The League of Legends World Championship has begun!

The League of Legends World Championship has begun! October 1, 2015

North American teams C9 and CLG both play today.  C9 plays around 11:30am Eastern and CLG plays around 1:30pm Eastern. Feel free to use the comment section to chat about the matches if you’re watching.  I have it up on my other monitor.  🙂


 

Today the World Championship of League of Legends begins in Paris, France.  Last year ESPN broadcast some of the World Championship marking a huge benchmark for esports.

For those who don’t follow professional gaming, I hear you.  It’s like soccer for me.  I know the world goes nuts about it, but the sport just doesn’t appeal to me.  What does appeal to me though are the stories in sports.  Even if the particular sport doesn’t speak to me, if a player comes from humble beginnings or a mediocre player finds himself/herself up against a juggernaut of an opponent a la Rocky, who doesn’t get into that?

And that’s why I think this event is for a lot of people.

The juggernaut is certainly there.  You know how the USA has historically curb-stomped other nations in basketball?  That’s Korea with League of Legends.  For many it’s a foregone conclusion that a Korean team will win worlds.

And the Cinderella story is there.  There are ten teams in the North American professional league and the 9th place team, Cloud 9, made an amazing, improbable run in the North American end-of-season tournament to become our region’s third and final team to go to Paris.

But the real Cinderella story is that of Counterlogic Gaming and their star player, Doublelift.  Like basketball, League of Legends teams have five position, each of which are expected to have a different set of skills.  Doublelift plays AD Carry.  The AD Carry can be thought of as similar to a basketball team’s shooting guard.  Whereas the shooting guard generally scores many of a team’s points in basketball, the ADC does a great deal of the team’s damage in League of Legends and is easily requires the most mechanical skill of any position.

Doublelift has been widely regarded as one of the best players at his position in the entire world for some time now.  This is impressive considering North America is not as talented as some regions (like Korea, which easily boasts the most dominant teams on earth).  But due to one circumstance or another, Doublelift had never won first place (or second place) or been on a team that went to worlds.  Oh sure, he’s scored a pentakill in the all-star game at worlds:

In previous seasons due to lack of overall talent, Doublelift would often attempt risky plays to try and one-man carry his team to victory.  Sometimes the results were spectacular:

Doublelift’s history is saturated with similarly unreal plays.  However, in many cases, as with the game above, CLG would wind up losing the game.  For five straight years Doublelift met with limited success here at home despite consistently impressive play on his part.  His team has been in first place mid-season a few times, but they always crumbled and, frankly, choked in the playoffs.

Until this last season, when they beat perennial powerhouse Team Solo Mid (TSM had played for the last six North American championships) to become North America’s #1 seed at worlds.

What made it so special was that the team was made up of players who had similarly always lost.  Last year CLG added jungler Xmithie (whose old team, Vulcan, defeated CLG in the above game), who had never really met with much success as a player.  That year CLG also converted talented AD Carry Aphromoo to the support position (by some reports, much to his chagrin, but Aphro wanted to play in the pros so he did it).  Aphromoo quickly became one of the best support players in North America and struck up a friendship with Doublelift.  The two dominated, but were still unable to carry the team.  Then, this year, CLG made to big moves with their roster.  They also brought in one of the most talented top-laners in North America, ZionSpartan who, himself, had spent most of his career as an undeniable talent on bottom-tier teams.  And with the addition of Poebelter, a young phenom who had only previously played for losing teams himself, this year Doublelift had the talent around him where he didn’t have to try and be a hero in every game and could, instead, just focus on being a solid AD Carry in team fights.

Of course, we still get highlights out of Doublelift, such as this team fight from Game 2 of last night’s championship where Doublelift completely turned it around:

And how fitting that it was Doublelift and his friend Aphromoo who walked away from that fight after Aphromoo saved Doublelift at the last second so that Doublelift could just do his thing.

It was the fairytale that was never supposed to happen.  Not only that, it was the type of narrative that esports needs to continue its growth.  With ESPN starting to report on professional gaming this is a pivotal moment for the sport.  This wasn’t just good for League of Legends, it was good for all of esports.  Whether or not people game, most people still relate to an underdog story or the story of somebody who works hard for years and finally gets the payoff.

And now they’re at worlds, carrying the torch for North America.  They’ll probably lose at some point – the Koreans are just so insanely strong.  But, on the other hand, this are the situations that create legendary stories.  Without Apollo Creed there’d be no Rocky, right?

If you want to watch worlds they’re going the next three weekends.  You can click here to see them.  North American teams C9 and CLG both play today.

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