Nidal Nasser, the star point guard for Blazer5 Gaming and MVP of season 2 of the NBA 2K League, has become the league's first individual player to sign an endorsement deal.
The 22-year-old Nasser, aka "Mama Im Dat Man," signed with POINT 3, a basketball apparel company known for its patented sweat-absorbing technology, which can be important in the world of esports.
"There's moments throughout the game where your hand just becomes so moist, because you're gripping on the controller so hard, you don't realize it," Nasser told ESPN. "The grip you have on your controller allows you to make those quicker reflexes. It's so hard to explain, but that's the biggest difference. It's kind of like a gaming edge."
Having the perfect controller grip and getting rid of all factors that might prevent that can be the difference between winning and losing, Nasser explained.
"All of our gear is very custom designed for the basketball player," POINT 3 CEO Michael Luscher said. "So we went about studying gamers and esports in a similar capacity -- where will they wipe hands when they put their controllers down? What did their jerseys need to fit like?"
For Nasser, who was not even a top-10 player in his first few years, the endorsement deal fulfills a goal and "means the world."
The growth in the world of esports and gaming has escalated around the globe during the coronavirus pandemic, with the lack of live sports. According to GamStat, there were approximately 1.7 million new players for NBA 2K between April 17 and May 17, bringing the game's total players to 10.3 million.
The endorsement is likely to be a blueprint for esports stars and apparel companies moving forward.
"I want this to be the start of a flood of endorsements," Nasser said. "That way everyone can succeed ... and it blows up and helps validate [esports]."
Former NBA player Baron Davis, who is an investor in POINT 3, sees infinite potential with esports mixing with more traditional sports.
"I would say [there's a] cross-pollination between, you know, sports and esports," Davis said. "The athlete and the gamer -- and the athlete a lot of times is a gamer; the gamer is a lot of times an athlete. So we have this subculture taking ownership of their own space -- how they want to be branded and want to be presented.
"So esports is definitely not going anywhere ... and I think it's gonna be a great opportunity."