The term "legend" is thrown around loosely in Counter-Strike, but who are the individuals who will actually be enshrined in ESL's hall of fame?
ESL has announced this week that they will create an eSports Hall of Fame to honor great players in various games. This will start as Counter-Strike only but expand into other games in the coming years. This obviously begs the question: who will the initial class of inductees be into this hall? ESL has only given a few criteria for who can be selected for this prestigious honor. In addition to having to make "great contributions to eSports", players will need to have had "a career that is worthy of being inducted" and will need to have been retired "for at least a year".
I want to add a few more specifications to weed out players in this group. There are many players considered "legends" throughout the history of Counter-Strike simply because they are fondly remembered. Fans of different teams in different countries consider their favorite players to be the best at what they do, and exalt them for their specific achievements. Therefore, if we inducted every player that was considered a legend, the hall would explode in size rather quickly. Because of this, it is important to limit the players inducted, at least initially, to the absolute greats that defined the game of Counter-Strike when they were playing. I will abide by the following guidelines in my selections, and encourage other writers to do the same:
1) A player's entire body of work must be considered. Some players rise up from seemingly out of nowhere to excel at the game for year or two before slipping back into the shadows. Others are inconsistent or do not play on top-tier teams. It is important for a player to have played for a long time, consistently against high level opponents, and to have performed his role for his team exceptionally well throughout that time. Here are players who fit some but not all of that criteria (not necessarily eligible for induction anyway):
markeloff - Has played for a long time at a high level, but was only in his prime for a couple years.
Jungle - Has played for a long time and has been a crazy aimer throughout his career, but his teams have not consistently played top-caliber opponents.
Gux - Played for the top team in Counter-Strike for a few years, but retired shortly afterwards.
2)An inductee should be of upstanding moral character and a positive image / ambassador for the game and the community.This means a few things. First of all, if a player has been caught using hacks or has admitted to cheating at any point in his professional career (note that this does not mean accused cheaters, flusha haters), they should be automatically disqualified. This means a player like KQLY is out of consideration. Next, any players convicted of betting on games or purposefully losing games for greater monetary gain should be banned from the hall. Given Valve's stance on excommunicating the former iBP power players, this should not be surprising. As we have seen in the Korean Starcraft leagues, there is nothing more dangerous or harmful to the vitality of an eSport than attempting to compromise the integrity of a match, and the perpetrators should never be honored. Finally, any player caught using performance enhancing drugs (e.g. adderall) in an attempt to gain an unfair advantage over other players should be omitted from consideration. Nobody has been caught since the drug testing guidelines were put in place at majors, but this should also include players like Semphis who have openly admitted to using adderall.
3) A player should have won at least one major in his career. This is similar to the argument in the NBA where players are not considered as great until they win a championship. In the days of Counter-Strike 1.6, what constituted a "major" was not as well defined as it is for CS:GO. Whereas today Valve is a direct sponsor of 4 large tournaments a year, back in the day, they barely sponsored any 1.6 tournaments, and went so far as to not support the game itself in its later years. However, most people following the scene at that time would consider CPL (Summer and Winter), ESWC, IEM, Dreamhack, WCG, and the short-lived WSVG to be majors at one point or another (and I may be missing a couple). With at least four opportunities to win a major tournament every year and the volatility at the top in the early days of CS, truly great players should have been able to win at least one major.
4) Players of all roles should be considered. This may seem obvious, but I fear that fraggers will get more attention from the public than in-game leaders. This is unjust to me, because it could be argued that many of the frags these aimers got were the result of perfectly crafted and executed strategies. Take a player like tr1p for example. While he was not the strongest aimer by any means, he was one of the smartest players of his time, and he created strategies that catered to both the aggressive nature of Warden, as well as the passive, defensive play style of Storm. A leader who is able work to his individual players' strengths to win matches and tournaments should not be overlooked.
5) ESL did not state whether managers are considered, but I believe they should be. It is unquestionable that Jason Lake, Torbull, and bds, among others, have had an incredible impact on the reach and legacy of Counter-Strike. However, since this was not specified, I will omit managers from this first induction class.
With these main points in mind, let's get to who I would nominate for induction in Counter-Strike's Hall of Fame.
