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Why is the LCS a Special Phenomenon?

The North American League Championship Series (LCS) has been the gateway into the realm of esports for many Western fans. Team chants blasting through the roof, Mexican waves electrifying the stands, venues reverberating from an artist’s performance – the LCS has given it all to esports fans, making it one of the most celebrated professional esports leagues in the world.

The start of the 2022 League of Legends competitive scene also marks the 10-year anniversary of the LCS. Although the LCS might not hold a powerful position internationally yet, it has been putting up a valiant fight against the international giants of the League of Legends esports scene.

Personally, the LCS truly introduced me to the enormous world of esports. As a teenager who was new to League of Legends, the LCS helped me fall in love with the game and the endless possibilities it presented. From finding simple joy in watching stellar gameplay and learning the current meta, it taught me the fundamentals of esports.

Just watching a couple of games live on Twitch got me totally hooked on the game. After numerous Google searches and a mini YouTube binge session later, I was convinced that the game’s esports scene was truly wild and entertaining. What started as a fascination for League of Legends transcended into a love for the LCS, its teams, and its players.

Built brick by brick

The LCS has stood the test of time. Time and again it has showcased its potential to stay in vogue by engaging with its fans through its slick and straightforward broadcasts. What started as a humble beginning for the LCS in Riot’s West Los Angeles studio has now transcended into a global esports celebration with games being organized in historic arenas like the Madison Square Garden, TD Garden, and Scotiabank Arena.

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2015 NA LCS hosted matches in the historic Madison Square Garden

In an attempt to kick League of Legends esports into high gear, Riot announced the formation of the separate leagues in both North America and Europe, setting up teams to wrestle for the millions of dollars in prize money on the line.

The LCS, formerly called the North American League of Legends Championship Series (NA LCS) between 2013-2018, found its inception in 2012, but was launched in the third season of pro play in 2013 with eight teams in the league. Ten years later, the LCS allowed for franchises (starting in 2018), rebooted its relegation system into a supportive model through the LCS Academy, and launched an association to protect its players.

Initially criticized for the lack of big-name sponsors during the early days of franchising, the LCS has evolved significantly since, signing sponsorships and partnerships with several major non-endemic brands including Honda, Mastercard, Samsung, and recently a seven-year-long deal with FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange platform.

A rocky ride but fans persevere

Rightly so, a large factor behind the success and perseverance of the LCS can be attributed to the fans and community who have remained loyal to the league for so many years. Be it a tweet about NA supremacy, battling Europe on Twitch by spamming copypastas, or screaming NA>EU during international tournaments, LCS fans have relentlessly rallied to show their love for the league, despite criticism about the league’s performance when pitted against the likes of the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) and China’s League of Legends Pro League (LPL).

The community’s role as a pillar of support has significantly helped the LCS realize that it needs to spice things up to prevent itself from failing in terms of viewership numbers and content creation. It has been constantly brought up how the LCS underperforms in international tournaments and how all it does is provide a “retiring home” for many global stars. LCS’ import policies have been heavily criticized by experts and pros alike as well.

“LCS teams have been heavily criticized by the global community for consistently failing to perform at international tournaments while importing talent from other major regional leagues instead of developing regional talent,” said Parth “Parth” Naidu, Team SoloMid (TSM) general manager, in his .

Over the years, the LCS has also taken a hit in the form of failing viewership. The 2021 LCS Summer Split had the lowest peak viewership count in the last five years. According to EportsCharts, the LCS reached a peak of . On the other hand, during the 2021 Summer Split the LEC had a staggering peak viewership of

The rebranding of the LCS in 2021 shows that the league is trying to keep up with the constant evolution of its community, shifting its focus from commercial growth to a cultural one. It also shows that it is trying to keep up with the pace of the other leagues in terms of broadcast and viewership retention.

