Top Pro Athletes like Steph Curry, Kobe Bryant and Alex Rodriguez are betting big on esports with sizable investments
Esports are quickly becoming one of the fastest growing parts of the overall gaming industry, and it seems established professional athletes don’t want to be left behind. Given that analysts Newzoo forecast that esports industry revenues could reach $1.4 billion by 2020, it was only a matter of time before big money players from leagues such as the NBA and NFL got involved. Here are just a few of the biggest names who have seen fit to invest significant sums into the nascent but booming esports industry:
Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors)
The 31-year-old point/shooting guard has won NBA MVP twice, and won 3 Championships with the Warriors. In 2018, he joined forces with teammate Andre Iguodala and joined a group who invested over $37 million in esports organization TSM. Founded in 2009 by Andy Dinh, TSM was one of the first to field a team to compete in Riot Games’ League of Legends official league. The organization has also fielded competitive teams for Fortnite.
Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets)
Former Warriors player Kevin Durant, 31, who is now part of the Nets despite being currently out with an Achilles tear, has also made investments in the sector by way of an investment group called Vision Esports. The holding company was formed in part by other sports entities such as former NBA player Rick Fox and the NHL’s San Jose Sharks minority owner Stratton Sclavos according to CNBC. NFL star Odell Beckham Jr and MLB’s St. Louis Cardinals organization are also prominent investors in the venture.
The legendary New York Yankees phenom was one of the earliest investors in NRG Esports, an athlete-friendly investment group formed by Mark Mastrov and Andy Miller, who also happen to own the Sacramento Kings. A-rod was one of the first investors in the company, apparently because he was targeted early on by Mastrov, according to a CNBC interview with NRG’s head of gaming operations Gerard Kelly, “Alex was pretty high up on the list. From a young age, he has been a star most of his life. That’s very similar to what these kids are going through.” Of course he was referring to NRG’s young roster of gamers, who are mostly in their teens or early 20s.
Former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, 33, was another investor in NRG, although his interest in video gaming has long been more personal. While he is no doubt psyched to be a part of NRG’s success, even going so far as to tweet about the upcoming Shockfest 2020, which will see the San Francisco Shock playing in the Overwatch League (the SF Shock are the reigning Overwatch League Grand Finals Champions and are owned by Andy Miller, who also founded NRG), Marshawn has been dabbling in the gaming space for years. He appeared in several extremely popular segments of Conan O’brien’s Clueless Gamer series, and has even guest starred as a character in the Call of Duty series installment Black Ops III.
The 41-year-old former Lakers star has taken a more unique approach in trying to penetrate the esports realm. He decided to invest at another level, and announced back in 2018 that his multisport Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California would take the unexpected step of including an esports training ground in the larger 100,000 square foot sports facility. Bryant has long signaled that he was keeping an eye on esports, telling Sports Illustrated back in 2016 that he recognized even then that esports is “a form of entertainment. It’s looking at the sport being played through a different lens.”