Sports Icons That Crossed Over To Esports

Kevin Durant

This might not come as a surprise to some, as KD is well known in sports circles to be a tech investor. He even has his own company centered around managing his investments, aptly named the Durant Company. One of the companies he added to his portfolio was Vision Esports.

Vision just happens to be the entity that currently owns Echo Fox, and they also have a few other game-related projects. KD wouldn’t be alone as the only person from the sports world too, as the Yankees, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the San Jose Shark’s minority owner Stratton Sclavos all have put money into Vision.

Alex Rodriguez

A-Rod has definitely had a hall-of-fame worthy career, and should be inducted into Cooperstown in 2021. That is, he would have if it wasn’t for the PED issue, which is something that the Baseball Writers Association of America doesn’t take likely. In the meantime, he’s busy with NRG eSports, where he is not only an investor, but also on the company’s board.

NRG fields a number of teams in different games, and is also home to Dragon Ball FighterZ player HookGangGod. One of the top players in North America, he has several wins over fighting game legends such as NYChrisG and SonicFox.

Rudy Gobert

Known for his imposing presence in the paint with his stalwart defense, Gobert is one of the most entries on this list. He only just recently became a co-owner in ReKTGlobal, joining a few other celebrities like DJ Aoki and DJ Nicky Romero.

His love of games is something Utah Jazz teammates are very well aware of, and he is a fan of the Call of Duty series. While the organization’s eSports team Rogue doesn’t actually have a team for that game, they do field a pretty strong squad for shooting game Rainbow Six Siege. This includes Ecl9pse, who led the team to win DreamHack Valencia 2019, their first major tournament win this year.

Marshawn Lynch

One of the most dominant runners of his generation, Marshawn Lynch is known to give his thumbs a workout too. He revealed in an interview once that he played Call of Duty nearly daily, and this led to him being included as a character in Black Ops III.

He joined A-Rod in investing in NRG, and led their Overwatch team onto the floor during their appearance at the Cali Cup in 2018. Last month, they also won the 2019 Overwatch League Grand Finals 4-0, sweeping the Vancouver Titans. Teammate Sinatraa was named the MVP of the event after the dust had settled.

Jerry Jones

Not many NFL owners have played that much football, but Jerry Jones did have a strong college career. Currently the owner and GM of the Dallas Cowboys, he was once the co-captain of the Arkansas Razorbacks, helping them win the 1964 National Championship.

After he acquired a majority stake in complexity gaming, the team changed their logo into a star to match with Jones’ NFL squad. It is one of the oldest and most stories esports organizations in the US, having formed all the way back in 2003. Counter-Strike player blameF joined the team a few weeks ago, and will be looking to help the team back to the top.

Jeremy Lin

Lin knows a thing or two about going viral, becoming an overnight sensation when playing for the New York Knicks. This past season, he also became an NBA Champion with the Toronto Raptors. A few weeks ago, his Dota 2 team also won $22,000 when they placed first at a Major event, their second of the year.

Team captain Fear has J.Storm as one of the top teams out of the Americas, and they actually have their own workout regimen. Lin’s personal trainer developed a specialized program for them so that they can stay in physical shape as well as being great mentally.

Rick Fox

As fighting game guru SonicFox is currently one of the most popular eSports figures competing today, some people assume that his team is named after him. After all, Echo Fox does have a particular furry mammal in common with his name. However, it actually comes from co-owner, Rick Fox.

A 3-time NBA Champion from being a member of the Laker’s three-peat dynasty, he has lent his competitive edge to the team. Known for his tenacious defense, he had to take a stand this year after one of his shareholders made racist comments about him. He threatened to leave the team, and the controversy resulted in Riot Games removing the team from the League of Legends Championship Series.

Joe Lacob

Lacob isn’t actually an athlete, but he does have NBA Finals rings. Three of them, to be exact, as he’s been the Golden State Warrior’s majority owner since 2010. He was the person behind firing coach Mark Jackson despite the team making the playoffs two years in a row, but it led to the hiring of Steve Kerr.

That means he has money in the Warrior’s esports organization, the aptly named Golden Guardians. This year, they made their first playoffs in top level League of Legends play, partially thanks to some sudden team adjustments. Much in the same way basketball teams sign big name veterans, the Guardians signed popular mid-laner Froggen, and has been playing better ever since.

Dan Gilbert

Lacob isn’t the only team owner to step into the digital ring. The Cleveland Cavalier’s Dan Gilbert added the team 100 Thieves to his impressive portfolio, which is why his company Quicken Loans is a team partner. Along with having teams for League of Legends and Battle Royale, they also have popular streamers working for them.

This includes Nadeshot, who is a former Call of Duty pro player. A longtime member of Optic Gaming, he is currently the CEO of 100 Thieves, and is now a full-time content creator. He was also present at the Fortnite World Cup when teammates Elevate and Arkhram1x both came home with a chunk of cash.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

The Pittsburgh Steeler’s number one receiver isn’t quite the investor that many of the other people on this list are, but he did become a brand ambassador for computer parts manufacturer HyperX. He has been a central figure along with several other athletes and people from all walks of life in their “We’re All Gamers” campaign.

