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Fortnite and the NBA team up for ‘Fortnite x NBA: The Crossover’ event

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Fortnite and the NBA are teaming up in a significant virtual collaboration.

Dubbed “Fortnite x NBA: The Crossover,” the event coincides with the start of the 2021 NBA postseason. On Friday, players will be able to equip NBA outfits for all 30 teams, and on May 25th can visit a “NBA Welcome Hub” in Fortnite’s Creative Mode, where NBA-themed experiences and content will reside. Player “Locker Bundles” will also be part of the drop, featuring Utah Jazz Shooting guard Donovan Mitchell and Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young. The pair will share their personal favorite items to equip while playing Fortnite and these items will be digitized and available for sale in the Fortnite Item Shop next week.

“We’ve been speaking to the NBA for a good while — over a year, almost two — so we’re really excited to be able to get this out there into the world for Fortnite and NBA fans,” Nate Nanzer, global head of partnerships at Fortnite creator Epic Games, said.

The event will also feature “Team Battles,” a five-day competition where 15,000 players per team will be able sign up for NBA teams in game and be able to participate in a series of challenges that will feed into a leaderboard. Up to 550,000 players can participate as a “fan” to also receive the opportunity to earn in-game rewards and V-Bucks, Fortnite’s in game currency. Cosmetics such as a “NBA Championship Trophy” that goes on a player’s back and “Spin!” spray are part of the offering.

Discussions have already begun on what kind of “continued collaboration” could come in the future between Fortnite and the NBA.

“Video game culture is certainly a shared passion across many of our NBA players and our fans worldwide, as well as for our leagues,” NBA senior vice president of global partnerships Matt Holt said. “Additionally, as we continue to engage our fans, the best approach is to meet them where they are, in creating personal and authentic experiences.”

This is the second time that Fortnite has joined forces with a major US sports league. In 2018, Epic Games partnered with the NFL, a relationship which is ongoing and which saw all 32 NFL team jerseys available as skins in the game. An ongoing court case between Epic Games and Apple revealed that that Epic sold 3.3 million NFL-related skins in November and December 2018 alone, amounting to an estimated $50 million in revenue.

Epic Games has been looking to expand Fortnite’s sports footprint for some time now.

“… We’ve had an amazing partnership with the NFL, but we haven’t really done much beyond our NFL partnership,” Nanzer previously told ESPN. “Over the last year, we’ve really been focused on how we can grow our footprint more in sports.”

In January, Fortnite released a global football event featuring 23 soccer clubs from across the globe, while Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar recently became the first athlete to be playable in game. In late April, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson saw the touchdown celebration he popularized, “The Griddy,” launch in game.

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Center Serge Ibaka exercises option, will return to LA Clippers for second season, sources say

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Serge Ibaka has exercised his player option and will return to the LA Clippers for his second season, sources confirmed to ESPN on Saturday.

Ibaka picked up his $9.7-million option. The veteran center was the Clippers’ biggest addition during the past offseason in free agency but Ibaka was limited to just 41 regular season games with a back injury.

Ibaka missed 30 straight games with the injury before returning for the final two games of the regular season. He played in the Clippers’ first two playoff games against the Dallas Mavericks before undergoing back surgery later in the postseason.

Ibaka averaged 11.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in more than 23 minutes per game — his lowest average in playing time in a regular season since his first year in Oklahoma City in 2009-10. Ivica Zubac emerged as the starting center during Ibaka’s absence in the regular season. But Zubac missed the last two games of the Western Conference finals with a sprained MCL.

Ibaka’s player option decision was first reported by The Athletic.

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Bobby Portis declining his option with Milwaukee Bucks, agent says

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Milwaukee Bucks forward Bobby Portis is declining his $3.8 million player option and will become a free agent, agent Mark Bartelstein told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Saturday.

The most the Bucks can offer Portis is a $5.9 million exception, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

The 26-year-old Portis was one of the more effective sixth men in the NBA, averaging 11.4 points and 7.1 rebounds during the regular season while averaging 52.3% shooting from the field.

He was a major contributor during the Bucks’ run to the NBA championship, averaging 8.8 points and 5.0 rebounds during the postseason.

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Kevin Durant powers Team USA’s rout of Czech Republic on record night

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SAITAMA, Japan — The best thing Team USA had going for it this summer was Kevin Durant committing to play. Saturday he reminded everyone why.

On a night when he became the all-time leading American scorer in the Olympics, Durant added another tremendous performance to his Team USA resume in a 119-84 victory over the Czech Republic.

The victory assured Team USA second place in their group and a place in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. Their opponent and game time will be determined in a draw Sunday with the only certainty being there cannot be a rematch with France until at least the semifinals.

Because of their two blowouts wins the last two games, Team USA will end up with a favorable position and avoid top medal contenders Australia, Spain and potentially even Luka Doncic-led Slovenia in the quarters.

Durant finished with 23 points on 8 of 11 shooting, which of course was important for the cause, but his playmaking and defense was just as helpful as he put up eight rebounds and six assists as well. In the third quarter he was masterful, scoring 10 points with four of his assists as it went from a tight game into a comfortable blowout.

He’d had a pedestrian start in Tokyo, scoring just 20 points total in the first two games and shooting just 40%. Even in the run-up games in Vegas, Durant wasn’t moving at full speed as he admitted everything seemed like practice and he shot just 43% percent. Then he fouled out of the opening loss to France, a key factor in the Americans’ offensive struggles.

With Doncic, who scored 48 points in his first Olympic game, off to an impressive start and Australia’s Patty Mills putting up great performances, Durant had faded into the background in the tournament’s first week.

All that lethargy was gone Saturday as he looked for his shot early. The Czechs had gotten off to a strong start, making eight of their first 11 shots and building a 10-point lead. But Durant led a charge to overtake them, his 3-pointer in the second quarter giving the U.S. the lead for good.

It was a relevant basket, not just because it put the team in front, but because it pushed Durant past Carmelo Anthony for the all-time scoring lead. Durant’s international career is impeccable including the 2010 World Cup in Turkey, where he established himself as a centerpiece of the national team for the next decade.

It was also a slump-breaker evening for Jayson Tatum, who had his best game of the summer as he put up 27 points with five 3-pointers. Tatum, who was bothered by a minor knee injury in Vegas, had lost his starting spot. Coach Gregg Popovich had positioned him to be an impact scorer off the bench but he was shooting just 40% in the first two games.

Jrue Holiday, who was again terrific defensively as he pressured the ball relentlessly and picked off three steals, had 11 points.

The Czechs were led by Blake Schlib, who played at Loyola-Chicago, with 17 points.

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