Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant said during an interview with David Letterman that he plans to own a Call of Duty team after he retires.
“I would definitely wanna do events like [Call of Duty tournaments],” said Durant. “Build a team. Build a brand.”
The tournaments that Durant referenced are sponsored by the Call of Duty League (CDL), a $300m organization with 12 internationally franchised teams. The league has struggled to retain viewership, and investment and ownership from a household name would go a long way towards seeing it succeed.
Durant’s interest in Call of Duty
Durant has long supported esports, a term used to describe professional gaming.
Speaking on his interest in Call of Duty, Durant revealed that he was a gamer who played “every day.” Responding to Letterman’s question on if it was a business that he would like to be in, KD simply responded “Oh yea.”
A few years ago, Thabo Sefolosha, Durant’s teammate with the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2008-14, told retired CoD pro Jeremy “Studyy” Astacio that the two used to watch competitive Call of Duty together.
In 2018, Canadian rap superstar and businessman Drake invested in 100 Thieves, an esports organization created and operated by former CoD pro Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag. As of December 2021, multiple authorities estimated 100 Thieves’ worth to be $460m.
Drake has been quite the brand ambassador for 100 Thieves, whether it be through his musical dominance, frequent appearances at shows and festivals, or his recent partnership with gambling company Stake, whom he has hosted sponsored gambling streams with on Twitch.
In 2019, Stan Kroenke, an American businessman with an estimated net worth of $10.7bn, used his group Kroenke Sports and Entertainment to found the Los Angeles Guerillas, one of two LA-based CoD teams, the other being Haag’s Thieves.
KD’s interest has not been purely registered from the sidelines; in 2021, he invested in NYXL, formerly Andbox, an organization that owns and operates the New York Subliners, one of the 12 professional CoD teams.
Other franchised teams are the Florida Mutineers, Seattle Surge, Minnesota Rokkr, Paris Legion (soon relocating to Las Vegas), London Royal Ravens, Toronto Ultra, Boston Breach, OpTic Texas, and Atlanta FaZe.
The future of the league
The CDL has not been the dream enterprise that many of the investors, who were required to pay $25m for a spot in the league, or players had hoped for.
Many of the players have taken to Twitter to vocalize their discontent with how the league is run. Veterans such as Austin “SlasheR” Liddicoat (of the Guerillas) and Sam “Octane” Larew (of the Thieves) have been front and center in condemning many of the league’s actions, whether that be a questionable regular-season format, confusing rule sets, or perceived missteps at the highest level.
One of the biggest gripes with the Call of Duty community is the league’s deal with YouTube, which owns the rights to all of the league’s streams; many felt that the league would be better suited on Twitch, which is dedicated entirely to live streams and housed previous generations of CoD tournaments, thus building quite the following.
The new Call of Duty game— Modern Warfare II— is rumored to have a life span of two years, which would make it the first in the franchise’s history to run beyond one year, but many are still worried that the CDL has not effectively communicated with the game’s developers regarding ensuring competitive integrity, whether that be developing functional maps, limiting unfair weapons, or creating competitive game modes.
Rumors of expansion have swirled since the league’s inception in early 2020, but the worldwide pandemic quickly slowed down outside interest and has even forced the league to delay payments from the existing teams. Durant, should he choose to invest, would have to wield his influence as a worldwide superstar and owner of Thirty Five Ventures to convince not only his internal network to move on a spot, but also get other interested owners on board.