2016’s celebrity moments in esports

As esports continues to exist in a level below mainstream, the community excites itself over the attention of famous people. This year had plenty of that, and here’s a look at the most fun celebrity interactions in esports of 2016:

Shaq endorses Counter Strike and kisses Nairo.

Basketball legend and NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neil is no stranger to esports (and is a part-owner of NRG), and he made quite a splash at Twitch Con this year. Originally slotted for the Bud Light All-Stars Bash, he ambushed Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada and showered him with head kisses on camera. He also did some promotional work for ELEAGUE, which was probably the funniest promotional video to date. Shaq certainly appealed to the viewership of esports, and hopefully he stays for a long time for more quizzically comedic videos.

Serena Williams stars in Overwatch commercial.

Blizzard’s newest entry to esports made a large splash across the globe. Quickly becoming one of the most interesting games in 2016, Blizzard dialed the hype up even further by adding tennis legend Serena Williams into the latest Overwatch commercial. The current No. 2 player in the world also gave the game a shoutout by acknowledging her part through Twitter, and though she wasn’t a huge part of the production, it was still enough to make headlines across all manner of media.

Ice-T cuts a promo on Fnatic at ESL New York.

No one saw this one coming. Completely unplanned during ESL New York, the rapper grabbed the mic and trashed talked Fnatic after Team Liquid came from behind and took the victory. No words can do this one justice. You have to see it for yourself:

DJ Zedd plays the theme song for the 2016 League of Legends World Championship.

This isn’t the first time Riot Games hired a well-known musician for the title song of worlds, as last year featured the song “Warriors” from the band Imagine Dragons, who also had a close relationship with League. This year, Riot enlisted the talents of Zedd , and just like last year, Riot made an animated feature with the song, as well as hosting him in the opening concert at the Staples Center for the grand finals.

Steve Aoki jumps into professional esports with Team Rogue.

Steve Aoki, another famous DJ, became an investor in esports this year. A longtime gamer and occasional Twitch streamer, he bought a majority stake in the newly formed Team Rogue, which Counter Strike and Overwatch teams. The announcement was made at Twitch Con, and Rogue’s Overwatch team has since placed in seventh in the OGN Overwatch Apex Season 1 and fourth in IEM Gyeonggi.

Lupe Fiasco beats “The Beast” Daigo Umehara.

If you are even remotely aware of the Fighting Game Community, you know who Daigo is. If you are even remotely aware of music, you probably know who Lupe Fiasco is. The two icons collided at the reveal of Street Fighter V in February, and Lupe managed to win against one of the greatest FGC players of all time. Regardless of the context and conditions behind his win, Lupe certainly made a big splash and has been actively talking about the FGC since, firmly cementing himself as a member of the community.

Kenny Omega and Xavier Woods showdown at CEO 2016.

Xavier Woods is somewhat of a nerd, as people might say. One-third of the longest-reigning tag team champions in WWE history, he also runs a YouTube channel called UpUpDownDown, where he invites other WWE superstars to play games. Kenny Omega is a professional wrestler on New Japan Wrestling’s roster and also an avid gamer. Both wrestlers was offered an opportunity to face off in the aptly wrestling-themed CEO 2016, much to the fans’ delight. After talking mountainous piled of trash at one another, the two faced off and Kenny Omega won the match in a very entertaining 5-2 result.

Honorable Mention: The White House hosts a live gaming event with Twitch streamers.

Although not technically a celebrity endorsement or investment, it’s worth mentioning that the White House invited some noted Twitch streamers and professionals in hosting a live gaming event. As part of an effort to raise awareness of health insurance, the three-hour stream hosted a slew of games, and it’s certainly interesting the highest governing body of the United States took an interest in esports.

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