Los Angeles Gladiators
|Founded||August 10, 2017|
|Team history||Los Angeles Gladiators|
|Based in||Los Angeles, California|
|Head coach||David "dpei" Pei|
|General manager||David "dpei" Pei|
|Parent group||Kroenke Sports & Entertainment|
The Los Angeles Gladiators are an American professional Overwatch esports team based in Los Angeles, California. The Gladiators compete in the Overwatch League (OWL) as a member of the league's Pacific West Division.
Founded in 2017, the Los Angeles Gladiators are one of twelve founding members of the OWL and are one of two professional Overwatch teams based in Los Angeles (the other, the Los Angeles Valiant). The team is owned by Stan Kroenke and Josh Kroenke of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, who also own Gladiators Legion, an academy team for Los Angeles that compete in Overwatch Contenders.
David "dpei" Pei was appointed the team's first head coach and has led the Gladiators to a season playoff appearance in every season.
Team creation: Joining the Overwatch League
On August 10, 2017, Blizzard officially announced that KSE Esports, owned by Stan Kroenke and Josh Kroenke, had acquired the second Los Angeles-based Overwatch League franchise spot. On November 2, as the twelfth and final franchise to unveil their branding, the team revealed the franchise would be called the Los Angeles Gladiators, as well as formally announcing they had partnered with Rob Moore's Phoenix1 (later renamed to Sentinels after the partnership) to help manage the operations of the team. During the same announcement, they unveiled their initial 7-player inaugural season roster and revealed the players were picked from a conglomeration of professional Overwatch esports teams to suit an "aggressive and fun" playstyle the team hoped to emulate as a reflection of their personality.
Early years: 2018–present
Los Angeles' first regular season match, played on January 10, 2018, resulted in a 4–0 sweep over the Shanghai Dragons. They finished Stage 1 with a 4–6 record in 8th place. The team finished the Stage 2 in fifth place with a 6–4 record, including a 4–0 sweep over the Valiant. The Gladiators finished Stage 3 with a 6–4 record in fourth place, which, gave the team the final stage playoff spot. The top-seeded Boston Uprising, undefeated in Stage 3, selected the Gladiators as their first round opponent; on May 6, the Uprising swept the Gladiators 3–0. The Gladiators finished with a league-best 9–1 record in Stage 4, including a reverse sweep over back-to-back stage champions New York Excelsior. The team unexpectedly chose the second-seeded Valiant as their semifinal opponents; the Valiant subsequently defeated the Gladiators in the stage playoffs by a score of 3–2. The team ended the season with a 25–15 record – good for the fourth seed in the season playoffs. In their first playoff series, the Gladiators faced the London Spitfire. Los Angeles took the first match, 3–0, but they fell in the following two matches to the Spitfire, ending their playoff run.
The Gladiators struggled early on in the 2019 season, losing four of their first five matches, and did not qualify for the Stage 1 Playoffs. The team hit their stride in Stage 2 with a 6–1 record and claimed the fourth seed in the Stage 2 Playoffs; however, they lost in the quarterfinals to the New York Excelsior, 0–3. The Gladiators' performance dropped in Stage 3, as they were only able to amass a 4–3 for the stage and missed out on Stage 3 Playoffs by one spot. With the implementation of an enforced 2-2-2 role lock by the league in Stage 4, Los Angeles won three of their first six matches in the stage. The Gladiators closed out the season with a 3–1 victory over the Los Angeles Valiant at the Valiant's homestand weekend at The Novo, giving the team an 18–11 overall record and the fifth seed in the season playoffs. The Gladiators began their playoff run with a 4–3 victory over the Hangzhou Spark in the first round, marking the team's first ever playoff series win, including stage playoffs, in franchise history. The win advanced the team to the first round in the upper bracket, but they fell 2–4 to the Vancouver Titans, sending them to the lower bracket. Los Angeles' season came to an end the following match, when they were swept 0–4 by the San Francisco Shock.
During the postseason, controversy arose among Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE) and management organization, Sentinels. Sentinels CEO Rob Moore filed suit against KSE, alleging that KSE executive Josh Kroenke had violated a verbal joint venture agreement between the two sides. In the aftermath from the lawsuit, it was announced that KSE and Sentinels would part ways, and KSE would officially take over management of the Gladiators on October 1, 2019. KSE would build up their own esports front office to manage both the Gladiators and a Los Angeles-based expansion franchise in the Call of Duty League.
