For those who are not yet familiar with the Overwatch League (OWL), let me fill you in. The OWL is a professional Esports league with 12 teams competing with one another through the regular season and the playoffs. The teams are each composed of a starting six and several bench players. Each week they compete with one another at different objectives in the popular video game, Overwatch. There are coaches, managers and owners on each team, as well as the players themselves.
If this structure is beginning to sound a lot like traditional sports that’s because, well, it is a lot like traditional sports.
In particular, I have found that the OWL is a lot like the National Basketball Association (NBA). This is not to say that Overwatch is like basketball, but the leagues themselves have similarities. In the NBA, teams usually have a starting five and rotation players to fill certain roles like three-point shooting or lock-down defense. In the OWL, teams typically have a set starting six and situational subs who may specialize in a certain hero or map type. As far as the structure of individual teams goes, these two are very similar.
There are even more similarities than this. In the OWL, for example, there are issues with players reacting negatively due to their view of the organization. If you follow the NBA, you may know a certain Kawhi Leonard that did something similar this past off-season. Both leagues also have their share of drama in terms of trades and things players do within the games themselves. Fissure being traded from London to LA was a league-altering deal, just like Kevin Durant’s move to Golden State.
After considering these similarities more and more, I started to see a correlation between the teams themselves in the OWL and NBA. Some of the players and team storylines are so similar, I decided I had to take a closer look and make some comparisons. Which teams matched up, you ask? Let’s take a closer look.
New York Excelsior = Golden State Warriors
Domination. Both of these teams exemplify it. Golden State has achieved its dominant place in the league through several All-Stars deciding to join forces on the same team. In doing so, they have become the “bad boys” of the league and have led many to call for structural changes in the league.
The NYXL has achieved dominance in a similar way. By bringing many members of a previously dominant Korean team together, the NYXL went a staggering 34-6 in the regular season this year. They also have the first ever OWL MVP, Seong-Hyun “JJoNak” Bang, much like Golden State has their respective MVP winners. The point is, outside of the hatred most basketball fans have for Golden State, these teams are just about identical.
London Spitfire = Houston Rockets
London are the first champions of the OWL. While they displayed the clutch that Houston has been lacking in recent seasons, the teams are still very similar otherwise. Each team is led by their deep threat players in James Harden and Ji-Hyeok “Birdring” Kim. They each also feature great supporting players in Chris Paul and Seung-Tae “Bdosin” Choi. Each team has been limited by injuries in the past. Sadly for Houston, it was when it mattered most.
Looking forward, if both of these teams can stay healthy, they will each be a force to be reckoned with. Each has a juggernaut in their path that they will have to overcome if they want to be champions. The OWL off-season will really start to pick up in September. Maybe London can get themselves their own Carmelo Anthony to support their already stacked lineup.
Los Angeles Valiant = Boston Celtics
The Celtics year ended in absolute disappointment. However, being such a young and talented team, there is a lot to look forward to as a Celtics fan. The same can be said of the Los Angeles Valiant. Just as the Celtics brought in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, the Valiant brought in Scott “Custa” Kennedy, and the team was totally transformed.
The Celtics young stars include Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum, which are sure to be the faces of the franchise as long as they can be kept around. For the Valiant, this is Indy “SPACE” Halpern and Brady “Agilities” Girardi. Each of these guys are only 18 years old and are the youngest players for the Valiant. Each team is going to live or die on their young talent in the coming years, as each looks to reclaim their respective division/conference titles.
Los Angeles Gladiators = San Antonio Spurs
While each of these teams has been relatively competitive, they are each plagued by issues with a single player. For the Spurs, it is the drama involving Kawhi Leonard this past year and off-season. This ended with Leonard voluntarily sitting out and eventually leaving the organization in a trade with the Toronto Raptors.
Fissure is now OWL’s Kawhi Leonard.
