The California-based competitive gaming organization NRG Esports is finalizing a $15 million Series B financing round. According to an article from ESPN, the group of contributing investors included celebrities Jennifer Lopez, Marshawn Lynch, and Michael Strahan.
Founded in 2015 by Sacramento Kings then-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov, NRG is full of star-investors. The existing investor group includes NBA star Shaquille O’Neal and MLB players Alex Rodriguez, Jimmy Rollins, and Ryan Howard.
2017 marked many big moves for NRG: becoming part of the new San Francisco Overwatch League franchise, forging a fresh partnership with ASUS ROG, and the acquisition of Canadian esports organization Northern Gaming.
Other investors joining the financing round include Twitter COO Anthony Noto, Sacramento Kings minority owner and Sacramento Republic owner Kevin Nagle, and Fortress Investment Group Chairman Pete Briger.
Overwatch roster revealed
NRG also announced its new Overwatch roster for the upcoming league. Coached by former Selfless Gaming owner Brad Rajani, the team consists of Jay “sinatraa” Won, Matthew “super” DeLisi, Daniel “dhaK” Paz, Dante “Danteh” Cruz, André “iddqd” Dahlström, Andrej “babybay” Francisty, Nikola “sleepy” Andrews, and David “nomy” Ramirez.
“We’ve gathered some of the most explosive players in North America to rep the Bay Area in this inaugural season of the Overwatch League. I’m honored to work with this crew and ready to bring the trophy home for San Francisco,” Rajani said in a statement.
The preseason for the Overwatch League begins Dec. 6 at the Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California. The regular season starts Jan. 10.
“It has been a long journey, but I could not be more excited that we are bringing these eight players together,” said NRG President Brett Lautenbach in a statement. “They represent the next step in our Overwatch path. These are some of the best players in the competitive scene and we are stoked for them to compete for San Francisco!”
Currently, the NRG brand includes teams in CS:GO, Smite, Hearthstone, For Honor, Rocket League, Super Smash Bros., World of Warcraft, and Vainglory. The organization also supports a number of streamers on Twitch.
Esports is attracting celebrities
Like the star lineup of investors in NRG, many famous faces and dollars have been attracted to esports of late.
Musician, producer, and record executive Steve Aoki began investing in Rogue last October. The Las Vegas-based organization has rosters in Overwatch, CS:GO, Call of Duty, H1Z1, and Vainglory.
On the betting side, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and actor Ashton Kutcher backed Unikrn in 2015. The company has done tremendously well since then and is currently preparing for its first ICO.
Former Los Angeles Laker Rick Fox purchased a League of Legends LCS spot in 2015 and an esports team shortly thereafter. Named Echo Fox, the organization competes in a total of 10 esports titles.
Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin attended The International Dota 2 tournament in 2015, and a year later, he signed a joint partnership with esports organization Vici Gaming J to become their honorary captain.
Laker great Magic Johnson co-owns aXiomatic, the company behind Team Liquid. The organization’s Dota 2 roster recently the won tournament in the esport, securing over $10 million in prize winnings.
This is only a partial list, but it shows esports attracting major interest, especially from professional sports figures.
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