World Champion Lee “Crown” Min-ho retires from professional League of Legends competition, the player officially announced. One of the game’s unsung heroes calls it quits after half a decade of high-octane professional play.
In his Instagram post that explained his reasoning for his retirement, he acknowledged his fans for supporting him throughout his career. It was a fitting tribute for a player who had been best-known for harnessing sensitive conduct despite wielding an aggressive playstyle in-game.
“I’m writing this so that I can greet all of you and the fans for the last time under the nickname [of] ‘Crown’. First, to those who cheered for me and praised me, I’m really thankful that you gave me the attention and love that I don’t deserve,” said the former world champion in a translation made by Inven Global.
The Korean mid laner ends his six-year career after playing in three regions (Brazil, North America, and Korea) across the world.
His most famous achievement occurred when he was a member of Samsung Galaxy in which the team won the 2017 World Championship over SK Telecom T1. In 2019, he moved overseas to North America and played for OpTic Gaming and Counter Logic gaming before returning to Korea in mid-2020 with OZ Gaming.
An Unlikely Beginning
Before starting his career in League, Crown was a Starcraft II player who joined STX Soul as a trainee player in 2010 at 15 years of age.
Crown on his early life: “I tried really hard to beat the starters from the bottom, but according to the players’ and experts’ evaluations, I wasn’t able to play like S grade, A+ grade, A, B grade players. There were social issues and several things happened — official matches of Starcraft: Brood War disappeared, which I liked.
“I was just living my daily life after giving up my dream, but my friends who were born in ‘94, ‘95, ‘96, and my Starcraft clan friends started to be deep into a new game called LoL, so I started playing.”
Contrary to other prominent careers which began on the spotlight, for Crown, his began in the bustling nation of Brazil in mid-2014. He moved to the South American nation to play for Team 58ers, who was eventually picked up by KABUM! Esports to form KABUM! Black, its sister team.
Crown Moving to Samsung Galaxy
Though Crown failed to garner success in Brazil, his individual prowess caught the eye of a budding independent team from back home. Coupling that with his desire to return home, Crown joined a team called Hyper in 2015. With Hyper, he sealed a spot in Challengers Korea, the presumed second tier of professional Korean League behind the League Champions Korea (LCK).
Teams such as Crown’s Hyper were offered the chance for promotion to the LCK, the world’s most competitive and prestigious domestic league at the time. Unfortunately for Crown, Hyper never flirted with the opportunity as they were eliminated in 9th-16th place in the two series portions of the spring split.
Nevertheless, as he had distinguished himself once again through his play in Summoner’s Rift during the first half of 2015, he was selected to join another Korean team.
Compared to his previous team, they weren’t just another ragtag bunch of nobodies that were seeking for an infallible chance of glory. Their reputation was already established as one of the game’s premier teams, be it from Korea or the international scene’s consciousness.
The team that came calling to Crown was Samsung Galaxy, the spiritual successor of their two famous sister teams, Samsung Blue and White. As the rules for sisters team made it that they were now prohibited in 2015, alongside the Chinese purge of Korean players for their LPL, Samsung released both rosters earlier despite taking home the Summoner’s Cup in Worlds 2014.
As such, the refurbished team was forced to the bottom as they finished last in the LCK standings for the 2015 spring split, meaning they had to play in the Promotion Series for the summer split.
Samsung survived that series and had guaranteed their spot in the LCK for one more split, but they knew adjustments needed to be made in order to avoid relegation. As a result, they promoted Crown from their second team to the main roster for the summer. Finally, after years of struggle and endurance, Crown was given his shot in League’s biggest domestic stages.
Ascension to Glory
Though Samsung slowly recovered from their disastrous 2015 spring split, going 6-12 in summer 2015 to 10-8 in spring 2016 and to 12-6 in summer 2016, Crown quickly gained a following and earned the status as one of the LCK’s budding stars.
In March 25, during Game 3 in their Week 11 LCK summer series against Jin Air Green Wings, Crown notched his first ever penta-kill. Powered by his usage of the battlemage champion in Viktor, he enjoyed a major improvement in his individual statistics also, going from an average mid laner in spring to one of the best in summer.
Samsung Galaxy qualified for Worlds 2016 after defeating KT Rolster in the LCK Regional Finals in a three-game sweep. This meant Crown reached League’s perennial tournament for the first time in his career.
Staying true with his Viktor–Crown amassed a 6-1 record with the champion through the tournament–he led Samsung Galaxy on an extraordinary run, blanketing China’s Royal Never Give up, North America’s TSM and Cloud9, and Europe’s H2K to the grand finals, where LCK compatriots SK Telecom T1 awaited them.
Analysts and pundits predicted for a slightly close series seeing as Samsung walked into the series as heavy underdogs against the defending two-time world champions, but the challengers made it a perennial classic as it went the distance for the five games.
Trying as Samsung might in dissuading SKT from the world title, he lost in the final game after staying locked in a stalemate for nearly 40 minutes. In the last game, Crown’s Viktor pick was notably taken away by Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok during the draft phase, denying him the chance of taking the trophy with his go-to champion. With the defeat, Crown had to wait for another year to experience his moment of glory.
And it was 2017 when everything came together for Crown’s team. In the LCK, Crown won the regular season split MVP for spring, beating out Faker and jungling teammate Kang “Haru” Min-seung for the award. In Worlds, Samsung Galaxy returned to the top by sweeping SKT three games to none, their revenge of yesteryear rectified. For Crown, against the weight of his slippery and difficult past, he officially became a champion.
Post Championship Blues
But though Crown accomplished his goal of winning the world championship, a dream that many sought and few reached, he discovered that he didn’t find sufficient personal fulfillment in his triumph. Instead, he was pounded with vitriol from fans for utilizing Malzahar according to his team’s strategy during the grand finals. As a result of the negative scrutiny, Crown was emotionally devastated. The voices of the haters reached him as much as hated to admit it.
“From a certain point, rather than being fun, interesting, and competitive, all my thoughts were filled with negative thoughts and started getting stressful. I was dreaming things that I can’t realistically reach and said ‘this one more time, next one more time’, and endured pathetically up to now. I think it’s finally time to let go,” the legendary Korean mid laner explained about his period of solemnity.
From that memorable night in the Bird’s Nest, Crown experienced a downward trend in team and individual performance. Though he and Gen.G qualified for Worlds 2018 by way of the Regional Finals once again, in the group stage, they were eliminated in last place after compiling a 1-5 record.
In 2019, he moved overseas once again to North America for OpTic and CLG–citing a need to search “for [his] bright self from the past”–but he didn’t find the type of consolation he longed for as he was eventually subbed out of the main roster during the beginning of the 2020 LCS spring split. Crown soon left NA to return to Korea for OZ Gaming of the CK.
For his last team, he joined OZ Gaming and helped them attempt to reach promotion in the CK, just like did with Hyper almost five years ago. In the CK’s last playoffs before franchising is installed in 2021, OZ was eliminated in the second round to Awesome Spear in four games. Upon his retirement, his victory in Worlds 2017 was his first and only piece of team hardware won in his career.
“Now, for real. If I just say this for the last time, something I wanted to tell myself, or my mom, or if I just wanted attention, or if I wanted to follow someone — I don’t even remember since it’s been so long,” Crown said in closing of his announcement. “I wanted to say this from the beginning to now, but I wasn’t able to, now I can’t. If I say this, I think I could leave without regret. Even if it’s weird, just let it go.
“I’m grateful and thankful for so many acquaintances, all the moments, coincidences, and luck. Thank you.”