NEW YORK -- Commissioner Adam Silver is treating the NBA's entry into esports as the "fourth league in our family," he said at the NBA 2K League draft on Wednesday.
And Silver doesn't think the 2K League will be a fad. He believes it will have the staying power of the NBA, WNBA and G League.
"We view this as the same way as those other leagues," Silver said at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. "It's something that we're going to develop over a very long time, and we're building this league as something that's going to be around forever."
Silver was on hand to announce Artreyo "Dimez" Boyd as the first overall draft pick by Mavs Gaming, the Dallas Mavericks' NBA 2K team.
The NBA is the first sports league to bring the franchise model found in traditional sports to esports. There has been excitement about the NBA 2K League, with 72,000 entrants jumping into the fray. That number was whittled down to 250 and then to a final 102.
"They were playing and becoming the best players in the world out of a love of the game, and because of the love of competition," said Brendan Donohue, the NBA 2K League managing director. "And today, it's exciting because we're going to reward them for that genuine passionate dedication to the game. I'm excited to kind of see today through their eyes."
The 17 first-round selections will have salaries of $35,000. Everyone else will make $32,000. NBA teams will create esports teams of five, and all will compete for a prize pool of $1 million.
Silver has been a driving force behind the NBA starting its own esports league, although several in the NBA ownership ranks have already been investing in some form in esports. A total of 13 NBA teams' ownership have invested in or acquired businesses around esports -- a blossoming industry with $1 billion in revenue projections over the next three years, according to current team valuations and several studies on the industry.
By comparison, six MLB teams and three NFL teams share ownership with esports teams.
"From the NBA standpoint, this is our fourth league," Silver said. "We have the NBA, WNBA and the G League. And now this is the fourth league in our family, and that's exactly how we're treating it."
Of the 102 finalists to make it in the draft, none are women, which is something that Silver wants to rectify.
"One thing, just to put it on the table, that's been a disappointment for all of us so far is that there are no women who are in the initial draft pool," Silver said. "And just to make it clear, and whittling down from the 72,000, it's by avatars, in essence. It's blind.
"What I'm concerned about -- and this is a much larger issue in the gaming community that [Take-Two Interactive CEO] Strauss [Zelnick] and Brendan and I have talked a lot about -- is that something is going on in the gaming community that either is not attracting women or is repelling women from wanting to be part of it."
Silver, along with Oris Stuart, who is the head of diversity and inclusion at the NBA, have created a task force aiming to have a pool of female competitors to participate in next year's draft.
ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk contributed to this report.