Shaq, A-Rod among NRG eSports’ latest investors

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports / USA TODAY Sports

NRG eSports is getting some attention from big names in mainstream sports.

Former NBA star and part-owner of the Sacramento Kings, Shaquille O'Neal, New York Yankees infielder Alex Rodriguez and Chicago White Sox shortstop Jimmy Rollins have all invested in NRG, the organization announced Thursday.

Meanwhile, O'Neal made sure his esports entrance was a little more animated.


"I feel it legitimizes the space a little bit, it helps legitimize the idea that these guys really are athletes when other athletes recognize them," NRG co-owner Andy Miller told theScore esports. "There's lots of things that we as weekend warrior athletes will never go through, and they realize that these people are athletes.

"They're putting everything they have, their whole world into becoming the best at what they do."

Miller says that his existing relationship with O'Neal as co-owners of the Sacramento Kings helped them get him involved.

"He was really interested in the space, he was involved in the Turner, TBS esports pavilion, this was something he was participating in," Miller said. "He's a co-owner with me of the Kings as well as my co-owner Mark Mastrov, and he and Mark have a great relationship so he said, 'Hey I want to do this, let's figure it out,' and it was a no-brainer."

O'Neal is also not the only ex-LA Lakers player to enter the world of esports. His former teammate, Rick Fox, founded Echo Fox last year, and currently owns a League of Legends team and a CS:GO team.

Meanwhile, Miller says Rollins approached them after getting interested in the esports scene.

"He'd played a little League of Legends, thought it was amazing, read some articles said this is something he thought paralleled a lot of what he saw in the sports world and he wanted to become an investor," he said. "He was amazing to talk to, really knowledgeable, and well-thought out."

Finally, Mastrov also had an existing relationship with Rodriguez, who they approached because of his personal brand.

"We thought he would just be such a great fit because of his experiences, his longevity and being a player on a big stage at such an early age, very similar to our guys," Miller said.

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. He dropped dunk stats in favor of wordplay. You can follow him on Twitter.

Team Liquid promote David Lim to Head Coach

by 1d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

David Lim will now be at the helm of Team Liquid's League of Legends team, as he will now serve as the LCS team's head coach, the organization announced Wednesday. Lim had previously served as Team Liquid Academy's head coach.

The former basketball coach made the move to League of Legends in late 2015, joining Team Liquid as an assistant coach focused on Team Liquid Academy. With Lim on board, TLA won HTC Ascension before successfully qualifying for Challenger.

TLA has made great strides through the 2016 spring and summer NA Challenger splits, securing 3rd-4th in the spring playoffs and second place in the summer playoffs, but were unable to qualify for the NA LCS, losing to Echo Fox 3-2 in the 2017 Spring Promotion elimination round.

In Liquid's announcement, Lim spoke about his goals for Team Liquid's LCS team next season.

"I want to focus on building a thriving environment. Having a place where our players are freely able to accept, give out, and really think about criticism constructively is important and is one area I feel we didn't work hard in during 2016," explains Lim. "It's healthy to have some conflicts but talking about it really accelerates the team's growth process."

On a more practical level, Lim says, "In reality, I just want to bring a more structured day to day process, where the whole day will be productive compared to just scrims."

Lim is taking over from Choi "Locodoco" Yoon-sup, who has coached TL's LCS squad over the past year. In his statement, he says that he was unsure about moving to a coaching role initially but while he feels he fell short of his goals, he says "one thing I'm proud of that I did accomplish was helping the growth of players and other staff on the team."

"David's been the TLA coach and the assistant coach for the main LCS team for the entire year and he's shown tremendous growth," Locodoco said in the statement. "He has a lot of strengths that I didn't have and I believe he'll fill the role well and bring TL fans the success they've been waiting for. As for me, I'm in a transition process and nothing is fully decided. I'll let you guys know as soon as I have something concrete."

Annabelle "Abelle" Fischer is a writer for theScore esports with a love for Dota 2, birds and cheese. You can follow her on Twitter.

Liquid co-owner: Team Liquid will 'overhaul' LoL roster for 2017 season

by 6d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Team Liquid

Team Liquid's co-owner and co-CEO Steve "LiQuiD112" Arhancet confirmed that Team Liquid will be revamping its League of Legends roster after the 2016 World Championship during a Discord AMA.

"We will 100 percent be doing a roster overhaul for the League of Legends team," Arhancet said. "It's extremely disappointing results for the end of this season. Actually, it's the worst results that we've ever had ever since I started everything in League. So I'm really disappointed, and I think that there's a number of reasons for that, but the outcome of it is that we have to take a look at players committed to the roster."

Liquid finished in fifth/sixth place in the 2016 NA LCS Summer Playoffs, losing to Counter Logic Gaming 3-1 in the quarterfinals. The team would subsequently compete in the NA Regional Finals, where they would lose to Team EnVyUs 3-0 and place fourth.

