Golden State Warriors guard—and I’ll get this out of the way now, my favourite player currently in the NBA—Klay Thompson was watching ESPN the other day, and did not like what he saw.
In a phase on NBA Today, the hosts have been interviewing a person who’s legally referred to as Ronnie Singh. Singh, a long-time worker of 2K, was identified merely because the “digital marketing director” for the NBA 2K collection, however as the ones video games have greater in recognition—and extra entangled themselves within the worst excesses of influencer and logo tradition—he’s now merely “Ronnie 2K”, the general public face of all the franchise.
If there’s a statement to be made about the game, he makes it, if there’s an interview to be had, he’s the one on camera. The man has almost one million followers on Instagram, and can be seen at all the fanciest parties for brands, networks and players.
Which is what he was doing on ESPN yesterday, answering softball questions about stuff like skill ratings and whether any NBA player had ever tried to bribe him to increase their stats (answer: yes, often). Here’s how the segment went according to Singh’s Instagram:
The best part came afterwards, though, when Thompson took to the comments to call Singh a “clown”, saying “I thought NBA on ESPN meant coverage of some of the best athletes in the world? Not interviewing a promoter…do better ESPN”.
Please note that this spicy serve of sports beef didn’t magically appear overnight. Fittingly, seeing as Singh’s appearance touched on player ratings, Thompson had taken to social media last month to disagree with his own rating in NBA 2K23, putting a vomit emoji next to his three-point rating of 88—good for second in the entire league—and telling the 2K23 team to “put some respect on my name you bums”.
As Singh explains in the ESPN segment yesterday, that’s a good rating, only skewed because Thompson’s own teammate Steph Curry has broken the three-point game so historically that 2K’s ratings had to move like this to accommodate. But players beefing with sports games over their stats is nothing new; I remember working at EB Games in 2003 and some players from my local National Rugby League club (the Canberra Raiders) came in and were furious at their own ratings, and that was 19 years ago; this particular point of contention has only worsened in the decades since now that players can complain directly to developers via social media.
So sure, Thompson—a serial complainer who additionally felt slighted that he didn’t make the NBA’s record of its absolute best 75 avid gamers ever—is most commonly simply airing a petty criticism on Instagram. But I additionally suppose along with his newest feedback, about ESPN interviewing “a promoter”, he’s onto one thing.
This game isn’t even about video games anymore. It’s operating outside of those narrow confines. This is modern sports, this is broadcast money, this is brands, this is content, this is raw, naked greed. For 2K23 the basketball is just the vessel, the excuse. There is no more refined example of the dysfunctional excess of modern life and its broken markets than this tired old video game. There are few other AAA series so defined by their starring role in financial earnings calls.
This is what I’m speaking about. The online game, the broadcasters and the league itself are so entwined that it’s arduous seeing the issues at which they separate. For the NBA that’s nice information, for ESPN it’s a industrial necessity and for the NBA 2K collection it’s probably the most largest causes it’s the sort of grind to be round. It’s a bummer that Thompson’s feedback come off as bitter grapes, then, as a result of he has some degree, it sucks!