Gaming tournaments, leagues gaining traction in the world of professional sports
By Darren DuHadaway
A sold out Staples Center in LA rumbles as Zedd finishes his performance for the 2016 League of Legends championship to begin. Over 11,000 people are in the stands with tickets that sold out in under an hour, with another 13 million watching at home, all to see 10 people play a video game with more than $5 million on the line.
eSports is something that was, in the past, often shunned by traditional sports fans like followers of basketball, football, etc. It wasn’t difficult to see through Facebook comments when ESPN shared an article about gaming that there used to be an intense negative backlash. Many people enjoyed video games, however few people believed their competitions required enough to contain the word sport. Currently, the attitude is changing.
eSports is used to describe the competition between different teams or just players through a
vast amount of video games. Some of the biggest are League of Legends, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and Hearthstone.
In 2014 the prize pool for the League of Legends championship was $1 million. It was over $5 million in 2016.
Over the last couple of years there has been significant changes to this view. With viewership rising and the amount of money being earned from it, many big sports reporting companies have an eSports section, such as ESPN, The Bleacher Report and Yahoo. eSports will steadily continue to grow as traditional sports lose viewers.
As these viewers in traditional sports drop, people will notice that eSports is doing just the opposite and will take note of the competitive aspect being only rivaled by the sports they know and love.
Many big-name athletes and businesses have recognized the significance of this and opted into the world of eSports.
Large athletic organizations such as the Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat own professional League of Legends teams. Shaquille O’Neal and Alex Rodriguez each bought parts of an established eSports Organization, NRG, that contains multiple big game teams like League of Legends, and CS: GO which are arguably the two biggest eSports to date.
Recently, Michael Phelps presented the award at this year’s ESPYS for eSports player of the year and regarded the nominees as “Fellow Athletes,” commending them on both their skill and dedication.
Perhaps the biggest investor and advocate for eSports from the professional sports world is three-time NBA Champion, Rick Fox. Fox is the owner of a massive eSports organization that features teams in upwards of five different eSports including CS: GO and League of Legends.
Fox has been outspoken for a while about the role of eSports and its growth as both a business and a sport. Comparing a lot of what he’s experiencing as professional player, to what he’s seeing his players experience. He has gone on The View and argued that professional gamers should be viewed as athletes.
In 2016 during an interview with TMZ, Fox said that eSports would be as big or bigger than the NHL in two years.
As these big names and organizations from traditional sports get into eSports many fans of them will take note and see that eSports isn’t much different from sports.
Rick Fox has the right idea. Will eSports be bigger than the NHL in the coming years?
Only time will tell. But one thing is certain: eSports is on the rise and shows no signs of slowing down.