Over the past few years, the competitive League of Legends scene has seen a completely new class of young stars take the reins from their predecessors. As the new era of leadership for top leagues across the globe, these waves of fresh talent have quickly risen to become not only the face of their organizations, but their regions as a whole.
Superstars like ShowMaker, Canyon, and Chovy are the front-facing names of the LCK. Players like Elyoya, Adam, and Larssen continue to build their own legacies in the LEC, while names like Bin, Viper, and Gala are already renowned around the world for their skills—and did we mention that all of these players are only 21 years old or younger?
Across the Atlantic, however, most fans know North America as the butt of the League community’s jokes whenever the free agency period comes around. It has become almost exhausting to hear people make the same jokes about how reliant LCS teams are on veteran imports when building a team, just to see similar results on the international stage.
But in 2022, it feels as though the region has finally flipped the page on a chapter that NA fans have been stuck on for far too long. Multiple big-name teams have taken a chance on more unproven rookie talent that have the potential to propel the region forward into the future alongside its fellow major regions.
TSM brought in two newcomers from the LDL in Keaiduo and Shenyi, Cloud9 flew in Berserker and Winsome from the Korean developmental scene, while 100 Thieves continues to push young NA players into the league with its former Academy players Tenacity, Luger, and Poome all finding homes on LCS teams this spring.
But there is one team that will surely be at the forefront of the region’s growing future: Evil Geniuses. Ever since Peter Dun joined the team in 2020, the organization has shown it is willing to bet on young players to spearhead its fortune in the league with plenty of investments into tier-two rosters like EG Academy and EG Prodigies. Last year, that same developmental system gave birth to one of the LCS’ newest, youngest stars, Danny. And now, that same program has introduced the world to one of the region’s most hyped rookies in recent memory, Joseph “Jojopyun” Joon Pyun.
Not much is known about this young phenom who has been thrown into the spotlight after spending less than a year with the organization’s Academy team. But Jojopyun is ready to delve into the journey that led him to League, along with his new everyday life in the LCS, and how his hunger for success has him reaching for greatness in his first split.
The call to compete, the drive to succeed
From a young age, Jojopyun had a love for competition. The 17-year-old star told Dot Esports the first game he placed his efforts into was Call of Duty, but the young Torontonian quickly shifted his focus towards one of esports’ bigger scenes in 2019: Fortnite.
The game was entering one of its most successful years in terms of popularity, especially with the Fortnite World Cup boasting a whopping $30-million prize pool. Players from around the world were trying to get a piece of the pie, and in his spare time, Jojopyun jumped into open Fortnite tournaments in both solo and duo settings. He used to stream his gameplay and gained notoriety in the scene after a handful of high placements in solo Cash Cups and stream-sniping former FaZe Clan Fortnite pro and popular streamer Tfue.
But Jojopyun says he never really thought about the game too seriously.
“I don’t know if I’d be considered a pro, because I just played after school casually,” Jojopyun told Dot Esports. “It’s not like I tried to become a pro in it. I just played whenever I was available, and I was just good at it. But I never tried to take it as a profession, [and] it wasn’t fun to me anymore. So I just stopped playing the game.”
In a similar fashion, Jojopyun started playing League for fun with his friends after dropping Fortnite. He saw that he excelled enough to rise far up the ranked ladder, but the incredible variety between Riot Games’ numerous patches and the different champions, playstyles, and teammates made him stick with it for the long haul.
This unique road to League might seem odd for some, with each title being very different from one another. But Jojopyun’s raw mechanical skill and intense ambition towards competition made him stand out among the rest of the NA amateur players in solo queue—so much so that it caught the eyes of EG’s scouts, leading them to reach out and offer him a spot on the org’s Academy team.
EG’s general manager Andrew Barton played a big role in Jojopyun’s acquisition, and he told Dot he was impressed by the young star’s potential coming out of the gate.
“For Jojo specifically, when he came in and was already voicing what he wants to do, trying to be a shotcaller, articulating to his peers how he views the game and what he wants to get done—that was really impressive to me to see out of a young player and even a new player in League of Legends,” he said.
