NBA's Philadelphia 76ers Just Made a Big Esports Move

NBA team buys Team Dignitas and Team Apex, merges them.

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Here's an interesting story to get your week started. The NBA's Philadelphia 76ers announced today that it has purchased controlling interests in the Esports squads Team Dignitas and Team Apex. The basketball team bought the teams from their previous owners, Michael O'Dell and David Slan, respectively.

As part of the buyout, the two professional gaming teams will operate under one roof as Team Dignitas.

The Team Dignitas logo
The Team Dignitas logo

"The combined organizations will create a powerhouse competitor in the booming business of Esports; bringing under one roof Team Apex's wildly popular League of Legends team with other standout games including Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, and Smite," the Sixers said in a news release. "This marks the first time an ownership group of a North American sports franchise has acquired an Esports team; the group will utilize their business expertise and vast resources to bring infrastructure and alignment to position these Esports teams for future growth."

Being a professional team itself, the Sixers have a lot of knowledge about sales, branding, publicity, and merchandising, among other things, and the team said it will manage Team Dignitas based on these learnings. The team will also "devote resources to player recruitment, development, and wellness."

Greg Richardson, the executive chairman of mobile gaming company Rumble, will be the chairman of Team Dignitas. O'Dell will head up team operations as its president, while former Team Apex GM Michael Slan has been given the role of Team Dignitas VP and GM.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. As for why a basketball team wants in on the world of Esports, Sixers managing general partner Josh Harris said the competitive gaming scene is "primed for incredible growth."

"We are thrilled to become an owner of such a storied franchise as Team Dignitas," he said. "There is a tremendous opportunity to leverage the infrastructure, resources, and experience of the Sixers organization to support these exciting teams as they continue to compete at the highest levels across multiple games."

He added: "We see our entrance into Esports as a natural extension of our expanding interests in traditional sports and entertainment and are confident that our involvement will accelerate the already rapid pace of growth in Esports as a whole."

Sixers CEO Scott O'Neil said he's optimistic about Team Dignitas and the management its put in place. "The attractiveness of this deal is as much about the people as it is the opportunity," he said.

O'Dell added: "This is a landmark day in Esports history and for this franchise. Entering into a partnership with such a strong organization will give us an undeniable advantage in attracting the world's best players and an opportunity to compete at the highest level. Our connection to the legendary Philadelphia 76ers brand and business organization will be a differentiating factor for Team Dignitas as we enter the next phase of our development."

You can read more about the deal on the Sixers website.

In other news about the professional athletes and Esports, Boston Celtics player Jonas Jerebko recently bought a team, while former NBA player Rick Fox bought the team Echo Fox in December 2015. Additionally, Shaquille O'Neal invested in the NRG Esports team earlier this year, while retired MLB player Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins also invested in NRG Esports.

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