NRG adds Smite world champion Panthera to its lineup

Panthera after winning Smite Masters at DreamHack Summer 2016. Provided by Emma Andersson/DreamHack

NRG Esports has acquired 2016 Smite PC World Championship and DreamHack Smite Masters 2016 champions Panthera. That squad is currently competing in the Smite Pro League European Fall placement tournament and will begin competing under the NRG banner, effective immediately.

"This is a big step for NRG toward developing a winning culture," NRG Esports co-founder Gerard Kelly told ESPN. "These guys know what it takes to prepare and compete at the highest level. They are proven winners and we are honored they chose NRG to call home."

The team -- which consists of Peter "Dimi" Dimitrov, Kennet "Adapting" Ros, André "Yammyn" Brännvall, Emil "emilitoo" Stärnman and Craig "iRaffer" Rathbone -- was previously known as Epsilon Esports and was crowned the Smite World Champions for PC in January after beating Enemy in the grand finals. Following that event, the team parted ways with Epsilon and began fielding offers from other esports teams while competing under the Panthera banner.

"We've been approached by a number of organizations but nothing could beat the passion and support that NRG displayed," iRaffer told ESPN. "We're hyped to be playing under their wing this split and will be aiming to retain our World's crown."

Following the World Championship win, the team took first at the summer's DreamHack Smite Masters 2016 event over the likes of SoaR Gaming, Team Eager and OMG.A in Jönköping, Sweden. They recently began competing in the Smite Pro League European Fall placements on Aug. 26, and will continue competing in that event throughout the next two weeks.

NRG was first founded by Sacramento Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov, alongside former Team Imagine co-owner Gerard Kelly, with the purchase of Team Coast's League Championship Series spot in November 2015. Since its founding, the team has received investment from Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal, former New York Yankees infielder Alex Rodriguez and former Chicago White Sox shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

Shortly after that purchase, the team picked up a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive squad, but it's expanded most in the last month. In early August, the team acquired Luminosity Gaming's former Overwatch squad and several weeks later, the team signed former Team Liquid Super Smash Bros. for Wii U player Nairoby "Nairo" Quezada.