Rick Fox wants to build the next sports dynasty in the gaming world.
Fox, a three-time NBA champion, has become one of the biggest former professional athletes to invest in the rapidly expanding eSports genre. Fox was a key cog in the Los Angeles Lakers' dynasty in the early 2000s — and hopes he can build the next one with, yes, Super Evil Megacorp, creators of the battle game Vainglory.
"I'm for the generation of, put down the controller and get out of the house," Fox said. "This generation, they don't put down the controller, they just leave the house and go perform at Madison Square Garden."
Super Evil Megacorp added eSports franchises Fnatic, Echo Fox, NRG, Rogue and Immortals on Thursday to its professional gaming lineup. Each team will compete in Vainglory's spring season, which opens in March, and marks the start of Vainglory's second full seasonal eSports year.
Fox purchased Echo Fox in 2015 and has signed some of the top talent in the fighting game community.
"Our expansion has come quickly," Fox said.
Vainglory, a multiplayer online battle arena video game, is billed as the world's leading mobile eSport, boasting more than 3,000 teams, 1 billion matches played, and leagues in North America, Europe, Japan, China, Korea and Southeast Asia.
Fox said he was always a video game fan and become more interested by playing against his son, Kyle. They've attended events at pro sports arenas that are pretty much the gaming world's version of the Super Bowl, and Fox said he realized the industry was about to take off. Former San Jose Sharks co-owner Stratton Sclavos has invested in Echo Fox.
Fox isn't the only one who's noticed eSports' growth: The NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software announced Thursday that they are bringing some of the world's best gamers together to compete while representing actual NBA teams. "NBA 2K eLeague " is scheduled to debut in 2018.
"The large part of my mission is to grow the game of basketball," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. "There's going to be an opportunity for this first of a kind league to attract a group of gamers who might be playing some other game. Now, they can say 'Maybe I couldn't play for the Knicks, because I didn't have the physical prowess to compete at that level. But I do have the mental and physical prowess to compete as an egamer for the eKnicks.'"
The league will start with nearly half of the NBA teams — Silver did not say which teams, but noted that eventually all 30 NBA teams will be represented. Each NBA owner is being given the opportunity to build teams at their own pace.
"I think today's gamer is proud of what they do," Fox said. "They own it, they celebrate it. They have examples of masters in each realm that they aspire to be like. When they reach the highest level, they're rewarded with riches and fame and people want to be just like you. That's happening to this generation of gamers."
Shaquille O'Neal, Alex Rodriguez, Jimmy Rollins, and Sacramento Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov all own a stake in NRG.
"It's just new for people to digest that you can actually build a life and have a career mastering the profession of being a video game athlete," Fox said. "When you talk about six figures, yes, we pay people six figures in our organization and we expect at some point to be paying seven figures. There's athletes out there now who make that and more in different parts of the world."
Fox said the next generation of kids can do more than play games, and could hope to create or run eSports teams.
"That education needs to happen for people to understand that a kid playing video games is not wasting their time," Fox said.