Video gamers are the new star athletes

By Ivan Mateo

Kobe Bryant, Cristiano Ronaldo, Tom Brady, Lebron James and Lee Sang-hyeok are names sports enthusiasts should be familiar with.

You may be pondering to yourself that one of these names surely does not fit the mold of the others. Yeah, you would be correct.

Brady is a football player and Ronaldo is a futbol player.

Joking aside, what do these names have in common?

They each have won multiple championships by reaching the pinnacle of their respective sports.

They all are/were considered the best at their respective sports at one period of time. Who is Lee Sang-hyeok?

“League of Legends” players and fans know him as Faker, and he is the most successful player in “League of Legends” history.

To the general public, video gamers like Faker do not fit the mold of a typical athlete.

They may not jump high or catch footballs for a living, but they utilize many other skillsets.

Esports players possess the technical prowess to react to lightning quick events occurring on their computers.

Support for these athletes is growing.

According to the esports section of Redbull.com, the prize pool for the League of Legends World Championships rose from $2,130,000 in 2015 to approximately $5,070,000 in 2016.

The money has more than doubled, growing closer and closer to the status of the traditional sports.

For the doubters video game athletics, how are esports any different from sports like Nascar racing or golf?

Are guys like Tiger Woods not considered athletes? Is Danica Patrick not considered an athlete?

Some people may not think so, but I do and that is a completely different story.

Esports players put forth just as much time and effort to perfect their respective crafts.

Former player and now analyst Josh “Jatt” Leesman appeared on ESPN’s SportsNation and stated that “League of Legends” players practice 18 to 20 hours a day. This shows an almost obsessive desire to be the best.

Before the “League of Legends” finals, Faker himself wrote an entry on The Players’ Tribune website, where other sports entities such as Bryant, David Ortiz and many others have told their stories.

Faker wrote, “I can predict events before they happen, and that helps me to be in the right place and make the right play a step sooner than everyone else.”

Having the ability and reaction time to respond to adversity instantaneously can mean the difference between a win or a loss and is a telltale sign of an athlete. The mental aspect required in sports is just as important, if not more vital, to continued success in sports.

Faker even wrote about the semifinals against rival Korean team ROX Tigers, who had been winning 2-0. Think of this situation like the Cleveland Cavaliers being down 3-1 to the Golden State Warriors or the Chicago Cubs being down 3-1 to the Cleveland Indians.

Faker explained, “If I’m losing to players that I know aren’t on my level, I’ll get angry. The last two games of that series, you saw how I play when I’m angry.”

This shows a moxie and brashness present in athletes like Bryant or Russell Westbrook.

They are not afraid to speak their minds, but they also trust in their own abilities.

On Oct. 30, the “League of Legends” World Championship finals took place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The two teams pitted against each other in the finals were Korean teams SK Telecom T1 (SKT) and Samsung Galaxy (SSG).

In traditional sports there is drama and storylines that fans remember for years to come.

This final was definitely one to remember. The series went as follows: 1-0, 2-0, 2-2, 3-2.

There were cheers from the crowd when their team earned an advantage or sighs when their team made a mistake.

SKT and Faker finally came out on top to further cement their legacy as the best team of athletes in “League of Legends.”

There are so many people and organizations noticing and buying into the esports scene.

Former NBA player Rick Fox has purchased a “League of Legends” team and rebranded them as Echo Fox. Soccer teams such as France’s Paris Saint-Germain and Germany’s Schalke 04 have also purchased “League of Legends” teams.

Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber purchased a controlling interest in one of the biggest esports franchises, Team Liquid.

Traditional sports are beginning to take notice of esports’ continued success in the mainstream.

They are athletes.

When will you start to take notice?

Ivan Mateo is a video game player and sports aficionado.

Video game athletes

Sungah Choi / The Poly Post

Video game athletes

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