Gaming has been an escape from the hardships of life for Jackson, Mich. native Detuaine "Dee" Tucker Jr. But now it's also a career, as the 23-year-old has been drafted by the Miami Heat to join its virtual team in the basketball video game NBA 2K.
Earlier this year, Tucker was selected out of 100,000 draft prospects to join HEATCheck Gaming, the Miami Heat’s NBA 2K team. HEATCheck Gaming was created in 2017, joining the rapidly growing global industry of esports, or competitive online gaming. The industry was valued at $1.45 billion in 2022
HEATCheck chose five players to compete against 24 other international leagues
, and Tucker was picked to play forward
. Now, the 23-year-old is looking to win, and hopefully provide for his family and community in the process.
Detuaine "Dee" Tucker Jr.
Tucker, the fourth child of nine, had to drop out of school while his mother was in and out of jail. His father was also incarcerated during that time, so Tucker found himself serving as a parental figure to his siblings.
"I didn’t want them to go to the state and be in foster homes because I know how that would mess up our bond and mess up how they viewed my mom," Tucker says. "I want my siblings to have somebody to look up to."
Tucker never imagined gaming would be his career. But after realizing he wouldn’t make it to the actual NBA, Tucker started living out his basketball dreams virtually through NBA 2K. Through livestreaming while playing NBA 2K, Tucker has accumulated over 20,000 followers on his Twitch @imforeigndee
and is now an influential figure in the esports scene. Tucker caught the eye of his current NBA 2K coach, Derric Franklin, when he was playing against Franklin's team in a celebrity matchup. Franklin was the first Black leader in the NBA 2K league
, starting in the position almost as early as the program was created.
"He must have seen how I was playing and liked me, I guess," Tucker says. "I ended up being blessed enough to get the opportunity to get picked up to his team."
Tucker's role with HEATCheck has led to exciting experiences including flying to Miami for the Heat's media day.
"We met a lot of the people in the background who lead the whole organization," Tucker says. "We took pictures on the court during the halftime show, I believe, so it's a pretty dope experience."
Tucker currently resides in Washington D.C., living with teammates and practicing daily for upcoming remote and in-person NBA 2K tournaments. Tucker says everyone on the team, including Franklin, has their own inspiring stories.
"These guys actually feel like brothers to me and I've only known them for three months," Tucker says. "I support them [and] they support me, on and off the court. That's really what it's been about."
Tucker says the bond between him and his teammates makes them stronger players.
"[If] we win, we win together. [If] we lose, we lose together. That's why I love my team," he says. "It’s just so in sync, on and off the court. But I just feel like we have to win."
Apart from winning tournaments, one of Tucker’s biggest goals is to accumulate generational wealth so that his family never has to worry financially. Tucker also hopes to reach a point where he can give back to his community and demonstrate to all adolescents that they can be successful too.
"No matter what it is that you're going through, it'll eventually pass by," Tucker says. "Control what you can control."
Layla McMurtrie is a recent Eastern Michigan University graduate and former editor-in-chief of The Eastern Echo. She has a passion for arts and culture and hopes to tell the stories of underrepresented Michigan residents.
Sabine Bickford Brown is a freelance writer and editor based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by David Alvarez, Miami Heat.
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