Shaquille O’Neal, Jimmy Rollins, and Alex Rodriguez Are New Investors in NRG eSports
Shaquille O’Neal, Jimmy Rollins, and Alex Rodriguez each have invested in NRG eSports, a competitive eSports company which competes in League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. NRG eSports has entered a new round of financing, seeking big money and high profile investors alike.
NRG Chairman Andy Miller told a press conference the contributions of Shaq and A-Rod are likely to help legitimize investment on eSports among figures “from traditional sports world.” It is well-known that many professional athletes play video games and online games in their spare time, both at home and on road trips. Few have invested in (or know about) the investment opportunities in the burgeoning eSports industry.
The Big Aristotle Is Instrumental
Shaquille O’Neal’s role in the transactions seem guy. Shaq and Andy Miller are both minority investors in the Sacramento Kings, so they know one another from other business ventures. NRG’s other co-founder, Mark Mastrov, is also a minority owner in NRG.
Andy Miller told reporters that Shaquille O’Neal had been “circling the space” of eSports investment for some time. Miller did not say what size the investments were, but indicated the investments were attempts to be in on the ground-floor of the business. Apparently, the necessary investment level is still relatively small at the moment, though the viewership of eSports dwarfs anything seen in most traditional sports.
Getting in on the Ground Floor
NRG’s co-owner said, “Valuations of teams are still small. They wanted to get in super early, as they are seeing the giant viewership numbers that are dwarfing pro sports right now.”
The reason for the high viewership numbers is obvious: the Internet. Those who watch eSports competitions are viewing these games online, so an entire world of game enthusiasts are potential viewers. In traditional sports, the audience is still tied to broadcast television — often network TV broadcasts. This represents a much smaller potential audience.
NRG Hopes to Add New Teams
Andy Miller said all three athletes sought out NRG eSports for this investment www. He said his company is still a small competitor in the field, having one competitive team for League of Legends events and another for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive events.
He says the company is hoping to expand with the new round of financing, getting into other games. For instance, DoTA2 is the largest eSports circuit at the moment, so NRG eSports would like to eventually build a team capable of competiting in that ultra-competitive arena.
Echo Fox Investment
Shaq, A-Rod, and Jimmy Rollins are not the only athletes to get into the field. Last year, Shaq’s former Los Angeles Lakers teammate, Rick Fox, spent $1 million to buy League of Legends team “Gravity Gaming”, which he quickly rebranded “Echo Fox”.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban also has invested in the eSports industry. Cuban invested in the eSports betting startup Unikrn, a Seattle-based company which provides Unicoins for US eSports bettors. US law bars Unikrn from gambling on eSports at the moment, though Unikrn co-founder and ex-Microsoft executive Rahul Sood says betting on electronic sports won’t always be illegal.
Major Athletes Investing in eSports
The investment by Shaquille O’Neal is likely to be create a wave of investment from NBA players. Over the years, NBA players are known to be among the most common eSports players. The 4-time NBA champion still has a high profile among National Basketball Association players, given his fame and his ownership of an NBA team.
Alex Rodriguez remains a controversial figure in Major League Baseball, but he is by most estimates the richest MLB player of all time. The 37-year old Jimmy Rollins remains a key contributor for the Chicago White Sox, after 15 years star player for the Philadelphia Phillies. He is one of only seven players in Major League Baseball history to be a member of the 20-20-20 Club — players who’ve had 20 doubles, 20 triples, and 20 home runs in one season.
What Is eSports?
Esports is “electronic sports” — competitions on video games and online games. Among the Millennial Generation, eSports has become a favorite spectator sport, with top competitors from around the globe competing in events and tournaments. These events are streamed live online, with network-level play-by-play and color commentary.
Esports also is a sports betting opportunity in many countries, including the United Kingdom. While eSports betting is not legal in the United States, several top online eSports betting sites cater to the international audience.
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