After the NBA 2K League season three entry draft, I linked up with NetsGC protected center Shuttles. The goal? Get to know him, pick his brain on a few things, and find out what we can expect this upcoming season. Our conversation was fun and eye opening at the same time.
For those that don’t know, who is Shuttles?
From the outside, I think people think of me as kind of a quiet guy. Someone who doesn’t say much, but that usually comes with you know who I am as a person, so I’m as nonchalant as they come. It probably doesn’t show on stage a lot, but no one wants to win more than I do.
The way I approach things is kind of different, so I might come off as “he’s not as invested as the other teammates,” you know. At my core, I’m just a chill guy. It’s really a family trait. That’s how my dad is. That’s how my grandpa is. We’re people who are passionate about what we do, but we don’t show it in the classic way, like where if you’re passionate about something, you show energy and you show enthusiasm. I’m kind of the opposite. When it pertains to the 2K League, I am someone who wants to win it all, but I think I’m focused to the point where I don’t show the enthusiasm. You’re going to see a different side of me this season.
So you’re a fun guy?
Yes, but the funny thing is that only people in NetsGC would know that. People from the outside like team managers, other players, coaches, the media, and fans don’t really know that. They don’t see that side of me, and that’s how I like to keep it. I’m focused on NetsGC and my teammates. I don’t want any distractions.
What’s something people don’t know about you?
I tell people I’m a professional video game player, and they shrug it off. They’re like, “This guy is either drunk or high. There’s no way he’s serious.” I don’t shy away from it. I always tell people. I have no shame in it. Some family members still can’t believe the position that I’m in to play video games for a living in the 2K League. It takes some convincing sometimes but I get to tell people this is really what I do for a living. I really make a salary from this.
It’s like being a kid and saying you have a girlfriend, but she lives in Canada, huh?
1,000 percent! Especially where I come from. You would think esports has grown in North America, but it’s not really that heard of, especially where I come from in the Middle East. All people know back there is CS:GO. That’s all they know. They don’t think esports exists at all. There’s no idea. There’s no philosophy of esports. Where I’m from, there’s no concept that you get paid to play video games, so it’s truly something that I try to take pride in whenever I can.
We’ve both lived in Florida. Tell everyone what Florida life is like. Surely ‘Florida Man’ isn’t all the state has to offer.
I’ve lived here for so long you just kind of get used to the environment. I know a lot of people who have lived in different cities, including some people from the west coast. They come to Florida because it has that reputation that it’s just the place you want to be. It never gets cold. There are beaches everywhere. And then when they come here, they’re like, ok… I’ll give you an example. Last season, [NetsGC teammate] NateKahl came down. He’s from Milwaukee and had never been to Florida. He’s never been anywhere down south if I remember correctly. Before he came, I was telling him, “This is the place you want to be at, man.” I was really hyping him up. He couldn’t wait to get down here.
We flew down to Orlando for the Ticket Tournament, and all I could hear from him as soon as we left the airport was, “Oh man! What is this!?” because it was so humid. I guess he was a little more sensitive to it. It was hot. It was humid. His skin felt sticky. We weren’t even outside for a minute, and he turned to me and said, “Nah, man. I don’t like it.” It’s different for different people. As for Nate, he didn’t like it. Automatically he was like, “Florida’s not for me, man, I can’t do it. I don’t care how many beaches there are. I don’t care how sunny it is. I can’t do this.” Even the bugs aren’t the same. He saw these huge mutated bugs. They’re not the same as what you would see in Milwaukee or New York. It was almost like a shock to him, like this is what Florida is about. It’s not just a vacation place.
When you look out across the new landscape of the NBA 2K League with roster movements and schedule adjustments, what do you see out there for yourself and NetsGC?
A lot of people consider me as falling to the second round [Shuttles was picked 36th overall in 2019]. People saw me going higher, but when you look at my season stats, it didn’t translate that well. I think I averaged eight points and seven rebounds. From the outside looking in, it’s like “Okay, Shuttles didn’t perform to what he was expected to do.” I don’t really care about what people from the outside have to say, but I think it’s something that I kind of have to address just because I can see that things are going to be different this season. I wasn’t at my best position in Season 2. I never complained, and I never made excuses. I played to win. I did what the team needed, and that’s what got me retained.
