July 19, 2017

Jared Jeffries Is All In On Esports

Jared Jeffries, like Rick Fox years before him, took a risk on something new.

The former NBA player and member of the Denver Nuggets' front office was brought in as the president of Echo Fox, Rick Fox's esports organization, on July 13. Since then, Jeffries has gone to Las Vegas for the Evolution Championship Series, interacted with players and started to get acclimated to the competitive gaming scene.

"When I was young and a 6-foot-tall 12-year-old, I started playing basketball because it was a new experience," Jeffries said. "Now even later in life, I get to have a new experience, a new challenge."

Fox's hire seems unorthodox on its face. Jeffries, 35, was on track for an executive position in the NBA. He's a basketball lifer, from his acclaimed collegiate career at Indiana University in his hometown of Bloomington, to a pro career that included stints with the Washington Wizards, New York Knicks, Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers.

But Fox, who also had a lengthy NBA career, went from an outsider in the esports world to one of its most prominent faces. He said he knows the transition can be difficult, but the experience Jeffries brings as a personnel manager and the dedication he showed with the Nuggets sold Fox on the hire.

"Jared was on pace to someday become a general manager in that league, so it's kind of a coup for us to grab someone of his talent and expertise, and the foundation has been laid in the NBA to bring those skill sets over to an industry that is growing and budding," Fox said. "Having made the transition myself, I knew it was possible, I knew it was something we'd bring him up to speed on."

This is another move that sets Echo Fox apart from most endemic esports organizations, although the announcement is not as dramatic as its owner's previous decisions.

Fox, along with partners Stratton Sclavos, Amit Raizada and Jace Hall, formed Vision Venture Partners, an esports-focused private equity firm, in April. VVP is currently exploring several esports titles, including H1Z1, which appeared on the CW Network a week after VVP was publicly announced, and Breakaway, the first release from Amazon Games.

"This is in no way, obviously, set. The foundation is not dry, as they say," Fox said. "We're leading, and that requires a lot of energy, a lot of passion to really forge an industry forward.

"We bring our own style, and Jared has his own imprint on the players. There will be certain things we look back on in a year and say, 'Yeah, Jared implemented that, and that's definitely an Echo Fox quality.' I want Jared to have his stamp on the players and org and to bring those ideas to bear and implement them."

Jeffries, who is 6-foot-11, stood out at Evo as he watched over the players' performances. The newcomer brought his team "great fortune," Fox said: Echo Fox players won two titles at Evo, and the Tekken 7 final was an all-Echo Fox affair.

That experience gave Jeffries his first idea: Work with the Echo Fox fighting-game players on their pop-offs.

"We got to work on their celebrations," Jeffries said. "They were overwhelmed with excitement, but you got to hold the trophy up higher and interact with the crowd more."

An unconventional lesson from an Echo Fox executive? No way. Fox loved the idea, and he had a chance to talk with Jeffries about a few more for the future, too.

"Over the course of the next six months to a year, he'll be getting up to speed, but he's already been thrown into the fire," Fox said. "The thing that stood out at Evo was the connection he had instantly with the Echo Fox family. He took great attention to detail to that, really sharing who he was, really having an open ear ... and immersing himself in the actual atmosphere.

"It's only one event, but now he's moved on to be involved in the League of Legends side of our organization, the Gears of War side. It's going to be a fun but also packed, filled month of downloading him."