The NBA 2K League made history last year as its successful inaugural year showed how the more traditional NBA can back and support a new age of esports. During the NBA 2K League Draft of 2018, NBA commissioner Adam Silver drew attention to the fact that there were no women drafted, and how that was a big concern in his eyes.
As the year progressed, the NBA 2K League pushed to improve representation of women. Last summer, the League hosted a showcase featuring NBA legends, influencers, and female players within the community. Chiquita Evans, aka Chiquitae126, a long-time competitive 2K player, was one of the women featured in the showcase. Chiquita's spotlight didn't stop there, as her hard work had paid off. She announced via Twitter that she had received an invitation into the draft pool for the NBA 2K League 2019 draft. I had the pleasure of chatting with Chiquita on her real basketball career turning into a virtual one, a woman in the 2K community, and her journey to make history as the first black woman to be drafted come March 5th.
Subnation's REDinFamy: Great to chat with you on this exciting, history-making news. What got you into video games, and what led you to start playing NBA 2K?
Chiquita “Chiquitae126” Evans: I've been gaming since I was younger. My dad bought me my first system, when I was probably six or seven, my first system that I had personally was the Sega Genesis. So I would credit my dad, and my mom was like, “That is for boys why did you get that for her?” and he didn't care about that. So I would have to credit my dad.
What got me into NBA 2K was, I would say [was] my love for basketball in general, I played basketball my entire life - high school, AAU, college, and semi-pro. I think when I got injured and I kind of grew away from physical playing, I got into NBA 2K. My first 2K was NBA 2K9 on PS3, so I've been NBA 2K for years. What got me into more on a top-level constant, professional level was because I used to just play a lot of Park, like a lot of Park.
I played Pro-Am here and there with friends, but I didn't even know a competitive scene existed until one of my friends that I played park [with] was like, “Do you want to try out for our Pro-Am Team?” She was like, “We play in leagues and stuff,” and I’m like, “Yeah I’ll try out.” So I have to credit my friends Ayo Bella Swish and Mz_LJ. She is also on a competitive team as well. So I would have to give all credit to them for showing me the [competitive] circuit.
SN: Can you discuss the state of NBA 2K with the addition of women in the community? Is there a lot of comradery, and is there room for improvements for women?
Chiquitae126: I would say it’s a little bit of both, and I say that because a lot of women play the game, but a lot of people do not know they are women. There are some women that use gamertags that [do] not involve “girl,” because they are afraid of scrutiny [that] might come their way because of being a female. So it definitely needs some improvements.
I feel like in the mind of a woman feeling more comfortable playing 2K, it has its moments when it is very uncomfortable. Even I experienced it during the weeks of me announcing my invitation into the draft class. I basically was downed. People were saying all type of stuff about me like, “Y'all let a female into the draft,” but this and that. It had nothing to do with my game or the way I play. None of these guys have seen me play, they are never in my streams watching me, so they cannot say that they’ve seen me play and [say] I’m trash.
They were upset because they saw that a female was in the draft. I feel like there definitely needs [to be] some improvement, because women are extremely scared to be vocal, to actually play the game, or to let it be known that they are women.
I can say that it has gotten better since playing in the [NBA 2K League] showcase game. A lot of women have tried to play more because of seeing us in that showcase, which [included] me, Pretty [LovesPink], Mz_LJ, Lady 87, and ALittleLady87. When we all played in the showcase games a lot of girls and women came out. Also, a lot of women participated in the 2K Combine to get into the qualifier, the top 200, and then the 150. So I definitely feel like there are movements being made.
I definitely have to give all credit to the NBA 2K League, because they are actually shining the light on women to participate in their league, looking for diversity, letting women know don’t be afraid to be you and to play the game. Brendan Donohue, they made it possible for us.
SN: Great to know that they lived up to their concern from last year. Competing-wise how was it from last year to this year that allowed you to get into the draft? Also, from your personal experience, what was done to get women more involved? Were there questionnaires, invites to get more woman involved, or was there just the showcase?
Chiquitae126: Well I can give my personal experience for the showcase. The showcase helped me out tremendously because I played really well in the showcase. So when it came time for the Combine, the other guys that I played with knew who I was. So it made it a bit easier, [as] opposed to last year, because I would get iced out. I would have to get on the mic and say I am open… I'm open, and guys would say, “Oh that's a girl?” and [I] would continue to get iced out and did not touch the ball.
