Uzi Retires From Professional League of Legends
2020 hasn’t been a forgiving year, all things considered. Many fans and players across the globe seek refuge in competitive esports during these trying times, and those who’ve been following the League of Legends scene have just been handed a fairly depressing headline: “Uzi retires from professional play.”
Those who haven’t watched competitive League for long probably don’t know much about Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao, one of the best and most capable players who have ever taken flesh. His story and many accomplishments are often considered to be larger than life. If you look at Uzi and his friendly, relatively calm demeanor (when he’s not playing the game, that is), you probably wouldn’t guess that he’s an absolute mechanical deity. His warm smile and gentle expression are what fans see first; his mind-blowing laning and team fighting prowess come afterward.
The most amazing stories don’t come from Uzi either. His skill speaks for itself, and so do the many players (former pros and those still competing) who had the honor of competing against this towering LPL figure. Uzi is arguably the second-biggest name in the world of competitive League and his legacy will long be remembered. Despite this, it’s hard to shake off the many “what if” scenarios regarding this Chinese AD carry virtuoso. What if he had signed for a better team? What if he went to Korea back during the era of the LCK dynasty? What if he wasn’t so loyal to Royal Never Give Up?
In many ways, his play (and that of his most prominent teammates) set the stage for the current meta — dominated by none other than the LPL. Spectacular laning and unrelenting aggression are the name of the game, but Uzi and RNGU utilized such methods long before they became “the norm.” The stories of Uzi counting frames during laning or contesting every single minion are still as awe-inspiring as they were back when they were first being told.
Back then, they were “just” hype-inducing; now they’re competitive League folklore.
It’s no coincidence, then, that so many professional players went online to send off this legend into retirement with their anecdotes, praises, words of admiration, and highlight-reel moments from the past.
What’s the Problem?
The 23-year-old veteran has decided to retire primarily because of his health. He’s long had issues with his wrists, shoulders, and arms, often missing out on good chunks of the regular season. We knew that he could retire any day now should his health not improve. The biggest problem, however, is that he was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes last year, adding yet another complication to an already worrying laundry list of health issues.
During multiple recent interviews, the LPL legend spoke about how he often played through pain and that the psychological side of competitive League often ends up being overlooked. Psychological endurance is of the utmost importance and is often the main catalyst for burnout and exhaustion. When you pair it with staple LPL training methods (rigorous and dedicated to the extreme), it’s easy to understand how someone’s health can degrade beyond measure in just a couple of years. Stress, irregular eating habits, energy drinks, and chaotic sleeping schedules can affect us all, let alone someone who’s supposed to deliver weekly in a hyper-competitive environment, their livelihood on the line and all.
Uzi’s retirement will also mark a brand-new chapter for Royal Never Give Up. Depending on your allegiance, this might be a good or a bad thing. Uzi was certainly their biggest asset (in every way, shape, and form), but having such a laning behemoth isn’t always a good thing for the team as a whole. If you have a player like Uzi — someone who’s a strong voice in-game and commands attention and resources — you almost have to adapt by default.
RNG was often criticized for their rather one-dimensional style of play, primarily because the team as a whole lived and died by Uzi’s sword. Sometimes, back when the meta favored such a thing, RNG would dominate far more than anyone thought was possible; other times, however, their “individualistic” approach baffled the minds of many. They were trying to force their method in a team-focused meta and things didn’t pan out.
As a result, other teams and organizations (seemingly more vigorous with a fresh take on the game) sped past them en route to claiming the World Championship throne, ushering the LPL dynasty as we now know it.
They don’t “make” ’em like they did back in the day. Uzi belongs to the old guard, a generation of individuals whose play evoked amazement and admiration, almost by default. Along with Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, Uzi was the first League superstar, a trailblazer and trendsetter who captured the imagination of millions of fans across the globe. Their stardom transcends any one region of competitive League and is rightfully accompanied with larger than life narratives.
Those who watched this master flex over his opposition have truly witnessed League of Legends excellence — a competitive giant in every sense of the word.
If Uzi’s health problems clear up, he plans on returning grandly, and the world will certainly tune in with great interest; if this does end up being his final rodeo, then he’ll hang his mouse and keyboard and finally enjoy some well-deserved rest. With multiple second-place World Championship finishes, three LPL split wins, and a Mid-Season Invitational trophy, Uzi has undoubtedly managed to etch his name in the history books.
In the meantime, the LPL will move on, spearheaded by the next breed of Chinese talent. It’s impossible not to wonder whether or not someone will be able to reach Uzi’s level of fame and importance, but at the very least we can notice a couple of “young ones” following the footsteps of this most legendary Chinese giant.