Esports continues growing and pushing towards the main stream. Meanwhile, more and more investors from the traditional sports world are getting involved. In the most recent news, Nike announced a landmark deal with China’s League of Legends Pro League to become the official apparel sponsor, the first league wide apparel deal by a major athletics manufacturer. Nike may have been inspired by some of their athletes who have invested in esports in the past year. Here are five of the most prominent athletes who have invested in esports recently.
List Of Biggest Athletes Who Have Invested in Esports
Basketball’s GOAT (sorry, LeBron fans) has built a business empire after he finally put his Air Jordans in the locker. In October 2018, Jordan led an investment round in aXiomatic, the parent company of Team Liquid. Jordan and co-investor Declaration Capital funded the $26 million investment.
Forbes recently estimated that Team Liquid is the third-most valuable esports organization in the world, trailing only Cloud 9 and Team SoloMid. Liquid competes in 14 different esports ranging from Hearthstone to Clash Royale to Fortnite.
MJ may have been a catalyst for Nike really diving into esports. After all, the Jordan brand continues to be one of Nike’s most popular subdivisions. That’s even 20 years after Jordan won his last championship with the Chicago Bulls. Team Liquid has a talented League of Legends team. However, they compete in North America’s LCS who only compete against the Chinese LPL during the World Championships and Mid-Summers Invitational (MSI).
Jordan is one of the biggest athletes who have invested in esports. Nevertheless, he is just an angel investor. Rick Fox, on the other hand, did everything but pick up a controller and begin competing. Rick Fox’s son introduced him to esports. The former Los Angeles Laker and actor subsequently bought an existing esports organization for $1 million and made it his own.
Echo Fox is now the fourth most valuable esports organization in the world with a valuation of $150 million by Forbes. While the organization does field a League of Legends team in the LCS, Echo Fox has stood out for their domination on the fighting-game circuit.
The organizations most notable athlete is SonicFox (no relation to Rick Fox), who is the best fighting game player in the world in multiple titles. In a comparison to traditional sports, having the best fighting game player in multiple titles is like having the best boxer in multiple weight classes.
Fox has been an outspoken proponent of running his esports organization like a traditional sports franchise. This includes nutrition and fitness regimens for his players. He has also enlisted NBA journeyman Jared Jeffries as the president of Echo Fox.
The Brazilian superstar football (soccer) player announced he is moving into esports with the creation of a new cyrptocurrency. The Ronaldinho Soccer Coin, formerly the World Soccer Coin – has been developed as part of the midfielder’s aggressive esports strategy.
According to CNN, Ronaldinho is planning to develop stadiums in 300 locations around the world. The first of the locations is scheduled to be completed this year. He wants these facilities to hold “physical and digital” soccer competitions and be tied into the blockchain.
There hasn’t been an update on this undertaking since the summer of 2018. Further, it is not exactly clear what Ronaldinho’s grand plans are and how exactly esports, crypto and the blockchain all work together in this company. The first stadiums are currently in development. Therefore, once there is a physical location the press will likely pick up his venture again.
Staying on the pitch, the Barcelona center-back is one of the most famous athletes who have invested in esports. Back in the tail end of 2017, before most of his athletic associates had entered the industry, Piqué was named the president of eFootball.pro. The league competes on KONAMI’s Pro Evolution Soccer, the most prominent competitor to EA Sports’ FIFA franchise.
The first season of the league is currently ongoing and features six teams tied to major professional football clubs. Piqué’s real life squad, Barcelona FC, also leads the virtual tables in a tie with Celtic FC. Following the top clubs are AS Monaco, FC Schalke 04 (who also compete in other esports), FC Nantes and Boavista FC.
“The goal is to drive all that makes traditional football the king of sports, towards electronic football, towards eSports,” Piqué, the eFootball.Pro president, said in a 2017 statement. “We want to bind the best of both worlds to bring the public a new entertainment model that they love since the first day.”
Ming dominated NBA headlines before being drafted first overall in the 2002 NBA draft. Standing at a staggering 7’ 6” and with a filled out frame, he is one of the largest people to ever play in the NBA. He played his entire nine-year NBA career with the Houston Rockets and went to eight All-Star games. Once he retired and moved back to China, he turned his attention to finance.
He founded Yao Capital, and was successful investing the money made from NBA contracts and endorsements into new businesses. In May of 2018, he turned some of that money towards esports by investing in EDward Gaming (EDG). Yao capital helped lead a $15.7 million (100 million RMB) investment round, the first time EDG had to take outside money in the five years the organization has existed.
EDG is one of the LPL’s top teams. Last season, the team won the Chinese regional tournament before falling short in the World Championships. Athletes as successful as Yao make sure they are picking a winner when they invest their money. And EDG seems like a safe bet.
Other athletes invested in esports?
This list could keep on going as many more athletes are investing in esports every month. Some esports organizations are primarily focusing on getting their money from athletes.
NRG Esports is one example with investors including Shaquille O’Neal, Alex Rodriguez, Marshawn Lynch, Ryan Howard and other big names.
There’s also Swift, the parent company of Team SoloMid – the second-most valuable esports organization. Swift has had investment rounds with participation from Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala and Steve Young.
To see an additional list of other traditional sports athletes who have invested in esports, check out Hotspawn.com. That list includes only one bolded name from above. You can also find more information on NRG and other investors like Odell Beckham Jr., Mark Cuban, and even Ashton Kutcher.