Some of 2016’s Top Moments in eSports

2016 has been a dumpster fire of a year, but it’s easily become the biggest year in professional gaming history. Underdog teams took out tournament favorites in massive upsets, prize pools reached record highs, and both rookie and veteran players alike stunned fans with clutch plays. There are a few moments that truly stand out, though, so let’s sit down and reminisce about some of the highlights from this year in eSports.

 

The end of the KeSPA SC2 ProLeague

Back in October the Korean eSports Association announced that they would be shuttering the KeSPA StarCraft Pro League. It was an end of an era for Korean gaming, as the league had been running for fourteen long years, establishing itself as one of the most important, if not the most important, circuit in Korean StarCraft. The decision to end the ProLeague was one made due to a steady decline in the number of players and teams that competed in the circuit, scandals running rampant, and difficulties securing sponsors. The dissolution led to several long-standing brands to disband their own rosters, including SK Telecom It was an end of an era for many.

 

S1mple’s AWP Decoy

I’m the kind of fan that gets pretty riled up in the stands, especially when it comes to good Counter-Strike: Global Offensive plays. So, when Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev chucked his AWP over a wall as a distraction that bought him enough time to equip his sidearm and dive over the wall for game-winning kill against Team Liquid’s Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella at ESL One New York, you can imagine how excited I was while the casters were screaming and losing their minds at the desk. Coincidentally, it was s1mple’s 19th birthday when Natus Vincere won the event.

 

The Sports Gold Rush

While KeSPA fell to pieces, several notable members of the NBA, and traditional sports clubs, swarmed in on the pro gaming scene. The Philadelphia 76ers, Shaquille O’Neil, F.C. Copenhagen, Milwaukee Bucks, Schalke 04, Stephon Marbury, and several other superstars and organizations alike swooped in to cash in on the phenomenon that was taking gaming by storm. ESports organizations were acquired, team spots were purchased, player contracts were bought, and the movements to legitimize eSports was launched forward.

 

Hungrybox Wins Evo 2016

Watching Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma’s run through Evo 2016’s Super Smash Bros. Melee’s singles tournament was akin to watching an artist create his masterpiece. For three years he had fallen just shy of first place at the most prestigious FGC event in the world, which led to him going down on record as claiming that he could never consider himself to be the best Melee player in the world when he was unable to take home the Evo trophy.

After years of being second, or third, best, Hungrybox tore his way through top eight until the final matchup against Evo 2015 champion Adam “Armada” Lingren. It was an intense game that left fans on the edges of their seats, and shaken to their cores, while two of the Smash Gods bore into one another in a riveting display of passion and skill.

When Hungrybox sprang from his chair, so did we.

When Hungrybox cried, we cried with him.

 

YellOwStaR’s Goodbye

Back in October, Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim announced in an open letter that he would be retiring from competitive League of Legends. The open letter was addressed to eSports as a whole, and it was both heartfelt and inspiring to read the thoughts of one of the greatest players in the west. The letter was a means to an end of YellOwStaR’s six-year career – one that, while not particularly long, had such an impact on the League of Legends scene that he went down as one of the most influential players in League of Legends history. YellOwStaR was one of two people to ever compete in every single World Championship up until 2016, and was the only player to qualify for seven straight LCS finals.

Of course, YellOwStaR couldn’t stay away from professional gaming as a whole. Moving forward, he has been appointed as Head of eSports for Paris Saint-Germain.

 

TI6’s Puppet Panel

The segment before Alliance and WildCard powerhouse EHOME’s game 2, fans, who were understandably still reeling from the rollercoaster of emotions Dota 2′s The International brings every year, were surprised by Valve replacing their hosts and analysts with Muppet-style puppets. There’s nothing I can say that can even come close to matching the hilarity of the panel, so you can watch it below.

 

 

A Battle Won: Leffen’s Visa

On the anniversary of his deportation, an irony that many had a good chuckle at, William “Leffen” Hjelte, Smash player for Team SoloMid, announced that his visa paperwork had finally been approved by the United States Bureau of Consular Affairs. It was an arduous year of back and forths between Leffen and the US government, with the debacle gathering so much attention in the pro gaming scene that an official petition was submitted to the While House that garnered over one hundred thousand signatures demanding that the USCIS recognize eSports as legitimate sports.

 

Fear’s Retirement

Clinton “Fear” Loomis, also known as Old Man Dota, finally hung up his jersey after eleven years of competing in the scene, even when Dota was still no more than a mod for Warcraft III. Fear’s storied career proved him to be one of the greatest minds in Dota history, and he helped shaped the industry into what it is today. Fear’s decision to retire was primarily due to health concerns, likely due to both the complications that arise from a sedentary lifestyle and due to the tennis elbow injury he acquired in 2014. While he will no longer be playing on the stage, Fear’s legacy will continue on as he dons the mantle of team coach for Evil Geniuses.

 

Likkrit’s Insane Speeches at Worlds

Move over, Mel Gibson, your reign of inspirational speeches has come to an end.

Kirill “Likkrit” Malofeyev, support player for Albus Nox Luna, delivered an empowering speech following their victory against G2 at Worlds. As a team from a WildCard region few expected to see ANX advance as far as they did, but they quickly made it clear that they were not a team to be underestimated just because they’re from the IWC. While they rampaged their way through group stages and into the quarterfinals with skillful maneuvers and explosive team fights, Likkrit took to the microphone on several occasions to drop words of wisdom and inspiration to their followers. There was one speech that truly stood out, however, and that was the speech Likkrit gave after Albus Nox Luna eliminated EU favorites G2 where he commended G2 Esports for giving their all.

 

Of course, I can’t talk about all of the groundbreaking and awesome things that happened this year, some good and some bad. I know I left out Infiltration’s “Download complete” moment, the nail-biting five games of SK Telecom T1 vs. ROX Tigers at Worlds, and the fact that 2016 truly was a year for the rookies. So if you want to point out your favorite moment that I may have missed, drop us a line on Twitter @StreamMe and let us know! Otherwise, let’s get ready for an even bigger 2017.

A certified weeb that passionately live-Tweets his reactions from esports events, Sian is one of those people that hasn’t seen the sun in weeks. You can find him on Twitter @FriendlySenpai