On Sunday, HBO aired the last episode in the final season of the Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson-starring Ballers, which included a season-long League of Legends esports plot to cap off two of its characters' story arcs. During the climactic LoL Summer Invitational tournament, the Levitating Rhinos—the actual name used by a team made up of series regular Vernon Littlefield (played by Donovan Carter), a friend of his, three once-banned League esports misfits, and Russell Brand for some reason—face off against the storied Team Liquid, and the current LCS Summer champs ultimately lose a best of three match to the young upstarts.
Representatives from Riot Games worked closely with the Ballers team to ensure that the series' depiction of esports would live up to its relatively realistic glimpses into the world of the NFL (this season includes scenes shot inside the currently under construction Rams/Chargers SoFi stadium in Los Angeles, for example). Some scenes took place both in Riot Games' headquarters and outside the nearby LCS arena, including shots of cosplayers and other real-life esports fans in attendance at the arena.
SEMI-SPOILER ALERT: The final episode of #Ballers @BallersHBO featuring a @LeagueOfLegends story arc appears this Sunday, and Vernon’s team faces an extremely tough showdown against a team with a trash/talking ADC ready to pounce. Not saying who it is, just saying watch out... 😬 pic.twitter.com/qq1unAXHQQ— David Higdon (@davidhigdon) October 10, 2019
Team Liquid played themselves in the series finale in a scene that was brief but nonetheless gave some of LoL esports' foremost stars airtime on a prestigious television network.
This comes, of course, at the cost of a certain amount of realism. There's almost no conceivable reality in which someone who has devoted the majority of their life to football and not video games could lead a newly-formed group of players to victory against one of the most formidable teams in the scene, even if it could be assumed that he's being carried by the three actual League pros on his team—but of course, that's show business. For most viewers, this can serve as an entry point into looking into Team Liquid's many noteworthy accomplishments, as those to whom the loss will stand out as unrealistic likely already know about the team's history.
Vernon's unrealistic skill level aside, Ballers is really the only prestige drama so far to dedicate a significant amount of its runtime to the burgeoning esports industry, and in doing so, has provided a platform for actual stars from the scene to shine in front of a large, general audience.