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Esports company Faze Clan announced today that two-time NBA All-Star Ben Simmons has joined a Series B funding round that has yet to close. The Philadelphia 76ers star is the latest basketball player to invest in Faze Clan, following the New Orleans Pelicans’ Josh Hart, the Miami Heat’s Meyers Leonard and the Denver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray. Esports have been a hot destination for athletes to place their cash. Kevin Durant, Michael Jordan, Alex Rodriguez and David Beckham are among those with stakes in competitive gaming companies. European soccer stars Antoine Griezmann of Barcelona and Mesut Ozil of Arsenal have started their own esports teams.
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Faze Clan was ranked by Forbes in November as the fourth-most-valuable esports company. Terms of Simmons’ investment were not disclosed. “My role with FaZe now goes much deeper than the initial investment,” says Simmons, adding that he was drawn to the company as a teenager because of its cool brand and came to believe in its family gaming culture. “I am going to bring it back to Australia and bring an international side to it. I also want to bring more kids into it.”
Leonsis predicts the 2K League will become a way to attract international fans. “Almost 80 percent of the appeal is gonna be outside of the U.S.,” he said. The league and ESPN announced a deal on Tuesday to broadcast this season’s games both domestically and internationally. Last year’s NBA 2K Finals, the second one ever of its kind, exceeded one million unique viewers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch and YouTube, according to information the NBA provided to The Athletic. A league spokesperson denied a request for demographics of 2K viewership in different countries. “People have seen what we’ve been able to do with Team Liquid, which is the best-performing — in terms of players and prize money — team. But it’s also been a really, really great business,” Leonsis said. “And so, that’s what we think will happen here. We try to explain to everyone that there’s more people outside of the U.S. on the Internet than (there) are here and their first exposure to the NBA is probably gonna be through NBA 2K.”
The league is expanding to China. When the season begins Tuesday, it will have its first non-NBA affiliated squad: The Gen.G Tigers, located in Shanghai. It ran games on Tencent in China last season. It scheduled day games to air at primetime in Europe. The long-term goals are bigger. “We envision this being a global league,” 2K League managing director Brendan Donohue said. “We’re in the process and in our near future, we see having an Asia Pacific division, a European division of 2K League teams.”
ESPN will air live NBA 2K League matches on ESPN2 on three Tuesdays in May, the sports network announced today. It’s the first time that the NBA 2K League, which is operated by the NBA, will have matches aired live on TV in the US, according to ESPN. Some league matches will also be shown on the ESPN app and ESPN.com, depending on the day of the week and when in the season you’re watching. On Tuesdays at 7PM ET, starting today through May 19th, you can watch NBA 2K League matches on ESPN2. On Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 7PM ET, you can watch NBA 2K League games on the ESPN app and ESPN.com. ESPN has not yet announced the broadcast schedule for games that take place beginning May 26th.
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