By Rick Fox, The Players Tribune, February 20, 2017
A couple of years ago, I saw something that left a big impression on me.
Well, I didn’t see it so much as I felt it.
I was standing in a packed Madison Square Garden and I could feel the entire arena shaking. That was something I’d experienced plenty of times during my playing career, but this time was different — instead of being surrounded by basketball fans, I was in the presence of tens of thousands of gamers.
I’d decided to attend the 2015 North American League of Legends Championship as a way of doing some bonding with my son Kyle, who is an emerging video game designer. Ever since he was old enough to maneuver a computer mouse, we’ve always been able to connect over our mutual love of gaming. So I didn’t approach a large-scale gaming event like some (maybe even most) people from my generation would have — that is to say, with an intense skepticism. I’ve always appreciated gaming as something that can bring people together. But that being said, even I was taken aback by what I witnessed during that event.
What struck me wasn’t that the crowd at MSG was completely different from what I’d ever experienced. In fact, it was the complete opposite. I played in intense rivalry games against Duke as a college player at North Carolina. I won three NBA championships as a member of the Lakers. I’ve been fortunate to compete at the most hallowed venues and in front of some of most passionate fans in the world.
Being at MSG for that League of Legends event brought all those memories flooding back.
I try to be in tune with my body and my emotions at all times, and what I experienced at that event left an impression on me. The level of passion and enthusiasm I witnessed was something I hadn’t experienced since my playing days. To put it plainly, I could say for certain that what was happening was real.
I walked into Madison Square Garden with no preconceived biases for or against professional gaming, and 48 hours later, it hit me — this was the opportunity of a lifetime. It was then and there that I decided I had to get into the e-sports business.
It made sense on many different levels for me. It would allow me to pursue a passion I shared with my son and to be part of a team competing at the highest level, and it was an opportunity to invest in an exploding industry at a very early stage.
But unlike my time with North Carolina, the Celtics and the Lakers, when the company I kept was built for me, there was no organization to join. And there weren’t any mentors like Larry Bird waiting in the locker room with words of wisdom. For the first time in my life in professional sports, there was no Red Auerbach or Jerry West guiding me. I would need to build my own team to support me.
That’s why I turned to Amit Raizada, with whom I had previously partnered in other successful business deals.
What I admire most about Amit are his vision, integrity and transparency, his knowledge of how to correctly structure deals, and his confidence. Trusting your ability is important in sports, and it’s also a huge factor as well in business. Amit worked incredibly hard behind the scenes, sacrificing much of his personal life for the benefit of the business. Most importantly, he was willing to take the time explain the aspects of building a solid foundation in business to me.
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