By Vince Ellis, Special for PistonsGT.com
Joseph Marrero was pleasantly surprised when informed he beat the odds to compete in the inaugural season of the NBA 2K League.
His mom was skeptical.
The Pistons GT big man chuckled earlier this week when recalling the reaction of his mother after the coveted e-mail informed his family that after a successful combine, he would have a spot in a pool of 102 players before the initial draft in April 2018.
Making money to play a video game? That definitely sounds too good to be true.
“She wasn’t getting it,” Marrero said. “She’d never heard anything like that before.
“At first she thought it was a scam. Don’t put your signature on that and all this type of stuff. They’re trying to get you.”
Marrero was finally able to convince his mother it was legit.
And Pistons GT has provided Marrero with an NBA 2K home.
The franchise picked him in the sixth round, the 98th overall selection.
Pistons GT has chosen to protect him twice before expansion drafts, a testament to his journey from combine surprise to team mainstay.
It’s the kind of story that gives Pistons GT (2-8) hope it can turn the season around.
The team sits tied for 21st out of 23 teams with only five more weeks of play remaining.
But opportunity remains.
First, real cash will be at stake this week in two matches against Kings Guard Gaming and Magic Gaming.
And after the regular season, the league will conduct The Ticket tournament when the bottom 14 teams will face off for a chance to win the final spot in the 10-team playoff field.
Anything can happen if you believe.
“The league is still in its infancy where it’s still seen as one avenue to make the league,” Pistons GT general manager Adam Rubin said. “Joe’s proved that’s not necessarily the case.
“He entered the league at 21, playing with a couple of friends when he decided to try out for the league. For Joseph to come in Season 1 as the 98th overall pick out of 102 players and now be in his third season with us, shows that you don’t have to be the pro-am or amateur scene player like the majority of the players. You just have to be good at the game.”
Marrero grew up in a Buffalo where his first sport was football, which was a way for his mother to instill the values of teamwork in her sons. Marrero is one of five siblings.
The NBA 2K bug hit with the 2016 edition.
Friends quickly noted his aptitude. The majority of his experience was with friends and not the world stage where the best players performed in pro-am competitions.
It may have stayed that way, but in 2017, the NBA announced a partnership with developer Take-Two Interactive to launch an NBA 2K League to begin play in 2018.
Since Marrero’s experience in pro-ams was limited, he lacked a big name in the community.
Marrero signed up to tryout. After earning a spot in the combine, he continued to play well and gained one of 102 spots for the initial season, which featured 17 franchises.
When notified, Marrero felt a sense of accomplishment.
“I knew I was a good player and I knew there were a lot of people that wish they could have gotten picked,” Marrero said. “I looked at it as a blessing and I knew if I worked hard, I’d have a chance to show what I’m really worth.”
Afterward, Rubin and coach Duane Burton picked Marrero to join Pistons GT.
And they’ve retained him twice as the league as swelled to 23 teams.
“He’s the kind of player who regardless of where you put him, as long as you give him clear direction, he’ll do it and he’ll be happy to do it because he recognizes that’s what the team needs,” Rubin said.
Marrero is a rebounder and defender. And he is willing to complement his five teammates.
He remains confident the season can end well with the team finally practicing in the Pistons Performance Center after managing practice time while quarantining during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know we got the talent to be top-five in the league,”. Our record doesn’t show it and there are no excuses, but this year has been rough for us.”