Surprise! The Philadelphia 76ers, an NBA franchise, bought up two separate esports teams — specifically, Dignitas and Apex — today. This means an NBA team now counts among its extended roster a bunch of competitive video game players. Rather than manage them separately, the teams’ rosters will go forward under the Dignitas banner in video games like League of Legends, Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and more.
It’s unclear what terms were settled on, or what each team went for separately or together. But the owners, Josh Harris and David Blitzer, now control popular rosters across several franchises. Why buy two teams at once? Simple: Apex had a seat in the League of Legends League Championship Series (LCS), and Dignitas did not. As previously mentioned, Apex will now follow the (arguably) more recognizable, and bankable, Dignitas branding.
The acquisition marks the first time a more traditional North American sports team has purchased an esports property. The NBA in general has shown particular interest in esports with Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko picking up Renegades earlier this month and former player Rick Fox forming the Echo Fox franchise in 2015, but it was European teams like FC Schalke 04 that first really invested in the quickly expanding world of esports.
“There is a tremendous opportunity to leverage the infrastructure, resources, and experience of the Sixers organization to support these exciting teams as they continue to compete at the highest levels across multiple games,” reads part of a statement put out by the new Dignitas team from Philadelphia 76ers’ Josh Harris. “We see our entrance into esports as a natural extension of our expanding interests in traditional sports and entertainment and are confident that our involvement will accelerate the already rapid pace of growth in eSports as a whole.”
The newly formed combination of teams will have Greg Richardson as Chairman, Michael O’Dell (of pre-acquisition Dignitas) as president, and Michael Slan (of pre-acquisition Apex) as vice president and general manager.