Boston Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko is the latest athlete to buy in to the esports world.
Jerebko purchased the rights to the Renegades franchise from Christopher "Montecristo" Mykles and Chris Badawi, his team's CS:GO position in WME | IMG's ELeague and in ESL, and the first right of refusal to negotiate new contracts with that team, for an undisclosed sum.
Jerebko said he originally planned to buy into the sport at the beginning of 2017, but given that the deal included the rights to negotiate with the current Renegades CS:GO team, in which four of the players had expired contracts, Jerebko said he had to seize the opportunity.
The Celtics forward signed the players, based out of Australia, and moved them into a house and training center in Rochester, Michigan, with a coach and a manager.
He also aggregated a Call of Duty team that was working under the name Ground Zero, formerly under the Dream Team banner. That squad will now play under the Renegades name and will compete in the Call of Duty World League Championship at the start of September.
Jerebko said his intention is to build a full team, which would once again field a League of Legends squad under the Renegades name, as well as Halo and Overwatch.
The deal to buy the Renegades was consummated in Las Vegas. Jerebko had come for the NBA summer league and there met with Tobias Sherman, global head of eSports at WME | IMG, who was representing Mykles.
The Renegades CS:GO team includes Aaron "AZR" Ward, Justin "jks" Savage, Yaman "yam" Ergenekon, Karlo "Ustilo" Pivac, Ricardo "Rickeh" Mulholland, Nicholas "peekay" Wise and Chris "GoMeZ" Orfanellis. The Call of Duty team includes Adam "KiLLa" Sloss, Troy "Sender" Michaels, Martin "Chino" Chino and Steven "Diabolic" Rivero.
Although Jerebko said he's aware that esports has very much turned into the wild, wild west, he hopes he can lend credibility to the sport. That means that Jerebko, who has served as team player representative for the National Basketball Players Association, doesn't have a problem with pro gamers having rights.
"The Call of Duty players we were negotiating with were under contract last year and weren't getting paid for three to five months," Jerebko said. "That's not going to happen with me. You get a paycheck on time."
That being said, Jerebko also said he expects his players to buy into his long-term vision.
"There are some guys in this industry asking to do six-month contracts," Jerebko said. "There isn't stability in that." Jerebko wouldn't give dollar amounts to deals, but did say that they are for one year with a one-year team option.
The Renegades League of Legends team was kicked out of the League of Legends Championship Series after publisher Riot Games alleged that Mykles intended to give suspended Chris Badawi an ownership stake, something Badawi's ban prohibited.
Jerebko joins other NBA players who have gotten into esports. Rick Fox bought a team to form Echo Fox in December and Shaquille O'Neal bought a piece of NRG esports earlier this year.
NRG's League of Legends team was recently relegated, but the team picked up an Overwatch team earlier this month.