Rockets GM Daryl Morey says esports is like '1950s basketball'

AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

As the esports industry continues to grow, another National Basketball Association team official has taken interest in the rapidly expanding field. On a recent discussion on ESPN's TrueHoop podcast with ESPN NBA writer Kevin Arnovitz, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expressed his thoughts on the industry.

In the interview, Arnovitz asked what Morey thinks of the growing, global recognition of basketball and the NBA. In response, Morey said he believes that esports will be one of the top-watched sports in the future, alongside basketball and soccer, due to global appeal.

Switching topics, Arnovitz asked whether Morey believes that esports is a sport, to which Morey said, "You tell me the definition of sport and I'll tell you if it fits it."

"Obviously there's a huge number of competitors, they draw a huge crowd, and have huge prize money," Morey said. "I think the latest one just gave out $9 million over the weekend. I think those [events] are coming out continuously."

The tournament Morey is referring to is Dota 2's The International, which housed 18,000 spectators at Seattle's KeyArena last week and boasted a $20.7 million prize pool. Chinese team Wings Gaming won the competition, taking home $9.1 million for first place.

When asked by Arnovitz whether he believes that people enjoy watching esports, Morey said yes, referring to the "let's play" genre of videos on YouTube, featuring a gamer or personality showing adventures in a video game. Videos feature multiple titles, including the open-world creation game "Minecraft."

"To me, when I was a kid, we watched terrible network TV because it was all we had. We watched 'The A-Team' and 'Knight Rider,'" Morey said. "When you go back and watch these shows or when they happen to be on randomly, you realize how bad they are compared to TV nowadays. My son is 14. He watches these let's play videos, people playing other in video games. At first, I was bothered by it, I didn't get it, but at the end of the day, if you go back when I was a kid, I watched much worse. These videos are more entertaining and more interesting than the bad '80s TV."

Ending off the podcast, Arnovitz asked if Morey could see himself pursuing opportunities outside of the NBA. While Morey reassured him that he will continue his work in the NBA, he said that if he were to go anywhere else, it would be esports. "I think it's the 1950s basketball right now, where there's that kind of opportunity," he said.