Former professional athletes Alex Rodriguez, Jimmy Rollins, and Shaquille O’Neal have invested in the eSports team NRG. NRG consists of two five-player teams; one team specializes in League of Legends (LoL) and the other in Counter Strike Global Offensive (CS:GO).
Shaq announced his investment in NRG via tweet on March 17:
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) March 17, 2016
The owners of NRG eSports are minority partners in the NBA’s Sacramento Kings – Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov. Shaq is also a minority partner in the California basketball team.
In an interview with ESPN, Andy Miller made it clear that being an early investor in eSports could pay off shortly:
“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.
All know what it’s like to be super young and play in front of millions of fans every week, we need that guidance and perspective.
This is pro sports for the millennial generation. We will see other pro sports owners buying in by the end of the year for sure.”
Miller did not comment on the amount invested by any of the three new athlete investors. However, he did say that all three will be involved with assisting the team.
Other well-known eSports team owners
It’s not surprising that we’re seeing some big name investors and owners in eSports. The number of viewers for important eSports matches compares favorably to all but the very biggest events in traditional sports. During the 2015 LoL World Championships final, over 36 million unique viewers tuned in.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban invested seven million dollars into an eSports startup called Unikrn. The eSports company offers real money eSports betting on competitive video game tournaments. Unikrn offers betting lines on CS:GO, LoL, and DOTA 2 matches. Unikrn currently only accepts bets in the U.K., Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia.
Former Lakers small forward Rick Fox purchased the LoL eSports team Echo Fox in December 2015. The relatively new eSports team is currently tied for sixth place heading into the last three weeks of the North American LCS season.
Some background on NRG
NRG’s CS:GO team was created on January 22, 2016 and Liquipedia lists the team’s total earnings at $19,900. So far the team’s biggest score was on March 18 when they won a CS:GO tournament during the season two finals for $10,400.
The other side of NRG focuses on competitive LoL tournaments and has been active since November 2015. The CS:GO sect will compete in the NALCS and purchased its spot from Team Coast.
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