People think “Ok, Shuttles isn’t going to be a dominant factor in this league because of how he performed in Season 2.” I think now, with the landscape that we have, you’ll see me playing the center position from the Tip Off Tournament . I don’t really care about the points, but now I think I’m in a better position to help the team win. I don’t think I was that much of a factor of trying to help my team win last season, but I think this season, with the way we drafted, I’m in a better position to help my team win. As for myself, I can put Nets GC in a better position to win games and to win tournaments.
What do you look forward to most about getting back to your natural position at center?
I could go every single game and not touch the ball and have zero points if it means it puts us in the best position to win. It’s not about the stat line at all, but I think the reason why [NetsGC GM/Head Coach] OGKINGCURT protected me is because he knew that I could be that player in season three, regardless of last year’s stat line. For me to do that, I think I have to be at the center spot. There’s a little pressure, but we just have to make sure that we perform, and we win because that’s actually our goal right now.
We’ll see what happens, but I’m really excited because I’m not in market yet. My whole team is in New York right now, so I haven’t gotten a feel for everybody, but I’m super excited about the way we drafted. People overrate versatility just a little bit because Season 2, we were so versatile we went through three, four, five different lineup changes, and we couldn’t find an identity early on. Now I think we’re in a better spot because we all know what role we need to play and that already puts us in a better position than we were in last season.
If I was a fan of the league looking at these numbers, what would you tell me makes you not just plain average? What makes you great?
Yeah, it’s funny because I alternated a lot between the center and the power forward position. For the most part, I was at the power forward position, and I had to defend the pick and roll against the Walnuts, the Arsonals and the Goofys of the world. People that really dominate the glass. When you look back at it, I was doing a pretty decent job of keeping them below their averages. I remember playing the Knicks, and at the time, Goofy was averaging 11-12 rebounds, and I think I held him to 8 or 9 and did the same thing to Walnut. I was at the power forward position boxing out these centers so that Shockey, who was at center, could get the rebounds. Sometimes it worked out for us, but sometimes it didn’t and we would get destroyed on the rebounds.
What’s the difference between the stat sheet Shuttles and the player Shuttles?
It’s crazy because usually when people look at the stat lines, it’s really catered towards points. A lot of people forget this, as well. I think Nate and I were top five in the steal category for three weeks straight. I think I was at 2.7, and Nate was at 2.8. I kind of took a hit towards the end of the season because that’s when people started to become a little bit more conservative with the ball, and people adapted to the lunges. A big thing last season was that the power forward had to lunge at the point guard or whoever was bringing up the ball, and that created a lot of steals.
Towards the end of the season, those opportunities started to go down, but I still think I did pretty well. From the stat line, people really just look at points and rebounds as far as the power forward and center positions. They don’t look into more in-depth into the shooting percentages, steals, or the blocks. I think I have the highest shooting percentage on Nets GC [Shuttles finished third, behind NateKahl and Shockey]. Looking back at it, it’s not an excuse, and I’m not trying to throw my teammates under the bus, but for the amount of touches that I got, I think I made the most out of them.
Midway through last season, in a speculation piece on how Heat Check Gaming could make the playoffs, I predicted Nets GC would go 1-6 the rest of the way. I was almost right on the money about your squad. What happened to Nets GC?
Everything you said was fair. We were going up against really tough teams. Even after that, we were 7-5 since we did beat the Heat, and we beat the Bucks, but then we lost to the 76ers. We were two games away from making the playoffs. In the later part of our schedule, we were playing the Grizzlies and the Wizards. The Grizzlies did have some momentum at the time, so we knew we couldn’t take them lightly. I’m going to stress this to the team through the whole entire season: Don’t take any team lightly: I don’t care if their record is 0-16.
We took the Wizards very lightly, and we thought they were going to be an automatic win. When we got to the stage, and we were loading up, and the game started, we weren’t really respectful of DemonJT and his abilities because of how he was performing at the time. We got on that stage and said, “This is going to be an easy win.” We said that Dayfri had benched himself to give PaulB minutes so he can up his value a bit. We were thinking they’d really just handed us the game at that point, but as soon as the game started, JT was playing out of his mind. I think he was already at 14 points in the first half, which was more than he averaged per game [JT finished with 8.3 PPG in the regular season]. We were down about 14 points, and we tried to gather ourselves coming into the second half. We thought JT had just caught a spark, and now he was just going to go back to being JT, and then ReeseDaGod23 caught fire. We went into that game and shot ourselves in the knee. We underestimated the Wizards when we shouldn’t have.
