Podcast video topics and time stamps:
4:50 – The Golden State Warriors’ NA LCS application
8:59 – What do the Golden State Warriors bring to esports?
16:37 – Why go with an all-NA roster?
26:28 – A lot of traditional sports orgs have failed in esports, should we be more skeptical of sports orgs entering esports?
31:46 – All about “add carries”
41:59 – How do you make people into Golden Guardians fans?
45:48 – Charisma in the NA LCS
1:01:46 – Do the Golden Guardians plan on espanding into other esports?
1:06:18 – What does the best case scenario look like for the Golden Guardians in 2018, beyond winning.
The Golden State Warriors-owned Golden Guardians are one of four new organizations joining the 2018 NA LCS, but their head of esports, Hunter Leigh, is no stranger to League of Legends. He’s a former Rioter, and last worked for Yahoo Esports running tournaments. He’s the guy the Golden State Warriors have entrusted with their esports brand, but the growing pains have been noticeable.
The Golden State Warriors brought their League of Legends players up to San Francisco to be introduced during an NBA game, but the announcer called AD carry Matthew "Deftly" Chen the team's "add carry," which immediately led to some derision on Twitter and Reddit. But Leigh isn't put off by that. If anything, it's a good sign of what's to come from the Warriors' entrance into esports.
“There’s some magical moments that I’ll remember the rest of my life, and that was certainly one of those,” Leigh said on theScore esports podcast. “You take the good with the bad, you focus a lot on making sure that people knew these guys have handles, and how to pronounce these handles, and it never occurred to me to go over positional pronunciation. And so, the Warriors PA guy who does every announcement that happens, from the roster introduction at the beginning of the game, to ‘you have lights on in the parking lot’ or whatever, start to finish, he mispronounced something. That’s okay.
“These players are getting introduced in front of 15,000 fans, and more than anything it speaks to how seriously the Warriors are taking this, that they want their players up here in front of their fans. That the Guardians are a Warriors team, these guys are Warriors players and this is part of being in the family. There’s some good with the bad. We’re fine with rolling with the memes. Deftly is our ‘add carry,’ right? And if that comes out that he is adding value to the team from start to finish or whatever stupid sort of spin we’ll put on that over time, so be it. Far be it from me to try to dictate to the internet what memes about our team should stick and what shouldn’t.”
Leigh says that the Warriors’ aren’t trying to dictate how fans see them, and they aren’t trying to take that video off the internet. The team doesn’t have an identity just yet, but Leigh is quick to point out that, in League of Legends at least, winning is the fastest way to build a team’s identity. But Leigh also understands that winning isn’t everything, and that a team needs personalities to thrive.
“I think it’s difficult to predict who is going to catch on and why, and what sort of holds on to there,” Leigh said. “But I think you hope for consistent throughlines in the kinds of personalities you have and what they say about your team. I think our guys are great, I really do. I enjoy their personalities and they are sort of fun to spend time with. Having them up here was really nice to sort of get to know them better. I am confident that as…LCS fans [and] League of Legends fans, get to now these guys better they’ll see the same thing and become fans of our team and of our players.”
But there is something more notable about those players. The Golden Guardians’ roster is the only all-North American roster in the 2018 NA LCS. No Korean or European imports to speak of, while every other team has at least one. Leigh says that while the Guardians didn’t set out to make an all-NA roster as some sort of statement, he believes that the team is oriented towards development, with some of the best players at their roles on the roster.
“I would say it’s not intentional, but it’s not coincidence either,” he said. “We talked to everybody. We talked to NA residents [and] non-NA residents. I was on the phone with Korean players and European players. Throughout this whole deal we had sort of build a bunch of different scenarios, some of which involved bringing players in, some of them focusing more on North American players and just trying to find the right balance. And so, in the end, I think often when you head down one direction, it makes a lot of sense to keep going. The scenario that we ended up with is a kind of young guns, development-oriented scenario. Often the best player at the role, and that upside age mix, was a North American player. That’s just sort of how it ended up.”
But that all NA roster is a risk, much like the Golden State Warriors’ entrance into esports is a risk. Nothing is a guaranteed failure, but the Golden Guardians are not a guaranteed success either. The all-NA roster is mostly unproven, and their focus on development could lead to some rocky seasons ahead. Plus, several other sports-backed esports organizations have floundered in the NA LCS in the past.
But according to Leigh, the Warriors understand that. They know it’s a risk, they know others have failed, and they’re willing to give this a shot because they know it’s important to be here.
“All of this is a risk, going back to why I think they were such a great partner for me, they understand there’s a lot of risk involved here,” Leigh said. “They have friends at the 76ers who were in the process at the same time, and who had had positive experiences and negative experiences. I think everybody should be bringing a healthy dose of skepticism to everything that esports does, because it’s not like we figured this out yet. We’re failing at aspects of this all the time. All of that being said, I don’t think you look at traditional sports coming in and the struggles that they’ve had and should say like ‘oh well that means sports teams don’t know how to do this and we shouldn’t bring them involved.’ I think what you look at that and say is there are ways that this works and there are ways that this doesn’t and we should learn from that.
“There is far more that an esports franchise has in common with a sports franchise than they don’t. And the sort of avenues of business success and competitive success that the two are undergoing are in a lot of ways similar. There are a ton of differences , a ton of differences, but I think if you look at where esports wants to be, if you look at the growth people in the Overwatch League or people far more quietly at Riot are out there talking about, you need to look at sports teams to figure out why they’ve been successful and what of that translates over.”
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.
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Source: The Score LoL