While Arhancet said that there is no set date for the roster reveal, Liquid will announce a new roster the day after the team receives final approval from Riot.

"Back in the day you didn't have to get approval from Riot in order to sign a roster, you would sign a player and just announce," Arhancet said. "You can't do that, there's like a system, there's a structure to it. We have to get through the offseason, we have to sign players, we have to get them contracted, and then we have to send the paperwork. They have to be approved, and that has a whole process, and then we can go live with the announcement. So there's no date that I can give you, I can just say that as soon as we have the approval from Riot on whatever we end up doing we'll go live."

The full AMA can be found below:

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Riot Esports directors talk sustainability, building a premiere sport and third-party arbitration

by 6d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

Riot Games' Esports co-directors, Whalen Rozelle and Jarred Kennedy, discussed community feedback and sustainable business development with Yahoo Esports' Travis Gafford following the announcement that team revenue-sharing and crowdfunded prize pools would be coming League of Legends esports in 2017.

RELATED: Riot reveals revenue-sharing for teams, crowdfunding for Worlds and MSI prize pool

The hour-long conversation was wide-ranging, but Rozelle and Kennedy were especially clear on two points: that League of Legend's tremendous growth must be managed carefully and that they need to communicate with the community better.

"The goal is: how do we go from where we've been over the past several seasons, which is multi-platform distribution on a regional basis to potentially multi-platform distribution plus maybe some global sponsors, right?" Kennedy said. "Could we do that, could we have a sponsor that goes across leagues? potentially. what would that look like, how would it be structured? how would those flows work? We've got thirteen leagues around the world so it's hard to solve these types of problems at the business level but we're actively working towards it and we're excited about the potential."

The duo also talked about exploring new revenue opportunities beyond digital goods, such as skins and icons, to more physical merchandise, such as jerseys. They stressed that Riot's plans go much further than 2017 and that their goal is to make League of Legends a sport on the level of the NBA or MLB.

"One common factor is we have to set up a system where everyone is incentivized for the success of the league and everyone has to be thinking along the same time-frame," Rozelle said. "Whether it's split over split or five or ten years out, right now I think we have a system where you know its not bad but at the same point there are these problems where maybe not everyone is incentive for the long term success of the league versus thinking short term because of the relegation system we have now but how we navigate out of that is incredibly complex which is why we stated it's going to take some time to figure out, the solution is going to differ from region to region."

While the new announcement seemed to hit on many of the points brought up by team owners during the public feud between Riot president Marc "Tryndamere" Merrill and Team SoloMid owner Andy "Reginald" Dinh, Rozelle and Kennedy say these plans were in the works long before the firestorm erupted.

"This is not a direct response to any one thing, as we mentioned in the post, we've been on this journey for a long time and we've been targeting getting to the status of being a premiere global sport," Kennedy said. "But we could have done more to share how we were thinking about things and help teams understand that path."

RELATED: Reginald on how Riot’s major patch changes hurt LoL’s competitive scene

While Riot's relationship with its community has become strained as public figures, such as Duncan "Thorin" Shields and Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles, criticized the company during the Tryndamere-Reginald debate, Rozelle says they go to great lengths to listen to the community and take their feedback.

“I’m proud we do react to the community, right?" Rozelle said. "Whether it’s the community blowing up and getting angry at us, I’m proud to react to that. I’m proud when the community has a great idea and we’re like ‘yeah, that’s a pretty good idea, let’s integrate that” into whether it’s our broadcast or our game or something, I’m proud of that."

Rozelle and Kennedy also say that the new revenue-sharing opportunities are the first steps in building stronger partnerships with LCS teams, but they are not ready to talk formal arrangements, such as franchising, until 2018.

"I think in general we want to move away from the supplementing model, where the teams are able to go and thrive independently and also in partnership with Riot and with the league they’re a part of," Kennedy said. "And we’re always looking at our schedules, we’re always thinking about what’s the right way to structure this. We have an entire dedicated to try and optimize this for that ultimate goal, which is to get us all to the place where we’re a sustainable premiere sport that lasts a really long time."

Beyond discussing yesterday's announcement, the two responded to a community question about Riot's controversial arbitration system and announced early plans to look into third-party arbitration for major decisions, such as banning a team from the LCS, as early as 2017.

"Since essentially the Renegades/TDK ruling and onward is that, y'know look, we believe in the ruling, right? We believe in the policies that we have, the process that we have, but we also think that, y'know, this is not the ideal situation, we believe it can evolve as well," Rozelle said. "And so, we believe enough in the ruling that we have that we're willing to begin exploring how can we bring in a third party to help validate, or arbitrate, we don't know exactly the system yet, but we do want to do that as early as 2017."

Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. Follow him on Twitter, it'll be great for his self-esteem.

Riot reveals revenue-sharing for teams, crowdfunding for Worlds and MSI prize pool

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Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports / Riot Games

Riot Games has promised some major changes for LoL esports in 2017, including revenue sharing for team-branded in-game goods, and increases to Worlds' and MSI's prize pools through skin sales.

"As we move into 2017 and beyond, we’re continuing to take steps towards a future where top LoL players have very well paid, long careers doing what they love - and where LoL esports team organizations are thriving businesses led by empowered owners who share responsibility and accountability for the long term prosperity of the sport," the announcement says.

"To help get us there, we’ll share LoL esports revenue streams and collaborate with our partners to develop new business models and actively shape the league. We want these partners to have permanent stakes, to be invested in a stable future and to profit from the continued success of the sport."

While the statement says revenue sharing will begin with 25 percent of Team Championship skin revenues going to the teams they're based on beginning with this year's Worlds, Riot will also be introducing new team-branded in-game content in 2017 and increasing the percentage of summoner icon revenue that goes to the teams.

In addition, 25 percent from Championship skin revenue will go towards increasing the prize pool for Worlds, similar to Dota 2's Compendiums and Capcom's Capcom Pro Tour DLC pack, which added $90,000 to this year's Capcom Cup prize pool. Twenty-five percent of Challenger skin sales will also be going towards the Mid-Season Invitational prize pool.

"As we invest and build towards the future, we recognize that the current ecosystem isn’t consistently profitable yet for team owners or for the league. Costs have risen — namely in the form of player salary increases and support for those pros — mainly as a direct result of significant external investment and interest in the scene," the statement says.

"This part of the journey isn’t unusual; escalated investment is a natural occurrence in a growing ecosystem, and is a sign that our initial approach has been working. However, we recognize that we can help rebalance the scene by accelerating some of our longer-term economic tactics to help address short-term pain felt by many of our partners."

As new revenue-sharing ventures find their feet, Riot will also be giving teams a lump, minimum income in 2017, to be determined on a league-by-league basis.

"In 2017 each league will set aside a guaranteed minimum to each of its teams as it determines appropriate based on regional needs. For example, the EU LCS will have a minimum revenue amount of €100,000 per team for the full season, of which 50% will go to players as supplemental income on top of their existing salaries. Even without counting the retroactive payments to past champions, this will contribute millions of dollars in additional revenue to teams and pros each year."

The promises of revenue-sharing and increased prize pools could go a long way towards alleviating the concerns of LCS team owners brought up during the public feud between Riot president Marc "Tryndamere" Merrill and Team SoloMid owner Andy "Reginald" Dinh that resulted in several in several LCS teams sending a proposal to Riot for better cooperation.

RELATED: Reginald responds to Tryndamere: 'It’s irrational to invest even more money into LCS, given how restrictive LCS is'

While Merrill ultimately apologized for launching personal attacks on Reginald on Reddit and promised new revenue-sharing opportunities for teams in 2017, today's announcement tiptoes around actually giving teams a say in the LCS through formalized partnerships. While the statement says the company is building plans for partnerships, nothing major will happen on that front until 2018.

"Nailing fandom and strong economics is important for a thriving sport — but stability, with partnered organizations and the right structure, helps create a healthier environment in which our sport can grow and evolve over the longer term," the statement says.

"We’re not yet at the stage where we can describe exactly what long-term org partnerships will look like; we’re not sure how they’ll work, or even if there will be the same structure in each region. Creating long-term partnerships across the globe is complicated — legally, financially, operationally. That said, the first step is securing those partners and putting the right structure in place. We will be looking to make this step in 2018."

However, Riot acknowledges that these moves are the first steps on a longer path towards developing a mature sport and a mature business model.

"We believed the future was bright for LoL esports in 2012 — and it’s even brighter today as we take our most significant steps yet. As we face additional challenges and future unknowns, we’ll continue to stick to our core beliefs; to put esports fans first, to build a great ecosystem that keeps the sport you love around for the long-term, and which fans, pros & teams all aspire to," the announcement says.

Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Watch: UC Irvine becomes first public university to offer LoL scholarships

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On Sept. 23, 2016, the University of California, Irvine, debuted their 3,500-square-foot iBUYPOWER esports arena located right in the heart of their Student Center. Equipped with 80 gaming PCs, the arena will serve as a home base for UCI’s official esports team to train, as well as the UCI gaming community. Earlier this year, UCI recruited five students based on their League of Legends abilities and academic record to play on their competitive team.

Players received scholarships to help with tuition, totalling about $15,000 and can keep any winnings earned from matches. UCI has become the first public university in North America to implement an esports scholarship program. With the program expanding, there are an additional five scholarships up for grabs.

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