[caption id="attachment_294243" align="aligncenter" width="600"] (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Exactly a week after Kentucky would
have advanced to the NCAA Championship, Devin Booker
was crowned a different kind of basketball champ.
The one-time Wildcat took down his Phoenix Suns teammate, Deandre Ayton, in the first-ever (and hopefully only?) finals of the NBA2K Players Tournament with a 2-0 series sweep on Saturday, which was broadcast on ESPN.
Booker took down Los Angeles Clippers forward (and former Louisville player) Montrezl Harrell in the semifinals of the virtual tourney. Book won the best out of three series without a blemish, gliding through with a 2-0 series victory. While the first two rounds were single-elimination, the semis and final were best-of-3.
Booker went with Harrell's active squad, the Clippers, and coasted in Game 1, winning by a final score of 68-54. The one-time Cardinal decided to roll with the James Harden and the Houston Rockets (a former team of Harrell, as well), but he couldn't take advantage of his insider knowledge from both sides.
You think he would have seen himself getting dunked on by... himself.
Booker's own personal mascot made an appearance, too.
Heading into Game 2, Harrell elected to roll with the (overpowered) Milwaukee Bucks while Book went with the defending NBA champs, the Toronto Raptors. Unlike the first matchup, Harrell managed to keep it close with the score tied at 31 after the first half. However, big brother came out on top again with a tight 65-62 victory. Some big buckets, even bigger defensive stops, and pressure free throws pushed Booker through to a matchup against a familiar face.
In the finals, it was the matchup between current Suns teammates as Booker faced his pick-and-roll partner Deandre Ayton in the championship. Book went with the Rockets in Game 1 (which means he was now down to the Nuggets, Lakers, and Celtics for the rest of the way) while Ayton picked the Lakers. This time, it was clearly a bit personal (and filled with taunting laughter).
*Is the stat above a bit cruel? Yes, but it's also painfully true.*
Behind Russell Westbrook leading at the point of attack, Booker ran around the Laker defense and into a 33-29 lead at the intermission. Some solid execution down the stretch gave him the four-point lead.
The pause button soon became a theme, as Booker had to eventually ask Ayton for more "pauses" in the third quarter (there is a limit to the number of times you can pause an online match). He reluctantly agreed.
Booker busted out some JOKES, too.
He doesn't forget... (and he also took a 52-47 lead into the fourth quarter)
"It's time!" Booker repeated as he started off the final frame with a bucket.
With the game tightly contested through the first few minutes, Book drilled back-to-back triples with under two minutes left that gave him a 10-point lead before ultimately winning 72-62. A 57 percent clip from beyond the arc gave him the early advantage in the series.
Heading into a decisive Game 2, Book went with the Denver Nuggets while Ayton put his faith in the Bucks.
The former 'Cat led after the first period 19-14 - thanks to a series of self-motivating speeches - and was feeling good with the Jamal Murray
/Nikola Jokic combo. Despite a series of criticized zone defenses from Ayton, Booker took a 41-35 lead into the half and found himself just one half away from being crowned the 2K champion.
Booker spoke about how his bench unit, or the "Platoon 2", as he referred to it, gave him a push.
From there, the rout was on. As he had all tourney long, Booker stayed hot from deep (much to Ayton's disbelief), abusing a drive-and-kick system (wonder where he learned that?). Booker went up 55-40 midway through the third before taking a 10-point lead into the final frame.
Booker continued to cruise, with Ayton blaming the game
for his own poor performance.
"They just don't wanna work as hard as us!" Booker mockingly exclaimed while Ayton sat straight-faced. "It's about heart right now!"
In the end, Booker - who said from the beginning that the finals would him and Ayton - came out on top with a 74-62 victory and the proud winner of $100,000 that will be donated to fight against the coronavirus.
Booker didn't even need to use the Lakers. He's a true gamer.