Golden Guardians: NBA Warriors' eSports Team
The boundaries between today's eSports and traditional sports leagues are becoming increasingly blurred. With eSports' global revenue set to balloon to a worth of $1.58 billion by 2023 (according to Statista), top sporting franchises and companies are looking to jump onboard the virtual sports craze.
In most ways, traditional leagues and eSports benefit from partnerships. Not only do major governing bodies in eSports like the IESF (International Esports Federation) model themselves after successful leagues like UEFA Champions League and the NFL, but they can also mirror contracts and eligibility requirements after credible players' associations.
In 2018, the NBA's Golden State Warriors franchise (at the peak of its game) made one of the first major forays into eSports by founding its own team, the Golden Guardians. The gaming squad was one of four franchises that helped launch the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS).
Since then, the Guardians have fought at the top level of LoL competition (run by Riot Games in Canada and the US). With the Golden Guardians providing a leading example of potential crossover success between established major league franchises and eSports teams, the future of major leagues and gaming is bright.
With slot offerings on the rise in Canada and the US with the 9 masks of fire game and dozens more, could leading franchises look to create their own personalized slots next? After all, the last basketball video game installment from 2K Sports (NBA 2K20) included a mini-casino game.
The NBA Embraces eSports & Video Games
Though the Premier League has its own eSports equivalent (the ePremier League) and the NFL has its own Madden NFL 21 Championship Series, the NBA has taken massive steps to evolve along with modern technologies—eSports and beyond.
The NBA and 2K Sports (a video game developer) have worked closely for years to produce some of the most successful sports video game installments with their 2K series. In addition to their NBA 2K League (the NBA's official eSports league), their NBA 2K20 game won the Titanium Award for Best Sports Game in 2019.
Additionally, 2K20 included elements of gaming to the installment—though reviews were mixed from players. Never keen to slow on new ideas, the NBA has also made great strides to provide fans a virtual seat courtside at games with their partnership with Oculus Venues for a truly novel way to watch live games.
And, in the realm of eSports, the Golden State Warriors may have been one of the first to capitalize on the virtual sports boom, but they weren't the last. Today, the Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, and Cleveland Cavaliers also own their own eSports franchises, titled Kings Guard Gaming, Clutch Gaming, and Legion Lair, respectively.
GG: Struggling to Get Off the Ground
Though the Golden Guardians got their start in the LCS, they've expanded to compete in other professional competitions for games like Apex Legends, Teamfight Tactics, and World of Warcraft.
The team continues to expand, and recently signed on players like Zain Naghmi ('Zain') and David Caero ('DogDog'). Both players are expected to help boost the Guardians' performance in the LCS. Since getting its start in 2018, GG has slowly improved its ranking—but just barely.
Their last competition at the 2020 LCS Summer Playoffs saw the team go 2-3 against the Team SoloMid franchise. They went on to lose the tiebreaker series against OpTic Gaming, which barred the team from advancing to the playoffs.
But much like a traditional sports team, leadership means a lot. In November 2020, the Golden Guardians announced a new head coach for the 2021 spring season, Kublai 'Kubz' Barlas. Barlas will surely draw on his experience leading other eSports teams like Fnatic (based in the EU).