In case spectators thought Shaq’s involvement with the video game industry couldn’t get any more bizarre, the gargantuan ex-NBA star now sponsors a League of Legends squad.
Let it never be said that Shaquille O’Neal is out of touch with what’s popular these days. After the NBA legend managed to successfully spur gamers into crowdfunding Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn, Shaq apparently began to set his sights on something that bridged the gap between basketball and video games – the ever-burgeoning world of eSports. More specifically, Shaq and fellow pro athlete and New York Yankees player Alex Rodriguez announced today that both of them would become financial backers for a League of Legends team.
The team in question, NRG, also runs a Counter-Strike squad and both teams are considered to be fairly average on the global scale. According to NRG Chairman Andy Miller, Shaq attended the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year and “fell in love” with League of Legends and the idea of sponsoring a team. It also likely doesn’t hurt that in the past year or so, ESPN has began to hire eSports editors and television coverage of League of Legends and DOTA 2 events has become more widespread. Shaq also took to Twitter to announce his arrival to the organization.
Shaq’s excited tweeting aside, however, the most likely reason for his sudden interest in League of Legends is a much tamer, more logical one – he’s already business partners with the owners of NRG. Owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov are also part of the group that co-owns the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, a team that Shaq also owns a piece of. Perhaps Shaq will be able to use his newfound position to get in touch with his buddies at ESPN to ensure they never make an awkward League of Legends reference again.
While it’s unclear exactly what Shaq, A-Rod, and Chicago White Sox player Jimmy Rollins’ joint investment means for NRG, it doesn’t seem like the sports star’s will be suddenly spending a lot of time with the team’s players or attending most of their events. As it stands right now, it appears that the partnership is purely a financial one, although with a personality as boisterous as Shaq’s, it seems likely that he’ll also take on some other roles for NRG in the future.
Of course, it’s entirely possible Shaq’s just getting involved with League of Legends purely to keep his name in video game headlines prior to the release of Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn, whenever that actually will be. We’re just guessing there’s more to it than that, and that Shaq will have more to share with his fans in the next few days.
What do you think about more prominent figures in traditional sports dipping their toes into the eSports waters? How much would you pay to see Shaq captain a League of Legends team through an entire tournament? Let us know in the comments below.