Shortly before the end of 2016, the Philadelphia 76ers made headlines by becoming the first NBA team to directly invest in an esports organization. Their team of choice? Dignitas, who began life as one of the original LCS teams, before dropping out via relegation last year. The Miami Heat was not to be out done, though: recently, they announced their partnership with the Misfits, a scrappy team who only formed as an organization this May.
While both Dignitas and Misfits had their start in League of Legends, the site of the first throwdown between these newly minted NBA proxies was actually in Heroes of the Storm. The Heroes Global Championship, Blizzard’s revamped tournament for their MOBA, kicked off this morning with a match between the two, and so far, the Miami Heat seems to have made a better investment. In the best of five, the Misfits didn’t concede a single match to their rivals, Dignitas.
That’s not to say their victory came easily, though; the first two games were incredibly close. Despite taking a pummeling in the beginning of the game, Dignitas managed to swing momentum in their favor on the first map, winning fight after fight in a seemingly miraculous comeback—until, of course, they were undone by a single mistake. In the second round, a slip-up in the late game by Misfits almost led to a game-ending push, with Dignitas coming within inches of victory; timely respawns, and some heroics from Dennis “HasuObs” Schneider, turned the tide and led to a second win for Misfits.
In the third game, Dignitas tried something different. By locking in Stitches and Medivh during the draft, they looked to be bringing out the nightmarish “Portal Gorge” pick composition that’s been haunting the halls of Quick Match. But an early deficit forced the Stitches onto a different ultimate, and the strategy unraveled soon after. Our interview yesterday with Manuel “Grubby” Schenkhuizen did predict an increase in “spicy pocket strategies,” which this one certainly qualified as, even if it wasn’t spicy enough.
Another of Grubby’s predictions came true during the matches, too: Ragnaros, who was added to the game after the end of 2016’s professional season, proved to have a tremendous impact, being taken by the Misfits in all three games. Over and over, fights would be decided by a catastrophic Sulfuras Smash, or a destroyed fort taken over by the Firelord.
Close or not, it’s clear that the Miami Heat picked the superior team, at least in Heroes of the Storm. Of course, Dignitas fields players in League of Legends, Overwatch, SMITE and CS:GO. Will one of their other teams do better? Or will the 76er curse of mediocrity apply to esports, too?