As esports grows its personalities must grow with it. Looking back at 2019 we had some of the most widespread stories of esports history take place this year and some of the biggest prize pools too. So lets take a look at the nominees and our predictions for best esports player of the year.
Kyle “Bugha” Geirsdorf (Fortnite) – In 2019, a 16 year-old kid went to the Fortnite World Cup in New York and beat like a hundred other people in the biggest most played game in the world. Oh, he also walked away with $3 million. His win garnered him not only money but also a nice 15 minutes of fame, which catapulted the esports into the pop culture zeitgeist for a bit. Never before has mainstream media thrown its attention on esports as they did with Bugha, while he may not end up as the world’s foremost esports star, for 2019, he commanded headlines like no other.
Lee “Faker” Sang-Hyeok (League of Legends) – If there was a “Jordan” of esports (at least League of Legends) then its Faker. His name is synonymous with high-level play, utter domination and simply winning. In 2019, he continued his winning ways walking away with the Spring and Summer Split championships in Korea. Unfortunately, he and his team SK Telecom T1 were unable to bring their winning form to the Worlds, finishing tied for 3rd-4th in the tournament.
Luka “Perkz” Perkovic (League of Legends) – Like traditional sports, esports often toys with the concept of a “super team”. Taking the best European talent that League of Legends had to offer G2 Esports put together a juggernaut of a squad with Perkz as its captain and talisman. Over this year, Perkz solidified himself over Doublelift, Jackeylove, Uzi and others as the best ADC in the world. Proven through 2019 as G2 won everything there was to win in their region. Both LEC Splits, Rift Rivals, and the Mid-Season Invitational. However, like Faker, he was unable to get over the hump and take home Worlds. G2 Esports were swept by the Chinese champions, Fun Plus Phoenix, in the finals.
Oleksander “S1mple” Kostyliev (CS:GO) –
Jay “Sinatraa” Won (Overwatch) – About midway through the 2019 season of Overwatch League something crazy happened. The San Francisco Shock went an entire stage with out dropping a single map, 28-0. This catapulted them to championship favorites and a major cog in that perfect machine was Sinatraa. A kid who made his name on being a DPS player, he transitioned over to off-tank and devastated the league. His play on Zarya shot him up near the top of the damage rankings at ANY position and eventually lead to an MVP award. Sinatraa’s year capped the year with a OWL Grand Finals win over their rivals the Vancouver Titans.
Who will win – Bugha. Esports is on the precipice of becoming at least mainstream adjacent. Bugha was a part of that wave that saw players like Sinatraa and Super from the San Francisco Shock appear on late night network TV. Parent across America have context for Fortnite and his win at the Fortnite World Cup opened Middle America’s eyes to an industry that was forming in their kids’ rooms and laptops. Professionally, there’s others who perhaps have done more over the year. But in terms of cultural relevance, Bugha takes it here.
Who should win – My heart wants to say Sinatraa but its still Bugha. See above. Even though Sinatraa has seen more success in his game over the course of an entire year he didn’t come to embody the flashpoint moment of “esports is a thing” like Bugha did.