The offseason leading up to 2020 saw several major coaching and roster changes, as David "dpei" Pei returned as the head coach and general manager, while only three players who were on the roster in 2019 would remain on the team (Aaron "Bischu" Kim was traded to the Guangzhou Charge in the middle of 2019 but returned to Los Angeles in the offseason as a free agent). The revamped Gladiators made their 2020 debut on February 8 in Dallas, Texas. With the Overwatch League switching to a "homestand" format for the new season, every team would be traveling to play in each others' locations throughout the season. Since the Gladiators had not taken part in the 2019 Dallas and Atlanta homestands, this marked the first time the team would ever play a match outside of Los Angeles. The team dropped the series to the Vancouver Titans 3-2.
The Gladiators were scheduled to take part in a series of homestands throughout China, however due to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the team instead traveled to South Korea for training. Shortly after it was reported that South Korea had become at the time the second most-infected country during the pandemic, the Gladiators quickly returned to Los Angeles and would self-isolate themselves within their team house. With every team facing a similar scenario, the Overwatch League announced the cancellation of all homestand events in March and April. The league also announced that all matches played during these months would be held in an online format. After seven weeks, the Gladiators would finally play their second and third matches of the season, defeating the San Francisco Shock 3-1 and losing to the Seoul Dynasty 3-0. The Overwatch League later announced the online format would permanently replace homestand events for the remainder of the 2020 regular season due to the uncertainty of the pandemic. The Gladiators released a statement explaining the team's support for this decision, and have since remained in Los Angeles to participate in their online matches.
The Gladiators placed as the 7th seed in the Overwatch League's first midseason tournament, the "May Melee." They defeated the Washington Justice 3-0 in their first game before being eliminated in the quarterfinals by the Philadelphia Fusion.
On November 2, 2017, the Los Angeles Gladiators brand was officially unveiled. The name and logo, a roaring lion head in a battle-hardened shield, were selected in spirit of the original superstars of sports and entertainment (as well as the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum), the gladiators of ancient Rome, whose ferocity and "willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice captured the hearts of millions of people of all backgrounds for centuries". Continuing with the gladiator theme, the team colors were announced as purple and white, inspired from the royal colors of the Roman emperors that the gladiators fought for. In addition, the written logo was revealed with a contrasting color used intentionally for the connected letters L and A in "Gladiators", to highlight the Los Angeles location of the team.
As an addition to their branding, the Gladiators began using the slogan "shields up" on social media, possibly a reference to the frequent use of shields by the ancient Roman gladiators as a means of defense. As a result, fans of the team have often chanted "Shields up" during the team's matches. When asked what the slogan meant to him in an interview, head coach David "dpei" Pei stated, "It's kind of like defending your team, like being there for your team … I think that's what kind of epitomizes the Gladiators' saying 'shields up.'"
Zayde Wølf's song "Gladiator" was used by the team during their last entrance of the 2018 playoffs. The song became popular with the team's fans, and since then it has been used by the team for almost every single one of their entrances at the arena.
Los Angeles Gladiators roster
|Los Angeles Gladiators head coaches|
|dpei||David Pei||November 2, 2017||–||2 years, 236 days|||
Awards and records
|Season||P||W||L||W%||MW||ML||MT||MD||Pos. (league)||Pos. (conf.)||Playoffs||Earnings|
|2019||28||17||11||.607||67||48||3||+19||5th||4th||Lower Round 2||$325,000|
All-Star Game selections
- BigGoose (Benjamin Isohanni) – 2018
- Fissure (Baek Chan-hyung)[a] – 2018
- Surefour (Lane Roberts) – 2018
- Bischu (Aaron Kim) – 2018
- Decay (Jang Gui-Un) – 2019
On February 15, 2018, the Gladiators formally announced their academy team would go under the name "Gladiators Legion" for Overwatch Contenders North America, as well as revealing their 6-player Season One roster led by head coach Gannon "RaptorZ" Nelson.
- Fissure was selected to the 2018 All-Star Game whilst a member of the Gladiators, but was transferred to the Seoul Dynasty in the offseason period prior to the All-Star Game and, thus, would represent the Dynasty while participating in the event.
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