NBA

The NBA Icons Invested in eSports

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The world of eSports is going from strength to strength in 2024, having grown at a rapid rate over the last four years. Looking ahead, it is expected to grow exponentially by 27.6%, reaching an estimated value of almost $12 billion by 2030.

Where there’s money like that circling around, there’s bound to be high-profile investment. Recently, Saudi Arabia announced an eSports investment to the tune of $120 million, seeking to place the country as a world leader in the eSports sector. On a smaller level, many high-profile athletes have also found their way to eSports, including some from the world of basketball.

‘Real’ sports fans had their eyes opened to eSports during the coronavirus pandemic, with the NBA 2K league seeing rapid expansion. Some big names participated in one-off matches, further highlighting the thriving industry.

As we enter 2024, there are a number of NBA stars, past and present, who have slid into the world of eSports with financial backing. Let’s look at a handful of icons from the court who have backed such ventures.

Kevin Durant

Durant and 15 other high-profile NBA players headlined a 2020 eSports tournament intended to replace the real action during the coronavirus pandemic.

He was a natural choice, as he had already invested heavily in eSports. Durant, a two-time NBA champion, invested in Vision eSports in 2018 as part of a group pumping $38 million into the team. In 2021, the avid Call of Duty player also invested in Andbox through his Thirty Five Ventures company. Andbox owns New York Subliners, a Call of Duty team, but also competes in Overwatch and Valorant. In 2023, the Subliners won Call of Duty League Major 1 and Major 5, underlining their ability to their headline investor. 

Shaquille O’Neal

52-year-old Shaquille O’Neal had his eyes opened to the world of eSports by his kids, who explained to him that it was the future of competition.

He attended the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship at the Staples Center in front of 30,000 people and was sold. That prompted him to put his hand in his pocket, investing in NRG eSports with Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins. NRG competes in League of Legends, which has many high-profile tournaments. Some are explained in League of Legends betting tips as being short, high-stake tournaments, such as the Mid-Season Invitational. It has a one-off prize pot of around $250,000 but has an NBA Championship-game feel about it with big crowds and a winner-takes-all outcome, perfect for someone like Shaq, who used to such events.

Stephen Curry

The man with the three-point plan is a four-time NBA champion and another icon of the game with his finger in the eSports pie.

In July 2018, he was part of a group that invested $37 million into TSM. Much of that money was earmarked for a 20,000-square-foot facility in Los Angeles for the team to use as a base. That’s not the extent of his interest within the sector – as recently as October 2023, he was shouting out eight gamers taking part in the Fortnite Champion Series, also hinting at a collab between him and the eSports organization, Team SoloMid.

Michael Jordan

It’s fair to say Michael Jordan is one of the best players ever to step foot onto the court and certainly one of the most influential.

Like many of the others on the list, he was on board with eSports long before the current boom took hold. In 2018, he was part of an investor group that pumped $26 million into aXiomatic Gaming, which acquired a controlling stake in Team Liquid. Team Liquid is almost as revered in eSports as Jordan is in NBA, with teams competing across different eSports titles. Their specialty seems to be Dota 2 – in 2023, they were the first team to qualify for The International 2023, the most prestigious tournament on the calendar, which One Sports suggested came with a prize pool of more than $3 million.

About Nathan Williamson

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