Written By: Matthew Rondina
WGN sat down with Shane Talbot, MLSE esports Manager at the Bell Fibe House in Toronto to discuss the Raptors Uprising GC’s inaugural season. Uprising’s first foray into 2K League saw the team make the first round of the playoffs and win an award for community engagement.
He gave us some “behind the scenes” insight on the many roles an esports manager plays to keep the organization moving forward.
What are your thoughts on the inaugural season for the Raptors Uprising GC?
Talbot: “I think on a fan development front, we checked all the boxes we were hoping to check. We had a pretty ambitious plan for activations and events and different things we wanted to do to develop an audience here in Toronto, and a fan base and I think we did.
I’ve said this a couple times on Twitter, but this time last year, nobody knew, or had heard of Raptors Uprising, it was an entirely new brand that we came up with earlier this year.
In fact, we now have fans who are driving into viewing parties at Real Sports and coming to the Bell Fibe House for the viewing parties to meet us, it’s incredible.
The NBA recognized that, and we were very proud to have won the Community Engagement Award. There were six awards given at the 2K League award show and five of them were player focused, related to in-game play and this was the only one that was focused on the organization for excellence when it comes to community outreach and fan engagement.
So we’re very proud of that.”
In terms of continuing to grow the Uprising movement, what are your goals for next season?
Talbot: “I think to do everything we did this year, and do it better.
And then to look at where we had various areas we could improve, or add new elements related to our internal processes and how we practice, and train. We got a lot better, and a lot more efficient at preparing for our weekly opponent towards the end of the season.
So we’ll come into next season with all of that momentum and all those learnings and already have some ideas for how to improve upon that process.
The same thing when it comes to our marketing and our fan engagement and we are already talking to some more partners. There may be even more opportunity for us to align with a partner in order to bring our fans more experiences.
Like the experience we did with OLG and Lotto Max where we brought a group of fans to New York for our final regular season win against Heat Check Gaming. That was an awesome weekend and we were really proud to have a group of fans there cheering for us from the row behind us.”
With the expansion draft right around the corner, what’s your mindset going into it?
Talbot: “The expansion draft will happen in September, so just in the next week, we need to make decisions around who we’re going be locking up from that. The four expansion teams will be able to draw players from some of the season one teams and we’ll be able to protect some players we have.
It feels like the season just ended, and we’re in the off season, but we’re getting right back to work this week.”
Anything you’d like to share about your experience during the course of the season?
Talbot: “I was very impressed with the NBA 2K League. The production value that the NBA has put on for the audience and the viewership experience perspective has been top-notch, absolutely world class.
Having being in film every Monday with these guys, studying the game intensely over the last eight months, 2K has everything and then some that you could want from an esport.
I have a lot of hope, and high expectations for the future of this league and with the Raptors Uprising we’ve built a really strong foundation.
We had some excellence in game. We turned the season around and finished fourth place in the league and, unfortunately, had an early exit in the quarter finals of the playoffs.
But, the base is there, we learned a lot about what it takes to succeed in game. We also did a good job with building out the foundation of a good organization, great marketing, a great fan base and we’re very humbled and honored to have been recognized by the NBA for that effort for the community engagement award.
We’re feeling very good about how the first season went.”
A special thanks to Shane, MLSE and the Raptors Uprising for taking the time to chat and open up their training grounds at the Bell Fibe House. Be sure to follow the Raptors Uprising on twitter, instagram and twitch for the latest.
About the Author: Matthew Rondina
Matthew has been involved in all things gaming since the 8-bit era. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been passionate about technology and gaming for over 20 years. Follow Matthew’s gaming adventures on twitter and join in on the fun!