Whether it’s with a knockout finish at an EVO fighting game championship, a crushing play in League of Legends, or a dorm-wide Super Smash Bros. tourney, eSports are taking the world by storm. Playboy’s eSports Highlights articles celebrate and chronicle their rise.
League of Legends is the video game most responsible for turning eSports into big business. And just like in any other sport, there are a number of League of Legends players that stand head and shoulders above the rest.
Over the years the competition has evolved in every region all around the world. At one point in time, Europe was the envy of the world, but with the rise of eSports in Asia, South Korea and China, these regions have overtaken most of their Western competitors.
For this list I wanted to stick with players who are currently active. This isn’t the best players of all time. As a result you’ll see a few of the best players from Europe and Asia, while North America and other major regions go unrepresented. Hopefully that doesn’t deter you from admiring these players’ incredible skills—even if you’re envious of them too.
Pro tip: if you’re unfamiliar with League of Legends and eSports, this article might help you out before you read this.
10. SEUNG-BIN ‘IMP’ GU
Well known for his signature round glasses, Imp has been around long enough to experience both struggles and successes. Easily one of the more controversial placements on this list, he rose to relevance on the team MVP Ozone with four consecutive top three finishes in OnGameNet’s (OGN) Champions. All of this culminated in him helping to propel his team to its first World Championship in 2014.
It will always be hard to know exactly how much credit to give Imp for his team’s success given the level of skill surrounding him, but there’s no disputing his consistency.
9. BYUNG-KWON ‘KAKAO’ LEE
Aside from having a fantastic name, KaKAO has been impressive for the duration of his career. Yet despite taking down the Samsung Galaxy Blue team and claiming first place in his region on top of earning the season MVP award, he’s never actually made an appearance on the international stage.
Ask any knowledgeable caster and chances are they’ll tell you he’s the best player that’s never gone to the world championships yet. He also wears leopard print glasses, so yeah, he’s awesome.
8. HO-JONG ‘FLAME’ LEE
Whereas KaKAO is arguably one of the best players of all time in the “jungler” role, there’s really no dispute as to whether or not Flame is the best in the “top-laner”n position that’s ever played.
Like KaKAO however, he’s never been in a world championship and even worse, he’s never actually won an OGN championship, one of the highest honors in Korean League of Legends. Fortunately, he has had his chance to defeat some of the best in the world during a few Intel Extreme Masters series.
7. HENRIK ‘FROGGEN’ HANSEN
During his time with Counter Logic Gaming Europe, he frequently led the team to success on the international stage. In 2012, his team partook in the Korean OGN Champions league, one of the most competitive in the world.
During their first and only season the team came within one game of taking first place from one of South Korea’s most elite squads. He did so by doing things no other mid laner had done before him, and that earns him a spot on this list.
6. ALEXEY ‘ALEX ICH’ ICHETOVKIN
Alex Ich is practically a Western legend. The old guard might remember the time when he did battle against some of the best players in the world and took them down.
His incredible ability to find the right champion for each situation kept him relevant for a longer duration than most professional players. Over the last year or so he decided to start over again and is now attempting to lead his team back into the North American LCS.
5. DANIL ‘DIAMONDPROX’ RESHETNIKOV
Another member of the Russian Moscow Five, Diamond fought alongside Alex Ich during Europe’s peak.
Whereas many give KaKAO credit for being aggressive and carrying, Diamond was the one to invent this playstyle. Prior to him it was virtually unheard of and without him, Junglers like KaKAO wouldn’t even exist. Many doubt that any Jungler will ever be able to surpass the impression he has left on competitive League of Legends.
4. IN-KYU ‘DANDY’ CHOI
Perhaps the only Jungler to have ever performed better than Diamondprox himself, DanDy is well known for how much effort he puts into studying his opponent. Looking for gank patterns and map movements, DanDy frequently puts effort not only into helping his lanes, but on keeping the enemy Jungler out of the game.
Throughout 2014, he was regarded as the best jungler in the world and helped lead Samsung Galaxy White to their world championship.
3. MIN-GI ‘MADLIFE’ HONG
Though he’s never won a world championship, MadLife has come close before and in doing so, revolutionized the idea of the support role. Play-making has proven his specialty, reaching for heights that fans didn’t even know were possible.
Until Mata came around, a support on the level of MadLife was unprecedented with many ranking him on the same level as Faker. As time has gone on the world still wonders what could have been achieved had he been matched up with a premiere ADC.
2. SE-HYEONG ‘MATA’ CHO
When Mata came around, many immediately compared him to MadLife, but he’s now considered as the best support player in the world.
MVP of last year’s world championship, a rarity for his role, alongside some of the best players in the world, Samsung Galaxy White took down the rest of the world. Mata has reached heights that MadLife wasn’t afforded and has arguably done so while showing even better mechanics.
1. SANG-HYEOK ‘FAKER’ LEE
There’s no debating that Faker is the best League of Legends player to ever be.
During his prime he single handedly led his team to back to back OGN titles and led the team to South Korea’s first world championship in 2013. Even when his team was struggling to find consistency he took up their burden and carried everyone else to success.
His champion pool is unprecedentedly deep as he continues to utilize champions we didn’t even know he could play at such tremendous levels. Highlight reels will forever recall moments of his greatness in the past as well as the future, as he looks to lead SK Telecom back onto the international stage and to be the first team to ever repeat as world champions.
While every player here has a reason for their appearance, over time as League continues to grow and evolve, we’ll surely see names pop in and drop off. But you’ll never see Faker’s name absent, and for good reason.
It’s unknown whether anyone will ever be able to eclipse the level of play that Faker has reached in League of Legends. Even mainstream publications have taken a look at his momentous career. But one thing’s for sure, he’s the first player to ever be globally recognized and stands out as one of the best eSports players in the world.
Dillon Skiffington is an avid League of Legends player, Hearthstone junkie, eSports fan, and caffeine addict. You can find his work all over the LoL community or you could just go bug him on Twitter.
RELATED: The Gamers Next Door Play ‘Rocket League’ with YouTuber Charles Trippy