Over the first two seasons of the NBA 2K League, there has been no better team than Blazer5 Gaming.
Portland's eSports team was 12-2 in Season 1, the best record in the league, and they repeated as the No.1 seed in Season 2 after posting a 14-2 record.
However, all the regular-season success has failed to translate to the postseason, with Blazer5 being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs two seasons in a row.
Now, with a revamped lineup, Blazer5 once again has its sights set on a championship. "Expectation is always a championship," said starting point guard Nidal “Mama Im Dat Man” Nasser. "I just feel like we have so much talent on our team, if we don't win a championship it's wasted, to be honest."
But why did the regular season's best team stumble and fall in the postseason? Were they just not as good as we thought? Of course not, the ball just didn't bounce their way. However, Nasser says there may have been some other issues at hand.
I feel like the last two seasons we've had so many obstacles, not even on the game, more off the game. Solving problems off the game that we just couldn't solve, or dealing with personalities that we couldn't deal with. Stuff like that, whatever the case may be, and I think that took a big toll once the season went on." Nidal Nasser on postseason struggles.
In an attempt to fix those minor personality and chemistry issues, Blazer5 made some major changes. The squad completely revamped its roster, building around its Big Three of Mama Im Dat Man, Dayne "OneWildWalnut" Downey, and Andron "LavishPhenom" Thomas.
Added to that equation were Stanley "MaJes7ic" Lebron, Brandon “Hood” Caicedo, and Georgio “OOC Slim” Bonte - A trio of players that know how to score.
Hood was the leading scorer in Season 1, averaging nearly 30 points per contest for Cavs Legion. MaJes7ic averaged 10.3 points last season while shooting 53.9% from the field. While OOC Slim dropped 11.1 points per contest in his rookie season with Raptors Gaming.
Hood and MaJes7ic bring a nice wrinkle to the Blazer5 starting lineup. The two played together last season with Heat Check Gaming, and both are good friends with OneWildWalbut and Mama Im Dat Man. The relationship is something Nasser knows will benefit the team.
Majes7ic, I’ve known him countless years. That’s been a really close friend of mine, I consider him a brother. Same with Hood. So when we got those two guys we finally felt like this five is a group that not only that we can dominate with, but we can speak our mind to and that’s a huge thing that people don’t understand. If players are holding in their emotions during the game or in practice, you’re never gonna excel. You’re never gonna get to that next level. That was our downfall the last two years. - Nidal Nasser
But don't sleep on OOC Slim. While he may not have the same relationship with the guys that Hood or MaJes7ic does, he is still a perfect addition to play the sixth-man role for the team.
"Adding Slim… he knows what B5 is all about," said Nasser. "He’s adjusted seamlessly, giving us input day in and day out. I appreciate all those guys. We’re putting in the work this year and we’re gonna make it happen."
If Blazer5 does make it happen, they won't do it without a captain behind the wheel.
For the past two seasons, Blazer5 didn't have a true head coach. Instead, the six guys just relied on each other to get the job done. While it had success, it still felt like something was missing.
Enter Andrew Maxie. Back in January, Blazer5 announced the hiring of the first coach in team history. Maxie, a former college basketball player who won MAC Conference MVP at Eastfield College and NAIA All-American at Lindenwood-Belleville University, gives the team someone to rely on to make those key crunch time decisions.
"I wasn’t fond of a coach Season 1 and Season 2, I felt like I could take that load. That’s just the person I am, I wanna lead from the front," said Nasser.
But having a true coach allows Nasser to focus on his game, while Maxie worries about the Xs and Os.
When we got Andrew (Maxie), he’s been a big help. We’re talking advanced stats. We’re talking scouting. In the Lakers game he put out a gameplan knowing what they like to do in shot clock situations, what they like to do when he goes left and right… Majes7ic was just telling me that one of the big stops, key stops in the game around the fourth quarter, he had Andrew in his head when he was reading the script. This is what he does. Right when he made the move, he plucked him and took it for two… Stuff like that. Priceless. - Nidal Nasser on the hiring of Andrew Maxie
Early in Season 3, the new additions have already looked like game-changers. Blazer5 is 2-0 and hasn't even worked out all the kinks yet.
Once they do, the league will certainly take notice... or maybe they would be wise to just start paying attention now.
Blazer5 returns to action on May 20 when they take on Knicks Gaming.
Be sure to check out the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Fry and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.