Sports are nothing without their stories. While the spirit of competition is definitely a major factor that surrounds every organized game, it’s the overarching plots and all of their featured characters that truly draw- and keep- our attention.
Esports is never any different. Whether we’re focusing on a Quarterback or AD Carry, a Pitcher or a Mid Laner, the concepts of plots and storylines will always remain constant. The thrill of esports is of course a major reason why the industry has blown up over the course of the past few years, but it’s the personalities surrounding the scene that keep fans hooked. From the boisterous nature of stars like Dominique “SonicFox” McLean and Félix ‘xQc’ Lengyel to the more quiet and reserved players like Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman, it’s clear that esports is driven by its top level personalities- the results these players achieve is just an added bonus.
And if there’s any one particular game where certain personalities run rampant, it’s League of Legends. Competitive League is always great, but frankly it’s nothing without its storylines. The action is often secondary to the buildup that players, coaches, and fans alike will mount in the days (sometimes weeks or months) prior to a matchup. And historically, if there’s any one region that has definitely proven to be a hotbed for hype and excitement, it’s most definitely North America. Year after year, heroes and villains arise both on and off the Rift, as the region has built a name for itself as the furnace that fuels of some of the most fiery stories in all of professional League.
However, no personality is as vibrant or present in the professional League of Legends scene than Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. With years of trash talk and bold statements under his belt, Doublelift has proven to be one of the most prolific figures in all of esports at this point. He’s created a bubble only for himself- one where he can safely build up a personality the size of Earth itself, all while dominating anyone who may cross his path.
In 2019, expect his seemingly unpoppable bubble to grow only larger, as yet another LCS title will most definitely be within reach. In fact, Doublelift has been of a part of the winning team in 5 of the last 7 LCS finals, dating back nearly four years when Counter Logic Gaming triumphed over Team SoloMid at New York’s Madison Square Garden. And now, as he stands tall as the unquestioned face of North American League of Legends, fresh off leading Team Liquid to its first two LCS Split titles and the team’s inaugural appearance at the World Championship, Doublelift will undoubtedly be going into 2019 looking to capitalize more than anything else.
2018 was a year of missed opportunities for Team Liquid. Since the very early stages of the offseason preluding the year, the organization was perceived as the overwhelming favorite to win it all on the regional level and possibly give North America its best chance to compete on the international stage in the history of the region.
And while the team definitely got the job done on the North American level, winning 23 of its 36 regular season games and posting a ridiculous playoff record of 15-2, Liquid failed to impress internationally. The team fell to Fnatic in a heartbreaking tiebreaker at the Mid-Season Invitational, resulting in an early sendoff and a bracket stage excluding Liquid. And at the World Championship, TL finished the Group Stage with a record of 3-3, failing to progress into the top 8.
Immediately afterwards, the team searched for answers all-around, looking to improve the roster from top to bottom- well, really, mid to bottom. After replacing Eugene “Pobelter” Park with longtime Cloud9 mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, the team added former world champion Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in to the support position. Even still, a roster featuring 2 World champions, an MSI finalist, and a Worlds semifinalist is highlighted by Doublelift. And now, with the strongest lineup in his personal history surrounding him, it’s become obvious that Doublelift has more promise and potential than ever before when it comes to bringing home a significant achievement with Team Liquid in 2019.
Now more than ever is Team Liquid poised for success, and in 2019, the combination of the greatest player in North American history and a ridiculous cast of characters to support him might just be enough to put the organization over the edge. It’s a match made in League heaven, as over the years, Doublelift has proven that he is not only a key factor towards his team’s success, but he’s most definitely the vein which all of Team Liquid runs through. If anything, Doublelift is the focal point of Team Liquid, as, over the course of the past year, he was cemented time and time again as the catalyst for the team’s immeasurable success.
And now, in 2019, the story of Team Liquid will focus on Doublelift, and the story of Doublelift will focus on cementing a legacy. Finally bringing his team past the standard normality at international events, or, dare I say, capturing an international title, would cement that legacy for Doublelift. For the better part of half a decade, Doublelift has been quickly ascending through the North American LCS hierarchy, only to falter on the international stage time and time again. It’s been proven that he can stand tall over all of NA, both with his words and with his gameplay, but when facing the world’s top talent, he’s less of a story and more of just another League of Legends player.
