Esports. Maybe you have heard of them, maybe you have not. Either way, eSports are here to stay and are becoming more popular every day. With new television deals such as the E-League, featuring Counter Strike: Global Offensive on TBS, you will likely catch a glimpse of eSports in action very soon, and it’s possible you already have! With more money available to players than ever before, large sponsors and investors are clamoring to claim their stake before it’s too late, many of them coming from the sport industry.

As traditional sports begin to accept the eSports scene, this growing niche is becoming more available to mainstream fans. Here are 5 instances where the sports industry and eSports converged.

 

eSports at the X Games

For 20 years the X Games have been exclusive to extreme sports, but in 2014 eSports made their appearance there for the first time. In coordination with Major League Gaming, professional players in Call of Duty, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, DOTA 2, and Halo have earned themselves medals at X Games events. The games are typically found on streaming platforms such as Twitch.tv, with highlights shown on ESPN to the surprise of many unaware of eSports. Last month, however, Halo managed to secure more screen time on ESPN’s main channel at X Games Aspen as part of their Halo World Championship Tour.

Sacramento Kings Owners Buy LCS Team

Sacramento Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov expanded outside of basketball with the purchase of a League of Legends team participating in the North American Championship Series. They named the organization NRG eSports and plan to expand even further through their investment group. The NRG roster features some of the biggest names in League of Legends, including a former world champion in Impact, their top laner. League of Legends is the most popular eSport in the world, with the 2015 World Championship garnering an impressive 334 million unique viewers over the month-long event. Not a bad investment!

 

ESPN Opens eSports Section

ESPN has come a long way since 2014 when president John Skipper was quoted as saying, “It’s not a sport—it’s a competition. Chess is a competition. Checkers is a competition….Mostly, I’m interested in doing real sports,” in reference to eSports. After a bit of experimentation with eSports (Heroes of the Dorm) on their backup channel (ESPN 2), the Disney-owned company made the bold move of opening an eSports media section with the hiring of several well-known writers in the scene. Hardcore fans of traditional sports aren’t pleased with ESPN’s decision to cover “couch potatoes,” but eSports fans have some ammunition too: If ESPN covers poker and darts, they can cover eSports as well!

Rick Fox asks Gordon Hayward about League of Legends on Air and Purchases LCS Team

Gordon Hayward set popular sports talk show host Colin Cowherd straight on the matter of eSports when appearing on his radio show. Cowherd has a real distaste for eSports, calling players “nerds,” but the Utah Jazz forward wasn’t having any of it. Later, Hayward appeared on NBA TV and was asked by Rick Fox, “What are your thoughts on Doublelift leaving CLG for TSM?” Hayward responded, “It’s a big move, man. Big move in the world of eSports. He’s a mainstay with CLG but switched over. Big roster changes.”

Rick Fox has recently purchased North American LCS team, Gravity Gaming, and renamed them Echo Fox for a reported “nearly $1 million.” The purchase now pits Fox, a former NBA player, against Memphis Grizzlies owner Steve Kaplan, who also owns NA LCS team Immortals, and of course the Sacramento Kings owner’s NRG eSports.

 

Shaq Trades Shots with eSports Analysts on Live TV

To promote the Turner E-League, the CS:GO league soon to be broadcasted on television, TNT’s Inside the NBA crew handed over the reigns to several popular eSports analysts, Duncan “Thorin” Shields and Richard Lewis. Thorin took shots at Shaquille O’Neal when describing one of the CS:GO players, saying, “Shazam, he turned up. And I’m not talking about Kazaam, that terrible movie that Shaq made in the ‘90s.” Shaq was quick to respond with, “I’ll make you eat those words, buddy.” A bit of friendly banter never hurt anybody, and it’s nice to see eSports recognized by such highly esteemed members of the sports industry. 2016 has a lot more in store for eSports fans, so stay tuned!