E-Sports Attract Big Money, Big Crowds And Former NBA Athletes As Owners : All Tech Considered E-sports competitors might be wielding swords and magic during their games, but these players are just as much athletes as those in the NFL and NBA. And that's according to the former pros themselves.
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E-Sports Athletes Command The Game Just As Much As NBA Stars

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E-Sports Athletes Command The Game Just As Much As NBA Stars

E-Sports Athletes Command The Game Just As Much As NBA Stars

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/499710885/499710886" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And this weekend, Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers, will be packed for a championship final event.

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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: And it's all that she wrote for this one. SKTelecomT1, backs against the wall...

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

That is the play-by-play from last week's sold-out semifinal at Madison Square Garden in New York.

MONTAGNE: This is a sporting event but with a difference. The players are all intently crouched behind computer screens. And the fans are reacting to the action, not on the court but on giant video screens.

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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Three-oh against ROX Tigers in the series. And SKT punched their ticket to their third world final.

GREENE: This is the League of Legends video game world championships, professional e-sports, where two teams of five play fantasy characters wielding enormous swords and magical powers clashing for ultimate dominance.

RICK FOX: We hire coaches. We have GMs. We have social media people. We have marketers in our organization. We have players that make six figures and above.

MONTAGNE: That's Rick Fox, three-time NBA champion with the L.A. Lakers and now-owner of a League of Legends franchise called Echo Fox. Fox paid about a million dollars for his team nearly a year ago. Other team owners include Shaquille O'Neal and Magic Johnson.

GREENE: Wow. Fox first began playing League of Legends with his son. He got hooked when the two of them went to the world championship semifinals in New York last year.

FOX: Being in an arena like Madison Square Garden, where I played for so many years previously, really ignited my passion for not only being a fan of these sports and an avid player myself, but also now becoming a team owner.

MONTAGNE: And being a team owner for Rick Fox, beyond loving the game, also meant good business.

FOX: On opening night of NFL weekend, the No. 1 searched ticket on StubHub was not an NFL game but the world championships of League of Legends this weekend at the Staples Center. Tickets sold out in 10 to 12 minutes.

GREENE: Yeah. League of Legends is the top grossing video game in the world, earning $1.6 billion dollars last year. E-athletes at this weekend's world championship are competing for a top prize of a million bucks.

MONTAGNE: And Rick Fox says, don't be fooled. These players are as much athletes as he ever was.

FOX: The reason they're professional and masteries of what they do is they make it look easy. And you'd think that you, as an average person, can do it. Right? When I - when you actually step into their shoes, you realize - oh, know. This has taken five, six, seven years of their life to master.

GREENE: Fox's team did not make this weekend's final in Los Angeles. But he says he will be among the tens of millions of fans watching the live streams of all the drama that is coming from Staples Center.

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