Rick Fox Talks Echo Fox, The Future of eSports And Staying In The LCS

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Rick Fox The Score Esports

On the hardwood, former Boston Celtic and L.A. Laker Rick Fox knows what it takes to win on the biggest stage. Mixing athleticism, smart and grit, Fox achieved his dreams of a NBA championship in front of thousands in the stands and millions at home. After his basketball career ended, the sold out arenas and millions of fans watching would continue for Fox, but it has nothing to do with basketball.

The actor, entrepreneur and NBA champ started his own League of Legends team called Echo Fox. The team struggled in the Summer Split, but managed to fight its way out of relegations to keep its spot in the LCS.

Since its creation, the franchise has expanded into Call of Duty, Super Smash Bros. and Street Fighter. Even though eSports is a booming industry growing bigger every year, there’s still a stigma about professional gamers not being athletes. Fox is trying to spread the message that pro gamers are just as “athletic” as any other professional athlete.

“I want to focus more on the inclusion of eSports and less about its difference to traditional sports,” Fox says. “I aspire for my players to understand what it means to be an NBA player, all the sporting expressions, because those are other athletes that compete at the top level.”  

Fox believes there is a parallel between pro gamers and traditional athletes. People will always be skeptical, but he wants to prove the doubters wrong.

“Basketball players would question the athleticism of baseball players, football players would question NBA players, that’s just the ego, the machismo in play” Fox said. “It’s not inclusive, I’d much rather celebrate a MLB player for his excellence and hand eye coordination.

“The difference between good, great and legendary is from the shoulders up in any sporting environment, as high as 90 percent,” Fox continued. “It doesn’t matter if you have all the athleticism and all the physical tools, you need to be great above the shoulders.”

The work ethic required to achieve greatness in eSports can be like any other athlete at the top of his or her game.

“Find me any professional athlete that can focus for five hours in intense, stressful competition, I’m impressed,” Fox said. “You have to push yourself to be the best in whatever your job or passion is, there’s a chance you’re going to be injured, I speak to these players as professional athletes and realize that it’s a lot like I was doing. The push, the intensity, the drive, they are all there. I just used different parts of my body to execute my skills.

“It’s a passion of mine, but it’s still in the startup phase, it requires the culture to be set, the infrastructure to be built, and a lot of my own expertise,” Fox said.

Fox has been around some of the greatest franchises in sports history in the NBA, and has worked with legendary coaches and players first hand.

“I talk to them in terms of team and preparation as if I was talking to Shaq or Kobe” says Fox.

Esports has really blown up in the last five years and hasn’t really had time to develop an infrastructure. Stories about players getting abused or not getting paid have started to pop up recently.

Fox thinks eSports needs a better structure in order for the industry to grow. Unsurprisingly, he stands by the idea of a player’s union. “A player’s union will 100 percent benefit the players, it’ll create a stronger voice, it’ll create an opportunity for them to represent themselves and allow them to bargain for things that are important to them,” Fox said.

He’s even for an ownership coalition that would allow collective bargaining between owners and publishers.

“The spotlight is on us as an industry” Fox said. “As we become more sustainable and more involved with the culture meta, the zeitgeist of what people know, then the individual owners of the franchises, the publishers will create a sense of responsibility and create a structure that deals with the issues. In order for the industry to be sustainable, we have to take care of it.”

Echo Fox is already on the forefront of eSports team infrastructure. It has a full-time managerial staff and a state of the art training facility.

“It’s our lab, as I call it, in any franchise you hope to have your base camp you can call home and deconstruct and construct what you hope to accomplish and work on what you're falling short of,” Fox said. “Our players spend the majority of their time here so we want it to be comfortable; we want to recreate an atmosphere that is conducive to them improving.”

Fox is involved with his players as much as possible. He visits the guys in the League of Legends house almost every day and watches every match. “I spent six hours yesterday with the coaching staff, I’m preparing for the week, this is kind of the off season for me with the NBA, which allows me to focus on a lot of the day-to-day operations” Fox said.

An average week for an Echo Fox League of Legends player goes like this: On Monday and Tuesday, the team sits down with Echo Fox’s analysts and deconstruct what worked and what didn’t in last week’s games. Starting on Wednesday, the team will start preparing for the next week’s games by watching VODs of their opponent’s LCS games and create a gameplan.

Currently, Echo Fox is not working on developing a League of Legends Challenger team.

“We are more focused on trying to build out our roster,” Fox says. “We want to be able to train everyone in-house and create a support network where good players can play against each other, we want to bolster our roster, we have a Challenger team on our radar, but not this split.”

There’s a long road ahead before the traditional world considers eSports and traditional sports the same. Still, if anyone can do it, it’s Rick Fox.

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