Steve Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images iamadamthe1st

It was October 2017, and Adam Kudeimati had to face reality. He was bored.

"I hit this spiral, mentally," he remembers. "I was like, 'I'm not having fun doing this.' I didn't know what I wanted to do. For a while, I was exploring other avenues seeing what I can do."

By "this," Kudeimati meant YouTubing. And at the time, he was better known as "Kidd Kuda," his internet stage name. Today, Kudeimati has a third name: iamadamthe1st, his NBA 2K League gamertag. And on Saturday, he may lead Knicks Gaming to the inaugural NBA 2K League title.

At 14, Kudeimati started posting videos to YouTube, documenting his high school life in Wayne, New Jersey. He brought video games into the fold -- especially NBA games -- and his profile grew. Before his teenage years were done -- Kudeimati is now 20 -- he was taping videos with James Harden, Markelle Fultz and De'Aaron Fox. His fan base ballooned -- his YouTube page, ThatKiddKuda, has more than 300,000 subscribers. 

"As I grew up, I knew they were growing up too, so they wanted to see more of the real world stuff or stuff that I was doing when I wasn't creating videos at my desk," Kudeimati says of his fans. "I was going out, having a beach day with my friends, and I would vlog that."

Fans saw Kidd Kuda, a free-spirited teen who wanted to score the latest Yeezys and video games. At his parents' house, Kudeimati was constantly on the grind. He loved it, but more success meant more work.

"I know through high school, they probably wondered why I maybe wasn't going out every Friday night," Kudeimati says of his parents. "On Saturday nights, I was at home creating, but it came to a point where once brands started approaching me -- I remember I met up with my friends for a trip in Chicago for a YouTuber game. That's kind of when they understood what it was and they were like, 'All right, if you're having fun with it and it's working out for you, keep doing it.'"

But his mother, Nancy Coppola, was still skeptical even as she encouraged him.

"You're in high school, I'm like, 'Go out,'" she says. "Where are your friends? What are you doing? He's like, 'I have things to do.' My husband's like, 'Why are you complaining? There are kids out there out all hours of the night. He's actually at home doing something he enjoys doing.'"

Nancy and Kudeimati's stepdad, Rocco, advised him to go to a traditional four-year college. Kudeimati pushed back. They comprised on online school, with Kudeimati enrolling at Penn State World Campus Online in fall 2016. While most of his friends left home for college, Kudeimati kept on the YouTube grind in Wayne. It was in that second year at home post-high school that he lost the joy in his craft. Kidd Kuda posted a video on Oct. 17, 2017 and went dark for the next six months.

"For a while, I was kind of just exploring other avenues, seeing what I could do in maybe photography or amateur filmmaking and trying to get on sets, stuff like that," Kudeimati says of last fall. "I ended up getting in contact with two really big models -- one of them is Neels Visser and the other is Cindy Kimberly and I had met them sort of through social and I started editing their YouTube videos."

When January came around, the NBA 2K League opened qualifying for its first season. Kudeimati got a few of his friends together, mainly influencers, as a team, and they used the qualification stage as a way to keep in touch.

"I knew I always had the skill and the talent level for the game, but I didn't know if it was something I wanted to commit to," Kudeitmati says. "A few of my friends kind of just hopped on some calls during the day and kind of just casually talked while we played our combine games and it was funny because it was never a really serious thing where I was like, 'I gotta do this, I gotta make it, I gotta spend these hours.' I was just nonchalantly having fun with it."

As the qualification process and subsequent combine rolled on, things got more real for Kidd Kuda. For the sake of this article, we'll refer to him as iamadamthe1st from this point. In a league expected to be dominated by point guards, iamadamthe1st made the 102-player field.

There was one thing to consider before iamadamthe1st accepted his spot in "The 102": Money. Iamadamthe1st says he was making more as a YouTuber than the NBA 2K League base salary ($35,000 for first-round picks, $32,000 for second to sixth-round picks).

"The league was never a financial thing, it was never a 'growing as a creator and YouTuber' thing," he says. "It was just something I wanted to do and I needed a new experience in my life. This was that for me."

Of course, with the bonuses Knicks Gaming will pull in, iamadamthe1st's wallet will be fat. As a team, Knicks Gaming already collected $12,800 from "The Turn" Tournament, $75,600 as champion of "The Ticket" Tournament and the team will add $300,000 as NBA 2K League champion or $100,000 as runner-up.

Before iamadamthe1st could have foreseen Knicks Gaming's accomplishments, he had to get drafted. The NBA 2K League featured 17 NBA-owned teams in Year 1 and all had opportunities to draft him in April.

"Once I did make the final 102, I knew I had to somehow get on the Knicks," iamadamthe1st, a lifelong Knicks fan, says with a smile. "I don’t know what would have happened if I went to another team."

Iamadamthe1st's future coach Kyle Rudy was not employed by Knicks Gaming yet. However, to help draft the team, actor and Knicks Gaming head scout/creative consultant Jerry Ferrara took part in the sceening process and was in the war room on draft day. After interviewing iamadamthe1st on the phone, Ferrara moved him up Knicks Gaming's board.

"He talked intimately about 2K and just about hoops in general, his passion for NYC," Ferrara says. "And he also spoke about the concept of being a part of something. I just felt that he understood the moment In front of him and he really wanted to be in NYC. He also struck me as a self-motivated guy that when the lights come on and the stage is set, we believed he would flourish.

"I couldn't believe how savvy and mature he was at just 19 years old. So impressive."

Not everyone around the NBA 2K League was on the iamadamthe1st bandwagon. While iamadamthe1st's fans were just happy to see him back on camera -- he ended his YouTube hiatus with an NBA 2K League Draft vlog -- critics wondered: Was Kidd Kuda in the NBA 2K League and on Knicks Gaming for his marketability or his skill?

