Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Wesley Edens certainly isn’t the first NBA personality to dive head-first into the world of esports, but he’s determined to make history in another way: FlyQuest, his newly assembled LCS team, is the most expensive investment in esports history, with the contract buyouts and league slot going for $2.5 million dollars. But what Edens actually thought he was purchasing with that money is unclear, because FlyQuest is about as likely to win the coming split as I, a writer on the internet, am likely to win the UFC Middleweight Championship. To continue the metaphor: if they make it out of the tournament merely alive (not relegated, in their case), it should be considered an achievement.
If you’re just looking at recent games, I can understand the decision to invest in the team. FlyQuest’s LCS spot, as well as the majority of its roster, previously belonged to Cloud9’s LCS Challenger team, who handily beat the competition and qualified for the big leagues in August. But that strong showing in the Challenger league is misleading, because in this case, it was a crew of LCS veterans beating on a collection of fresh-faced greenhorns who were dipping their toes into competitive League of Legends for the first time. This is like if a bunch of Red Sox players dropped to the minor leagues and coincidentally started smashing home runs on a regular basis.
Of the five players on Cloud9’s challenger team, four of them were former LCS players. Johnny “Altec” Ru, FlyQuest’s ADC, has played on ten teams during his League of Legends career. Mid laner Hai “Hai” Lam, top laner An “Balls” Lee and support Daerek “LemonNation” Hart helped make Cloud9 the best team in North America back in 2013.
League of Legends has always been a young person’s game
But that was, I reiterate, in 2013. Since then, Hai has retired on two separate occasions due to wrist injuries. LemonNation spent most of 2016 as a coach, rather than an active competitive player. Balls’ quality of play has been questionable ever since 2015, when he was repeatedly demoted to Diamond II while playing Korean solo queue during Cloud9’s boot camp.
In a sense, it’s ridiculous to think of these players as old fogies; the oldest of them, LemonNation, is 27 years old. But due to the quickly changing meta and high level of burnout, League of Legends has always been a young person’s game. These guys have already had their moment in the sun, and many of the people they’ll be going up against in the spring will just plain want it more.
And that’s just the former Cloud9 players. Altec, FlyQuest’s ADC, may have played for ten different teams, but never for longer than a few months—they have a tendency to dissolve due to poor performance while he’s on the roster, or get relegated, like NRG esports. He’s been playing League at a professional level since 2013, but has yet to see success on almost any quantifiable level.
Galen “Moon” Holgate, FlyQuest’s newly signed jungler, isn’t likely to be much help either. He’s fresh off a run on Team Liquid’s lineup as a substitute, and out of the three LCS games he played this summer, he lost every single one.
Taken together, they may have a lot of experience under their belt, but this is hardly a crack team. NRG and Echo Fox, two recent NBA attempts at entering the world of League of Legends, have flopped pretty seriously, but at least they didn’t drop two and a half million dollars for the privilege.