The Houston Rockets have expanded to esports and gaming, hiring a new director of esports in the team's front office, the franchise announced Thursday. The new director is former Team Archon chief executive officer and Namecheap head of esports Sebastian Park. No further moves for the team have been determined, and it intends to explore all options before making a formal investment.
The franchise, which has shown interest in esports before, hired Park as an experienced esports executive. He ran Archon, the esports team owned by famous Hearthstone professional player Jason "Amaz" Chan, from 2015 to 2016. Park, 25, is a native of Los Angeles and a Yale graduate in cognitive science.
"What really drew me to the Rockets was their ability to say, 'There are things we know, and things we don't know. We know the esports space is valuable, now let's take time and really figure it out,'" Park told Bloomberg Technology.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey spoke about esports on ESPN's True Hoop podcast in August, stating that if he was involved in any other sport aside from basketball as a career, it would be esports. He also compared esports growth to 1950s basketball.
The Rockets are the first NBA franchise to hire an esports-focused employee internally, but not the first NBA franchise to expand into the field. In September, the Philadelphia 76ers purchased North American team Apex Gaming and European organization Team Dignitas, quickly merging the two organizations and hiring new staffers under the Dignitas banner.
Additionally, Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber and Washington Wizards co-owner Ted Leonsis invested with a group into esports org Team Liquid in September. Memphis Grizzlies co-owner Stephen Kaplan increased his stake in Immortals around the same time.
Houston Rockets dive into gaming, hire director of esports