It was really bad. I had [to] quit. I gave up last year. I didn't even finish the requirements throughout the Combine. You had to play 40 games under at least one position to at least be eligible for the draft. I didn’t even finish. [I] think I played seven or eight games, that's how bad it was.
I can say that being in that showcase game and seeing how I had a lot of support from people, people I would have never imagined that would support me, then a lot of women tell me that I inspire them. I made a stand that no matter how bad the Combine was this year, I would not give up, that I owed it to the people that believed in me not to give up.
So no matter how bad it got I just kept going, kept going, and kept going. It helped me a lot because the showcase showed people who I was, so there were games now where people would be like, “Oh that Chiquita!” and it would be a lot easier. It would be one of those situations where a lot of people would still think women do not have the IQ to play the game or they were just out for themselves. I can't necessarily say that every time was always due to being a female, it is just that some people were out for their stats versus winning. I would say that it definitely helped me, it's been a little easier for me, but it was definitely still a struggle. I just decided this year to not give up because it would have not been fair for the people that believed in me.
SN: You have an inspirational story. I faced the same backlash playing NBA 2K with a specific stereotype when I would beat guys back-to-back and they would ask my sexual orientation as if I cannot be a straight woman who loves basketball and NBA 2K.
Chiquitae126: Yup, I've been called a d_ke just because I'm a woman playing 2K, that my sexual orientation has to be that I am a homosexual in order to play NBA 2K. It makes no sense. I’m like you sound ridiculous because I am good at playing 2K. You never took into consideration that I actually play basketball. You just figured that I have to be a lesbian just because I play 2K. I am actually not one, I date men. Now you’ve made yourself look stupid. I have heard that stereotype, as a woman, way too often just because I play NBA 2K.
SN: How has it been practicing, taking NBA 2K seriously on a professional level, and how has NBA 2K changed your life to be the best player you can be to make it to this milestone?
Chiquitae126: To be completely honest with you, the way I play 2K is just the reflection of how I play in real life. I play every aspect of how I've played in real life and put it into my 2K game, whether it is defensively or offensively. So it wasn't really like a bad transition from reality to virtually. There were just a few things that you do have to understand that work a bit differently, like the spacing on the court is a bit different in 2K than it is in real life. There are certain things that players can do on 2K [versus] in real life that they can't do. So understanding those aspects and basically pulling it apart and also being able to implement real-life basketball with it.
This is a virtual environment. There are going to be some things that, no matter how are realistic you try to make a game, there [are] going to be some unrealistic things about it because it is not real life. It was pretty much a different transition for me. It wasn't too bad, it wasn't something I couldn’t handle, and I caught on pretty well.
SN: You've faced prejudices that you and many women face in different games. Tell me about your support system. Have woman in the gaming community become a strong sisterhood due to these push backs?
Chiquitae126: Actually, on my Pro-Am team, there are three females that I play with, Ms_LJ, AyoBellSwish, and ALittleLady87. We are really, really close. We look at each other as family, you know like we know personal things about each other outside of NBA 2K. We've met up in real life, been around each other in real life. They're my sisters, I call them my virtual fam, and I know that outside of 2K I can lean on them for anything. One thing I can say too is that I appreciate the guys that are on our team. There are four women on our team and everyone else [are] guys. They don't treat us any differently. If we say something, they don't act like they don't care. We've been playing with this same set of guys since 2016 and they haven't treated us any differently. They support us just as much as we support each other, you know.
So I have to credit my team as a whole, both the male and female side, but definitely, the three girls on our team are like my sisters. Then I have another female that I play with, she plays Pro-Am, but she’s not really into Pro-Am like that. We call each other sisters, [and] everyone thinks that we are really sisters, but we're not. I would have to say that the support has been crazy on both sides. There are even people that support me that I didn't even think would. It's definitely been a journey and an adventure. The support, I can definitely say it's been more positive than negative.
SN: PrettyLovesPink, another woman 2K player, founded the organization Ball Like Her, which gathers women NBA video game players. What are your thoughts on that community?
Chiquitae126: I know Pink. We've played with each other, against each other. I actually know a lot of women involved with Ball Like Her. Everyone is cool, we are all cool with each other. Me personally, I'm not apart of Ball Like Her, but I definitely support all of them. I go to their streams to show support and check up on them. I'm supportive of it, yes, but I'm not [an] official member [or] a part of it.
SN: Great to see women support one another in a male-dominated sector.
Looking toward this year’s draft, when you get drafted, what team do you want to play for? Based on your observations of team synergy you saw during the last season of the NBA 2K League do any teams stand out to you?
