Rick Fox and Shaquille O’Neal have become two of the most popular celebrity names to pop up in esports in the last year. Rick Fox’s Echo Fox, which has League of Legends and Counter-Strike teams and players in Street Fighter V and Super Smash Bros, entered the space late last year. NRG was founded at about the same time by minority owners of the Sacramento Kings, and Shaq — alongside other pro athletes Jimmy Rollins and Alex Rodriguez — invested earlier this year.
But who’s got the edge between the NBA champions and former teammates? Let’s investigate.
From 1992-2011, O’Neal was one of the most dominant players in the NBA. Over his career, Shaq won four NBA Championships over 19 NBA seasons, was a 15-time All-Star and won the league’s MVP in 2000. In addition to his all-star selections, Shaq was chosen for 14 All NBA teams. The famous, “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy became popular because of Shaq’s abysmal 52.7 career free throw percentage. At his 2011 retirement, Shaquille O’Neal was widely recognized as one of the greatest players ever to compete in the NBA. Since then, Shaq has become a beloved TV analyst on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” along with Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Kenny, “the jet” Smith.
Drafted to the Celtics a year before Shaq came into the league, Fox had a 13-season long career between the Celtics and the Lakers. With just one fewer championship than Shaq, Fox was a part of one of the best NBA teams of all time and was actually a teammate of Shaq and Kobe Bryant. His career was rather unpronounced aside from that, as he was mostly known as a role player. After his Career, Fox had several appearances in both TV and movies.
The intertwined careers of O’Neal and Fox have carried over to esports, with Fox starting Echo Fox last year and O’Neal investing in NRG earlier this year, and their paths have continued to cross. Echo Fox and NRG were the two last place finishers in the 2016 summer split of the League of Legends Championship Series, respectively, with NRG going 4-14 and Echo Fox 1-17. In Counter-Strike, though both teams did compete in Turner’s ELEAGUE, neither made it past the group stage. Echo fox is ranked 156th in GosuGamers’ CS:GO rankings, and 28th in North America. NRG is ranked 52nd in the world and 12th in North America. The odd coincidence is that though both players were wildly successful playing together on the Los Angeles Lakers, neither’s organization has been able to find the same success in esports just yet.
Echo Fox and NRG have competed against each other on a handful of occasions. They played in the elimination match of the LCS relegation tournament, with Echo Fox beating NRG 3-0 to remain in the LCS for next split. In CS:GO, however, NRG beat Echo Fox 2-0 in their lone matchup in the Esports Championship Series.
WINNER: RICK FOX
Fox is certainly the more involved owner/investor. On Inside the NBA, O’Neal didn’t know his CS:GO players’ names. Meanwhile, Fox invests a lot of time into his team and is constantly visible during the weeks of the LCS. He also did an AMA on Reddit this week that garnered a lot of attention.
Shaq was, however, the subject of a Counter-Strike commercial promoting ELEAGUE that was universally praised.
Fox and Shaq also engaged in a bit of a Twitter banter with former League of Legends pro Stephen “Snoopeh” Ellis.
— Stephen Ellis (@snoopeh) May 12, 2016
Fox later asked Shaq put his money where his mouth was and show up to an LCS weekend; he did not.
In the end, Fox has very much been the more earnest esports investor, but Shaq’s charisma is simply difficult to match. In the end, though, the esports community is probably the real winner for being able to bask in the glow of the high-profile people entering the industry.