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What's your sports fantasy? Online game puts basketball fans in the general manager seat.


WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN YOU COMBINE THE EXCITEMENT of professional basketball with the head games and heartburn of sports deal-making? ( first fantasy basketball game governed by the rules of the NBA's collective bargaining agreement.

Created in 2004 by 29-year-old Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate Ngozika Nwaneri, the Web-based game lets players assume the duties of an NBA general manager or create a sports agency using NBA statistics from the previous season. Play continues into the regular 24-week NBA season using statistics generated by the NBA. Player agents compete via their clients' performance and the contracts they were able to negotiate. The object of the game is for players to retool their teams: Find homes for free agents, create a list for the rookie NBA draft, and negotiate player buyouts. Players can create their own league and invite friends to join.

Nwaneri, who has a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and computer science, has been a Website developer since high school. In fact, it was his tech skills that helped him land a spot in MIT. He started developing the game in 2004, and relaunched it this year.

Nwaneri was surprised to learn that in the fantasy sports world, basketball ranked well behind football and baseball. What's worse, fantasy basketball has the highest dropout rate (the rate at which players quit).

The fantasy gaming industry is teeming with companies that develop games, so what makes different? "We saw the current inefficiencies of fantasy basketball and thought we could make the game better," says Nwaneri. "We believe we've created a version that fans will find interesting and intriguing--and we want our format to be the standard."

A recent study by Fantasy Sports Trade Association says that more than 27 million people in the U.S. regularly play fantasy sports. Research by Fantasy Sport Research Specialists L.L.C. suggests that Nwaneri might be on a winning team: 76% of online players are homeowners, 72% are married, and their median income is $75,000 to $99,000. And teen sports fans that play online make up 13% of the total. has tough competition though, particularly from Yahoo and ESPN. But in the $800 million fantasy sports industry (making an estimated $4.48 billion impact on professional sports), Nwaneri believes he can carve out a space for himself in the market.'s ad revenues are increasing, and recently Nwaneri completed a summer round of venture talks. He hopes to pick up more online players and be on his way to a successful season.
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Title Annotation:BLACK DIGERATI;
Author:Donaldson, Sonya A.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2008
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