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NBA heavyweights enter League of Legends series

NBA basketball franchises the Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will enter teams in next year’s League of Legends North American League Championship Series, it has been confirmed.

The three teams will join fellow NBA franchise the Milwaukee Bucks in the competition. The Bucks joined the series ahead of the 2017 season and is represented by FlyQuest, the team formed and backed by Bucks co-owner Wes Edens.

The Warriors’ team will be known as the Golden Guardians, while the Cavaliers’ outfit will be known as the 100 Thieves. The Rockets will be represented by Clutch Gaming, the team’s official esports venture.

The four NBA teams will be joined by fellow new outfit OpTic Gaming, and returning teams Cloud9, Team SoloMid, Counter Logic Gaming, Echo Fox and Team Liquid.

The series is organised by US video game developer Riot Games, creator of League of Legends. In June, Riot unveiled a new franchise model for the North American League of Legends Championship Series, switching from a system which previously involved promotion and relegation.

The Variety website said the 10 teams have paid $10m (€8.6m) each in a franchise fee to Riot Games. In addition, the four new teams are providing another $3m apiece as a parachute payment to the teams exiting the league – Immortals, Team Envy, Phoenix1 and Team Dignitas.

Kirk Lacob, vice-president of Golden State Warriors Sports Ventures, said, according to the ESPN.com website: “As we take our first steps onto the Rift as the Golden Guardians, we're excited to join the NA LCS and the League of Legends esports community.

“We are approaching our membership in this elite esports community with respect and admiration. It's our hope to bring our championship sports roots to our new playing field and contribute to growing the league on a global level.”

Jared Kennedy, co-head of esports at Riot Games, added: “The NBA is a forward-thinking league. They brought to the table a lot of capabilities in areas that we thought would take the league where we wanted to go.

“We didn't set out with a mission to get a set number of NBA teams into the league – (we were) more looking for individuals who were passionate about what we're trying to do and the skills that we needed to make that happen. It's also to the NBA's credit (that) they were really interested in esports early on.”