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The crossover between esports and traditional sports is no longer one that is unexpected. Most recently, the Miami Heat have partnered up with Misfits, Team Dignitas are owned by the Philadelphia 76ers, the Milwaukee Bucks are the proud owners of FlyQuest, and NRG Esports is chaired by Andrew Miller, the Co-Owner of both the esports organization and the NBA's Sacramento Kings.
Miller is a huge supporter of the esports scene to say the least. Merely seconds after NRG Esports' SMITE team took home the SMITE World Championship (in back-to-back years) Miller rushed straight from his seat to the stage in order to celebrate with the organizations newest champions.
During a press conference for the SMITE victors, each player echoed how NRG felt like a home to them compared to previous organizations. For Miller, that's music to his ears. "That means a lot to us," Miller said. "We're trying to be different. We came into this space one of the first guys from traditional sports and everyone's so young and this industry is young and we have this hashtag #NRGFam and it means a lot to us. It's not just some hoaky hashtag...We've created this place where everyone's really supportive."
As many say, esports is in its infancy. If that is the case, the crossover between traditional sports and esports is even younger. NRG understand the two very different cultures and want to find the correct balance between the two. "Esports has so many great unique things and we're going to try and bring some things from traditional sports that work but it's different. It's really community based," Miller said. "Every game, every platform has a community, every publisher. The communities are very different. You may love baseball, but you don't like football. It's the same for esports. I think if we cater to the communities and let them be individuals, it'll work out."
"Every game, every platform has a community, every publisher. The communities are very different. You may love baseball, but you don't like football. It's the same for esports. I think if we cater to the communities and let them be individuals, it'll work out." - Andrew Miller, Co-Owner of NRG Esports & the Sacramento Kings
When asked about the ideals that can be brought over from traditional sports, Miller was quick to answer. "Infrastructure. Infrastructure meaning, not to be nerdy, real support for these guys, real coaching - they're young," said Miller. "They go from playing in their living room, to living in a house, to playing up on a stage in front of hundreds of thousands of people who can access them every night on Twitch or on Twitter and it's a lot if you're a 17, 18, 19 years old versus a professional basketball player whose been in basketball and played on four different teams and went to college and has been groomed to be different and be a star."
So how important is the community to NRG? Miller thinks that players throughout the community worldwide should dream big. "There's a bigger opportunity in your mind that you think you can be that guy, you can get up there and play. I could never be DeMarcus Cousins and play on the Sacramento Kings for obvious reasons," Miller joked. "But someone could be good up there and be iRaffer. Someones out there working hard, having fun and love it so the dream is alive in esports."
"I could never be DeMarcus Cousins and play on the Sacramento Kings for obvious reasons, but someone could be good up there and be Raffer. Someones out there working hard, having fun and loving it so the dream is alive in esports." - Andrew Miller, Co-Owner of NRG Esports & the Sacramento Kings
The video game culture has spread so far that NBA players are starting to enjoy the scene more and more. Refuting my claim that DeMarcus Cousins was the best gamer on the Kings, Miller vouched for another big man on the team. "It's probably someone like Willie Cauley-Stein or someone... Boogies old now right!? He's 27!" Miller laughed. "There are so many NBA guys that play a lot of games, a lot of Call of Duty actually. We're trying to get them all in. Shaquille is our NBA guy and Alex Rodriguez for baseball so he's become a really big help for us and we're much more visible with our team."
"There are so many NBA guys that play a lot of games, a lot of Call of Duty actually. We're trying to get them all in." - Andrew Miller, Co-Owner of NRG Esports & the Sacramento Kings
Veterans in the esports industry shouldn't be scared of the intertwining that's happening between traditional sports and esports. The change is inevitable. Not only are team owners taking note of the esports scene, players are getting involved too. Also, if Shaq endorses something, you better be too or you'll be Shaqtin' a Fool.