Three-time NBA champion and actor Rick Fox purchased a League of Legends team for a reported price tag of $1 million last year, and after a strong finish to its first split, the Echo Fox organization continues to grow, adding teams in Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty: Black Ops III as well as sponsoring players in other games.
Now, Echo Fox's League of Legends team enters the upcoming Summer Split as a sleeper contender for a playoff run, with a full roster back together after visa issues led to a slow start last split. Rick Fox was kind enough to answer our questions through e-mail while with the team in South Korea on a preseason bootcamp.
The Rift Herald: You've said you're the best ex-NBA player at Ms. Pacman. Do you have any good locker room video game stories?
Rick Fox: During our championship runs a group of us played Madden pretty consistently. We put together a tournament but I can't remember who won. Must not have been me though.
TRH: Your former teammate Shaq recently invested in a rival North American esports organization. How brutal has the trash talk been between you two?
RF: The trash talk is friendly but escalating. It's apparent that we are no longer on the same team.
TRH: Now that Shaq's involved, will Kobe try and one-up him with an even bigger investment? Has Kobe even heard of video games or is he too focused on being Kobe?
RF: No, Kobe plays video games. Knowing Kobe, if I had to venture or guess, he's more likely to create his own game than own a team.
TRH: Who would win in a pickup basketball game, Echo Fox's League of Legends roster or NRG's?
RF: Well if we go off of the fact that we are undefeated against NRG in the LCS, I'd have to go with Echo Fox; unless you say our support Terry, aka Big, has to guard the big Aristotle.
TRH: Who is the better Fox in League of Legends: Rick Fox or Ahri?
RF: Kyle Fox says "Ahri."
TRH: If you could cosplay as any champion, who would you dress up as?
RF: Lucian, he's my favorite champion.
TRH: What is it about League of Legends that specifically appeals to you, as a sports person and as a video games person?
RF: It's 5 on 5. The teamwork that is required and individual designated roles remind me a lot of the positions associated with basketball.
TRH: Where do you see this industry ending up? How big can it get?
RF: I see it on track in the coming years to sit comfortably at the table with the major four sports in the U.S. As more and more infrastructure is brought, industry leaders in eSports marketing, like VFD eSports, bring awareness of the value to sponsors and large corporations continue to invest in the industry. This allows for the exponential growth in eSports and more inclusion from top brands.
TRH: How was your experience as an owner for your first split? It was a pretty dramatic run for Echo Fox, going from fearing relegation to looking like one of the stronger teams in the second half of the season. Were you nervous at all about your investment?
RF: Any startup brings a period of intense hard work and dedication. The risk was mitigated by a strong team with a strong division and fueled by a belief and passion for the industry as a whole. The toughest part of last split was having to watch weekly from Atlanta due to my NBA commitments and not being able to be there with the team. I couldn't be more excited for this upcoming split where I can support the team on game days in person.
TRH: What are the biggest differences you've noticed between star young basketball players and star young esports players?
RF: The opportunity with eSports allows players to come in at a much younger age.
TRH: How involved do you keep yourself with the team's day-to-day operations?
RF: Well I currently find myself in Seoul Korea in bootcamp with the LCS team one week away from the start of the summer split. Beyond working with the team, I work very closely with our front and back office as well. Outside of my family and kids, it is on my mind every waking minute. In the last seven months, I can't think of an hour of any day which has not been a conversation about eSports and Echo Fox.
TRH: Echo Fox recently expanded into CS:GO and fighting games. Where would you like the Echo Fox brand to end up? What are your long-term goals for the organization?
RF: Stability, championships and making Echo Fox the premier eSports franchise.
TRH: Before Echo Fox, you were a well-known CLG fan. Do you still root for CLG in non-Echo Fox games?
RF: Outside of cheering for Echo Fox, I cheer for the eSports space as a whole. In most cases, what is good for one team is good for all teams.
TRH: Finally, the all-important question: when will we see Froggen's Anivia? It's like watching MJ without the fadeaway.
RF: Go to echofox.gg and take a listen to Froggen's latest opinion on Anivia. I don't think you will be seeing it any time soon.