eSports are an increasingly popular international phenomenon that connect millions of gamers around the world on a wide variety of platforms. These electronic sports enjoy staggeringly large player bases, with the most popular being League of Legends and its 27 million players around the world. With the increase in global popularity thanks to services like Twitch streaming games live to audiences everywhere, prizes and sponsorships have rolled in. The most popular electronic athletes enjoy celebrity status and cult followings, similar to what you would expect from professional sports stars.
These gamers have risen above the level of competition surrounding them to become considered among the elite, not only in their respective games, but in the entire world of eSports. Whether they ply their trade on Summoner’s Rift in League of Legends, snipe their opponents in CS:GO, or overwhelm their opponents in Starcraft 2, they are dominant athletes with lightning quick reflexes and decision making skills. Instincts in particular games are honed through hours of concentrated practice, where they perfect the most complex skills down to the framerate.
These eSports players train with the same type of intensity and focus as traditional athletes. They feel the pressure and demands of competition as well as the rigors of training. On top of all of that, they must deal with increasing media scrutiny, with focus being placed on their personal affairs in addition to their performance in game. This is all to be expected as the scene continues to grow and new players continue to emerge. These gamers could become household names in just a few years.
10. Fy – DOTA 2
Despite primarily playing a support role as the captain of Vici Gaming, Fy is regarded as one of the world’s best 1 vs 1 tournament players. Fy helped lift his team to a second place finish at The International 2014 and managed wins at I-League, ESL One New York 2014, and The Summit 2 last year. Xu Linsen earned more than $380,000 last year, and has five career tournament wins to his name. Along with his team, Fy should be in competition among the game’s elite when the World Championships roll around later this year.
9. Rekkles – League of Legends
Rekkles made headlines in the eSports community when he left Fnatic for Elements and his exemplary play has made an immediate impact. Rekkles and his new team have struggled in the early stages despite being considered favorites in preseason. The 18-year-old Swedish prodigy still has time to improve this season and will face his former team on March 27. Traditionally playing the marksman/ADC role, Rekkles is capable of making game changing plays that become instant Youtube and Reddit sensations. Martin “Rekkles” Larsson is certainly a name to know in 2015.
8. Dendi – DOTA 2
While not always regarded as the most conventional solo mid laner, Dendi is a genius when it comes to unorthodox play styles and builds. He has been recognized multiple times by GosuAwards as the best at his role in 2010 and 2012. Danil Ishutin currently sits in seventh on eSportsEarnings Highest Overall Earnings list, which was boosted by his nearly $170,000 in earnings last year. He is a member of Natus Vincere as he continues to duke it out with some of the other best DOTA 2 players.
7. Flash – Starcraft II
Flash burst onto the Starcraft Brood War scene by becoming the youngest player to win a Starleague title at only the age of 15. Since then, Lee Young Ho has become the only player to reach both individual league finals three consecutive times. He was awarded the Golden Mouse for exemplary play in 2013 and widely goes by another nickname, God. Flash’s meticulous attention to detail has made him one of the best Terran players in the world. He’s so meticulous that he uses a ruler to set up his desktop before every match.
6. GeT_RiGhT – CS:GO
Counter Strike: Global Offensive is a game that requires unimaginable quickness and manual dexterity and GeT_RiGhT has made an excellent transition from CS 1.6 to the new platform. Regarded by many as the world’s best 1.6 player, this dominance has carried over to CS:GO and shows no signs of stopping. The 24-year-old Swedish gamer also known as Christopher Alesund raked in over $50,000 in earnings last year. After bouncing between teams, GeT_RiGhT finally found a home by joining Ninjas in Pajamas in 2012.
5. Firebat – Hearthstone
Hearthstone is a relatively new game on the eSports scene that implements elements of World of Warcraft in an environment more akin to Magic: The Gathering. No player has taken to the eSport better than James Kostesich, aka Firebat. Last year, Firebat made headlines when he was triumphant at the BlizzCon World Championships, and was awarded $100,000 for his efforts. He kicked off 2015 with another tournament win at the Gfinity Spring Masters. The 18-year-old is currently off to a brilliant start to his eSports career.
4. NaDeSHoT – Call of Duty
With over $1 million in career earnings and the 2014 MLG X Games Gold Medal already under his belt, NaDeSHoT is the greatest Call of Duty player of all time. His prowess has brought him a multitude of followers with 1.5 million on Youtube and another 1.1 million on Twitter. In addition to Call of Duty excellence, Matthew Haag is also a savvy businessman, launching his own gaming team OpTic and earning a sponsorship deal with Red Bull. NaDeSHoT has enjoyed mainstream success in America that has made him one of the most recognizable eSports athletes in the world.
3. Fatal1ty – Multiple First Person Shooter Titles
Johnathan Wendel is a name that not many are familiar with. But, millions around the world know him better as Fatal1ty, one of the best FPS gamers of all time. To date, Fatal1ty has won five World Championships and dominated a variety of games including Doom 2, Counter-Strike, and multiple Quake titles. Since he was overtaken for the career earnings total in 2013 by Jaedong, Fatal1ty has turned his attention to his line of hardware specifically designed for gamers. He remains a popular streamer on Twitch, keeping his fans entertained with his latest exploits.
2. Faker – League of Legends
Sanghyuk Lee, better known by his Summoner Name, Faker, is considered by many to be the best Mid Laner in League of Legends that the world has to offer. After he started playing League of Legends on a Korean server in 2011, he has risen through the ranks to become the best player on the best team, SK Telecom T1. Faker was an integral part of their triumph at the Season 3 World Championships. Even when he is the focus of his enemies, Faker still manages to pull off incredible plays that leave announcers and streamers around the world in disbelief.
1. Jaedong – Starcraft II
Jaedong’s dominance of Starcraft has spanned from the glory days of Brood War to the current edition of Starcraft II. He was the first player to win Premier tournament competitions in both games, and his list of accomplishments is nothing short of extraordinary. In addition to being the first eSports athlete with over $500,000 in career earnings, Jaedong has won six Premier titles. Now with his team, Evil Geniuses, Jaedong is currently ranked in the Top 50 and has his eyes set on recapturing another title.
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