Analyzing Hunter Leigh’s first two moves as new head of esports

Hunter Leigh: apprentice to Kirk Lacob (son of Joe Lacob, GSW owner)

The NBA champions signed a “Head of esports”. What’s going on here? There’s no denying the connection between esports and traditional sports anymore; the two have become one. November 20th, 2017 marked the beginning of a new era of esports — one where esports is one HUGE step deeper into the mainstream media. Hunter Leigh has a great opportunity. He can help the most popular athletes on Earth facilitate esports industry growth. Kirk Lacob, his mentor, claims he desires to bridge the gap between esports and traditional sports. Bay Area folks are really about their bridges.

Who is Hunter Leigh's mentor, Kirk Lacob?

GSW hired a “Head of esports”, Hunter Leigh, who reports directly to Kirk Lacob. Kirk Lacob joined Golden State’s front office in 2012. So, he’s one of the guys that built the Golden State Warriors roster. Without the Lacob duo: Kevin Durant would still have 0 championships. Draymond Green may have never become a household name. The list of impactful moves goes on. I bet Hunter Leigh will become an equally-cunning negotiator, capable of convincing top talent to join Golden Guardians. Hunter Leigh is quoted by the NBA, saying “I’m eager to hit the ground running as it relates to player acquisitions and building competitive teams.”

The National Basketball Association released Hunter Leigh’s work history, and it’s very impressive. He’s been an integral part of many large and reputable companies’ decisions (OnGamers, Riot Games, Yahoo! esports, and now an extension the Golden State Warriors), acting as a consultant of sorts. Mind you, OnGamers and Yahoo! aren’t the most successful groups in the esports space. Nonetheless, Leigh appears to be an innovator. GG needs this because many of the best players are disappearing into thin air (aka Team Liquid). Xmithie, Pobelter, and others are salivating at the mouth when presented with the large salaries made possible by Riot’s recent franchising deal.

Hunter Leigh’s early target: coaching

The Golden Guardians have really been pacing their player signings during pre-Season 8. However, there is a decorated, bilingual, free agent coach they’re eyeing. Team SoloMid’s former coach, Locodoco, is rumored to join GG. The Golden Guardians brand launched Monday, today being Thanksgiving Thursday, and still, no official announcement has been made. H2k’s coach, pr0lly, has already been signed by 100 Thieves (the League of Legends team tied to LeBron James’s organization). So, there have already been moves made on the coaching front.

Coaching is a huge part of the org’s success on the basketball side. Steve Kerr (after only three seasons) is considered an all-time great coach. GSW have made three consecutive NBA Finals appearances, winning two of the three titles. So, it’ll be fun to see if the Golden Guardians can replicate the org’s traditional sports success on the esports side. Doing so could mean ending Team SoloMid’s streak of nine consecutive finals appearances. If anyone can show you how to beat Bjergsen, it’s his former coach Locodoco.

Locodoco would make a great acquisition for any LoL team in North America or Korea. He has a bumpy history; it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows (as it started out with TSM). His journey with Team Liquid ended on an objectively embarrassing note, but he’s not all to blame for that. If you’re a fan of documentaries and League of Legends, Breaking Point features Locodoco and 2017 Journalist of the Year, Thorin. Breaking Point exposes many of his unsuccessful moments as a LoL coach. I’m glad to see his name involved with the NA LCS. Our region can use his expertise.

What are some reasonable expectations for Hunter Leigh and GG?

Let me be clear — if the Golden Guardians don’t compile a reasonably intimidating five-player roster by Week 1 of Season 9 (Spring 2019), it’s already time put Hunter Leigh in the hot seat. The bar is much lower for Season 8, which begins January 2018. Next year is all about avoiding the relegation zone, 9th and 10th place. Finishing in the bottom two too many times consecutively leads to losing your NA LCS position.

The Golden State Warriors have some of the deepest pockets around when you consider the sum of the team owners’ wealth, connections, and business experience. Given the state of League of Legends prior to the franchising deal, presenting League of Legends professionals with a hefty check is all it takes to begin the LCS journey in the good graces of players and fans alike. Not to mention, esports contracts cost a fraction of what the Golden State Warriors contracts guarantee stars like Steph Curry ($201,158,790), Kevin Durant ($25,000,000), Klay Thompson ($36,814,875), and Draymond Green ($52,408,695).

Furthermore, regarding what to expect in 2018, finishing in the top half of the standings in either Split would be a spectacle. Remember, multiple NA LCS teams are improving already-successful rosters. Fans can’t expect a newbie org of any sort to immediately dethrone the likes of TSM, Cloud9, and CLG. GG’s time will come at least one year from now, when franchise-level competitors (like Bjergsen and Jensen) are available and willing to move. That’s how the Kevin Durant move happened, and it’s how intelligent executives make names for themselves. Simply put, Hunter Leigh is responsible for turning the Golden Guardians into a Super Team. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it; it’s a good thing Hunter Leigh has time on his side.

What tricks are up Hunter Leigh’s sleeves?

Golden State Warriors (@warriors) have 5,000,000 followers. They’ve plugged the Golden Guardians since Day 1 of branding. Kevin Durant (@KDtrey5) has more than 17,000,000 Twitter followers and Steph Curry (StephCurry30) has 11,000,000. It shouldn’t be difficult to convince these users to Like, Retweet, and mention the GG accounts and generate excessive support for the new team. Esports doesn’t have any networks this large. 100 Thieves are an exception, given access to LeBron James (and the king’s 40,000,000 followers).

There’s a great opportunity for Golden Guardians to rival with TSM — a cross-town rivalry of sorts. The Golden Guardians share the Bay Area with Team SoloMid. Also, the Golden State Warriors don’t shy away from a social media scuffle. Their most talented players are trash talkers. Hopefully, GG takes this route as well. Competitive/playful banter fuels competition amongst the players, and it’s great entertainment for fans too.

Update (11/24/2017): Hunter Leigh’s LoL roster is official

The Golden Guardians have an opportunity to explode into an esports phenomenon very quickly. Reginald may lose control of the Bay Area to Hunter Leigh and the Golden Guardians by 2020. We’ll have to wait and see.

Thanks for reading. — @SheenSah