Renegades Owner Jonas Jerebko, Bolton Celtic’s power forward is a very dynamic and enthusiastic person with regards to esports. His involvement in the teams and their day to day activities show the level of commitment of a team owner.
He has been instrumental in getting the NBA to invest in Esports. It all started with the investment into Renegades by Jonas granting him the majority stake in the team. Since then he has purchased an COD team called the Dream team. He also recently added a third game to his arsenal in the form of a Super Smash Bros team.
“I feel like I opened the door for Swedish players in the NBA, so now I’m doing it with eSports, so I guess you could call me a trendsetter,” the seven-year NBA veteran, who was the first Swede to be drafted in the league in 2009, recently told the NBPA.
“It’s nice to see someone of that status get involved,” said Jeff Zajac, the director of operations for Jerebko’s Renegades franchise. “The NBA is what he does, but he’s actually active in the scene playing, he knows the space, respects the space—not just coming in here throwing money aimlessly around hoping things work.”
It is not only a hobby or something that he likes. Its also a business opportunity for him.
“If you don’t know anything about eSports, you at least know business,” Zajac said. “So you’re going to see those numbers and be, like, ‘That’s the market I need to be in.’”
He is not off the mark though. The Esports industry is growing at a frantic pace and that has definitely caught on the attention of several organisations and sponsors around the world.
Four years ago, the global eSports audience based on online spectators was 58 million, according to Zajac. By 2015, it had jumped to 188 million. This year, it’s been 218 million and next year it’s estimated to reach 238 million. Twitch, known as the world’s leading video platform and community for gamers, is in a unique class. A 2014 study by The Wall Street Journal placed Twitch fourth, after Netflix, Google and Apple, among the highest peak Internet traffic in the U.S.
Jonas is especially interested in CSGO as a game. It is his personal hobby, one that has been a long standing desire.
Because the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team was coming from Melbourne, Australia—coach Nicholas “peekay” Wise, manager Chris “GoMeZ” Orfanellis, and players Yaman “yam” Ergenekon, Ricardo “Rickeh” Mulholland, Karlo “Ustilo” Pivac, Justin “jks” Savage and Aaron “AZR” Ward—Jerebko wanted to make them feel at home in the U.S. So he arranged their permanent living in a house with seven bedrooms—one for each of them—in the Detroit area, where he has his offseason residence. He’s currently working on getting their visas.
“They’re just very grateful for the opportunity,” Jerebko said. “These guys were a couple years ago juggling jobs and trying to pursue a dream. I know that feeling that they had and they’re from Australia coming to a new country, so I just try to take care of them like I would take care of any of my friends when they came over. I set them up with a house like 5, 10 minutes from my house so I can go over there. I think that was important because I know how it is—they traveled from the other side of the world to come to Michigan and play for the Renegades. So I just wanted them to know that I cared and know that I wanted to support them.”
In the eSports industry, it’s actually not uncommon for teams to live together, which Jerebko is currently working on for the Call of Duty team. Its four members—Martin “Chino” Chino, Andrew “Ivy” Ivers, Troy “Sender” Michaels and Steven “Diabolic” Rivero—live in different parts of the country. Jerebko will have a house for them in the Detroit area in the next couple of weeks.
Zajac explained the importance of the all-purpose accommodations.
“You want to practice in that type of atmosphere because that’s what you end up going through at these events,” he said. “You have five computers in front of a crowd and people are screaming and cheering for you, or booing you, so you have to be able to just adapt to that. You’ve already been practicing next to each other in your setup—how you like, working with your teammate. Also, if the Internet goes out, you can still watch old videos together or do something else during that time. It just makes it a little bit easier.”