Jared Jeffries played in the NBA for 11 seasons. After retiring in 2013, he accepted a position with the Denver Nuggets front office as a pro personnel scout. He was promoted to director of pro personnel and held that position until Rick Fox came with an offer to become president of his esports organization: Echo Fox.
“I saw the opportunity to be part of something,” Jeffries said. “Rick did a great job of selling their vision. Everything they told me has been coming true. I am excited to be a part of this emerging market.”
Echo Fox was one of the first major crossovers from the world of professional sports to esports. When Echo Fox was founded in 2015, the esports scene belonged to the endemic esports organizations. Organizations like Cloud9, Team Liquid and Counter Logic Gaming dominated esports. Since 2015, the esports and sports industries have continued to overlap.
Echo Fox recently announced its roster for the 2018 season of the North American League Championship Series (NALCS). Echo Fox is joined by plenty of other NBA influence in the 2018 season. Two teams are directly tied to NBA organizations — Clutch Gaming is under the Houston Rockets and the Golden Guardians are supported by the Golden State Warriors.
Additionally, Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Wesley Edens backs FlyQuest, Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is co-chairman of the ownership group of Team Liquid, and 100 Thieves has received investment from Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. The pairing of esports and sports – especially the NBA – is a natural fit, according to Jeffries.
“Guys (in the NBA) have always been into gaming because it was a bond we all had,” Jeffries said. “We would play on the plane. It was something you did on the road, just get together in the same room and play.”
Esports receive a lot of vitriol from people who want to protect the sanctity of the idea of sports. It’s true that they aren’t athletic in the way that we have come to think about sports, but to Jeffries, that doesn’t matter.
“They’re definitely athletes. The hand-eye coordination that it takes, the mental preparation and focus is crazy,” he said. “It’s the same thing in any sport. Baseball, basketball, football, you have to be dedicated and these guys are.”
Fox has always been a gamer but his moment of clarity came when he attended NALCS at Madison Square Garden with his son. That was when he decided he needed to be involved in esports.
“It got started out of supporting his passion (for game design) then I stood at Madison Square Garden for two days and I saw Adam Silver and John Skipper at a sold-out MSG taking in NALCS and I was struck,” Fox told Bram Weinstein on the SportTechie Podcast. “I knew things were changing under my feet and this generation would be the next wave of new athletes.”
The fluidity of sports is something that was on Jeffries’ mind as well when he was offered a chance to leave the NBA and enter a whole new market.
“I was talking to a friend of mine, older gentleman and minority owner in a sports team, and he said, when he bought his team the most popular sports in the U.S. were horse racing and boxing,” Jeffries recounted. “Think about where we have come since then. Nobody would have ever thought that taking an orange ball and putting it through a hoop would become as popular as it has. You just need time, esports will have that impact, and it’s all headed in that direction.”