Golden State is back in the Finals! Well, maybe not the same way you have come to expect over the last half-decade. The Warriors Gaming Squad, the NBA 2K League affiliate team of the Golden State Warriors, has advanced to the 2020 NBA 2K League Finals, its first appearance in franchise history. The esports squad will be taking on the Washington Wizards' affiliate, Wizards District Gaming, in a best-of-five series tipping off this Friday, August 28th at 4 p.m. (Pacific).
This is not the first time that Golden State and Washington have faced each other in a Finals, of course, as the Warriors defeated the Bullets in 1975 to win the NBA championship. The memories of the matchup are still fresh in the minds of the two players that led their respective teams in scoring that series: Warriors Hall of Famer Rick Barry and Washington Bullets legend Phil Chenier.
"It was supposed to be the biggest mismatch in the history of the NBA Finals, they were supposed to sweep us, it was supposed to be a joke," Barry recalled on the "Runnin Plays" podcast, "and it turned out to be the biggest upset in the history of the NBA Finals, because we swept the team that was supposed to sweep us."
Led by Barry, who averaged nearly 30 points per contest, the Warriors took all four games against the Bullets. "I remember Rick Barry being virtually unstoppable," Chenier told NBC Sports Bay Area. The rematch between the two franchises now will be in the virtual world, a space that Barry and Chenier admit they are not too familiar with. "I know absolutely nothing [about NBA2K]," Chenier said laughing, "and hopefully the owner Ted Leonsis doesn't hear this because he is very proud of his NBA2K team."
That doesn't mean that Chenier doesn't appreciate the basketball video game, however.
"One of the biggest thrills I have had is my grandkids came to me and said 'Hey Pop Pop, did you know you're on 2K basketball!?'" Chenier recalled with his ever-present smile. "For my grandkids to see that, and identify me, you couldn't ask for anything more."
The NBA 2K League is not simply for sentimental and recreational purposes though, as there is a lot of money on the line. A total prize pool of $920,000 is waiting to be divvied up, with the NBA 2K League champions receiving $420,000. The Warriors Gaming Squad should be feeling very confident competing for the top prize. Point guard and 2020 NBA 2K League MVP finalist Charlie “CB13” Bostwick averaged 37.5 points and 6.5 assists per game in the semifinals, while Samuel “Gradient” Salyers put up 16.5 points on 93.3 percent shooting from the field (14-of-15 FG) along with 3.5 steals.
Obviously, Barry and Chenier will not participate in the series, but their competitive fire has not left them. "We are going to get you guys this time," Chenier replied when asked if he had any words for Barry. "Roles are going to be reversed."
Barry, as you might expect, wasn't having any of it.
"It's not going to do him any good, he lost the one that meant something," Barry responded. "I know Phil well ... he's a heck of a guy and a really good player... [but] if his esports team won, it's not going to matter, it's not going to take the sting out of what happened to him ever, he'll remember that for the rest of his life."
The series starts this Friday with games airing live on ESPN2, ESPN’s digital platforms and the NBA 2K League’s Twitch and YouTube channels.
Barry will be rooting for his squad.
"I hope our Warriors guys with esports can pull it off."