Following in the footsteps of soccer clubs like Valencia and Schalke, the Philadelphia 76ers are getting into e-sports. The NBA team announced that it has acquired two e-sports franchises — Team Dignitas and Team Apex — and will be merging them together under the Dignitas name. 76ers ownership believes this will create “a powerhouse competitor” in the e-sports space. The newly merged team will compete in a range of games, including League of Legends, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, and Heroes of the Storm.
While a number of professional soccer teams in Europe have jumped into the e-sports space, this marks a first for a major club in North America. According to the 76ers, the basketball club will manage the day-to-day operations of Team Dignitas, which will include dealing with aspects like sales, sponsors, marketing, merchandising, and recruiting new players. Terms of the acquisitions were not disclosed. 76ers owner Joshua Harris has stakes in multiple different sports; he’s also owner of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, and is a shareholder with English soccer club Crystal Palace.
“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,” Harris said in a statement. “We see our entrance into e-sports 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 e-sports as a whole.”
The Sixers are the first NBA team to get into e-sports, but the pro gaming space does have some connections to basketball: in December, former NBA star Rick Fox acquired Leagueteam Gravity Gaming, and rebranded it Echo Fox.