In 2018, Chinese midlaner Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang announced his retirement, citing health concerns that had plagued him on his team, Rogue Warriors. In 2019, he came back; signed by FunPlus Phoenix, a roster of energetic, enthusiastic young players who never had a shot on the world stage. They fought hard for the midlaner and managed to convince him to join just after Warriors released him.
Eleven months later, he stood on a World’s Final stage with the cries of loyal LPL fans in the sold-out AccorHotels Arena in Paris, France in his ears as he hurtled himself into bot laner LWX’s arms screaming in delight. Within a moment, toplaner Gimgoon and jungler Tian would join them as their support Crisp would remain seated for a moment, basking in what they had done before allowing himself to be pulled into the group hug.
FPX hadn’t just won over a European team on European soil, they had done it dominantly; a 3-0 over G2. G2, who caster Daniel “Drakos” Drakos called, “The greatest team Europe has ever produced” just a week before. And the games didn’t even look close; FPX was dominant in every game they played. As FPX’s delighted players approached their trophy, most of the Paris crowd fell into stunned silence, the air filled only with the screams of the Chinese fans.
On the other side of the stage, G2 looked numb. They came so close to completing the Grand Slam: Two Split victories, an MSI win and a World Championship, only to fall just short of the finish line. Even midlaner Caps, who infamously is always smiling no matter the circumstances, looked lost on what to do in a short clip of the team backstage. G2 went 11 months effectively never losing an important series or game, only to fall short of the one that matters the most.
“If I had a chance to go back and tell the old Doinb at the start of the year, I would tell him to not give up, there’s always hope,” Doinb said at a press conference about his almost-retirement.
Those three simple words, “there’s always hope,” may as well have been Doinb and FPX’s mantra throughout this whole year. They fought their way to first in their group and dominated Fnatic, Invictus Gaming and then G2 to claim a second trophy in a row for China.
It was the end of a brilliant season for a team of players who all had their own struggles. This is more than the story of a team who was dominant; it’s a team that battled health issues and personal struggles to make it to their first World Championship. They dominated teams with far more international experience to bring themselves to a moment where they could finally say they reached the highest peak League of Legends has to offer.
Even after his incredible performance in the Grand Finals, Doinb was almost melancholy as he sat next to his teammates, still looking overjoyed at their victory.
“I think it’s actually a similar scenario right now because this might be my last game,” Doinb explained, a simple statement meaning fans will panic until plans for the future are announced.
After their devastating loss, G2 will ask to remember their highs: Caps, laughing in delight as his team destroys all opposition, Perkz’s role swap success and Mikyx’s “thank you for the question” at every press conference. And perhaps, just this once, we’ll remember everything but the fall.
Unlike G2, FPX’s legacy is already set in stone. Their performance in that series will be remembered forever. The story of a young Chinese squad who defied all expectations as they quietly made a meteoric rise into the best team in the world, will forever be printed in the pages of League’s history. They are the faces we’ll remember forever: Tian, who would win MVP for his exceptional Lee Sin performances, tilting his head back as he basked in the roars of the crowd and Doinb hurtling himself to his feet screaming in delight, the cries of the Chinese faithful in the audience who knew that, just for a moment, they were watching the precise moment a phoenix burst into flames.
Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.