Sure, he’s allergic to peanuts. No, that’s not his enjoyable truth.
“The very first particular person to supply me a beer was Michael Jordan,” Zach Leonsis mentioned.
Leonsis, who graduated from Penn in 2011, is the Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for Monumental Sports activities and Leisure.
In 2000, Michael Jordan bought a minority fairness curiosity within the Washington Wizards — certainly one of Monumental Sports activities’ featured manufacturers. Leonsis’ father, the CEO of Monumental Sports activities, was set to conduct a press convention when he left a 10-year-old Zach to be watched by Air Jordan himself.
“M. J., who actually is simply probably the most great particular person you may think about, was making an attempt to maintain me snug,” Leonsis mentioned. “We have been making small speak and he supplied me a beer.”
Along with the NBA’s Washington Wizards, Monumental Sports activities is finest recognized for its affiliation with the NHL’s Washington Capitals, WNBA’s Washington Mystics, and the NBA G-League’s Capital Metropolis Go-Go.
Though Leonsis is concerned in nearly each side of Monumental Sports activities, his essential focus revolves across the media enterprise, enterprise capital acquisitions, and merger alternatives.
His duties embody new investments in digital media, sports activities betting, and eSports. Moreover, Leonsis has spearheaded quite a few efforts to push Monumental Sports activities to the forefront of its trade.
“I first began studying about eSports about seven years in the past now,” Leonsis mentioned. “I had heard that an eSports occasion in League of Legends had offered out a significant league enviornment.”
And that lit a spark.
“Nielsen additionally ranks D.C. because the primary marketplace for millennials and Gen Z,” Leonsis mentioned. “Now we have a accountability to launch merchandise, providers, and dwell occasions that match the needs and desires of our neighborhood’s viewers of our neighborhood’s curiosity.”
Underneath Leonsis’ purview, Monumental Sports activities made an funding in 2016 into Staff Liquid — a world-renowned eSports group which boasts 14 groups with over 60 athletes in video games akin to League of Legends, CS:GO, and Dota 2.
“We went to the NBA and mentioned now we have this nice lead with millennials and Gen Z, let’s double down and do one thing in eSports too,” Leonsis mentioned. “We have been an evangelist on the league degree and we have been one of many first 17 groups to launch an NBA 2K League group.”
Their NBA 2K League group, Wizards District Gaming, definitely hasn’t upset. In 2020, the group took dwelling the NBA 2K League title in a 3-1 best-of-five sequence victory.
Overcoming a disappointing loss in sport one, the 2020 No. 1 total draft decide — rookie level guard John “JBM” Mascone, a Penn pupil — led an impressive effort within the subsequent three video games.
Initially planning to take a niche yr earlier than attending Penn for tennis, accidents put him on a dramatically new path: eSports.
Although an entire 180 from tennis to 2K basketball definitely isn’t widespread, the rise of eSports amongst Mascone’s friends is trending.
“I believe the eSports viewers [millennials and Gen Z] is extremely engaged,” Leonsis mentioned. “Esports itself has transcended from being a type of leisure to essentially being a social media platform by itself.”
The youthful generations aren’t going dwelling and dashing to AOL Immediate Messenger to talk with their buddies anymore. Immediately, they’re coming dwelling, dashing to their units, hopping on Fortnite, and utilizing that to be social.
“I actually discovered the viewers fairly fascinating,” Leonsis mentioned. “They’re individuals that may by no means subscribe to conventional media sources.”
Whether or not you stream Staff Liquid on Twitch otherwise you watch the Wizards on NBC Sports activities Washington, you’ve Leonsis to thank. In truth, sensing Staff Liquid’s brilliant future, Leonsis even invited Michael Jordan to put money into the eSports franchise with Monumental Sports activities — and Jordan did.
If Michael Jordan had requested 10-year-old Zach Leonsis on the time, there’s no manner Leonsis would have anticipated to be as completed as he’s.
Perhaps at some point, it’ll be Leonsis providing Jordan the beer.