Looking back at it, I’m guilty as well because I underestimated the Wizards, and we ended up losing the game. At that point, we were 7-6, and we thought we still had a chance to make the playoffs since we held the tiebreaker over both the Kings and the Magic. We were still in a pretty good spot. Then we played the Grizzlies. It was a close game, but the Grizzlies beat us too. At that specific time, we were better than the Grizzlies. We were better than both of those teams that we dropped games against. I think at that point, Harris, who was crunching all the numbers, told us we had less than a five percent chance to make the playoffs after those two losses. We did what we had to do at first by beating the Heat and the Bucks in week nine. In one week, we beat two good teams, and the next week out we lost to two bad teams at the time that we underestimated. Then we went on to lose to the Mavs and the Pacers. I guess that’s karma for you.
Do you play fantasy sports? Have you ever thought of what the format might look like when companies like ESPN and Yahoo start supporting NBA 2K fantasy leagues?
First of all having those at ESPN and Yahoo support us would be super dope. There’s a lot of ways it could go as far as the formatting. I really have no idea, to be honest. I’ve never even thought of that as a possibility.
What’s your five-man roster that will win you the fantasy championship?
He’s been playing out of his mind these past two seasons. Definitely a top three point guard.
Season 1, he didn’t play his position, so that put him at a disadvantage. I saw a lot of ARooks in season 2, and I’ve seen enough. Him next to Radiant makes a super lethal backcourt.
Season 2 Gradient, I think, was the anchor for Warriors Gaming last year.
A lot can be said about Ramo’s play style but the end result is winning. And he’s done that with Detroit and Indiana.
I was thinking Walnut as well, but I’m leaning more towards Hotshot
Honorable Mention: BSmoove
Bsmoove is an honorable mention because of his season two performance. One of the most lethal off ball players in our game.
Fantasy team meta: Points scored, FG%, assists, steals, and blocks. Rebounds from Gradient, Ramo, and Hotshot.
The league has grown in popularity each season, but I think there’s an elephant in the room that may stunt its growth. In First Person Shooter games, potential fans of players can hop on Twitch, YouTube, or Mixer and see the best of the best hop on the sticks and wreak havoc on noobs and experienced players alike. What are your thoughts on why that’s not possible for NBA 2K players? Maybe the grind has something to do with it? The archetype selection process, microtransactions, something else?
Last season I talked about this a lot amongst my teammates because we were always trying to pinpoint the problem or pinpoint why this isn’t as entertaining as other games. You really hit the nail on the head. One reason is microtransactions. From my perspective, microtransactions halt the game a little because you’re essentially paying to get better at the game. You’re paying for a competitive advantage. If you look at other games like Call of Duty or Overwatch, you really don’t have to pay anything except for the game itself when it comes to competitive advantages. In 2K, you can pay to get your player up to a certain overall faster than other people who can’t pay. That takes the edge out of the game, in my opinion.
Also, when it comes to sports titles like FIFA, 2K, and Madden, but especially 2K, people think there’s no real skill gap. If I fired up the stream and loaded into a competitive Pro-AM game, there’ll be people in the chat saying, “I can do that! I can do that! What’s hard about that? I can load up 2K and hit a three in the corner. I can hop on 2K and grab a rebound.” There’s a consensus for the casual fan’s perspective that when they watch somebody play competitive Pro-Am, they think they can emulate that or do what they do at the same level. When fans watch Overwatch or Call of Duty, they know for a fact they can’t do what the pros are doing. They’re saying to themselves, “I can’t do a trick shot like that, so let me tune in.” They know they can’t do what people like Faze and Optic do so they want to tune in. That’s the biggest thing.
When it comes to 2K, people think they can emulate what Walnut does when he’s mashing. They think they can do what Ramo does, and that’s what holds us back a little bit. There’s no real line drawn for casual fans where they can say I can’t go out there and do what Radiant, Hotshot, or Mama does. Once we realize that there is an actual skill gap to the 2K League and even within the retail version of 2K, we’ll begin to see that upward slope of fans understanding they can’t do what these professionals are doing so, they might as well tune in and enjoy. It takes years of practice to be able to build the way they do in Fortnite. I know I’d have to be prepared to devote that amount of time if I want to be as good as Ninja or Tfue.