‘One of the most rewarding experiences of my life’
Los Angeles Laker almost-great Rick Fox isn’t spending his retirement like most former players do. He’s the owner of the eSports team Echo Fox, an umbrella with eight teams and 35 players under it. That’s a noteworthy investment from a former professional athlete, a class of people who are incredibly likely to disregard the notion that competitive video game players are also athletes.
Fox’s venture was profiled on The Players’ Tribune today. Normally, The Players’ Tribune’s pieces are of little value. It’s a collection of ghostwritten softballs, a place for Derek Jeter to say “baseball’s a part of my family” or for Carson Wentz to say “We play a special brand of football up in North Dakota.” The kind of stuff that makes you reflexively pantomime a jerkoff motion. But, for as obnoxiously filtered as it all is, there’s usually a good anecdote or two.
The piece starts with Fox describing a raucous arena. The reader is meant to think it’s during a college rivalry game or an NBA playoff series. It’s not. It’s during the League of Legends championships. Fox says this is the moment when he knew he had to invest in eSports — both as a smart business opportunity and as a chance to bond with his son.
The rest plays out like every Players’ Tribune article plays out. It inflates Fox’s purpose while also portraying him as personable and relatable. But, there are some highlights that are worth pointing out.
Maybe the thing that would most surprise non-eSports followers is this quote from Fox:
Our team treats our players the same as if they were professional athletes, because that’s what they are. We monitor all aspects of their training and preparation, all the way down to their nutrition, fitness and sleep. We supply them with the best coaches in the industry and offer them a state-of-the-art training facility. We do that because, quite simply, it’s what’s required in order to compete for championships.
Another interesting tidbit is that Fox proclaims to play League of Legends or H1Z1 for several hours per day to better understand the games and the cultures around them. He also likens the best eSports athletes in the world to Kobe Bryant and Larry Bird in that they share the same mindset of determination and dedication to be the best. Also, there’s a gratuitous Jungle Book quote.
The article ends exactly how you think it’d end, with Fox trumpeting the significance of competitive gaming. It’s “the next evolution of competition,” he states. “I tell them what millions already know: eSports isn’t the wave of the future — the future is already here,” he says. That’s predictable and fine.
But then Fox’s piece segues into a preview of another piece, this one from Faker, the world’s best League player. And it’s the best goddamn lede I’ve ever read:
The Business of Gaming [The Players’ Tribune]