If you're reading this, you probably know what Nike is. You probably own a pair of their shoes or bought some clothes from them, or have sports equipment from them. If you own Jordans, or a pair of Converse, or even the Nike iPhone case (I can't believe you bought that) then you definitely know who and what Nike is. A staple of American culture is what it is. The ads have been around since your parents were kids.
If you are an immigrant, you probably still have some sort of family history of Nike too. It doesn't matter if you're an athlete, a hipster, a hypebeast, or a professional, it's part of American history and our future too.
Now, do you know what the LPL is? How about "League of Legends"? Esports? Yes, it's just some kids playing video games, but actually, it's more. League of Legends is an online strategy game where 10 players are split on to two teams, and each member on the team plays a specific role. Some attack, some heal, some defend, and some tank. And there are 140-plus characters to play as, each with a different set of skills. On top of that, there are minions that help you during the game and some neutral monsters that either team can kill in order to get extra experience or if it's a dragon or baron, gives the whole team a crucial buff. The point of the game is to take down towers in three different lanes on the map and lead your team to the enemy base to destroy their nexus and win.
With so many variables and strategies, the game is extremely mind-taxing and requires both skill and intellect, as well as leadership and cooperation, to win. It's like a chess game but with added dimensions of difficulty. And like the traditional sports you see on ESPN (well actually, "LoL" is on ESPN too), the best players are heralded as professionals and drafted into teams to duke it out in region-based leagues. There's one in NA, and our players are pretty good but the best players are usually in China and South Korea. With the infrastructure of the league growing, the fanbase growing, and the viewership in the millions (2018's World Finals had an online viewership of around 100 million people) what's to say that this isn't a real sport? The mind is a muscle too, and there is a lot of importance on reaction time and decision making.
Tencent's League of Legends Pro League (LPL) is China's official "LoL" pro scene, and recently via a tweet on the LPL's English twitter account confirmed that Nike will be making the league's official attire. This includes jerseys and sneakers. Before smaller companies would produce the jerseys or each team would have their own provider of apparel. Not many teams have big clothing brands behind them though. This collaboration between an American company and the Chinese league is surprising, as in...why China? Well, even with the political issues between USA and China, the company that owns "LoL" is Tencent, a massive gaming corporation and thus, it's in their best interest to start with the country they know best. Additionally, bringing Nike to LPL makes Nike even more popular in China and with the number of potential customers there, it's in Nike favor as well.
With Nike backing LPL it further qualifies pro gamers as athletes as they mention that Nike is on the mission to support all athletes.
This deal, while a surprise to fans, isn't completely unexpected. Last year RNG (an LPL team) player, Jian "Uzi" Zihao, signed an endorsement deal with Nike to promote him alongside who else but the LeBron James. Many other western brands have deals with Chinese teams like Mercedes-Benz and KFC. And it isn't a surprise to see big names on the jerseys of "LoL" pro players, like seeing Intel, Monster, Geico, Mastercard, etc. Sports teams have their money in League as well, with many professional traditional sports teams investing in some teams, for example... Miami Heats backs Misfits Gaming and Golden State Warriors supports Golden Guardians. Rick Fox leads Echo Fox and Drake is partnered with 100 Thieves.
The leagues are quickly garnering the support of big companies, teams, and celebrities. Seeing Nike backing and the entire league just means that soon the argument against esports will have to settle down and if you don't think so, then check out a game sometime soon.