NBA 2KW recently got the chance to interview NBA 2K League player Grant Barker, a.k.a. ‘GRANT MONSTER’, who plays Shooting Guard for the first place Blazer5 Gaming. We discuss his involvement with esports, his journey to the NBA 2K League, his advice for 2K League hopefuls, and more! Read the full interview below and watch Grant and Blazer5 Gaming take on Jazz Gaming Saturday @ 1 PM ET on Twitch.
2KW: Can you tell us a little about your background, how you got into NBA 2K, esports, and the NBA 2K League in particular.
GRANT: My name is Grant Barker, I am 22 years old from the Bay Area of California, more specifically a small city named Alamo. Ever since I was a little kid I had a natural inclination for the game of basketball and loved everything about it. I played basketball as early as I can remember while going all the way through high school.
Unfortunately I knew my road for basketball was over after high school and had to pursue a new path for the future. I had a rough time deciding what to do between going to a community college, state college, or jumping right into the work field. I went from attending Diablo Valley College from working construction at my uncle’s company to finally settling down at MTI College in Sacramento. At MTI I was working on getting a degree for Network Administration and Cyber Security.
Up to that point at school I still played my favorite game always – NBA 2K. I have been playing NBA 2K since 2K9 and never looked back. With my clear love for the game of basketball and growing up playing video games, NBA 2K was my dream game. When 2K15 came out I started playing the game on a competitive level though rec leagues and down the line every MBPA tournament I could participate in. I found out about the 2K League by simply walking through the city of the game and seeing it advertised everywhere. After reading more about the league I thought this could be something amazing that I could have a legitimate chance of being a part of with my past 2K experience and knowledge. I gave it my all in the combine and stayed positive in making the league every day.
2KW: How did you come up with your gamertag of “Grant Monster?”
GRANT: My gamer tag came about in a simple but funny way. I am tallest person in my family and my Uncle John would call me “Monster” every time he saw me, no matter where or what we were doing. I just took my name and “monster “and put both together. I have had that same same gamer tag ever since I got my Xbox 360 and will probably never change it.
2KW: After going through the entire process of putting in work at the NBA 2K League combine, making the cut being one of the final 102 players, getting drafted, relocating to a new city, and now being a pro player in the actual NBA 2K League, what has that journey been like for you?
GRANT: The overall journey from the beginning up to now has truly been a blessing. I never thought I would be doing anything like this in my life as a career. I have met so many great people among the league and have been able to see so many different parts of the U.S. I never knew about. It definitely takes a different mind set being part of the league especially on a mental level. My biggest focus on this journey for the inaugural season was being the best I can be on the game, forming a brotherhood with my team, and to always try new things. I can say my experience so far has been overwhelming in a positive way and would recommend the league in the future for anybody interested in joining.
2KW: Your squad Blazer5 Gaming have been dominate and are currently first in the standings – what’s contributed to your team’s success?
1) Ever since Day One after meeting the whole team we all instantly became friends. Obviously having similar interest everyone just clicked with each other and it was like we had all known each other for many years. We do just about everything together, from going out, to playing poker and Xbox. The bond we have outside of the game really translates to the court and none of want to let each other down.
2) Everybody on this team is just as competitive as the next person. While we demonstrate it in different ways, every week we always show up to New York to get a win and prove to everyone why we have the best team. We all travel too far not come out with 110% energy while being focused and locked in as ever.
3) Nobody on this team is afraid to tell each other when something they did was wrong. Everybody messes up and it’s how you adapt from that mistake and learn from it. Rather than being complacent and doing the same thing.
2KW: What are some noteworthy experiences or memories you’ve had so far in the NBA 2K League?
GRANT: My favorite experiences in the 2K League in order: The Tip Off Tournament, Turn Tournament, and meeting everyone among the community.
The Tip Off tournament was truly amazing. This was the first time all the teams came together and played the first official league games. I remember being so anxious to start our first game and it did not disappoint. The energy of the studio combined with being a part of the game was an experience i will never forget.
The Turn tournament was listed for obvious reasons. After falling short to the 76ers in the Tip Off tournament finals we came into this tournament with a simple mindset that was win and never look back. Our average margin of victory in the tournament was 20 points every game. We were all so focused on winning the the banner and wanted to prove to the league and ourselves that we deserve it. Every single person on the team that week was more focused than ever and we achieved exactly what we told ourselves we were going to do in every game.
Every player in the league has their own unique backstory and personality. Being able to meet all of these players in person and just getting to know them on a personal level has made some of the best conversations and memories so far.
2KW: How would you describe your play style, and which NBA player (current or past) would you compare your game to?
GRANT: I would compare my game style to Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors. A deadly shooter that is not afraid to step up at big moments, and will do whatever it takes to help his team win on both sides of the court.
2KW: Do you have any advice for up and coming NBA 2K League hopefuls on the type of things they should be working on (on and off the virtual court) to prep for NBA 2K League?
GRANT: My biggest tips for future players that want to join the league are being confident, never give up, and being able to adapt to change. And get your chores and homework done first, so your parents don’t complain about how many hours you are spending playing video games!
A big thanks to Grant for doing this interview, and be sure to tune in to Blazer5 Gaming and the NBA 2K League on Twitch.