Video games have skyrocketed in popularity over the past several decades. Now, gaming isn’t just something a few people are doing. Games are played by billions of people around the world on smartphones, consoles, and computers.
Video games have reached peak popularity, to the point where you can wager on them on the best betting sites in every country. One of the drivers of the popularity of gaming has been its association with sports.
Professional video game leagues are known as Esports, and many athletes have come out and showcased their love for gaming. This has served to make gaming bigger than it has ever been. Let’s look at some of the professional athletes who have dived headfirst into the world of video games.
1. Tyreek Hill
Tyreek Hill is one of the best players in the NFL. Known as Cheetah for his unparalleled speed, this wide receiver has been a fixture on the league’s receiving yards leaderboard for years now, and he is showing no signs of slowing down.
He is also a huge gamer and streamer. With more than 900,000 subscribers on YouTube, Hill has a massive following, and he shows his fans live streams of his big wins on Madden, WarZone, and Fortnite. He has already discussed his goal of retiring to launch an Esports career after a few more years in the NFL.
2. JuJu Smith-Schuster
JuJu Smith-Schuster is a unique figure in sports. While he has had some electric seasons, including a massive second year in the league, he is just as much known for his presence off the field. He is a social media star who is huge on TikTok and Twitch, and he is a devoted gamer who streams Call of Duty and Fortnite.
Smith-Schuster has partnered with the famous FaZe Clan, and in 2020, he announced that he was launching his own Esports team and a gaming house. He is all the way in when it comes to video games.
3. Devin Booker
Devin Booker is one of the top players in the NBA, a hooper who has lifted the Phoenix Suns into relevancy. He is also a celebrity who mingles with superstars like Kendall Jenner, but what some don’t know about him is that he’s a devoted gamer.
Booker is a huge fan of Call of Duty, and he also plays NBA 2K, a video game franchise he was a cover athlete for. He also streams and recently signed a partnership with ASTRO Gaming, a headset company. He is another player representing the merger of gaming and sports.
4. Antoine Griezmann
Antoine Griezmann is a famous French soccer player known for his role in helping France secure its World Cup victory in 2018. He is a talented forward who has shined during his career at Atletico Madrid, and he is also a huge gaming enthusiast.
He is known particularly for his love of Fortnite and has even done a Fortnite dance after scoring big goals. Griezmann has also had video game sponsorships, and he is widely considered one of the biggest gaming enthusiasts in soccer.
5. Rick Fox
Rick Fox is a unique case because he is almost known more for his love of games than his sporting career. Fox was a solid NBA role player, winning three championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. But following his retirement, Fox branched into Esports.
He acquired a North American League of Legends Championship Series team before a scandal disrupted the team’s run. Fox then invested in a platform dedicated to helping gamers gain recognition. He is a consistent follower of Esports, and his son is also noted to be a huge fan. He is likely the biggest athlete investor in Esports.
6. Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal is a loveable NBA player who has worn many hats throughout his career. He was a dominant hall-of-fame player, a movie star, a rapper, and a broadcaster. He has also been involved in the world of video games.
Shaq has appeared in many games and even created one, the legendary Shaq Fu fighting game. He is also an investor in Esports who has expressed his belief in the long-term success of the industry.
Shaq has invested in NRG Esports, a popular League of Legends team and Esports company that is worth millions of dollars. He did so after attending a large Esports event at the Staples Center.
7. Tony Hawk
Tony Hawk is the world’s most famous skateboarder, an international celebrity known for bringing his sport into the mainstream. Hawk was the face of the famous Tony Hawk: Pro Skater video games that were hugely popular in the 2000s.
Even today, there are Esports tournaments for this video game, showing the staying power it has. But his association with video games extends beyond that. He has also become a part of the industry by joining GameSquare Esports as a special advisor.
8. Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan is widely considered one of the greatest athletes of all time, a star shooting guard who won six championships with the Chicago Bulls. But his big impact didn’t just come on the court. He is a serial sports investor, who purchased the NBA franchise the Charlotte Hornets.
He has also dabbled in Esports investment. Jordan and his team of investors have put $26 million into the Esports franchise aXiomatic Gaming, who own Team Liquid. This massive Esports company has a huge portfolio of premier talent and a valuation in nine digits. They are one of the big players in Esports, and are funded by the legendary baller.
9. Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson was one of the most ferocious boxers of all time, a hard-hitting monster in the ring who has now gone onto an array of successful endeavours. Tyson was heavily involved in the Punch Out video game at one point, but his focus on gaming goes much deeper than that classic Nintendo brand.
Tyson has also invested significantly in Fade 2 Karma, an Esports team that is known for their success in Hearthstone. He has also announced that he will be constructing a new streaming facility in Los Angeles for the gamers that will also house a performance stage for tournaments.