The esports train keeps on rolling, and the latest to hop on board is Michael Jordan. Bleacher Report and TechCrunch report the Basketball Hall of Famer, principal owner and chairman of the National Basketball Association’s Charlotte Hornets is at the forefront of USD$26 million in financing into a startup called aXiomatic Gaming ( @aXiomaticGaming) along with billionaire investor and Carlyle Group founder David Rubenstein’s Declaration Capital.
“The next generation of sports fans are esports fans,” Ted Leonsis, co-executive chairman of aXiomatic and founder, majority owner, chairman and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the National Hockey League’s 2018 Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, said in a press release. “Esports is the fastest-growing sector in sports and entertainment, and aXiomatic is at the forefront of that growth. We are thrilled to welcome Michael and Declaration Capital to aXiomatic and look forward to working together on some truly cutting-edge opportunities.”
Jordan joins former L.A. Laker Rick Fox, current NBA superstar Kevin Durant and NFL wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who all took the plunge with contributions to a USD$38 million round of financing in Vision Esports LP (VELP) in February.
Other prominent sports personalities and owners are getting into the esports sector in a big way: among them, Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini is backing an as-yet-unnamed Vancouver franchise in the Pacific Division of the Overwatch League (OWL). The Toronto-based OWL team, the Defiant, announced itself to the world last Wednesday and is set to do battle in the Atlantic Division. On Friday, the Defiant held a rally at Berkeley Church in downtown Toronto attended by hundreds of rabid fans; 350 tickets for the event sold out in 12 minutes.
OWL’s preseason matches will take place from Dec. 6 to 9, and the league’s second season is scheduled to begin on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14), 2019.
Viewership of esports is growing at a steady pace. In 2017, the number of frequent eSports viewers and enthusiasts amounted to 143 million according to Statistica. It is projected to reach 250 million in 2021. As a result, more public figures and well-known companies are seeking opportunities to jump on the esports bandwagon through stock investments and sponsorships.