Owners of the Golden State Warriors have chosen Golden Guardians as the name of their new North American League of Legends Championship Series franchise, sources close to the basketball organization told ESPN on Wednesday.
The Golden Guardians are among four new teams in the North American League Championship Series. Other newcomers include Houston Rockets-owned Clutch City Gaming, 100 Thieves, which will be owned by the Cleveland Cavaliers and affiliated venture capital firms, and OpTic Gaming, which recently received investment from Texas Rangers co-owner Neil Leibman.
The six other teams accepted in the league participated in the 2017 season. Those include Cloud9, Counter Logic Gaming, Echo Fox, FlyQuest, Team Liquid and Team SoloMid. The 2018 season will start Jan. 19 at the Riot Games LCS studio in Santa Monica, California.
A push to apply for the league was led by Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob and his son, assistant GM Kirk Lacob. The initial application for a franchise spot in the League Championship Series was made by GSW Esports LLC, ESPN has learned, which is a subsidiary of GSW Sports Ventures LLC, the venture capital arm of the Warriors. That application was accepted as-is by Riot Games in October, but no team participation agreement has been signed.
The new team, however, will likely not be owned directly by GSW Esports LLC due to conflict of interests between Warriors ownership and that of esports teams Cloud9 and Team Liquid, sources said. The Warriors declined to comment.
Team Liquid's parent organization aXiomatic has ownership that includes Warriors co-executive chairman Peter Guber and several other Warriors owners. Cloud9 also has minority ownership from venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya, who is also an owner of the Warriors.
It is unlikely that Guber or Palihapitiya dissolves their ownership stake in Liquid or Cloud9, sources said, and therefore, Riot Games is unlikely to allow the Warriors entity to own the slot. A definite organizational structure for the Golden Guardians is not yet final.