This year, it’s really about flipping the script for Doublelift and staking his claim as a world-class talent. Year in and year out, he’s always in the conversation when it comes to worldwide power rankings and top-tier conversations, but can never really get the job done when it matters most. In 2019, expect that to change. The pieces of the puzzle are all in place, and Doublelift’s legacy as the greatest North American player of all-time is ready to be cemented.
He’s been humbled too many times throughout the years, but this season, it would be safe to fully expect Team Liquid to dominate the North American scene yet again- and to possibly translate that success onto the international level. The team has only gotten better since its dominant regional North American run in 2018, and now, with proven international talent in Jensen and CoreJJ added to the roster, Team Liquid may finally be a serious threat in inter-regional play. And of course, with its star AD Carry leading the charge from the bottom lane, Liquid could certainly start blazing a trail all the way to the international stage from day number one.
As League of Legends sits on the precipice of its 10th competitive season, it’s clear that Doublelift has established himself as not only the game’s ultimate personality, but its ultimate player. His “character arc” is hitting its peak, and in 2019, every fan, spectator, and peer of his should expect nothing less than the triumphant reign of the greatest esports story in history- nearly ten years in the making. As the face of North American League, Doublelift has established himself as much more than part of the game- he’s part of the culture.
North America is home to Doublelift as Doublelift is North America. It’s impossible to think about the North American scene without thinking about Doublelift- he’s always present- and he’s earned every second of his time in the spotlight. After years of climbing his way up the ladder, passing by competitors, personalities, talents, and friends alike, Doublelift now stands firmly at the top. Oftentimes, he’s not part of the conversation, nor does he fuel the conversation, he is the conversation. When he’s competing at a major event, the focus of the North American fans will always be on him. Even when he’s not competing or if his team is eliminated, the question remains- “How would things be different if Doublelift were here?”
When TSM faltered to Misfits in a crucial tiebreaker at the 2017 World Championship, the focus wasn’t on TSM’s lack of capitalization, it was on Doublelift and his failure to use Flash in a significant moment. When Team Liquid fell short at the 2018 Mid-Season Invitational, the focus wasn’t on Liquid’s lack of team-focused play, but rather on Doublelift, who couldn’t carry his team to victory. Regardless of how his team performs, the focus is always on Doublelift. In sports, when a franchise’s star player like Aaron Rodgers, Dak Prescott, or Eli Manning falters, the blame is immediately placed on their shoulders and the question is asked by fans- “What could our best player have done better?”
The answer, however, is usually found in other parts of the roster. Parts that players like Doublelift can’t control.
Doublelift has played his entire career under a microscope, and even when he’s not being analyzed directly, his presence can always be felt in the League of Legends scene. Over the course of the past few years, throughout his time on TSM and Team Liquid, he’s only come clearer into focus. These next months will prove to be a pivotal point in his career, as the defining moments in Doublelift’s legacy will be exposed and refined. It has only been a matter of time until all the talk of international success- whether from fans or Doublelift himself- finally comes to a head.
In 2019, everything might finally peak for the 25-year-old star. If everything can finally fall into place and all of the chatter surrounding the buildup to his big performances can actually result in big performances, there’s no reason why Doublelift’s potential can’t be realized this year.
Over the years, Doublelift has become the perfect embodiment of both personality and talent. He has played both the hero and the villain, all while setting the gold standard for professional play. And now, after aging into the game’s most prolific star, he’s successfully brewed up a storm of hype with both his words and his gameplay- a storm that has paved the road to a legacy. In 2019, expect Doublelift to not only provide some of the greatest storylines in all of League of Legends, but in all of esports.
After an incredibly lengthy process filled with triumphs and pitfalls, Doublelift’s legacy-a decade in the making- is ready to be fulfilled.
Photo Credit: Riot Games, Lolesports, League of Legends