Player Retirements mean new players have to step up
LoL: 2020 Marks the End of an Era
League of Legends esports turned 10 years old this year. The 10th World Championship was one to remember, having played out completely in the Shanghai bubble, crowning Korea the kings of League of Legends once more. 10 years of players making history and engraving their plays in our hearts.
2020 was a turbulent year, starting with the LPL taking a huge hiatus in spring due to the Corona Virus. Most of the two splits across all regions were played without fans or just from team houses. The bright spot at the end of a rough year? A final with 2,000 fans attending in Shanghai as the world watched Damwon Gaming take the Summoner’s Cup.
This year saw many new players stepping up, young players like Huanfeng mesmerizing us with unreal plays, Caps showing off his dominance in the mid lane and Canyon giving us a show through his magnificent jungle pathing. But 2020 also marks the end of an era for older League of Legends fans. Yes, this is a boomer article, and a boomer is reminiscing about their favorite moments throughout the last era of League of Legends.
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I got into League of Legends around 2015, due to my obsession with Korea and Kpop. I admit, I initially began watching the 2015 World Championship with no prior knowledge of the game or players, but I fell in love with the competitive spirit and the excitement of it all, even though I didn’t understand 90% of what I was watching.
The final between the Koo Tigers and SKT T1 was the turning point for me. Seeing these young players out on stage, giving it their all made me fall completely in love with the Koo Tigers. This rag-tag team of players coming together to take down the giant that was SKT T1. Unfortunately, they couldn’t make it.
Throughout this time, I quickly became obsessed with watching videos to learn more about the teams I was watching and cheering for. One place I went to was OGN. Sure, most of the videos didn’t have English subtitles so I could only piece together certain things thanks to the excessive number of K-Dramas I’ve watched, but thanks to OGN, the first esports broadcaster, I could feel closer to the teams I was cheering for.
To hear that now in 2020, the initial esports broadcaster is shutting down is heartbreaking. This is the broadcaster that helped shape esports into the multi-million-dollar industry it is today. Without the early OGN Starcraft leagues or even the early League of Legends Champions Korea, none of the esports broadcasts we’ve got now would be as advanced as they are.
But of course, 2020 also marked the in which year many of our favorite players are retiring. The retirement which hit me the most would be the one of Song “Smeb” Kyoungho, the former top laner for KT Rolster and the Rox Tigers.
For most western fans, the retirement of players like Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg hit home. These two players were some of the most iconic faces in esports. Doublelift was known for his trash talk, while Bjergsen represented clean gameplay and someone who could carry any lineup to Worlds.
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The early retirement of Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao was also a hard pill to swallow. Due to health reasons the player had to step back from competitive play without ever having won a World Championship, something which still stings. Uzi has been known as one of the, if not the, best laner in all of League of Legends. His strive for victory is relentless and to witness him having to stop playing before he was ready was truly heartbreaking.
Last year, in 2019, players like Go “Score” Dongbin and Kim “PraY” Jongin announced their retirements. This year, multiple other players followed in their footsteps. As mentioned, Song “Smeb” Kyoungho, as well as Lee “Kuro” Seohaeng, Kang “Gorilla” Beomhyun, Lee “Crown” Minho, and Lee “Flame” Hojong – the latter who will forever be remembered through the 'Flame Horizon'.
Han “Peanut” Wangho, the former jungler of the Rox Tigers, tweeted out a single statement:
This was sent out after Smeb announced his retirement, meaning that the young jungler is the last standing Rox Tiger in competitive League of Legends.
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This multitude of player retirements signals an end of an era. Players like Lee “Faker” Sanghyeok, Martin “Rekkles” Larsson and Kim “Deft" Hyukkyu are some of the last players standing from the old guard.
The 2020 World Championship was one for the ages. It symbolized a changing of the guard. Teams that have dominated for years like T1, EDG, and RNG weren’t part of the mix, rather it was new teams like Damwon, Suning, and TES which took over the League of Legends world. 2020 is the year an old era of League of Legends ends and with 2021 a whole new era of superstars will be born.