Professional athletes are bridging the gap between sports and esports

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster has partnered with HyperX and Nerd Street Gamers, as well as founding Team Diverge (Image: Brook Ward/Flickr)

There has always been a disconnect between esports and traditional sports such as football, basketball, and baseball.

However, athletes such as Golden State Warriors guard, Steph Curry; Pittsburgh Steelers receiver, Juju Smith-Schuster; and Arizona Cardinals quarterback, Kyler Murray have all either signed or collaborated with esports organisations and companies.

Not only is this a great partnership for these athletes who are investing in a growing industry that is sure to generate them income, it is also great for the gaming and esports industry.

Over the past few years, esports has had difficulty being legitimised by the people on the outside looking in. The Olympics have still yet to fully recognise any video game as an official Olympic sport, relegating esports to a small event held outside the Olympics and before the opening ceremony of the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) voted two years ago to not govern esports and has yet to change course.

But with athletes like Smith-Schuster, who created his own esports organisation and partnered with gaming companies like Nerd Street Gamers and HyperX, joining the esports scene, the industry has found a way to bypass those traditional paths of legitimisation and build a reputation as a real sport through other athletes.

As more and more professional athletes partner with esports companies and teams, it’s only a matter of time before large executive bodies fully recognise the industry’s legitimacy as a “real” sport.

Until then, these athletes will continue to thrive as a bridge between traditional sports and esports, and both industries will continue to see a rise in profits and popularity.

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