"I do have some questions as to how committed he is to esports overall," wrote Forbes' Brian Mazique after the draft. "He has a lot of things going for him and the 2K League could be a stepping stone to other interests. That could do a job on team chemistry."

Iamadamthe1st struggled during the early weeks of the season. He turned the ball over too much, he got beat on defense and he lacked scoring prowess. While many elite teams were carried by their point guards, Knicks Gaming was not even sure if its point guard would make it through the whole season. In "bootcamps" -- elongated scrimmage sessions with other NBA 2K League teams, Knicks Gaming tried out other players at point guard. Opposing teams made their public strategy, "Make Kuda beat us." Including "The Tip-Off" Tournament, Knicks Gaming started 3-5.

"People are pretty harsh," Nancy says. "You read the [Twitch] chat, I'm on there. Adam's like 'You don't need to read that.' You can be great one minute later and five minutes later, they hate you."

One layer of comfort iamadamthe1st had was Knicks Gaming's first-round pick at No. 9 overall, Goofy757, was his former Pro-Am teammate on "God Save the Queen." But even Goofy now admits iamadamthe1st was a liability in the spring.

"I believed in his talents 100 percent," Goofy, Knicks Gaming's leading scorer and rebounder, says. "We played a whole year with each other. It was just going to take some time."

"Through his YouTube creation and stuff, he's clearly a hard-worker," another teammate, NateKahl, says of iamadamthe1st's early season struggles. "It didn't matter if it was content creation or 2K, you knew he was going to work hard to perfect his craft."

Unfortunately, as the season progressed, Knicks Gaming didn't have a lot of time. By "The Ticket" Tournament, the third tourney of the season, the team had a 3-7 regular season record. A natural run at the postseason appeared done, but Knicks Gaming had one last loophole: The winner of "The Ticket" would get an automatic bid to the postseason.

No one could have seen what was coming next. Knicks Gaming was the No. 15 seed for the tournament. Yet, it ran the table to clinch a playoff spot. 

iamadamthe1st was named tournament MVP. He averaged 26.7 points and 7.2 assists in the tournament. Knicks Gaming's four wins in two days were more than they had in 10 regular-season games in eight weeks.

"The confidence was jumping off the screen and he was just on fire," Ferrara says. "He also was just making all the right plays on offense while still being fully engaged on defense. That was the beginning of 'Tournament Kuda.'"

That night, in the tournament final against CLTX Gaming, iamadamthe1st matched up against No. 2 overall pick oFab, unquestionably one of the top point guards in the league. Iamadamthe1st did not just beat oFAB, but he set himself up for a run.

"I was going up against what people were saying was the best on-ball defender in the world in oFAB and he played an amazing game and he really gave me problems on defense, but at the same time, he never took me out of my game," iamadamthe1st says. "I was still getting what I wanted, I was still getting my 3s up, so it was probably at that moment where I was like, 'You know what? I'm at a place now where I'm going head-for-head, punch for punch right now, pound-for-pound with arguably the best point guard in the world.' That moment, I was like, 'The rest of this season, I'm gonna go do whatever it is I want on the court.'"

If there was still any doubt of iamadamthe1st being "just a YouTuber," the playoffs have put that to rest. In four games, iamadamthe1st is averaging 30.3 points and 11.3 assists. In the quarterfinals, he was matched up against MVP finalist Mama Im Dat Man and outplayed the star Blazer5 Gaming point guard.

"Mama said, 'Adam won't be able to score more than 18 points on me,'" Rudy remembers from a conversation before the playoffs. "'I said, 'I guess we'll see.'"

Iamadamthe1st dropped 19 on Mama before halftime. Blazer5 Gaming then switched Mama off Adam, but it was too late. He put up 30 points and 12 assists as Knicks Gaming upset the No. 1 seed, 82-78.

"At this point in the year, it's disrespectable. He can close his eyes and get 18 points," Rudy adds.

On Saturday, iamadamthe1st will get a crack at finally shutting up any of his lingering haters by bringing a championship to New York City. Iamadamthe1st and his teammates still think some people label him too "Hollywood."

His new friend who actually made the transition from New York to Hollywood has some thoughts.

"I've never really understood what calling someone the term 'Hollywood' really meant," Ferrara says. "I guess it means like too cool for everyone? But that's just a big misread by his doubters. He's grounded and is such a team-first guy. Also, I think the toughness he has shown this year with having so many doubters talking trash -- at times right in his face -- and basically silencing all of them sheds any persona of 'just a YouTuber' or 'Hollywood.' He's a tough kid who maybe doesn't yell and talk tons of trash, but he's a competitor who wants to win really badly. So if that's what 'Hollywood' means, count me in!"

Speaking of YouTube and Hollywood, the sparks are coming back to iamadamthe1st's performance senses. After all, he has a whole summer of content from a new job to share.

"After the season's over, there's some other stuff that I hopefully wanna dive into, like entertainment and the film industry and acting, so I don’t know what it is I want to do yet," iamadamthe1st says. "That's kind of been my whole life story. I can never decide on one thing, so we'll see after the season. At least in terms of content, I'm really excited for that."

This all begs the question: What does Adam Kudeimati introduce himself as nowadays?

"I'd probably generalize and summarize and kinda just say, 'I play video games for the Knicks.'"

After all, he's not just a YouTuber and he's not just Hollywood. He's arguably the best NBA 2K point guard in the world.

"In my opinion he is. I'd love to find out who's better than him," Rudy says.

The world gets one last look this season at iamadamthe1st and Knicks Gaming this Saturday. It's Knicks Gaming vs. Heat Check Gaming, best-of-three, for $300,000, on the NBA 2K League Twitch channel at 4 p.m. ET.

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