As esports has continued to grow and grow, it’s becoming very common for athletes, celebrities, and even professional sports teams to throw some of their earnings into the market by investing in teams and players. In the case of someone like Rick Fox, they’ll throw themselves completely into the fray by helping shape the brand and roster. What’s worth noting, however, is that the celebrities who’ve gotten into the game in the past few years are actually late to the dance…by almost a decade.
Gilbert Arenas was ahead of the curve in 2007 – while he was on top of the basketball world, making All-Star teams, All-NBA teams, appearing on the cover of NBA Live 07, and electrifying courts around the country with amazing performances and crazy game winners, he was also hopping on a train that would still take several years to get running: esports.
Arenas was a part-owner of the professional Halo 3 team Final Boss, who, at the time, was the top Halo team in the world. At the height of the Major League Gaming competitions, they won more tournaments than any other team, and featured some of the top players of the time (many of whom are now affialiated with the Halo Championship Series.) For Arenas, an avid gamer, this was a dream investment.
The MLG events during this time were the first taste of pro gaming and esports as a legitimate competition; from sponsors to production value, to even being broadcast on ESPN, it laid down the groundwork for the do’s and don’ts of esports events today.
Unfortunately, both Final Boss and Arenas hit hard times shortly after their partnership. Final Boss would disband in 2011, and Arenas, after a firearms incident and several tasteless comments and actions, found himself out of the NBA by 2012, where he would go on to end his career in China in 2013.
Still, this was a big deal at the time, and it set a precedent of big-time celebrity investors into the esports world. While it took a bit longer to get the ball rolling, Arenas definitely helped shine a light on the best-hidden secret in the game.