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GAMING & ESPORTS

Duke’s Paolo Banchero: The First College Player in NBA 2K

The NIL deal puts the Blue Devils freshman and prospective No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 draft right into NBA 2K22.

Since the name, image, and likeness floodgates opened on July 1, we’ve seen just about every type of endorsement deal, from fast-casual chicken joints to national television commercials for soft drinks with top-secret recipes.

But haven’t seen anything like this.

If you’re not wise to Paolo Banchero, today’s the day to get up to speed. Coinciding with the much-awaited release of NBA 2K22 Friday, the Duke Blue Devils freshman phenom and projected No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft signed a first-of-its kind NIL deal — he’s literally getting into the game.

It’s official. Nobody’s celebrating 2K Day quite like Paolo, the first college basketball player ever to strike up a partnership with the biggest name in NBA gaming.

As part of the deal, Banchero will have his own character in the game and will create additional 2K content over the course of the upcoming season.

The most noticeable aspect of Banchero’s 2K breakthrough may be virtual, but the impact is very real. The NIL era is about much, much more than pitching for consumer products in sponsored Instagram posts.

And in the case of the 5-star Blue Devils power forward, it’s an utterly unique opportunity to boost his profile and enhance his brand ahead of quite possibly hearing Adam Silver call his name first at next summer’s NBA Draft.

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