eSports don't need to fight for recognition anymore - they haven't needed to for a while now. Huge professional contracts and endorsement deals for gamers, multi-million-dollar prizes and tournaments broadcast on ESPN have all been reality for years now.
Now it's traditional sports fighting for recognition in the eSports community. In particular, NBA team owners and players past and present are making big moves into eSport.
When viewed in isolation, the Sixers' recent aqcuisition of eSports teams Dignitas and Apex (making it the first franchise in the NBA, NFL, and MLB to do such a thing) could have been seen as a gimmicky marketing ploy for a perennially weak team looking for wins of any sort. But take a step back and see the big picture: this week, three NBA teams have bought stakes in eSports teams; NBA legends like Shaquille O'Neal and Magic Johnson have invested in eSports; current stars like Jeremy Lin own their own teams; and Gordon Hayward, who could've been a professional League of Legends player if he didn't love basketball so much, signed an eSports endorsement deal.
It's becoming obvious that traditional sports are finally realising that now's the time to be buying eSport stock, before eSport franchises become as valuable as the traditional sport franchises themselves. eSports are on pace to generate US$493 million in revenue for 2016 and is projected to generate US$1.9 billion in revenue by 2018. And right now, for the price of a couple of average players' salaries, an NBA team could buy a slice of that potential and possibly gain millions more fans.
The move is the third major move by NBA team owners this week to buy stakes in esports teams. Clearly, the NBA has gotten religion about the potential of video games to become spectator sports.