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Pro Athletes that Play Video Games

Professional athletes playing video games is nothing new.  However, with the explosion of streaming (and the checks getting bigger), more professional athletes are looking to connect to their fans in a way that makes them more marketable.  I’ve noticed that some of the most talented athletes take to gaming in-between practices and during the off season.  It makes sense as athletes are extremely competitive and so are video games. 

Professional athletes playing video games is nothing new.  However, with the explosion of streaming (and the checks getting bigger), more professional athletes are looking to connect to their fans in a way that makes them more marketable.  I’ve noticed that some of the most talented athletes take to gaming in-between practices and during the off season.  It makes sense as athletes are extremely competitive and so are video games.  The trend has become so big that pro athletes are even starting to fund and compete on their own esports teams.  Some even interact with their fans via streaming platforms on a weekly basis.  These athletes, already making millions of dollars a year, are getting their sponsors to help fund their streams and teams. It’s quite simply brilliant influencer marketing.

A few athletes that crossover (pun intended) into gaming are:

Xavier Woods

Xavier Woods is one of the most entertaining WWE Superstars by far.  He streams constantly on his YouTube channel called UpUpDownDown (cheat code reference) has nearly 2 millions subscribers. He and his on air brethren, The New Day have become some of my favorite superstars in the WWE (Yes, I still watch wrestling.)

Gordon Hayward

If you saw Gordon Hayward when he was a newly drafter NBA player, you’d say he will probably sit on the bench eventually and game in the locker room after practices.  This is only half-correct as he turned out to be a star.  You wouldn’t expect it, but Gordon Hayward is a pro at StarCraft 2.  While other players played basketball overseas during the 2011 NBA lockout. Gordon was competing in a SC2 tournament for the $100,000 grand prize.  Gordon is also sponsored by HyperX to exclusively wear their headset during his streaming sessions.

jeremy lin hawks gaming
via Jeremy Lin on Quartz

Jeremy Lin

NBA champion Jeremy Lin said that he gets in at least 3 sessions a week of DOTA 2, even during the season, when free time is scarce.  He was even an analyst at a professional competition in the summer of 2015.

Because of its truly global nature, you’re also being exposed to people who come from different cultures and countries and religions than your neighborhood ball court. It gets you out of your bubble. The tournaments bring people from all over the world together—professional sports only do that during the Olympics or events like the World Cup. Teams are often made up of players from all around the world who have to learn how to work together and get along; there were 24 countries represented at The Dota 2 International last year.

Jeremy Lin

Juju Smith-Scheuster

Juju streams Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 several times a week, and has also grown into one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.  He has stated that he would love to game full-time, but football obviously restricts that.  He has also said that he would like to consider gaming professionally once his playing career is over.  That caught the attention of HyperX who signed Juju to a 6-figure endorsement deal in 2018 to wear their gaming headsets during his streams.

As you can see, athletes are capitalizing on their talents in both sports in gaming.  With their big personalities, come big checks!  Gaming companies looking to capitalize on personalities are turning to sports.  I could have named many more in this article, but who are some of the other athletes that you know are big gamers?  Let us know in the comments.

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