Kirk Lacob had always been a gamer, but he always wondered why gaming wasn't more professionalized.
Looking into the business opportunity for the first time two years ago, the 29-year-old assistant general manager of the Golden State Warriors discovered it actually was more organized than he thought.
Following the investment by Warriors co-owner Peter Guber in Team Liquid, an investment other Warriors owners including Lacob got a small piece of, Kirk delved deeper into the space. When Riot Games opened up the opportunity to apply for a space in the North American League of Legends Championship Series -- at a $13 million cost -- Lacob, on behalf of the Warriors ownership venture capital firm GSW Ventures, jumped at the opportunity.
"League of Legends is obviously best in class," Lacob said Friday, in his first extensive comments since making the investment. "It's a phenomenal game, and they've built a great infrastructure."
Key to the investment, Lacob said, was Riot's guarantee that teams who bought a spot had time to advance up the ranks and wouldn't immediately be relegated.
Out of the ten teams in League of Legends, many have NBA ownership backing. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, Bucks owner Wes Edens, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta and Knicks owner James Dolan all own teams, and Guber owns Liquid. Lacob said ownership details are being worked out with Riot so there isn't any conflict of interest.
While some might call the process of building the team so quickly daunting, Lacob says it's "exciting." This upcoming Tuesday marks free agency in the esport, meaning it's a much bigger race than just NBA free agency.
"It would be like the Warriors competing with Real Madrid for a player," Lacob said.
On Monday, the Warriors will announce the executive who will run the business before signing players becomes reality. Lacob says he thinks being associated with the Warriors brand will help the team somewhat, in recruiting and in building a fan base.
But don't expect Steph Curry or Kevin Durant to make calls to potential players just yet.