It’s been a big year for the game NBA 2K. As the league continues to grow, the e-sport continues to expand in terms of complexity and reach and, in 2018, has announced an NBA 2K League of professional gamers.

Dimez and Shakedown met up in-game last week to customize their Win Like 96 AJ 11s and talk about what it means to Win Like Mike in 2K.

Are you gaming full-time at the moment?

Dimez: Yes. Gaming is all I do professionally at the moment.

Shakedown: I’m what people call a YouTube commentator and I game professionally; I went full time in 2014. My first YouTube video I was wearing Jordan gear and talking about Michael Jordan. I was trying to bring that whole flavor back to the community.

How did you start out?

S: When I started college, I was making videos part-time, trying to help people get better at the game. Then I started doing top tens, hosting little tournaments on my channel. I did not expect to build a channel to this size – I’m almost at a million subscribers.

D: I started out playing 2K9, when I started realizing I was actually good at this. I always liked basketball, all my life, and when I started playing crew in 2K10 and 2K11 I had the number one team both years. I realized I wanted to do something with 2K and gaming.

Last year, they had the final tournament. I won it and they announced the NBA 2K League, and I knew that this could be my career. This is what I’ve been playing for all these years. Luckily, I got it done. I won the tournament and, come 2018, I’m looking forward to being in the NBA 2K League.

Is it easy to spot Jordan-heads in the game?

D: Yeah. You can customize your own avatar and everybody is always wearing Js. Jordan is very well loved in the community and the 2K community in general.

S: Absolutely. If you’re doing 2K videos, most of these guys are wearing Jordan gear, or t-shirts. Not to dis other brands but you don’t see a lot of people customizing their gear. You just don’t see that.

You both customized the Win Like ’96 AJ 11s for this story. Tell us about the gear you’ve got on.

D: I’ve got the Jordan t-shirt, the white one with the red logo. It goes well with the Win Like ’96 shoes. I would wear this whether I’m hopping, going out.

S: Typically, I want my Js to stand out more than anything… I’m wearing all-black so you can see my 11s and that’s it.

D: The 11s are my favorite Jordans. I like every 11 there is.

S: I’m with you on that. I remember it like yesterday – being a little kid. Knowing it would be years before I could afford something like that, not having my own money. The moment I came of age that’s all I’ve been going after. The Jordan 11: my favorite sneakers of all time. I’m an original 11 fan, but I got to love the Breds too, though. I love the Space Jams; they’re the ones I most recently picked up.

D: I also have the Space Jams. My favorite color is blue and they just look dope.

S: My first pair of Jordans, I will never forget this, were the Air Jordan 12s with the black on the top and white on the sides. Somewhere around ’96 or ’97. That’s when I had washed a lot of cars, cut a lot of grass and I had some money in my pocket.

How has Jordan impacted your game?

D: I practice and work hard every day to be the best at what I do and that’s what I took from Jordan in terms of winning. I’m the guy they are referring to when they say there is always somebody working harder than you.

In NBA 2K 17, I won the All-Star tournament. It was a crazy time. I competed for $250,000 and luckily we made it all the way and achieved that goal.  Didn’t really understand I had just won until that last buzzer and I could see everybody going crazy and my team standing up and hugging each other. It was surreal. It still is, a little bit.

S: I think I can speak for a lot of people, as a young African American.  Growing up, you watch a lot of movies. You have your super heroes that reflect an image. In my community, when I was coming up we couldn’t identify with [onscreen] superheroes.

Most of them would be fictional but Michael Jordan is real-life. Flying in the air, defying gravity and defeating everyone against all odds. He was my idol. He was the face of what success could be. Not all of us could fly like him and play like him, but we believed in him. He inspires us all because he’s a representative of a real example of greatness. We all wanted to be superstars and we wanted to be him.

That reminds me of Dimez, in that 2K All Star tournament. Dimez is the truth. I think, if you were going to play with him, everybody on his team is going to play their very best, playing with someone like that.

That kind of winning spirit encompasses all of us and it makes anybody that’s on a winning team play better. You could be garbage off the bench but you’re going to put up big numbers at the right time, because you’re playing with Michael.

What do you want to see, in terms of the future of the league?

D: I want to see NBA 2K to be the biggest e-sport. I think right now everyone really wants to see a private match-making mode, where you can setup private games and be more interactive with the community.

S: In terms of where 2K needs to go, now that pro-am is official and we have real-life teams associated with the e-sport, we need to establish some form of five on five or private match making so teams can practice. I want to see 2K get as realistic as possible. I hope that by the time my kids grow up they’re playing with virtual headsets and a guy like me can still hang with the best of them. I’d like to see 2K continue to evolve.

The Win Like 96 Air Jordan 11s will be available from 10am EST on 12/9 from Nike.com