The following article reflects only the views of the author and is not representative of the views of Warriors Gaming Squad, but is an accurate depiction of the 2024 NBA 2K League season structure. For information on the WGS 2024 schedule, click here.
A question I get asked a lot is “Can you explain the NBA 2K League 2024 season structure and schedule?” By “a lot,” of course, I mean almost never, but when I do get asked, I have the answer, which is “No.”
Sometimes, though, I answer seriously and even informatively, and I’ve been instructed to make this one of those times. Let’s dive in.
3v3 and 5v5 “splits”
The season, just like 2023, is split into two, well, “splits”: 3v3 and 5v5. These are two different game modes named for how many players are playing in the game. 3v3 is very fast-paced, with games to 21, and because they go by so quickly the league plays all 3v3 matches in a best-of-five series format, where winning the series counts as a win (the 3v3 Finals are best-of-seven, but we’ll worry about that later). 5v5 is traditional basketball and much more tactical, and those are usually single games or classic playoff series. The 3v3 split is played first, in its entirety, before any 5v5 is played. 3v3 begins February 28, and 5v5 and the season as a whole conclude June 29.
So that’s how the splits work.
The general structure of how the league works, as of 2022, is that teams play in two big tournaments per split which essentially comprise the regular season. In 3v3, these two big tournaments are called the SLAM OPEN (as in “slam dunk”) and the SWITCH OPEN (as in “switching from the first half of the season to the second,” which will make more sense when you see what the second 5v5 tournament is called). These tournaments are twofold. The first purpose is to win the tournament. The second purpose is to earn points toward playoff qualification, which you do by a) winning games, and b) placing highly in the tournament. Basically, the more games you win and the higher you finish in the tournament, the more standings points (key term alert!) you earn towards playoff qualification.
So how does a tournament work? The first part is the group stage, where five groups of five teams play a single round robin. Every team advances to bracket play, where they’re seeded 1-25 based on group record, point differential, and other tiebreakers.
“But wait!” you object. “A 25-team bracket is clunky!” Indeed, it is. That’s where the “OPEN” part of the tournament comes in. Teams 26-32 in the bracket are amateur teams with players from the NBA 2K community, who’ve qualified for the open bracket through semi-closed qualifiers (seriously). As far as we’re concerned, community teams fill out the bracket, and then it’s simple 1-plays-32, 2-plays-31, and so on for the first round of the bracket.
That’s not the end of it though, because 3v3 tournaments—and the playoffs! But not the play-in tournament, which we’ll get to—are double-elimination (key term alert!). If you lose in the winner’s bracket, you drop to the loser’s bracket, where you suffer. No, really the loser’s bracket is just a last-chance bracket, where a series loss finally eliminates you. Eventually the tournament finals are played between the winner’s bracket winner and the loser’s bracket winner. If you’re confused, best to take a look at this bracket (unofficial, but representative) to see how it plays out.
So that’s how the two big tournaments in 3v3 work. After those are done, the top 10 teams in standings points qualify for the playoffs automatically. Every other NBA 2K League team plays in the STEAL OPEN (as in “steal a playoff spot”), along with one more amateur team, which is single-elimination, with the finalists earning playoff berths. Also, the two best-performing amateur teams from the SLAM OPEN and SWITCH OPEN get playoff spots. In total, 14 teams make the playoffs, which, again, are double elimination; the top two seeds get a first-round bye, just like the NFL’s 14-team playoff model.
That’s the 3v3 split. It’s worth $755,000. Only playoff games are played in person this year. DUX Infinitos is the defending champs; they retain none of the same players from their championship-winning season.
I promise 5v5 is less complicated. It’s got the same 2+1 tournament structure and playoffs, and there’s no double elimination or amateur teams at all. This also has more traditional Western/Eastern Conference divides, which is reflected in the matchups.
The big difference in 5v5 is that group play really matters, because only two of the six teams in the group (or seven in one group) advance to bracket play, which takes place in person in Washington D.C. There are also six group play games in 5v5 round robin play, compared to four group play matches in 3v3 (the groups, like the stakes, are bigger in 5v5). You really want to go to D.C., too, because it’s fun, and because teams also earn standings points through 5v5 bracket play, it has a huge impact on playoff standing.
In 5v5, the groups are called the TIPOFF (in the halcyon days of yore when the league was only 5v5, this tournament “tipped off” the season) and the TURN (as in “turning over a new leaf for the second half of the season.” This is what the SWITCH OPEN is mimicking). The play-in tournament is basically the same as 3v3, but also has the elite eight played in person, because it’s the best tournament of the season. It’s called the TICKET (as in “punching your playoff ticket”).
Only 12 teams (10 from standings points, two through the TICKET) make the playoffs in 5v5. Again, only single-elimination in 5v5 playoffs. The top two seeds in each conference get a bye (think the NFL’s old 12-team playoff model) and every series is best of three, until the Finals, which is best of five.
That’s the 5v5 split. It’s worth $1,225,000. Warriors Gaming Squad won the 5v5 championship last year; they retain all five players from their championship-winning season.