The banter between esports and traditional sports personalities can get pretty real—and today was no exception.
Following its esports debut—a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competition live at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas—Turner Broadcasting brought esports analysts onto its popular post game basketball show Inside the NBA.
The show was filmed live from CES and aired on TNT, with host Ernie Johnson and analysts Kenny Smith, Shaquille O’Neal, and Charles Barkley throwing over to FACEIT vice president James Bardolf, and esports analysts Richard Lewis and Duncan “Thorin” Shields, to talk about the matches between OpTic Gaming and Polish team Lounge Gaming.
After going over the games Shields turned praise for OpTic Gaming star Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan into a jab about Shaq’s 1996 box office flop, Kazaam—a jab that is right on point for Inside the NBA, which is known for its playful banter.
O’Neal was not going to let it slide, challenging the esports desk to a competition, in any game of their choosing, in a few weeks’ time.
“I’ll make you eat those words buddy,” said O’Neal. “We challenge you three.”
But Shields had his own idea for what competition they should choose.
“What about weight loss? Should we do that?” he asks O’Neal.
“What about muscles? What about boxing—when I come over there and punch you in the face?” O’Neal said back.
It was a bit of harmless fun from Shields, whose target was a man who proudly stated earlier today that esports was, in fact, a sport—an opinion that some of his peers may not share.
In the grand scheme of things, traditional sporting personalities accepting esports hardly means much for the industry, which keeps growing regardless of what doubters seem to think. But it also showed that maybe esports does belong on a similar stage, with personalities like Shields able to hold their own against O’Neal on live television (on a show that’s won nine Emmys), and not seem out of place.
Today’s competition between OpTic and Lounge was a lead-up to Turner’s ELEAGUE. Announced in December, ELEAGUE will run two, 10-week tournaments, which will air live on TBS. This year will feature CS:GO and a total prizepool of $2.4 million. For taking out today’s match OpTic has won a spot in ELEAGUE, which will kick off this summer.
Photo via DreamHack/Flickr
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