Younger, newer players tend to be a bit more reserved in the way they communicate, which can be tough to deal with when trying to play at a championship-winning level. But Barton said when he analyzed Jojopyun from a personal perspective, the teenager was “super sociable” and a “plug-and-play” type of player who would get along with all of his teammates. He also saw from Jojopyun’s intense drive to win that he was ready for the LCS.
“I just love competing too, it can be in anything,” Jojopyun said. “So whenever I compete… if I want to be the best, I’ll try my hardest to become the best at whatever that is. It can be anything and it just turned out to be League.”
Finding solace in swishes
During his first few weeks with EG, however, Jojopyun felt something many other young pros have felt before: homesickness. A new home in Los Angeles, new teammates and coaches, and a fresh life and work environment can be equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking for any beginner, but especially for someone coming straight out of high school.
Jojopyun says he was thrilled to start his new career in one of the biggest esports in the world, since he was living at the EG team house and was signed to an organization that was quickly rising in stock in the LCS. But not having his family and friends by his side affected him more than he expected.
During his first months with EG Academy, feelings of loneliness crept up. As a result, there were only a few outlets he could rely on whenever he felt melancholic: his new teammates, basketball, and sometimes a combination of both. The sport has always been one of his favorite pastimes, and it was a great way to get to know his fellow peers.
“I just bonded with my teammates a lot,” he said. “Even last year, when I was feeling lonely, I would just bond with them more… I asked for a basketball net, and then [EG] got me it. So last year, I would just play almost every day just for fun. I played with my teammates too, so that was fun.”
Like many kids from Toronto, Jojopyun’s a fan of the Raptors, and his favorite player in the team’s history is DeMar DeRozan. It’s a fitting choice, seeing as DeMar had to prove himself in his first years in the league before the city embraced him as the next face of their franchise. In the same way, Jojopyun must also earn his place before the LCS fanbase takes him in as one of its beloved resident stars.
With a group of veteran teammates ready to guide him, Jojopyun has acclimated successfully to his new surroundings in record time. Having these solutions figured out and distractions firmly in the rear-view mirror, his focus can now shift to improving himself on Summoner’s Rift so he can become a worthy champion for North America.
In League, many pro players aim to leave behind a legacy that will be discussed far into the future of the game. Overthrowing history, however, has proven to be quite difficult for most; we’ve seen so many incredible names etched into the annals of League’s history. But for EG’s new star jungler Inspired, Jojopyun already has the recipe to become something incredible.
“I think he is very aggressive, and that’s very good when you’re a rookie,” Inspired told Dot Esports. “[If] you’re already confident in your own skill, that’s basically how you can beat players with big legacies, like Bjergsen. He just knows he’s better than him, he’s not scared and he can also pull out any champion—he doesn’t need to practice it, he’s just good at the game.”
On the flip side, however, Inspired thinks Jojopyun still needs to “think [about] the bigger picture when he’s playing” by having a better presence of mind towards what’s happening on the map and thinking about how he can influence his team during a match. Jojopyun agrees he “autopiloted” in Academy but would never get punished, which is something he’s still working on.
After a handful of weeks in the league, it’s clear Jojopyun and the rest of EG’s roster still have some work to do after stumbling out of the gate with three recent losses and a 2-4 record. Things aren’t perfect just yet, but the team has built a formidable framework for a possible dynasty. Even still, it doesn’t hurt to dream of greatness.
Jojopyun confidently said he wants to qualify for the 2022 World Championship. He also wants to get out of the dreaded group stage, which would be a historic moment for the region if they do so. Since the introduction of the new group stage system in 2014 with four groups, only two NA teams have made it to knockouts: TSM and Cloud9.
Many young players make their name known in smaller ways, like pushing their team into playoff contention and collecting a few highlights. But for Jojopyun, his unshaken belief in his team’s ability to continue improving has him convinced they’ll be a challenger for the title in year one. His desire to succeed and his cocky demeanor is winning the hearts of NA fans who’ve become jaded by constant failure at the international level. But now, he needs to show, rather than just tell.
From stream-sniping pro Fortnite players to becoming the shining example of NA’s next wave of electric prospects, Jojopyun has a ton of responsibilities on his shoulders. But with an all-star cast of teammates and a knowledgeable coaching staff at his side, he has everything he needs to take up the mantle.
Michael Kelly contributed to this article.