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) July 12, 2018
For the Gladiators, Chan-Hyung “Fissure” Baek, who controversially sat out during the team’s playoff match against London. There was a great deal of speculation why this happened, but it looks like it has to do with Fissure’s discontentment with the way his team was preparing for the match. Regardless, he sat out and his team lost the series. Recently, he officially made the move to an all-Korean team, joining the Seoul Dynasty. While I don’t think this makes Seoul the equivalent of the Raptors, it certainly solidifies the Gladiators as the Spurs.
Houston Outlaws = Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook is one of the most recognizable and loved players in the NBA. His swagger and determination make him a player that all NBA fans can at least appreciate. In the same way, the Houston Outlaws Jake “JAKE” Lyon is an absolute star in the league. He is, without a doubt, one of the most recognizable faces in OWL and is an absolute blast to watch. The Thunder also have Paul George and Steven Adams, both of which compete at the highest level at their position. Houston’s Austin “Muma” Wilmot and Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty display roughly the same level of talent at their positions.
Both teams look to improve after disappointing seasons. The Thunder are hoping the off-season acquisitions of Dennis Schroder and Nerlens Noel are enough to give Westbrook and George the support they desperately need. Houston may need to make some off-season moves of their own, considering their lack of a Tracer player throughout much of the year. However, with Tracer now less of a factor in the meta, perhaps no changes need to be made.
Boston Uprising = Utah Jazz
Boston is a tough team to compare to an NBA team. So few other professional teams did what they did in Stage 3 of this season, going a perfect 10-0. However, the Jazz have made incredible strides this past year getting Donovan Mitchell and working to improve players like Joe Ingles and Ricky Rubio. They also did quite a number on OKC in the playoffs. However, unfortunately for both teams, their seasons ended short with more to be desired.
For the Jazz, they will continue looking to strengthen their core as Mitchell grows into the All-Star he is likely to become. For the Uprising, they will likely be looking to acquire some additional talent in the off-season to compliment Nam-Ju “STRIKER” Gwon and YoungJin “Gamsu” Noh. Both the Jazz and Uprising each need one additional piece if they are going to be contenders. The Uprising will likely be looking to replace Kristian “Kellex” Keller after a disappointing first season.
Seoul Dynasty = Minnesota Timberwolves
What we all thought would be a good thing sometimes ends in total disappointment. The Timberwolves thought that bringing Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague and Karl-Anthony Towns together would make them serious contenders in the West. Instead, after a season riddled with injuries and mediocrity, the Timberwolves are left scratching their heads.
The Seoul Dynasty are living in much of the same shock after season 1. With seasoned Overwatch pros like Byung-Sun “FLETA” Kim and Je-Hong “ryujehong” Ryu, the Dynasty were expected to be among the top teams. However, with each stage, the Dynasty fell deeper and deeper into the middle of the league. After the Dynasty missed the playoffs and the Timberwolves got decimated by Houston in the first round, both teams will be looking to improve heading into next season.
San Francisco Shock = Philadelphia 76ers
Joel Embiid told us to #TrusttheProcess and now the 76ers are one of the best teams in the East. The 76ers are made up of several young stars and oozing with swagger. Behind Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Markelle Fultz, the 76ers are looking to compete with Boston for the East this upcoming year. The Shock has created a very similar culture in San Francisco. Even doing so without having to tank in the league for multiple years. Just half of a season was enough for them.
The Shock decided to assemble their team with the understanding that several of their top players wouldn’t be eligible to play until nearly the end of the first season, due to being underage. This led to a changing of the guard as Jay “sinatraa” Won, Matthew “Super” DeLisi, and Minho “Architect” Park all joined the starting roster halfway through the season. These three players lit a spark and led the Shock to an 11-9 record over the last two stages. A large improvement considering they went 6-14 in the first two. Overall, each of these teams are going to be ones to keep an eye on once these young players get more experience.
