Exclusive: Chat With The Houston Rockets Director Of eSports Development
TNL Take: Back in The Next Level 052, I wrote about my admiration for Houston Rocket's GM Daryl Morey and was lucky to have met him when he was on MLG's board.
I also happen to know Sebastian Park - who is super sharp - and we talk eSports all the time.
Now both of them have come together like PB&J to form a "Smart Sandwich"; the Houston Rockets are the first NBA team to hire an executive exclusively to focus on eSports.
Park's official title is Director of eSports Development and he will focus on everything from strategy to investment.
Here's an exclusive chat between Sebastian Park and The Next Level on his role and all things eSports:
/01 First, huge congrats on an amazing role with a great organization like the Houston Rockets. There are now 30+ Global teams that have invested in eSports. From the NBA side, we've seen investment from the Sacramento Kings, Memphis Grizzlies, Philadelphia 76’ers, Wizards/Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks and now the Houston Rockets.
So why the Rockets?
SP: The Rockets, the owner Mr. Leslie Alexander, and I all believe that there's a massive opportunity in Esports. The Rockets have been on the cutting edge of the data movement and we're all very excited about what Esports is and could be.
/02 During my time at MLG, I got to speak with Daryl Morey, GM of the Rockets, and was just amazed at his vision and understanding of the future. He's one of the smartest people I've ever met.
How important was being able to partner with him affect your decision to join the Rockets?
SP: My mentors have always told me that the leadership of an organization is an absolutely vital part of understanding what the working environment and the opportunity will look like. Daryl, our CEO Tad Brown, and the owner Leslie Alexander comprise the vast majority of the reason why I decided to join the Rockets. Their reputation preceded them and every interaction I've had with them from the the first moment I met them till today re-affirms my initial read.
/03 I'm over 40 which makes me an old man in the eSports world. You’re 25 which basically means you were born a year before I graduated high school. The lifespan of eSports Athletes, depending on genre, is really 16-24.
Do you think your "youth" helps you?
SP: Youth definitely helps you recover from long hours. It also means you probably have fewer life obligations and more time to devote to esports. But I think the key to success in esports is the desire to constantly improve and adapt to an ever-changing environment. Fortunately, I've had the pleasure of meeting people of all ages with that mindset.
/04 I say literally every day that "I don’t care about the next 12 months about eSports; I care about the next 12 years". Of course VC’s and Investment firms have their standard "Maximum ROI in as little time as possible" mantra - which is totally fine.
What do you care about?
SP: I believe we're in agreement to a certain extent. I do think that the future of esports is incredibly bright and one that I'm focusing on and excited to be a part of. However, it's hard to project the future of esports (or really anything for that matter) accurately beyond the next year or two. So what I care about today is making sure we're working towards creating a sustainable ecosystem that treats its people well. As members of this industry in its infancy, I think we have some agency here in doing just that.
/05 Running an eSports team is extremely difficult and many people don’t know the myriad number of problems you have to deal with - along with being a Dad sometimes. You have this experience having previously co-owned Team Archon.
What did you learn running an eSports team that you can help the Rockets with?
SP: I will definitely help the Rockets avoid the common pitfalls that are easier to see when you're within the esports space, but are harder to see when you're looking in from the outside.
Above all though, one of my biggest takeaways in my previous role was that it's all about the people you work with, the fans who support you, and the players who play for you. When we deal with sponsors, external vendors, and all of the moving parts that surrounds the space, it's easy to get caught up and lose sight of what you ought do and what you should be about on a day to day basis. We have to remember that we're in this industry to help make the dreams of aspiring pros come true. We're in this industry to see it grow into one where the people who are coming after us can have sustainable careers in esports.
If anything else, I hope to share this mindset with my present and future colleagues here.
/06 So let’s get serious. What’s your first investment? I'm kidding.
What area’s of the industry are you going to look at for investment?
SP: We're examining all of our options. The biggest thing for us mirrors what we talked about earlier. We're not looking at this space as a quick get rich scheme. We're looking towards the future. We want to align our values and interests with the growth of esports as a whole.
Thanks for your time Sebastian and best of luck in your new role.