This weekend, NFL star Le’Veon Bell partnered up with Team Liquid and Smash pro Juan ‘Hungrybox’ Debiedma to present ‘The Box’, an 8,000 player Smash Ultimate tournament. What’s even more notable, however, is that the New York Jets running back not only played in the tournament, but went on a run that would rival many top players.

With an overall record of 7-2, Bell, competing under the tag ‘Juic326’, blazed a path through the bracket before getting knocked out just before the round of 256. An early loss in pools put him on the back foot right out of the gate, but the All-Pro running back remained stalwart and won 4 sets in a row in the losers bracket to put himself on the cusp of the tournament’s third stage. 

Although he didn’t face any top players during his tournament run, Bell did manage to  finish in a tie alongside some of the game’s top talents. Players like Alexis “Goblin” Stennett and Jonathan “Venia” Grullon were just a few that Bell either outplaced or finished in a virtual tie with. 

This wasn’t Bell’s first Smash Ultimate tournament, either. The NFL Pro-Bowler competed at a local tournament in Ohio back in January. And, in a similar fashion to that event, Bell played his now-signature Mega Man throughout the entirety of ‘The Box’.

This time around, however, the stakes were a little bit higher. With just over 8,000 players competing for a top prize of $2,500, ‘The Box’ is easily the most high-profile Smash tournament of the past few months. 

And frankly, it wouldn’t be totally unreasonable to assume that this trend of Smash Ultimate tournaments becoming more accessible and more lucrative isn’t going away any time soon.

With a large majority of the tournaments in the online age being completely free to enter, as well as not being locked to a certain in-person venue, Smash players from around the globe can compete at rates never seen before. With this in mind, major tournaments are capitalizing and pumping money into the scene while a wave of new or casual players might be experiencing the game’s tournament scene for the first time.

As for ‘The Box’, Le’Veon Bell’s bracket run may have come to a close yesterday, but the tournament is still scheduled to wrap up later today as the field of 8,192 has been whittled down to just 32. 

Media Credit: Nintendo, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Twitter: @LiquidHbox, VGBootCamp