Esports challenges expectations, definition of what is a sport


The duo are helping to redefine what it means to play a sport.

Retired three-time NBA champion Rick Fox has found a new competition in the world of competitive video gaming, dubbed Esports. During a panel at SXSW, Fox discussed his ownership of competitive team Echo Fox, founded in 2015, which competes in a variety of games, most notably the multiplayer online battle arena game League of Legends.

How Fox went from the world of physical sports and athleticism to gaming is thanks to his son, who he played games with regularly. His son dreamed of working for Riot Games, the producer of League of Legends, and introduced Fox to the game.

Fox never realized that the stadiums he used to play basketball in were being selling out in minutes to host League of Legends tournaments, and realized this was not only a lucrative business, but a competitive world similar to physical sports. “My days as a basketball player was being replicated in Esports,” he said.

After founding Echo Fox in 2015, Fox had to assume the role of a team owner, rather than as a team player. He discussed how it was difficult for him to bench players who were not doing well or to fire coaches. Fox prefers to be the one to motivate and inspire his teams to play their best and it took time for him to adjust to his new role.

As the world of Esports continues to grow, Fox recognizes that Esports is the technology of younger generations. Older generations will need to adapt and accept Esports as Fox predicts it is on the same level of daily life such as social media.

Fox discussed how most people view Esports, that playing games isn’t the same as playing real sports and it isn’t as difficult. If the players aren’t sweating, then it isn’t challenging enough, but Fox argues that the best of the best won’t sweat doing what they do best.

Recognizing that most people don’t view professional gamers as athletes, Fox recalled his 2014 interview on “The View” in which he claimed gamers are athletes. The hosts laughed at him, but Whoopi Goldberg actually agreed with him saying that she played games as well. It was at this moment that Fox realized that despite gaming was commonplace, it was bullied by society, much like Fox’s son who was ashamed of his gaming passion initially.

Fox took a moment to compare physical sports to Esports by using a pro League of Legends player dubbed “Pobelter” who currently plays for rival team Team Liquid. Fox had been wanting to sign Pobelter, whom he equated to Kobe Bryant, onto his team for some time, and even had him take the NFL Wonderlic Test to determine his intelligence. “He has an IQ of 200 and he blew the Wonderlic out of the water – based on his score, he would be a great football player,” Fox said.

Recalling his son again, Fox is aiming to remove anxiety around gaming, especially with older generations and parents of children who love to play games. “If your kid wants to be in Esports, there are many career paths out there,” Fox said.