Brooklyn, NY—The path to a championship isn’t always neat or predictable. There are rough patches, detours, dragons to slay, demons to conquer. Some teams may take a wrong turn just as they’re about to reach their goal, and others get mired in misfortune, but what all champions have in common is the fact that they made it all the way to the end. On Saturday at Barclays Center, the London Spitfire made history by becoming the first team to capture the Overwatch League trophy, a richly deserved coronation after a long, parabolic season.
After the moment of victory and the handshake line, but before the confetti had a chance to settle, London captain Jae-Hui “Gesture” Hong turned to face the crowd. It was the first time he’d emerged out of the zone all weekend, having been laser-focused to the task at hand, but now he could finally take it all in: the crowd, the cacophony, the significance of what he and his team had just achieved.
There were so many hard times during the season but we are Champions today and I am so happy. It was an amazing stage. Thank you for everyone who cheered for us until the end!! #AcesHigh— Gesture (@GestureOW) July 28, 2018
Around him, teammates congratulated each other, all in various stages of relief, excitement, and delight. Not even the coaches were immune—coach Cheol-Yong “Agape” Hong was moved to tears by his team’s achievement. As he later explained, “There was a lot of stuff that happened that we had to fix mentally, emotionally, and gameplay-wise, and I think as the moment of victory approached, all those times quickly flashed through my head, and that’s why I became a little bit emotional.”
The story of the Spitfire’s road to the championship is an instant classic. The potential was always there, with the rosters they had signed from Korean powerhouses Kongdoo Panthera and GC Busan, and they were considered frontrunners through the first half of the season. A dismal second half seemed to punch the air out of their lungs, which made their revival in the playoffs that much more impressive as they took down the Los Angeles Gladiators and Los Angeles Valiant on their way to the Grand Finals.
Their last obstacle was the mercurial Philadelphia Fusion, but the Spitfire’s aggressive, coordinated play was too much to handle over the two-day, best-of-three series to decide the inaugural league champion. London followed up their 3-1 victory on Friday with an even more one-sided 3-0 win on Saturday that showcased the pinnacle of team play in Overwatch.
Junkertown, the opening map, was defined by the devastating ultimate combinations that hinged on Gesture’s superb Orisa play, using Halt! to trap enemy heroes in place while his teammates positioned themselves to deal maximum damage.
The Fusion described playing against the duo as “uncomfortable” and “annoying”—the highest of compliments where tanks are concerned.
“Fury and I have a really good understanding of this meta and how we need to play mechanically in each situation,” Gesture said. “If we’re using ultimates and chaining them together as a team in order to create favorable situations in team fights, we know exactly when to use them and how we need to coordinate.”
“The main thing is that they create a lot of space for us to deal damage freely, and that’s where our power comes from,” added DPS Jun-Young “Profit” Park, who was selected as MVP of the Grand Finals after posting eye-popping statistics across a handful of heroes. Known mostly for his Tracer and Genji play prior to the Overwatch League, Profit’s recent improvements on Brigitte and Hanzo were crucial developments for the Spitfire in the playoffs.
I'm the world BEST DPS— 박준영 (@PROFIT_OWL) July 28, 2018
Profit, Gesture, and substitute support Won-Sik “Closer” Jung have now won three major titles each as teammates, but for the four other Spitfire players, Saturday’s victory was their first—and all the sweeter for that reason. “It holds a lot of deep meaning for me because it’s the first season and the first championship of the Overwatch League,” Fury said.
“It’s definitely a great honor to be able to win on such a massive stage,” added Jong-Seok “Nus” Kim. “I want to thank the coaches as well—I made the team through tryouts, and the coaches gave me the motivation to push forward.”
The Spitfire’s victory lap began immediately with a celebratory steak dinner—“Jack will take care of everything,” Seung-Tae “Bdosin” Choi assured the media—and a visit to the Grand Finals afterparty, where they were properly fêted.
The best night ever pic.twitter.com/bZ3BKuwZAr— Fury (@Furyy_d) July 29, 2018
Cloud9 owner Jack Etienne also revealed plans for a lengthy visit to London in October, so the players can properly meet the local fanbase that has been cheering the team on from afar despite the tough time difference. In between, four players will attend the All-Star Game at Blizzard Arena. They’ll have time to appreciate the legacy they’ve set—not only as the league’s reigning champions, but also as its most fearsome team—and to get even better.
“Next season I want to return to the league as a stronger player, and I also hope opposing teams get stronger as well,” Ji-Hyeok “Birdring” Kim stated.
At London’s postmatch press conference, players and staff were decked out in official champions gear. Underneath their shiny jackets, they also wore team-designed T-shirts, which were emblazoned with a single star—a symbol to mark this championship, the first in Overwatch League history.
What was left unsaid: there’s plenty of room to add more.