The LCS is a world in itself. It is built upon countless stories, lore, cultures, and inside jokes fuelled by its ocean of fans. LCS’ motto “Made by Many” encompasses the memories collectively shared by fans, the teams, the many players, and the personalities associated with it.

Fans revisit the glory days of the LCS

Most of the community has been on this rollercoaster of a ride right from the very beginning. From the birth of some of NA’s biggest League of Legends masterminds and watching them turn into legends to cheering them on even after their retirement, the fans have been through it all. So, why do the fans love the LCS? What brings them back despite criticism about the LCS’ conservative broadcast approach? Seeking answers, AFK Gaming reached out to fans ahead of the LCS’ ten-year anniversary.

Some of the fans I spoke to expressed their adoration for the league by sharing memories of their favorite pro games, plays, unique champion drafts, and healthy banter between teams and players in the LCS.

“The reason why I started loving the LCS is very simple,” League of Legends player Nandakumar “Tailonfist” Rathinavel told AFK. “It is not about the skill or the insane gameplay for me. Some of the goofy plays in the competition like failed tower dives or bad communication remind me of my Solo Queue experience. Sometimes it’s the spirit of a pro wanting to carry the game single-handedly. I see a part of myself in the games.”

Towers are our enemies

It is a running gag in the League of Legends esports scene that some of the plays that NA teams make in international tournaments are questionable. The LCS is infamous for its many fun-fail moments – whether it is diving enemy structures, or making bad calls like starting neutral objectives while the team’s spells are on cooldown.

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North America’s playstyle is often memed in the community

Talking about fun-fail moments, Reddit user reminded the community of the that transpired in a 2016 Spring Split game between Renegades and Dignitas . With players dying to neutral monsters and towers, this match would go on to become a classic example of how not to play the game.

Unconventional picks are an LCS specialty

Fans also love the LCS for the daring picks that sometimes go through the champion select phase. Whether it is a classic, unconventional Darius pick or running a team composition with an annoyance that is Teemo – LCS has served its fans pure entertainment. For those of you who don’t play Teemo, think of him as the equivalent of Techies from Dota 2 or Raze from Valorant (when you are stuck in a corner with nowhere to run).

user recalled the match between NRG Esports and Team SoloMid where TSM locked in the infamous Teemo for its top-laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell. The story behind the Teemo pick traces back to TSM owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh’s tweet where he had promised fans a Teemo pick in the next game if his tweet crossed 20K RTs.

We will rock you! – the numerous personalities of LCS

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Some of LCS’ broadcast talent

Anyone who enjoys watching esports will understand and appreciate the effort and hard work put in by the play-by-play shout casters, color casters, and desk analysts who make a game enjoyable. Getting the audience hyped up just by using the right words is no easy feat. It is the casters and analysts who are the voice of the game during broadcasts. They add value, nuance, and insight whilst actively commenting on what is happening on the screen.

With some of the iconic casters and commentators under its belt, the LCS has always managed to build hype and retain audience interest in its league despite lowering competitive quality. LCS’ personalities have built unique connections with their fans, which have increased the sentimental value that the community holds for the league.

For instance, Sam “Kobe” Hartman-Kenzler has been a part of the LCS broadcast as a caster since Season 3. He is fondly remembered for his “Professor Kobe” videos where he would break down game clips and highlights while pointing out the misplays with good humor.

David “Phreak” Turley, also a treasured member of the LCS broadcast team, known for his unapologetic and ruthless comments during casting has also managed to garner a rabid fanbase. His phrase ‘tons of damage’ even became a popular meme within the community.

Even newer talents who joined the league recently like Clayton “CaptainFlowers” Raines have captured the heart of the community. The “Rap God” of the LCS was dearly missed by the community during the 2021 Worlds, when he gave the event a pass. On Twitter, User AngyyFuloth said they loved watching the LCS because of CaptainFlowers and tweeted a famous clip of his from Worlds 2018.

