said. “And for me, you know, I recognize myself as the best woman on 2K. So for me to like, go into this year's draft. I was like, ‘OK, so I already know, for me, I'm the best one to get.’ And I know that I have the ability to play amongst the best, I don't see a reason why I wouldn't get drafted.”
The road to getting drafted at the Women in Gaming Development Camp allowed her to measure herself against other players to get a sense of where she was compared to the top talent in the league. The environment itself allowed her to thrive and still showcase her abilities and raised her confidence higher than ever before. Taking part of the camp also helped with her adaptability.
“For me, it was like a big thing for me to kind of gauge my adaptability in different situations, because when you're playing in like different tournaments during the year, and stuff like that, you're pretty much playing the same teams over and over again,” Ziah said. “... So going into that, I was able to just gauge the other team and see who I'm playing with, and just make different changes here and there and see that I'm able to adapt well, in all of those situations.”
Ziah’s basketball IQ has been built over many years. In addition to playing with her family at 13, she started playing basketball around that time too. Although Ziah says she started playing late, it was just the step she needed to become the person she is today.
“I ended up going and getting recruited for basketball in college,” she said. “And unfortunately, I wasn't really able to play during the season because I was redshirted my freshman year. And so I left school [altogether] because I hate school, and then I played overseas for a year. So after that year, I came back home just got into working.”
Ziah underwent a lot of personal growth while playing overseas. She pushed herself harder to make a name for herself, and now that plays out in her training with 2K as she balances staying on top of her game with burnout.
“I try my best to keep it balanced between like how many hours I'm putting into the game, because a lot of times you'll like get burnout,” she said. “And that's not fun. And [then] you're like, ‘why am I playing so bad … so now I try to like keep people pretty even balanced. I try to play at least every day for about four to six hours if that and then maybe take a few off days.”
Ziah believes her biggest hurdle is making sure she is consistent, and with the training she’s doing on her own and with her team that shouldn’t be a problem.
Her family is happy for her, but when asked whether she still plays 2K casually with them after being drafted, she laughs, “my family? Not 2K, they will not play me. They literally will not play me, and they’re like, ‘no, we’re good ...’”
Ziah has a lot ahead of her as she navigates her new world of professional esports. She’s not quite famous yet, though she was stopped on the street once, but that all may change within the next few months after the season starts.
Ziah also has aspirations to become a content creator on Twitch.
“So aside from esports, my biggest thing is that I've always wanted to be a content creator, I wanted to be a streamer,” she said. “So that's like, my big dream job. Like, I want to be able to just put out content and just showcase my personality and who I am and make that a career for myself. So, as far as like Twitch, and stuff like that goes, I will be streaming very, very heavy.”