SALT LAKE CITY -- Shaka Browne and Lytel Martin had the exact same regular growing up. They'd go to college. They'd come home. They'd pop-in MT NBA 2K21 -- the 2009 variant of the NBA-based video game -- and could ball online. Five-on-five digital games. On the weekends, same thing. Perform all weekend. Rack up stats. Come home, log in to NBA 2K and match. Day after day.
Browne (who goes by"Shaka") and Martin (who goes by"Lotty") climbed the global rankings of their NBA 2K9 online community. It turned out to be a competitive time with hundreds of thousands competing on the web. Shaka, whose handle has been"YoungSparks92," watched somebody climbing the rankings with him. The two New Yorkers were connected together then. Little did they know that nearly a decade later they'd be teammates, competing side by side for the Utah Jazz in a professional league for NBA 2K players.
See, at the moment, it was all about positions. They climbed the ladder up. Shaka had the bragging rights -- always ahead of Lotty. So when Lotty discovered the two NBA 2K stars climbed up in the same neighborhood of Mount Vernon, New York. He knew he needed to battle him. One game to pick bragging rights to town and 2K. They went to different high schools, so it was not like they could join by themselves. But they had mutual friends, so the match was put up.
Shaka wanted the chance to play with Lotty one on one. He knew he was a better player than him, even if they were always neck-and-neck in the competitive rankings. He just wanted the moment to establish it. They played with a hard-fought game. The match was close, but Shaka won by 10 or so.
Later that night, the two competitors -- who had never met until there -- ended up going to the movies. Fast forward more than 10 years and the two are still side by side, teaming together on Jazz Gambling, the Utah Jazz affiliate for its NBA 2K League. "When we discovered that we were out of the same neighborhood and we're both on Cheap NBA 2K21 MT top of the planet, such as, wow, that's mad we will need to start hanging out and talking about the sport to kind of learn from each other," Shaka said. "And then we only became teammates after that."