Emil "HeatoN" Christensen 1
When ESL first made their announcement, the one player most people immediately thought about was HeatoN. Christensen was the first true legend of Counter-Strike due to his dominant play during his time with NiP and SK, during which time he was also the captain of the teams. He was hugely influential for his impeccable aim and spray control that many other pros would try to emulate and learn from. He won two CPL World Championships in 2001 and 2003, as well as a World Cyber Games in 2003. His SK team is widely regarded as the first dynastic team as well as one of the most powerful in CS history. Heaton also has two other small claims to fame: His eco ace against 4Kings on Aztec, and his often referenced and ridiculed spray tutorials. HeatoN retired in 2007 to manage his CGS team, the Stockholm Magnetik, but his dominance and influence over the first half of the 2000's makes him a shoo-in for this distinction.
Patrik "cArn" Sättermon
cArn is possibly the winning-est in-game leader of all time, and he did it with several different lineups. He began his career with EYEBallers and Begrip, but the winning didn't start until he formed his first fnatic lineup with Archi, f0rest, Tentpole, and dsn. Despite dominating most of 2006 and 2007, including a convincing CPL Winter win, Tentpole and Archi decided to go their separate way. cArn recruited GeT_RiGhT and Gux, and fnatic started winning again. GeT_RiGhT and f0rest eventually decided to leave, and dsn retired, leaving cArn with the task of rebuilding again. He recruited Xizt, Friis, and pita... and managed to go out on top, winning Dreamhack Winter 2011. He might not have been the biggest fragger, but no matter who he played with, cArn was unstoppable for years. This is why he is an obvious candidate for induction.
Raphael "cogu" Camargo
These days, the big Brazillian player casual fans hear about is FalleN. And while FalleN has an amazing AWP, and is credited with bringing Brazillian CS to the global attention, it is merely history repeating itself. In 2004, team Made In Brazil was formed with cogu as the main AWPer. Because nobody had heard of competitive Counter-Strike outside of Europe and North America, he began to take the CS world by storm and quickly became one of the best snipers in the world. And while mibr's success did wax and wane, they never went away, staying around the top of the scene, in big part due to the amazing play of cogu. And finally, at ESWC 2006, mibr won that elusive major. cogu stuck around for the rest of the decade, getting voted the best South American player of the decade, and barely losing the best AWP of the decade award to another player in this list. His longevity was impressive, and his influence over his scene had gone unparalleled until Luminosity's success in late 2015, which is why he should be inducted into the hall of fame
Ola "ElemeNt" Moum
One way to describe ElemeNt is that despite getting bored with success and not staying with a stable team for very long, he always appreciated the challenge of finding a way to win, which is why he was one of the most coveted and respected players in CS. He was part of a goL team that came up to challenge and take a few tournaments from NiP, then joined forces with HeatoN's SK to dominate 2003 and 2004. Once he got bored of that, he went to NoA, where he helped guide the team to an unprecedented CPL Winter win from the lower brackets. Just when we thought his career was over, he captained a dark horse MYM team that would have won CPL Winter 2006 if not for the brick wall of fnatic. In between all of this, he also tried to play for seemingly random international teams like mouseports and mibr, even though he didn't speak their languages. He really just wanted a new challenge and to push his skills to the limits. ElemeNt had the rare ability to combine his insane aiming ability with his impressive game sense, making him an extremely feared player and effective bombsite defender. A legend in my eyes, he should be part of the initial hall of fame class.
Dennis "walle" Wallenberg
Walle will forever be enshrined by his 1v5 clutch against Pentagram, famously called by Tosspot, at WCG. It was an extraordinary moment, but nothing we hadn't come to expect from the Swedish IGL at that point. Walle was one of the best team leaders of all time - he just happened to do it while also being one of the best AWPers of all time. His rare ability to be able to multitask sniping was developed during his time with EYEBallers. He would later join NiP to get HeatoN one of his last tournament wins at WSVG, and then SK to guide his team through the latter part of the 2000s. Walle was voted the best AWP of the decade, and yet is still considered one of the best IGLs to ever play the game.
The next five in would be Potti, XeqtR, Ksharp, solo, and zonic.
When they retire, NEO, f0rest, GeT_RiGhT, Edward, and fRoD will most likely get into the hall of fame as well.
I predict that voters will have a hard time deciding which players on a dominant team most deserve the honor, especially when their roles were dissimilar. For example, was Heaton or Potti the better player? Zeus or Edward or Markeloff ? Zonic or Friis or Trace? TaZ or Pasha? If no distinguishing characterization can be made, should none of them get in? All of them get in? Especially for players from the era that predates solid statistical analysis of matches, it will be up to the voters' discretion.
Who do you think should be in the initial class of hall of fame inductees? Let me know!
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