11 OF THE 17 NBA 2K ELEAGUE TEAMS HAVE MADE ESPORTS INVESTMENTS
TNL Take: Last Thursday, the NBA announced the 17 teams that would take place in the inaugural eLeague in partnership with Take 2 Interactive’s NBA2K debuting in 2018.
What’s interesting – any maybe not surprising – is that 11 of the 17 teams have previously been linked to eSports investment:
TEAMS WITH PREVIOUS ESPORTS INVESTMENT
- Boston Celtics
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Dallas Mavericks
- Golden State Warriors
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Miami Heat
- Milwaukee Bucks
- New York Knicks
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Sacramento Kings
- Washington Wizards
TEAMS WITH NO ESPORTS INVESTMENT
- Orlando Magic*
- Detroit Pistons
- Indiana Pacers
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Toronto Raptors
- Utah Jazz
(Shaq, who is a Co-owner of NRG eSports, played for the Orlando Magic)
Here’s how it breaks down:
/01 SACRAMENTO KINGS
- ANDY MILLER AND MIKE MASTROV, CO-OWNERS OF THE KINGS
- CO-FOUNDERS OF NRG ESPORTS
NRG have been one of the most involved teams in eSports sporting teams or athletes in ~10 games, recently signed an innovative deal with Washington DC’s Convention and Sports Authority and their new Golden1 Center was equipped with the best technology to support eSports events which is lacking in many venues today.
/02 PHILADELPHIA 76'ERS
The 76’ers have been one of the most innovative teams in the NBA, signing the 1st uniform Brand sponsorship with Stubhub, YYYYY VR and made a big splash by investing in not just 1, but 2 eSports teams.
/03 BOSTON CELTICS
- CELTICS FORWARD, JONAS JEREBKO
- JIM PALLOTTA, RAPTOR GROUP
- RICK FOX, FOUNDER ECHO FOX
Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko joined the continued trend of current or former NBA players investing in eSports by buying team Renegades. Jim Pallotta’s Raptor Group, which owns the Boston Celtics, invested in top eSports team Fnatic in their latest $7M funding found. Ex-Celtic Rick Fox is also the founder of active eSports team Echo Fox.
/04 MIAMI HEAT
The Miami Heat acquired a controlling stake in team Misfits and became the 2nd team after the 76’ers to fully integrate the team with their traditional team. What that means is that that all business operations – sponsorships, merchandise, marketing, etc. – will be handled by the Pro team’s front office which has the experience and manpower to make non-prize money revenue much bigger
/05 GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
- VIA AXIOMATIC INVESTMENT IN TEAM LIQUID
- PETER GUBER, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN OF THE WARRIORS
- CHAMATH PALIHAPITIYA, CO-OWNER OF THE WARRIORS
The Warriors have invested in 2 separate ways: Peter Guber, Co-Executive Chairman of the Warriors, is part of axiomatic, the super group of investors which bought eSports group Team Liquid. Warriors Co-Owner Chamath Palihapitiya was also part of a group which invested in eSports team Cloud 9.
/06 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
- DAN GILBERT, OWNER OF THE CAVALIERS
- ANDREW BOGUT, EX-CAVALIER
While not directly through the Cavaliers, via Dan Gilbert’s sports/tech investment fund Courtside Ventures, had invested in Beam, a live-streaming service which was acquired by Microsoft. Ex-Cavalier Andrew Bogut – who also played for the Warriors and Bucks - was involved in the Cloud 9 investment.
/07 MILWAUKEE BUCKS
- WESLEY EDENS, CO-OWNER OF THE BUCKS
Bought the League of Legends Challenger Slot and the contracts of 4 players from Cloud 9 for $2.5M.
/08 WASHINGTON WIZARDS
- VIA AXIOMATIC INVESTMENT IN TEAM LIQUID
- MONUMENTAL SPORTS, OWNERS OF THE WIZARDS
Monumental Sports, who owns the Washington Wizards and many other sports franchises, is part of the axiomatic group which invested in Team Liquid.
/09 MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
- STEPHEN KAPLAN, CO-OWNER OF THE GRIZZLIES
Grizzlies Co-Owner Stephen Kaplan invests in eSports team Immortals.
/10 DALLAS MAVERICKS
- MARK CUBAN, OWNER OF THE MAVERICS
In the past year or so, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has invested in both Unikrn, which is an eSports wagering service and Sportsradar, a sports data services company which services eSports as well.
11/ NY KNICKS
- CARMELO ANTHONY, FORWARD FOR THE KNICKS
Melo invested in eSports Daily Fantasy site Alphadraft – along with former NBA commissioner David Stern – which was acquired by Fanduel in 2015.
Here’s the timeline of NBA team investments to date:
In addition, a few other things stand out:
- While the teams not participating weren’t that surprising, the biggest question is why one of the teams’ most involved in eSports did not participate: the Houston Rockets.
GM Daryl Morey is intimately familiar with eSports having been on the board of Major League Gaming and believes the industry currently resembles “basketball in the 1950’s”. Further, the Rockets were the first US Pro team to hire a Director of eSports Development.
- When the NBA 2K eLeague was first announced, the aim was for between 8-12 teams to participate in Season 1. Beating the original goal and having over half of the NBA’s 30 teams take part in the inaugural season is impressive.
- Still no further details on the league structure, player payments, drafts, etc. – however that’s fairly quick progress considering the league was only announced a few months ago.