Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, joins a list of elite, active NBA athletes with similar deals, including the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry and James Harden, as well as NBA legends Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal.
Specifics of Williamson’s deal were not disclosed, but previous activations include appearances at game launch and promotional events, local market activations and participation in segments on 2KTV, the in-game broadcast that appears before games and during halftime. Other athletes with these deals have also appeared on the cover of NBA 2K games. Davis will appear on the NBA 2K20 regular cover, with Wade on the front of the Legend edition version of the game.
“I’m excited to officially join Team 2K and be a part of this global phenomenon, where people around the world can play as me,” Williamson said in a news release. “I’m ready to put my imprint on basketball culture and be a part of the team that represents what’s next in the sport.”
Williamson is rated at 81 overall in NBA 2K20, the highest rookie since John Wall in NBA 2K11, who was also ranked at 81. NBA 2K20 releases on September 6 and will give gamers the opportunity to play as Williamson officially for the first time in an NBA 2K game.
“Zion represents the best of the NBA’s up and coming talent and we are excited to welcome him to Team2K,” NBA 2K senior vice president of basketball operations Jason Argent said. “For more than 20 years, NBA 2K has identified and worked with the best basketball talent in the world. It’s been incredible to witness what Zion can do on the court and we’re excited to grow with him throughout his career.”
The news comes on the heels of many NBA athletes participating in gaming and esports activities.
PUBG Mobile hosted an event several weeks ago with Antetokounmpo, 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons, Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond and Washington Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas. Other players, like LA Clippers forward Paul George and former Golden State Warriors forward Jonas Jerebko, are invested in esports teams that participate in games outside of NBA 2K.
The NBA itself runs the NBA 2K League in New York, which began in April and will conclude its second season on Saturday with the finals between T-Wolves Gaming and 76ers Gaming Club. Outside of the 2K League, 17 NBA teams or parts of their ownership groups have invested or partnered with esports teams in other games.