It’s not just the casters that make LCS so enjoyable. Let’s talk about the “life of the party” – the players who bring the LCS to life. Over the years some of these player names have become synonymous with the league.

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Some of LCS’ famous pro players

While conversing with a League of Legends follower, you will probably come across names like Bjergsen, Doublelift, Aphromoo, Scarra, Imaqtpie, and Dyrus. They are undoubtedly some of the greatest players to have graced the game and the community takes pride in the fact that they were all fostered by the LCS. From child prodigies to veteran players, you can find them all in the LCS.

Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg was only a kid when he entered the LCS in 2014. He was pivotal in earning six LCS titles for TSM as the mid-laner. The fans have cheered him on for all his major career decisions – retiring from pro play, becoming a coach, and later announcing his comeback. Bjergsen’s Zilean picks in the regional games would go on to dictate a new meta across the globe.

The league also boasts a superstar that can probably go head-to-head with any other professional player in the world. A particular statement made by him has been visited and revisited by many. “Everyone is trash,” proclaimed Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, an ADC player known for his trash talk. With a huge appetite for victory, he has often admitted that his words have gotten him into trouble in the past. This attitude has earned the star player admiration and admonition.

Pick a fight. Wait, not literally!

What makes a competitive esports scene interesting to watch? For some, it is being able to witness the highest tiers of plays from the best of the best. For others, it is the storylines that are attached to the pro scene. And honestly, what better storylines do we need other than esports rivalries? They truly elevate the game and turn regular matches into must watch affairs. For fans, there cannot be a more exhilarating feeling than watching their favorites crush their archrivals.

There is no other region in League of Legends with rivalries as passionate, legendary, and entertaining as those in the LCS. Over the years, the LCS has gained popularity for its intense nail-biters intertwined with the best storylines, ardent fans, and terrific atmosphere, making it a must-watch affair for fans of the game.

If you have been around since the beginning of the LCS, you cannot avoid being intrigued by the classic TSM vs CLG rivalry. Being two of the oldest organizations in NA, these teams had the longest-running rivalry, maybe the first-ever in the League of Legends esports scene. The interactions between them have always been heated, fuelled by passion with an overwhelming desire to win.

It all started after TSM’s CEO Andy “Reginald” Dinh and CLG’s president George “HotshotGG” Georgallidis decided to go their separate ways after having played for CLG. The lack of compatibility and open disdain between the two became evident and translated into heated games whenever the two sides faced off.

This rivalry not only shaped the careers of the respective players of TSM and CLG, but also set a standard for the LCS on the international stage. And of course, as fans we loved it.

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TSM vs CLG

(The statistics have been sourced from , , and

One of my earliest memories of the LCS was when HotshotGG got his hair dyed hot pink in the 2015 Spring Split after losing a bet with Reginald. The two owners had decided that the loser of the TSM vs CLG matchup would dye their hair and the producers of LCS even had a session dedicated to PinkshotGG’s transformation on the livestream showcasing how integral this rivalry was and still is to the league.

The TSM vs CLG rivalry in League of Legends esports is just as important as Los Angeles Lakers vs Boston Celtics to the National Basketball Association (NBA) or as compelling as the rivalry between India and Pakistan in cricket.

The passions of these teams and many other new rivalries that seem to be sprouting in the grounds of the LCS have ebbed and flowed through the fans for ages. What and how these rivalries translate into the new season is something we can only wait and watch for.

With the possibility of live LAN events resuming and with Worlds touring North America in 2022, it is only natural to expect the LCS to impress its fans and find a solution to bring back its viewers and make them stay.

Whether this will finally be the year where LCS and NA make a comeback and regain its lost viewership is yet to be seen. But one thing is for certain, LCS fans are in for a heck of a ride in 2022 with the league resuming from 14th Jan.

https://afkgaming.com/premium/esports/why-is-the-lcs-a-special-phenomenon Why is the LCS a Special Phenomenon?

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