With Self-Isolation a Real Thing, ESports Fills a Void for Everyone from NBA Players to Hockey-Starved NHL Fans

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Curious what the professional athletes of North America have been up to at a time when the world is being encouraged to self-isolate? In Vancouver, rookie sensation Elias Pettersson has been outdoors perfecting his golf skills, to the point where the PGA pros—and mini-golf obsessives—are currently looking over their shoulders.

With professional training facilities, gyms, rinks, fields, and arenas all shut down due to COVID-19, some of the continent’s other high-profile athletes are turning to eSports to keep their competitive edges honed.

Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young took to Twitter a week ago to suggest that he was getting a post-NBA-shutdown crash course in gaming.

Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic meanwhile chose the visual route when it was time to let fans know what he was up to at home. Hands up if you’ve been there, with the idea of sleep at 3 a.m. somehow seeming nowhere as important as just one more round of Overwatch.

Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker has been a frequent flyer on Twitch, streaming his time on Call of Duty: Warzone, Apex Legends, and NBA 2K.

Miami Heat’s Meyers Leonard meanwhile has given every indication that his second career choice after basketball was the armed forces. Or at least a gamer obsessed with anything to do with the armed forces.

Somehow, in between meals and three hours of sleep per night, Leonard has streamed a mammoth amount of Warzone on Twitch, where he has over 25 thousand followers. He also participated in a Call of Duty: Warzone charity event hosted by FaZe Clan—with all the proceeds from the event going to Age UK and Save the Children as part of COVID-19 relief efforts.

Things haven’t been restricted to individual play at home.

NBA teams have been taken to the court in virtual versions of games that had been scheduled before the season was cancelled.

This morning on NHL.com, the Washington Capitals, and Washington Wizards announced that they’ll be using Take-Two Interactive’s NBA 2K20 and EA Sports’ NHL 20 to stage streamable one-hour video game simulations on the Monumental Sports Network and NBC Sports Washington (NBCSW). The remaining games of the seasons for both teams will also be played on the two platforms.

On NHL.com, Monumental Sports spokesman Zach Leonsis, said, “We know that fans are as disappointed as we are not to be able to watch our favorite teams on a nightly basis. We hope that this fun and engaging video game simulations will entertain our fans and help provide a greater sense of normalcy during these challenging times. We hope that when people tune in and watch these simulated games, they will be able to enjoy some friendly competitive play from the comforts of their own home.”

The Caps schedule kicks off on Tuesday (March 24) at 7 p.m. eastern standard time with the St. Louis Blues on the other side of the virtual ice. Games will feature play-by-play and commentary by the Capital announcers at NBCSW.

Wizards action begins Saturday (March 21) with a tip-off against the Milwaukee Bucks, with commentary from the NBCSW basketball experts.

Mike Usinger once took the better part of two years to finish Grand Theft Auto. Over the course of his career he has written about everything from eSports to music to movies to travel.

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