Warriors, Cavaliers Join Riot Games' NBA-Heavy Esports League

Fans cheer on the Sk Telecom team during the League of Legends World Championship at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, on Oct. 29, 2016.

Photographer: David Williams/Bloomberg

The Golden State Warriors are among the new owners of a team in the North American League of Legends Championship Series, an enterprise heavy with backers from NBA basketball.

Riot Games, a division of China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd., announced the 10 teams in a newly reorganized league devoted to its hit game League of Legends on Monday. Other new teams include Clutch Gaming, affiliated with the Houston Rockets, and 100 Thieves, backed by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers lost to Golden State in this year’s National Basketball Association championship.

Esports, where teams of professional contestants play video games before live audiences, is attracting investment and capital from owners of traditional sports teams. The new league will consist of six existing teams, which each paid a $10 million franchise fee, and four new
ones. The first-time owners will pay $13 million.

Investors are being enticed by the opportunity to attract an 18- to 49-year-old male audience that might not be watching traditional TV, according to Bruce Stein, president of aXiomatic, whose Team Liquid will play in the league.

“You have a unique way of cross-pollinating your traditional sport with the esport audience,” he said.

Other team owners include three-time NBA champion player Rick Fox and Counter Logic Gaming. Counter Logic Gaming and basketball’s New York Knicks share an owner, Madison Square Garden Co.

— With assistance by Eben Novy-Williams

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