Get excited everyone because the Overwatch League is back in just under a month. February 15th at 11 am we will see the first match which features season one champions London Spitfire face off against second-place finalists Philadelphia Fusion.
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For some, the term ‘eSports’ is such a fickle word, especially for people who follow traditional sports and have qualms with the thoughts of a video gamer being labelled an ‘eSports Athlete’.
As a person who has supported traditional sports, as well as help continued support for eSports in our region and all over the world, we can start to look at the parallels eSports has with traditional sports that show that they’re much closer than we think.
Today, we’re going to look at the ‘Spine’.
In traditional sports, you’ve got what’s called the ‘Spine’ of a side, something that holds the team up, making it successful.
To put this into perspective, Queensland’s State of Origin dominance can be traced to the Slater/Lockyer/Thurston/Smith spine, and more recently, a Boyd/Thurston/Cronk/Smith spine.
In the NFL, the strongest teams have an established spine. For example the Legion of Boom has had players leave and join, but it still performs at a high level, with Sherman/Thomas/Chancellor.
The Packers’ explosive offense has been due to Rodgers/Nelson/Cobb/Lacy. With the removal of Nelson from last season, Rodgers suffered a hit in his overall efficiency and the team saw a decline in performance.
In eSports, the most successful teams have built their teams around a spine. Perhaps the most famous spine in eSports has been Fnatic’s CS:GO team, with olofmeister, pronax, KRiMZ, JW and flusha maintaining a consistently high level of play for many years.
In League of Legends, Team SoloMid have always kept a consistent spine, seeing success with the original Dyrus/TheOddOne/Reginald spine. More recently they have created what is considered the strongest spine in North America, with Hauntzer, Svenskeren, Bjergsen and Doublelift, with the addition of Biofrost in the second split.
Closer to home and the Chiefs have had a continued dominance in the Oceanic League of Legends scene, which was evident when long-time teammate Raydere left. The remaining players (Swip3rR, Spookz, Swiffer and EGym) swept their closest rivals 3-0 with a new player Raes slotting into the squad.
This begs the question, what makes a good spine? In traditional sport, creating a super team based on individual talent does not often translate to the best possible performing roster.
Throw the best individual players from the NBA’s Western Conference and they might not be able to match up to the Cavaliers spine of Kyrie Irving, JR Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. In Australia, people have been trying to create rosters with individual talent to take down the perennial champions Mindfreak, who have stuck with a core roster for a very long period of time.
The spine requires a core set of players with a high level of synergy that complement each other’s strengths while hiding their weaknesses. While individual talent goes a long way, chemistry goes a long way. In replacing Yell0wStar, Team SoloMid could have selected Korean support IgNar from KT Rolster.
While they gave IgNar a tryout, they ended up with a better fit with Vincent ‘Biofrost’ Wang, who complimented his teammate’s playing style.
Throwing together all-star players does not make an all-star team. The NBA’s LA Lakers gave it a shot when they signed Orlando’s Dwight Howard and Phoenix’s Steve Nash to link up with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. This team turned out to be disastrous and failed to make an impact.
The same could be said about Elements. The European League of Legends roster of Wickd, Shook, Froggen, Rekkles and Nyph failed miserably and almost got relegated from the top flight European LCS.
One could even look at the New South Wales State of Origin squad.
Individually, the best in their positions for the state, but Queensland have stuck with a tried-and-true squad which has built up an understanding of how to play effectively with each other.
With player skill improving day-by-day, roster building begins with individual talent, and exceeds with chemistry, synergy and attitude.