You’ve got to hand it to Rick Fox. The three-time NBA Champion and one of the star roleplayers of the Los Angeles Lakers justs gets “it”. This time, it’s to dominate the world of Fortnite — and he means business.
Fox balanced his basketball career with a stone’s throw away in Hollywood, trying his hand at acting. When he wasn’t running the floor on LA’s Forum, Fox was rubbing elbows with the likes of Whoopie Goldberg and Spike Lee, and he even landed a role in the hit show Oz. Fox would continue to build his resume among the younger generation of viewers by appearing in shows like One Tree Hill, Ugly Betty, and Melrose Place. Oh, and he starred in a CollegeHumor series named after himself. He’s in iZombie, Shameless, and Sharknado. The man just knows how to handle the spotlight and be idolized by the “it” generation, the younger and preppy crowd.
So it’s no wonder that the star athlete who once captivated viewers on the court and in TV shows finds himself at the forefront of the next big thing among the “it” crowd — esports. He and his team, Echo Fox, are gunning for Fortnite’s biggest prize.
What else can be said about the phenomenon that has captured the hearts and imaginations of gamers around the world? Fortnite has simply taken over the scene, with the help of candid developers, endorsements, and celebrities.
Routine additions of content, new skins, emotes, vehicles, game modes, and various tweaks keep fans coming back for more. Furthermore, Epic Games, Fortnite’s creators, simply know how to market the brand much like Fox. Fortnite’s hold on the battle royale genre is nigh unshakable, leading to the old warhorse Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds filing a lawsuit for copyright infringement.
With Epic Games’ announcement of a $100 million prize pool for its first year of esports competition, players are tuning in to see who would go home with the gold. That’s a lot of money. It is the largest prize pool in esports history comparatively dwarfing a collection of offerings from other games.
Setting the stage
In 2015, Fox found himself as the owner of League of Legends team Gravity Gaming. Rebranded as Echo Fox, its owner-slash-namesake sought to lay the foundations of a brand that would find itself as one of the perennial leaders in competitive esports.
Echo Fox acquired star players for Street Fighter V, Super Smash Bros., Call of Duty, Mortal Kombat, and Counter-Strike. The brand also became an active participant in several League of Legends tournaments in North America. Fox’s acumen as an analyst from his days in ESPN contributed to his capabilities in determining which players best suit the organization depending on the game on hand. This culminated in Echo Fox’s signing of several of H1Z1’s top players and subsequently winning the championship at the H1Z1 Invitational at TwitchCon 2016. They got the trophy, the merch (online or otherwise), and the bragging rights.
Fox has his finger on the pulse of this burgeoning world, and many close friends in sports have joined him in this venture by investing in Vision Esports, Fox’s esports investment company. Fellow NBA star Kevin Durant is in the mix along with the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals.
“Doesn’t matter the sport. I came from a basketball world. Kyle, he’s not a basketball player. He’s a gamer. I tell him all the time, it’s no different.”
What makes Fox such a respectable personality in esports and gaming, in general, is that he is an ambassador. He not only does this for business but to be a role model for his son Kyle.
Here’s the thing — it’s fairly often that if dad works in a certain career, the son would follow suit. This is especially true for traditional sports. It’s not uncommon to see sons and daughters of NBA, NFL, or MLB players focus on the sport that their parents were good at. At times they might branch out to other athletic competitions. If you watch wrestling, you’ve probably heard the term “third generation” thrown around often. These are the grandkids of grapplers in older eras plying their craft in the ring today.
There’s also the fact that if you live your entire life competing in a sport, there’s a good chance that you’d push your kids into the same endeavor, and sometimes pressure them a bit too far. While getting kids into athletic events and hobbies is great for their physical and social health — and while it may feel extremely rewarding to have your child follow in your footsteps — sometimes the pressure can lead to burnout and dissatisfaction; even estranged relationships.
Fox went the opposite route. Knowing his son Kyle was not so passionate about basketball and was more dedicated to playing video games, dad Rick cultivated and nurtured that hobby. The first time he played League of Legends was with his son. The MOBA game piqued his interest especially with the team play, dynamics, and individual responsibilities.
Father and son bonding led to Rick falling in love with the game and with esports in general, so much so that he’s turned it into a booming business. He ended up bringing together gamers around the world to be part of the budding experience.
Fox is a well-spoken individual who not only gets “it”, but can eloquently deliver the right answers. He provides meaningful responses for teenage gamers, or in a live interview for mainstream media news. This is especially significant due to the stigma that has been attached to playing video games for many decades. Watch as anchors ask him if winning a gaming tournament would be better than an NBA championship. See how he replies when asked about the professionalism he brings in gaming. Remember, it’s a hobby mostly known for “kids glued to a TV screen or monitor.”
Fox aims to be an ambassador along with being a businessman, especially knowing how esports is becoming more widely accepted as a “real” sporting event. We’ve already seen major news such as League, Hearthstone, Starcraft II, Clash Royale, and many others being featured for this year’s Asian Games. We’ve also heard about top tournaments selling out arenas or matches being viewed by millions.
Will Rick and Echo Fox ascend to the top of Fortnite’s competitive scene? Only time will tell. However, what we can be sure of is that Rick and co. will be giving all they have as they expand the brand’s reach. They’ll partake in these events all while having a great time. You’ve really got to hand it to The Lakers’ #17. He sure has a way with 17-year-old players and the “it” crowd.
Photo credits: Fansided, Bleacher Report