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Boston Celtics, CLTX Gaming

In 1972, Atari released Pong, the first commercially successful sports video game.

By that point, Bill Russell had already led the Celtics to 11 NBA championships. The Celtics are frankly the only NBA team that can say their dominance predates that of video games.

So it's no surprise what type of players the franchise is looking to draft for its new NBA 2K League team.

"We're the Celtics," says Jim Ferris, managing director of Celtics Crossover Gaming (CLTX Gaming). "Each team is going to have a different approach about what matters to them in the players that they are choosing. We have a long history of the types of players that we choose, and we're having the conversation with our basketball operations about how we chose and the types of questions that we ask and what matters to us in terms of fielding a new set of Celtics players. I hope that people look to CLTX Gaming and feel that we are representing the Celtics in the way that we should be."

The Celtics are one of 17 organizations that bought into the NBA 2K League for Year 1. With the inaugural draft coming up Wednesday, hype is becoming reality.

Although CLTX Gaming has been in the works since the league was announced last year, Ferris was an outside hire this past October, a move he calls a "match made in heaven."

Boston -- where Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook and Daryl Morey hosts the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference every year -- is still an East Coast tech gem, although Ferris admits it's not what it used to be. Ferris graduated from Boston College in 1996 and after spending a few years working in motorsports in North Carolina, he became a product manager at Hasbro Interactive in Beantown in 1999.

"I started my career in video games in Boston, back when there was a bigger Boston games industry," Ferris says with a laugh, before a quick tangent to the Ted 2 scene at Hasbro. He's talking to ThePostGame at Esports Activate, an eSports conference in New York City, in early March. Most of the attendees are relatively new to the industry compared to Ferris.

Jim Ferris, CLTX Gaming, Esports Activate

Ferris was a common attendee of Celtics games during the Paul Pierce-Antoine Walker Era, but in 2003, he left town for roughly 13 years at Electronic Arts. He made stops in Orlando, Los Angeles and London during his EA tenure. Ferris and his wife wanted to come back to the U.S. and settle where they felt comfortable -- Boston. Soon after, Ferris' industry friends connected him with the Celtics and he found his new job.

The Celtics' NBA 2K League approach is meant to combine the old and new school. Ferris understands his background is creation of games, not the structuring of a competitive team.

"I've had some exposure to eSports, but it was really about understanding our strengths and where we needed to fill some gaps and that was my No. 1 thing coming in," he says. "What we realized right off the bat was that we have this incredible approach, about how we recruit a team around the 'Celtics way' of doing things, but at the same time, this world of eSports has been thriving and there are experts in that space. We felt that if we could take all that we know and combine it with someone who has a really strong background in eSports, if we can come at this together, it would be a great way to build a really successful team."

Enter Splyce, a video game and eSports organization hired as a partner to CLTX Gaming. Ferris says he does not want to "reveal secrets" about this synergy, but according to a blog entry by Splyce CEO Marty Strenczewilk, a Rochester native, the company is focused on advising CLTX Gaming in four areas: Competitive, social, strategic and content.

"We've been working really closely to combine what we know from our world vs. what they know from their world to build the foundations for a very successful franchise," Ferris says. "That comes from scouting and thinking about how we approach our player personnel, along with the support staff and support elements all around them. We have to build a practice facility, housing and thinking about recovery. We're testing some traditional products from the traditional basketball organization right now with Splyce, so we can see if that works in active recovery with our players."

If anyone is still skeptical about the NBA 2K League's legitimacy, let that sink in. The Celtics are prepping for everything right now, including recovery. That means finding the right energy drink for their gamers is a priority.

One challenge CLTX Gaming has faced: Housing. The Celtics do not own the TD Garden and thus have to create their own team base. Ferris says the team is making sure that is created with an environment that allows the players to live "a balanced life to compete at the highest level in NBA 2K." That training facility/home will be announced very soon.

Meanwhile, building a fan base is an easier job. The Celtics are a global organization. Ferris thinks the fans are ready to be invested in this new sister team, but they need a clean introduction.

"You'll hear people talk about authenticity and all of this stuff and it's all coming from giving people the ability to see 'behind the curtain' and raw interactions with people," Ferris says of the team's younger demographic. "Celtics fans are people with incredible basketball IQ. Our goal is to just to showcase how knowledgeable our players are about what they do and how passionate they are about it. It is really going to be about making these very human stories that connect our fans with our players around a common interest that we know that they have."

The NBA 2K League as an organization is priding itself on building its own avenue of superstars. More specifically, branding and marketing reasons disallow most crossover promotion between NBA and NBA 2K League talent.

Long before he was a Celtic, Gordon Hayward was being courted by eSports organizations looking to use his gaming enthusiasm to attract an NBA audience. But Hayward's marketing ability is not as clean-cut as Celtics executives may prefer.

"The fact Gordon Hayward loves League of Legends and loves Overwatch has no immediate carry over with his love of the NBA 2K League," Ferris notes. "Our job is to win him over. Hopefully, he will be excited about what we’re doing and we can win him over as a fan."

They'll be a lot of time spent winning over fans in the next few months. In Boston, specifically, there is only one way to win over fans: Winning.

And that starts with a good draft next week. Celtics Crossover Gaming has the No. 2 overall pick. So, Ferris and his team are (basically) on the clock.

Ferris spoke to ThePostGame at the inaugural Esports Activate conference in New York City on March 6 at the Sony PlayStation Theater. Ferris served as part of the "Exploring the Esports Brand, Media & Sponsorship Model" panel. 

-- Follow Jeff Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband. Like Jeff Eisenband on Facebook.