It’s been a rough few years for the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers. Former general manager Sam Hinkie asked everyone to “trust the process” as he traded away decent players and stockpiled draft picks, only to win fewer than 20 games in each of the last three seasons before his unceremonious departure.
The team’s on-court prospects aren’t especially promising this year, but in the world of virtual competition, they’ve never been better. According to Rift Herald, the 76ers organization has acquired Team Dignitas and Apex Gaming and merged the two, becoming the first North American sports franchise to pick up an eSports team.
Apex Gaming’s “League of Legends” team will now play under the Dignitas name, joining other Dignitas teams that play games like “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” and “Overwatch.” The 76ers will run day-to-day operations and provide publicity, merchandise and more, but there’s no indication that the 76ers name or logo will adorn team uniforms or anything.
The move to acquire Apex and Dignitas is more in line with European sports than North American sports, as several football clubs across the pond have picked up or formed their own eSports teams in recent years. On this continent, it’s a bit more conventional for individuals like Shaquille O’Neal to own their own teams.
This is a pretty big deal in the quest for eSports to gain mainstream acceptance in North America. While their recent performance may suggest otherwise, the 76ers are a major professional sports franchise, and if they openly embrace eSports, who knows what could happen next?
Personally, I envision a future where injured NBA players compete against each other in eSports while they recover. That would be must-see TV. Let’s make it happen.