Following Drakemoon.com’s article on the real sports club’s interest in eSports, news broke on thescoreesports.com that the group which owns the NBA club Philadelphia 76ers bought controlling stakes in both Team Dignitas and Apex Gaming, seeking to merge the teams under the banner of Dignitas and compete in the NA LCS, using Apex’s LCS spot. The new team will be called Dignitas, because it’s a much more famous organization, which competed in the LCS for several years before losing its spot in the LCS.
While the influence of traditional sports is not a new thing in the LCS, with former NBA player Rick Fox owning a team called Echo Fox and the German football club, Schalke 04 having competed in the EU LCS before getting relegated, this marks the first occasion in NA, when not a person, but a whole organization coming from traditional sports finds itself with a stake in the continued popularity of eSports.
The Philadelphia 76ers probably couldn’t have picked a more tumultuous time to enter the League eSports scene if they tried, with great tension between team owners and Riot Games, as well as fans of League of Legends as an eSport. While Riot Games seems to be giving ground and bowing down to the community’s demands, the introduction of an NBA organization behind the scenes could cause a great shift in power dynamics between team owners and Riot.
It’s fair enough to say that Rick Fox is a respected owner with people listening to what he says, when he talks about how traditional sports work and how to adapt it to eSports, however, he is still one person with not much backroom experience. It’s not unreasonable to expect Riot Games to not hurry and make changes proposed to him. This is why 76ers getting a controlling stake in an LCS team is so important now.
While Riot Games could ignore what Rick Fox says about the future direction of League of Legends as an eSport, if he even said anything to game developers at all during the recent crisis, due to his relative inexperience in sports management due to being a retired player, it will probably be different now. When the managers of a long-time NBA team, who’ve been navigating one of the most successful sports leagues in the world for decades, tell you that something would work better if you did it differently, you would have to be supremely arrogant to NOT take it under consideration. That is why I expect the ownership side of the cold war between different sides in League of Legends eSports to gain a big boost from the whole thing.
For a long time now, Riot Games made it known that their dream is to make League of Legends into a phenomenon on the same level as traditional sports. They’ve been doing a great job on the production side, not so much on the financial, but now, with the entrance of Philadelphia 76ers onto the scene, they have a great opportunity to gain a boon from the insider knowledge of how it’s done in the NBA. All they have to do is step over their ego and ask for advice. If they do, they will make League of Legends great again, hopefully without building walls and turning everyone orange. God, I hope they do it.