Magic Gaming’s historic match in Lake Nona could usher in new era

Magic Gaming played a historic game Sunday, hosting an opposing franchise in person for the first time since the team began play in the NBA 2K League’s inaugural 2018 season.

The Orlando Magic’s esports team hosted the Charlotte Hornets Venom GT club at Lake Nona’s leAD Sports & Health Tech Accelerator, a high-tech facility the team moved into this season.

Orlando Magic EVP of Strategy and Innovation Jay Riola said the event ideally could be a precursor to more of these events in the future.

“We wanted to give a glimpse into what an in-person experience looks like,” he said, prior to tipoff. “The hope is that this opportunity becomes more common in the future and we wanted to do it right.”

Throughout the game, a high-energy crowd of about 50 people cheered on the Magic, with occasional chants of “defense” making it seem like an NBA game – on a much smaller scale, of course.

Pregame introductions even had the customary booing of the Hornets from the Magic-friendly crowd.

The atmosphere had the players more excited than usual, said shooting guard Jarvis “Simptoms” Thompson.

“We felt like the whole city was behind us,” he said. “They were definitely pushing us on.”

The NBA 2K League has shifted its home-game strategy throughout its existence. Last year, for example, all games were played in person but with each team playing at a facility in Indianapolis.

The in-person nature of Sunday’s Magic Gaming match made trash talk a lot more prevalent. PHOTO BY GARY BASSING, ORLANDO MAGIC

This year, a smattering of home venues have been tabbed to host events, including Magic Gaming’s on Sunday. For the most part, however, most matches have been taking place in Washington, D.C.

In the excitement of the afternoon, Magic Gaming Head Coach Jonah Edwards still had a game to win.

“The biggest thing for this team is to not get caught up with what’s around us and just have clear communication,” he said. “We have to make sure we drown out the background noise in the room. That’s a hurdle but it’s a hurdle for both teams.”

Of course, for two years, the pandemic forced the NBA 2K League to go 100 percent remote for its matchups.

The City of Orlando has also had a history with the NBA 2K League.

In 2019, Full Sail University hosted one of the NBA 2K League’s most high-profile tournaments.

Magic Gaming results

As for the game, the Magic could not have asked for more drama in the franchise’s first-ever in-person matchup.

Trailing by 8 with less than 3 minutes to play, Magic Gaming went on an 11-2 run to briefly take a 1-point lead with 32.3 seconds remaining.

However, what appeared to be a blown defensive play allowed Venom Gaming’s Antoine “antoinelove” Times to drive in for an uncontested dunk with 1.7 seconds to play.

The basket gave the Venom a 61-60 lead, which became the final score when Magic’s Matt “Matty” Grant missed a jumper at the buzzer.

The loss dropped Magic Gaming to 2-2 in group play of the league’s 5v5 The TIPOFF tournament. That round includes one game against each of the other six teams in a group.

The top four teams of each group will then move on to a best-of-three, single-elimination tournament.

Despite the loss on Sunday, Edwards praised the crowd after the game.

“It was awesome having everybody come out and show support for Magic Gaming,” he said. “We love it out here in Lake Nona. We’re thrilled to be here and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”