Philadelphia Fusion = Los Angeles Lakers
The Fusion are coming off a shocker of a season. Making it to the finals against London, the team has achieved a level of success that no one would have thought possible. The Lakers may be sounding very different right about now; however, each of these teams are made up of almost identical types of players. Most notably, the Lakers now have LeBron James, the demi-god of basketball. The Fusion, on the other hand, have one of the league’s deadliest snipers in Jae-Hyeok “Carpe” Lee. The teams are going to rely on these two very heavily next season.
Outside of this, the teams are each made up of an eclectic bunch of players that we would otherwise never pair together. The fact that the Fusions two main tanks are Joona “fragi” Laine and Su-Min “SADO” Kim is hilarious because they play the game so differently and have dichotomous demeanor. In the same way, the fact that the Lakers actually have Lonzo Ball, Lance Stephenson, and JaVale McGee is outright ridiculous. The Fusion have proven they can make the unorthodox work for them, will the Lakers do the same?
Dallas Fuel = New York Knicks
Each of these franchises seems to be in the midst of two unfortunate transition periods. For the Fuel, especially after the departure of Brandon “Seagull” Larned, it is the transition from a previously great team to one that is in desperate need of a restructure. Having lost a great deal of their team due to different mental health reasons, the Fuel will certainly be looking to begin the rebuilding process in season 2.
The Knicks have been living in a very similar world for the past few years. After the Carmelo Anthony era has come to a close, the Knicks have begun the long process of picking up the pieces. Kristaps Porzingis is about all this team has going for it so far. However, the next off-season could be a big one for the Knicks as they will look to pick up Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, or some other talent that can bring the Knicks back to their former glory.
Both of these teams have been great, have suffered at the hands of Father Time and now look to rebuild. The NBA and the OWL are both better when these teams are thriving, so let’s all hope this happens sooner rather than later.
Florida Mayhem = Brooklyn Nets
It only makes sense to stick with the themes of transition and New York, right? The Mayhem and the Nets are in similar transition periods right now. The Mayhem had an impressive run in Stage 2, as they won… well… three games. It was impressive at the time, at least. The Nets produced about the same level of impressiveness last season, netting (Ha, get it?) a whopping 28 wins, finishing 12th in the East.
Outside of similar performance, each of these teams are also composed of similar kinds of players. Whether you believe in the hype about D’Angelo Russell or not, he is clearly the leader of the team and could serve another team well. In the same way, Jeong-Woo “Sayaplayer” Ha has led the Mayhem and is clearly a top Widowmaker in the league. Each team has plenty of other respectable players that should be able to string together more wins in their next season. I wouldn’t hold your breath on either of these teams making it to the playoffs anytime soon, but look for them to be a thorn in the side of the teams that underestimate them.
Shanghai Dragons = Sacramento Kings
Oh boy. Comparing another professional organization to a team that just went 0-40 is no easy task. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I think the Kings are up to it. For those who don’t know, the Shanghai Dragons really did go 0-40 in the OWL this season. Some games were close, but most were absolutely not close. The team is led by the Queen of the OWL, Seyeon “Geguri” Kim, the only female player in the league and a very good D.Va player at that. Outside of her and some brief flashes of greatness from Weida “Diya” Lu, this team looked absolutely dismal in Season 1.
The Kings were not that bad last season, but the organization as a whole has represented this kind of mediocrity in the past few years. Similar to the hope that Geguri and Diya provide, the Kings are placing their hope in Marvin Bagley III and De’Aaron Fox. Each team still needs to make plenty of changes before we are going to see more wins or even a single win, but there is hope on each team. If you’re a fan of each of these teams, don’t abandon them now. The darkest hour is just before the dawn… We hope
The intersection between Esports and traditional sports is an interesting one and I hope to continue exploring this relationship in the future. If you have any topics you would like to hear more about as it pertains to this relationship, or if you simply have a different opinion on the correlation between these OWL and NBA teams, reach out to me or @TGHEsports.
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