Chiquitae126: Aw man you are putting me on the spot. I'm going to be completely honest with you. It's a lot of guys in the league that I've come across that we've spoken or played with each other, and I have the utmost respect for them. Me personally, I would be blessed to go to any team because I just want to make an impact regardless of the situation I'm put in. As far as a team that I feel like I would enjoy playing with, this is only because I respect this man so much because of how he treated me when we played in the showcase, [that would be] oFab. I feel like the way he plays the Point Guard and the person that he is, I would like to play with the Celtics with oFab.
Like I said, it would be a blessing to go to whatever organization that [would] be willing to take a chance on me, pick me up, and let me be the best teammate I can be in any organization. But as far as respect, and a team that I would want to be on, [it’s] all due to oFab. He has an eye for the game, and he's a really good person, plus open-minded.
SN: Can you let us know the My Player build that you chose to help you get to where you are now in your real NBA 2K19 career?
Chiquitae126: The build that I currently play on now in Pro-Am games is the [Small Forward] Sharpshooter, shot creator primary. I love this build because of its versatility. [It can] attack the basket, shoot the mid-range, shoot the three, and has decent ball-handling. So that's the build that I currently play with now. I really really love this build, I had the same build last year too.
The build that I played in the Combine to get me into the draft pool was the 2-way Shot Creator, which is also [another] build that I am familiar with because I had a 2-way Shot Creator last year. It's also kind of a versatile build as far as being able to shoot and [having] driving ability, because that builds towards posterizer and stuff. It is a really defensive build. You get your silver defensive badges so you can be an off-ball or on-ball defender. So those are the two builds I play with and lean towards.
SN: What is something you would love to see in the NBA 2020 My Career mode that, of course, is not in NBA 2K19, or perhaps something to bring back from previous years?
Chiquitae126: I feel like they need to bring back the park affiliations like the Flyers, Ballers, and Rivet City. I feel like they need to bring that back because it brought a different type of dynamic to the park. Yes, I am a Pro-Am player but there are times when I just enjoy Park. The way that Park is set up right now is not very fun, so a lot of people actually don't play Park. It's hard to find [pickup] games in Park. I feel that bringing that back would enhance 2K a lot better.
As far as the builds in 2K are concerned, I feel like they have the build structure pretty well. I just feel that they need to change a few things as far as like pure glass cleaners or rim protector shouldn't be able to shoot 3s. It's been happening a lot; players who are pure rim protectors are shooting at the top of the key, green-lighting [shots]. I'm ok with mid-rangers, there are a lot of big men in the league today that are not great shooters but can hit the mid shot. I'm on with mid-rangers, but glass cleaners and rim protectors shouldn’t hit 3s, and green-lightning them on a consistent basis.
SN: Do you believe that 2K Sports will bring a woman onto the court for Park to create a woman player, and have a WNBA league for next year?
Chiquitae126: I don't know... I feel like it is a possibility. To be honest, it is kind of one of those things, for instance, you have to make it to where you have to balance it out. If you can make a female character, it might be some type of disadvantage. I think about it like this, I love basketball, and I support women's basketball, I watch women's basketball, but it'll be hard to put women in the game and they are doing 360 dunks.
SN: Did you get a chance to play NBA Live 19 with its female players?
Chiquitae126: Yes I have, and the thing is that a lot of people [are] complaining about it not being realistic. You got women out here catching between the leg lobs and stuff. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for it, I just feel like women don't really do that, so we are going to take it out. It is going to look unrealistic, it'll either have to be equal. It is one of those toss-up things for it.
SN: Any inspirational tips you have for women gamers in general, as a woman that play video games, and esports player?
Chiquitae126: Like I tell everyone man, especially my females, don't be afraid to keep pushing forward don't give up. Barriers are made to be broken no matter what's in your life. So don't give up, continue to strive to get better to perfect your craft. For me as far as for harassment, I kill people with kindness. There's a lot of people that want to ruffle your feathers to see get you upset on how they're upset. So when you show them that you are not afraid and don't show emotions, they'll leave you alone. You're not following their trap.
So I would say for all my females out there that want to play in the 2K League or any type of professional league in esports, just keep striving, keep grinding. You'll feel like it can never happen, it can't happen just know that barriers are made to be broken. Just keep working on being the player that you can be when negativity comes your way.
SN: Appreciate your story which is an inspiration for realizing that giving up is not the answer. See you on draft day, Chiquita.
The second NBA 2K League Draft will take place March 5th in Brooklyn, New York at the Brooklyn Nets Barclays Center.