Duke freshman Paolo Banchero makes history after being featured in NBA 2K22 thanks to new NIL rules

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No plans have been announced yet for the return of a college basketball video game in the NIL era, but that won’t stop college hoops fans from controlling Duke freshman forward on the virtual hardwood in NBA 2K22. The new game, which was released Friday, features Banchero as a playable character even though he’s yet to play a game for the Blue Devils.

Banchero was ranked the No. 2 overall prospect in the class of 2021 by the 247Sports Composite, and the 6-foot-9 forward is a projected high lottery pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. His inclusion in the new iteration of the popular NBA video game series is the latest example of a prominent college athlete cashing in on new rules permitting players to benefit from their name, image and likeness.

In the past, gamers wanting to incorporate current college stars into their NBA 2K gaming experience either had to create the players themselves or download rosters created by other users that incorporated future draft classes into franchise-style game modes. But because of his partnership with the game, early users of the 2K22 game have noted that Banchero automatically appears as a member of the 2022 draft class in certain game modes.

Financial terms of Banchero’s partnership with the game have not been disclosed, but given the game’s popularity, it constitutes a high-profile arrangement for Banchero that exemplifies why college basketball is set to remain an attractive option for top prospects in the NIL era. While college alternatives such as the G League Ignite program offer six-figure salaries, they can’t offer the visibility that playing college basketball can provide.

The fact that Banchero is playing for a known brand like Duke likely only heightens his marketability, as the Blue Devils are ranked at No. 8 in the early CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 entering the 2021-22 season. 


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