Two Romain College graduates, Shawn DeWitt M’19 and Matt Ellis ’14, computer information systems, used an entrepreneurial mindset to become successful video game content providers in the NBA 2K world. As the name implies, NBA 2K is a series of basketball simulation video games that has been around since about 1999. Their NBA2KLab portal uses automated samples and scripts that deliver data and statistics to subscribers wanting to up their game and become better virtual basketball players. DeWitt said they started out doing everything manually, but through increasingly complex technology, they were able to remove all variables and human error from the process. “We weren’t seeing much return in the first 18 months or so. But we stuck with it, and eventually it paid off.”
According to nba.com, there are an estimated 1.6 million people who play daily. Now in its 22nd version, NBA 2K appeals to anyone from casual gamers and their buddies to professional players drafted for NBA 2K League teams. The salaries and perks can be quite lucrative for those drafted. “There’s a lot of money on the line for these players,” said DeWitt, “so there’s a lot of incentive for young players who are pretty good at this game to want every advantage they can find. So they use our website and YouTube channel to try to better their chances to get into that league.” Several NBA teams have a virtual team through the NBA 2K League, and the Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards use NBA2KLab data for team strategy and player analysis. “The Wizards are the team that just won the finals, we won in our first season with them. They do most of the work there, but we do get to claim a tiny share of the credit,” DeWitt said with a laugh. NBA 2K got a lot of exposure early in the pandemic. It was broadcast regularly on ESPN2 and filled a void as many other sports were suspended.
Dewitt (left) and Ellis.
Their entrepreneurial venture coincided with their business education at Romain College. While in Dr. Jack Smothers’ 611 Leadership Skills and Organizational Behaviors class, DeWitt worked on a basketball-related app and a business model for advertising it. Next up was Dr. Jill Oeding’s 618 Business Law class in which students studied forming their own company and about LLCs and S Corps. “We were doing those same things as we were forming our own company. It lined up very nicely as I was taking classes,” he said. Ellis said CIS classes help him with database work and data analytics. Another member of their team and a Romain College alumnus, Matthew Notter '19, computer science, has been instrumental in taking the automation of data to a new level. They also have people dedicated to research and development and to the NBA2KLab YouTube channel.
NBA2KLab currently has more than 215,000 YouTube subscribers, nearly 127,000 Twitter followers and more than 3 million unique website visitors. Surrounded by an All-Star team, DeWitt and Ellis have more projects in their playbook. Their presence inside the NBA 2K professional community gives them a natural way in to expand into other game modes. In 2021 they hope to launch a project that is currently in development. “It should ideally make us appeal to potentially millions of new customers. We are pretty excited about that one,” DeWitt said proudly.