Here's a refresher on the bracket, courtesy of the NBA. LaVine enters play a No. 7 seed and will face the No. 10 seeded Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns in the first round:
The LaVine-Ayton bout is scheduled to tip at 7:30 p.m. CT on ESPN2, with the winner facing the victor of Trae Young vs. Harrison Barnes (8:30 p.m. CT) in the second round. Let's break it all down.
This is not a 1-on-1 tournament, despite the seeding structure being based on individual overall rating.
Before the tournament begins, each player must compile a pool of eight current NBA teams for them to choose from — each of which can only be used once. That introduces an interesting conundrum: Players won't be afforded the opportunity to exclusively play as themselves or the team that employs them. In fact, it's likely that on at least a handful occasions, players will be playing against themselves and real-life teammates.
So far, only Kevin Durant and Derrick Jones Jr.'s team pools are publicly known. Durant will choose between the Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors (spicy), Houston Rockets (spicier), LA Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder (would this count as bringing a ring to OKC?) and Utah Jazz. Jones will decide between the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Dallas Mavericks, LA Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers.
Durant vs. Jones is the first matchup scheduled, set to tip at 6:30 p.m. CT after a 30-minute preshow beginning at 6 p.m. All matchups will be conducted online on the Xbox One.
The tournament will be decided over the next week, with the finals slated for April 11. The winner will receive $100,000 to donate to the charity of their choice.
Without knowing the teams each player will use, it's hard to pin down LaVine's hopes against Ayton with too much certainty.
What we do know is LaVine has been slowly dipping his toe into the gaming waters for some time now. In March, he participated in an online Call of Duty Modern Warfare tournament hosted by SLAM to exciting results:
Content warning: Explicit language
Zach LaVine rips a three-kill streak in @SLAMftw Call of Duty MW tournament, Meyers Leonard reacts:— Rob Schaefer (@rob_schaef) March 22, 2020
“You know what that 3 reminds me of? That eyeball sandwich you hit in Charlotte, that’s what that reminds me of... I wasn’t even on your team and I was going crazy!” pic.twitter.com/h0FxdctN5X
LaVine also recently told Sam Smith of Bulls.com that he's making his own Twitch account to try and expand his following in the space. As for his 2K skills, specifically, we'll have to wait and see. For what it's worth, Coby White seems skeptical:
What we know about Ayton... He doesn't like to lose. Let's see if LaVine can incite this type of rage Friday:
Further, Young, Devin Booker and myriad others enter this tournament notorious gamers. It should make for an entertaining showcase.
How to Watch
All times via ESPN:
Preshow: 6 p.m. CT on ESPN
Friday night's matchups:
(1) Kevin Durant vs. (16) Derrick Jones Jr — 6:30 p.m. CT on ESPN
(7) Zach LaVine vs. (10) Deandre Ayton — 7:30 p.m. CT on ESPN2
(2) Trae Young vs. (15) Harrison Barnes — 8:30 p.m. CT on ESPN2
(3) Hassan Whiteside vs. (14) Patrick Beverly — 9:30 p.m. CT on ESPN2
Re-airs: ESPN3, in video form
Additionally, each matchup will stream on the ESPN app, NBA.com, the NBA App, and the NBA and 2K's Twitter, Twitch, YouTube and Facebook feeds.
Remainder of the first round: Sunday, April 5 — 11 - 3 p.m. CT
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, April 7 — 6 - 10 p.m. CT
Semifinals and finals: Saturday April 11 — TBD