It's no secret that the NBA has exploded in popularity over the past several years. They have shown to be the best among the four major pro sports to reach the younger demographics and grow their audience abroad. One major ingredient to that success has been "NBA2K18," available on Xbox One or PS4.

While the NBA has been riding that wave of popularity and growth, esports have also experienced the same thing. It was only a matter of time until the two merged in one fashion or another.

With that, commissioner Adam Silver announced that "NBA2KLeague" will be playing its inaugural season starting in 2018.

What is NBA2KLeague?

The new partnership between 2KSports and the NBA is aimed at creating a virtual league that will mirror the real-life league.

In year one, there will be 17 teams in cities across the U.S. Each team will have 5 players, possibly more, and they will play and reside in the city of the team that they play for. The aim is to make this virtual league as legit a professional sport as any other eSports league.

Teams will play a condensed season starting in early 2018 that will serve as a jumping off point as rapid expansion will likely follow. Players will be moved to the city that they get drafted to. They will receive competitive compensation that includes, housing and benefits. They will even have training facilities much like their real-life counterparts.

An open competition will begin on Xbox live and PS4 online to qualify players for the tryouts. 85 players will be selected from the virtual tryouts to be entered into the draft.

From there, they will be drafted and begin their playing careers.

How is this different from other eSports?

While games like "Counterstrike" and "Overwatch" have massive followings and well-established eLeagues, this new venture by "NBA2K" brings a whole different format. Most eSports games are tournaments that pit teams against one another on a best of number of games. The winner moves on and ultimately the top teams in a given tournament will win lucrative prize money.

With NBA2K, the eLeague aims to operate just like real life professional basketball. Teams will live and train in their respective city. They will travel to and from other team cities to compete in games as the season schedule progresses. At the end of the season, playoffs will determine the champion.

This format is cost prohibitive as normal everyday players could not afford to be traveling around the country just to play one game at a time, nor would it make sense to sponsors.

Having the league and its teams backing the league changes everything.

Teams are essentially budgeting to fund their respective eSports teams and that is what makes this grand idea possible. Players will only need to focus on honing their skills as their salaries and living arrangements will be handled.

Will other pro leagues follow suit?

It remains to be seen if the other major sports leagues will be making similar investments in eSports. The NFL would be a likely candidate as the schedule would be amenable to franchises as not as much travel would be required. The NHL would also be keen to boost their popularity among the younger demographics and look into their own league. The MLB seems like a long shot as the traditionalists probably would be against the promoting of an eLeague over the real thing.