HBO Ballers and Esports – a genius combo

Popular HBO show Ballers, featuring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson just announced that their latest and final season is going to be featuring esports.

More specifically, it will feature League of Legends: a new trailer was shown at the 2019 LCS Summer Split finals, actually.

It’s a perfect fit – naturally, esports are quite closely aligned with regular sports, sharing similar setups and team-based competitions. They’re not called ‘E’sports for no reason, and so a series focussing on a former NFL player is a surprisingly fitting framework for this.

HBO Ballers and LoL Esports

© HBO

Now in its fifth season, Ballers will see one of its characters make some hard choices and attempt a career in esports. Rather than just having one token episode, the show will actually feature the popular MOBA across the entire season. In other words, rather than an afterthought, the esports career of the character in question will be a central topic.

It really does seem like HBO is onto something here – and not just because of their liaison. In the trailer that was shown at the 2019 LCS Summer Split finals, Rick Fox made an appearance. He founded an esports organisation named Echo Fox and is quite a big name in the League community.

He’s also a former NBA star and 3-times champion and avid League fan – in other words, the perfect spokesperson for this particular collaboration. Featured along with Fox were the LCS studios and Riot Games headquarters, hinting even at possible filming locations.

We also know that teams like Splyce and Team Liquid are going to make appearances – while not necessarily all of the players themselves will appear, the teams will feature in the show, giving it more authenticity than esports fans could have dreamed of five years ago! Yiliang “Doublelift” Pang did feature in the trailer that was shown, so really, HBO is setting itself up for success here.

Whether you like the show or not, this is a major win for esports (and of course, great exposure for Riot). Professional gaming has come along way since its conception, and with high-profile titles like this including it, and not just in passing. Progress is anything but slow – esports have been gaining traction and exposure at a near explosive pace.

Even appearances on TV (or streaming services) aren’t news anymore – Disney signed a deal with Blizzard last year for the duration of the current Overwatch season. Games are being transmitted on some Disney-owned channels, including ESPN.

If that’s not primetime for esports, nothing is – of course, just the fact that esports are treated seriously now, rather than as a stereotype or joke proves how much public opinion has changed in the last few years. Despite that, the integration in Ballers isn’t supposed to just glorify esports – quite the opposite. As per the announcements so far, it’ll show all of it – fame, glory, money and the shady underbelly of an industry that is still relatively volatile and in flux.