Appearing next to eSports legends like Daigo and RUSH from Cloud9, the ad serves as a reminder that video games are for everyone, even if you’re a 6’1” NFL superstar ready to become the next big thing.

Kenny Omega

Whether or not you enjoy professional wrestling, it’s definitely here to stay. 2019 has been a historic year so far, as All Elite Wrestling has come out swinging. Owned by Shad Khan of the Jacksonville Jaguars, they currently have a TV deal to broadcast AEW Dynamite every Wednesday night.

Omega’s relationship with video games is closer than most of these other athletes, as his love for Street Fighter is very public. In addition to appearing as the character Cody in official SF5 trailers, he also appears at Evo every year. Once, he and the Young Bucks even faced off with WWE tag team The New Day in an exhibition 3-on-3 match.

Xavier Woods

An incredibly popular video gamer outside of the wrestling ring, Xavier Woods is known for his participation in the fighting game scene with Omega, but he also helped organize a huge crossover event between WWE and League of Legends.

Late in 2018, 8 members from WWE’s main roster and WWE NXT faced off, each team captained by an actual League of Legends player. Tyler1 was able to coach Team NXT to victory over imaqtpie’s Team WWE in the exhibition match, with wrestler Dakota Kai finishing with a dominating Kill/Death/Assist ratio of 13-1-5.

Odell Beckham Jr.

Another player who joined in on Vision Esports, OBJ is one of the top young wide receivers in the entire NFL. He’s been mostly quiet this season, though he does have the year’s longest touchdown reception thus far with an 89-yard catch.

While he isn’t exactly smashing records at the moment, Vision and Echo Fox does have one of the world’s best Smash players on their roster. Mew2King has long been considered a legend of Super Smash Bros., and he linked up with the organization in 2016. Similarly to OBJ, he hasn’t quite caught fire this year, last taking first place at an event in 2018.

Gordon Hayward

Hayward’s sudden ascent to elite status in the NBA was unfortunately met with an injury that knocked him out early in 2017. He wouldn’t take the floor for over a year and a half, which gave him plenty of time to brush up on his video game skills.

While almost all of the people are athletes, Hayward actually dipped his toes into actual esports competition. In 2011, he signed with the IGN Pro League to play StarCraft II. Of course, he couldn’t exactly do it as a full-time job, given that he’s an NBA player, but he did join JuJu at HyperX recently for the aforementioned “We’re All Gamers” ad campaign.

Joshua Harris

Harris did wrestle in college, but he is much more known in the sporting world for being the owner of the 76ers and the New Jersey Devils. His group paid $280 million to purchase the Sixers in 2011, and he added another team to his roster when he acquired Team Dignitas in 2016.

They were once one of the top teams in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. With multiple wins at tournaments like DreamHack and EPICENTER, they fell out of relevance and haven’t competed since 2018. However, they released a video trailer last month announcing their return to the game.

Steph Curry

Given the fact that the Golden State Warriors have their own LoL team, you might expect that Curry’s first big step into the sport would be with that organization. However, he ended up looking elsewhere, and invested heavily into Team SoloMid.

As well as fielding a team for League of Legends, TSM also has one of the best Smash players in the world in Leffen. In the past 5 years, he’s finished in the top 6 in Smash Melee rankings, and he was the first player to ever defeat each of the “Five Gods” of Smash.

Andre Iguodala

When speaking on athletes to get involved in investing at younger ages, Iguodala once told a teammate that he needed to “cut out the Fortnite” and look towards the future. The ironic thing about that statement is that he subsequently invested in an organization that’s known for fielding many strong Fortnite players.

He joined teammate Steph Curry when he decided to invest in Swift, which is the parent company of Team SoloMid. Now, Iguodala’s money pays for guys like Myth and Daequan who play Fortnite all day not just for pleasure, but also to make big bucks.

Steve Young

One of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Steve Young was in the group of investors along with Curry and Iguodala to invest in TSM in 2018. The injection of $37 million was what the organization needed to expand even further, spreading far past its League of Legends roots.

For those not in the know, LoL is how Team SoloMid got its name. Currently the owner of TSM, he was a Mid Laner for them until he retired. In his place, Bjergsen has been the face of the team for a few years, and they recently finished 2nd at the LCS 2019 Regional Finals.

Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson also invested in esports when he joined aXiomatic Gaming, adding to his long list of post-career activities. The all-time NBA average assists per game leader, he has watched Team Liquid’s assist and kill count steadily climb in 2019 as they made a mid-year surge to relevance.

Headlined by the signing of Stewie2k late last year, Team Liquid went on a subsequent tear, winning 1st place in multiple consecutive events. Unfortunately, they couldn’t seem to make it past Astralis at ESL One or StarLadder Berlin, keeping them from being the undisputed top dogs of the year.

Michael Jordan

Incidentally, Magic isn’t the only MJ to invest in aXiomatic Gaming. It’s hard to imagine that there’s a basketball fan anywhere in the world who doesn’t know who Michael Jordan is. The things he has done on the court and for the game as a whole are nothing short of legendary. As he has plenty of money to throw around, he has taken to investing in his post-playing days.

After dipping his toes in tech startups and baseball teams, he threw his hat into the esports arena. When he joined aXiomatic last year, it caused Team Liquid members like Doublelift to start sporting Air Jordans during esports events.