The esports scene has had rapid acceleration in growth in the last decade. And even mainstream journalism is also starting to treat it like genuine professional sport as such. A big reason for this is just how much cash the esports industry rakes in by the billions. Take, for example, last year’s annual Dota 2 top league – The Internationals 2019, sitting on a prize pool of 35 million dollars. Many ex-athletes with a lot of bank enhance it through sports betting in football and such. But some athletes have had the foresight to invest big in esports. Here are seven such sportsters who have seen the value of e-sports and contributed to the growth of its market.
Only still in his early 30s, the amount of plaudits three-time championship winner NBA star Steph Curry has earned is quite rare. Many analysts think of Steph as the most skillful shooter in the recent history of basketball. But outside the basketball court, Steph Curry is also a keen businessperson. Back in 2018, Team SoloMid parent company, Swift, had raised over $37 millions in funding. Steph Curry had pitched in as one of the investors. Other than TSM, Swift has other subsidiaries including a Fortnite statistics web analytics service and an influencer content network. But TSM where the company started. SoloMid teams are in a number of popular pro leagues, including PUBG, Fortnite, and Rainbow Six Siege, but their gift horse is the League of Legends team.
Kevin Durant is definitely one of the highest-earning basketball players right now. Naturally, it is unsurprising to find him planting a money tree in the esports farm. About the same time as Steph Curry and Odell Beckham Jr., Kevin Durant also decided to wager his money on esports shares. Alongside the St. Louis Cardinals club, Durant was an investor in the $38 million capital raise for Vision Esports, L.P. This is an exclusive esports investment fund backed by former NBA Champion Rick Fox’s equity firm, Vision Venture Partners.
As possibly the richest retired NBA star from the 90’s, Michael Jordan is the principal owner of the Charlotte Hornets. Outside his team, Jordan has a reputation of diversifying his assets – never to forget the plethora of brand deals. Jordan’s stakes are probably on the higher side among other esports bettors with his share of Team Liquid parent company, aXiomatic. Forbes places Liquid among the top three esports teams with a staggering $200 mil evaluation. Like most major esports organizations, Liquid has its teams vested in a number of pro leagues. But they are big on MOBAs first and foremost. They won the TI event of 2017 in Dota 2, and their League of Legends team also won their first two pro tournaments back-to-back.
NBA legend Shaq O’Neal’s status as a cultural icon possibly even eclipses that of Jordan. So it was really a big step for the world of esports when Shaq boarded the esports investment train. Even more significantly, Shaq was among the foremost wave of NBA players to put money into esports. He finds great commonality between traditional sports and esports. Shaq has stakes in NRG esports, an organization worth at least $150 million as of Forbes’ last evaluation. The California-based organization has its dedicated rosters in numerous shooters and battle royales – Fortnite, Apex Legends, CS:GO, Call of Duty, and Overwatch, to name a few.
Heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson has a much more hands-on approach than most athletes who have bet on esports. Tyson has put his money on Fade 2 Karma, an esports team mostly focused on Hearthstone. The Hearthstone pro scene does not have nearly as much steam as hotshots like Dota 2 or CS:GO. Thanks to Tyson’s bankrolling, Fade 2 Karma has a brand new training facility in El Segundo. However, the opening of this facility called ‘The Ranch House’ is a long-term business investment.
Former F1 racing icon Alonso also dabbles in racing sims directly. The former pro driver now mentors his roster of esports drivers in FA Racing, who all participate in events in Gran Turismo and Project Cars 2.
Alvaro Arbeola, the former right-back in Real Madrid, has invested in Origen, an esports organization focusing on League of Legends – although it is unclear how much.
Most of these investments serve the athletes more than they serve these organizations, looking at how much money is involved in running them. But the billion-dollar investment affairs are not the most important part of this. Thanks to the confidence from pro athletes, the esports scene has caught the attention of mainstream media as a respectable, serious field no different from traditional sports.