Score doesn’t need an LCK championship to validate his career (but it would be nice)

When thinking about world-class junglers, a few names emerge such as Bae “Bengi” Seong-ung, Choi “DanDy” In-kyu or Choi “Insec” In-seok. But many League of Legends pros speak of a Korean jungler who commands the jungle like no one else. That player is Go “Score” Dong-bin.

“Right now it’s important to create a platform where things can happen, and Score does a very good job at that,” Team Liquid’s Kim “Reignover” Ui-Jin told Slingshot last month. “He knows when he needs to sacrifice himself for the team and when he doesn’t need to do so. He’s also very good at putting down vision, his communication is good, and he makes very little mistakes. He also is the best jungler in the world, but he always respects the enemy jungler without putting too much risk on the line.”

Cloud9’s Juan “Contractz” Arturo Garcia also called Score the best jungler in the world, a title that has gained traction over the last year. Despite accolades and respect from his peers, though, Score’s career has one caveat: He’s never won a domestic or international tournament.

Score was one of the “first generation” League professionals, starting off in StarTale playing with Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook and Kim “kkOma” Jung-gyun before his move to KT Rolster Bullets in 2012. Score has been a member of KT since, and is known to be one of the greatest jungler in Korea right now.

Interestingly enough, Score was an AD Carry early in his career and started at that position for KT Rolster Bullets. His overly careful play was at its peak in 2013’s summer split, but he fell off a bit the following year and eventually switched to the jungle in 2015. His prowess as a jungle carry evolved over time as he was soon acknowledged as one of the best last year alongside Han “Peanut” Wang-ho.

KT’s key phrase for 2017 was “super team,” and seeing who was added to the roster, the hype leading up to the start of the League Champions Korea season seemed justified. KT Rolster added top laner Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho, the best in the world in his position in 2016, along with two world champions (Heo “PawN” Won-seok and Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong), and contender for the best AD Carry in the world, Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu. Seeing this star-studded lineup, almost every role was replaced on the team, and it’s not as if previous incarnations of KT were bad by any means. The final piece of the puzzle was, almost predictably, the only player that has been with the team for the grand majority of his career: Score.

The confidence that KT has in Score’s ability is obvious when considering the super team was built around him. And when KT struggled, especially during the second round of the regular season, Score was often the only player who played at or above expectations. The team’s persistence has resulted in a run to the LCK final on Saturday, where KT will play SK Telecom T1.

Score’s opponent has taken note, as SKT head coach Choi “cCarter” Byung-hoon mentioned in a recent interview with Daily eSports’ Nam Yoon-sung. As outside analysis showed that Deft could be the biggest game changer, cCarter actually pointed to Score as the player who would most likely turn the tide.

“Score is KT’s franchise star and oldest player and had worthy performances during the two matches we had against them during the regular split,” he said. “Because he hasn’t been able to win an LCK title, he is that much hungrier, and we’ll have to be careful of his passion.”

It’s fascinating to see a player globally revered as one of the best in the world and yet void of any sort of team championship to claim. It’s even more peculiar when considering that he’s been a professional since 2012. Score’s plight has become somewhat of a joke in Korea, as many find it impossible for Score to be first in anything. The most recent joke is one that posits whether kkOma, SKT’s coach, will get married first (another oft-discussed topic) or if Score will get a first place finish.

The questions emerged again this week as a revitalized KT will face SKT after defeating 2016 world runner up Samsung Galaxy 3-0 in the semifinals. If there was a team that could take down the undisputed kings of Korean League of Legends, KT might be it. If it happens, Score will be front and center to finally break his curse.

Score will once again challenge for the elusive win. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and SKT have kept plenty of players from achieving their dreams over the last four years and will again be a formidable test. But what Score has already accomplished in his career makes him worthy of any title, even if “champion” isn’t included among them. He’s competed in the League of Legends World Championship, garnered almost universal respect from his peers and been the focal point of building a “super team.” If he manages to add an LCK championship to that list of accomplishments, it would be the perfect complement and a long time coming.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Gameo

Slingshot staff writer and Korean League of Legends expert who also owns a Pikachu-themed iPhone case.

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