Could Leave Be Overwatch’s Greatest Player Of All Time?
In our version of history, our little origami story within Overwatch, has robbed us of one of the greats. After a stunning 2021 season, being awarded a much-deserved MVP award, and realizing the potential he carried into the Overwatch League during his rookie debut in 2020, Huang "leave" Xin can now be considered one of the best Overwatch players in the world.
And as the final chapter closes on our chaotic little game, we are left wondering; how much would you have to change to see leave hold a competitive seed on the ballot for Overwatch’s greatest player of all time?
To establish a base, a GOAT candidate needs awe-inspiring peaks, they need a resume of success, and they need longevity. Someone who manages one or even two could be the best player of their era or even one of the greats, but the greatest of all time needs to argue the trifecta.
Leave checks many of those boxes and for some does enough to warrant a seat at the table, but even with some minor changes, leave could easily demand consideration as a serious contender for GOAT candidacy.
You could easily say that leave was the best player in the world after his 2021 performance—but does that warrant a GOAT nod?
Now, a minor history lesson for those uninitiated - leave and many current and former stars from the Chengdu Hunters hail from a team called Miraculous Youngsters. During their era, they competed against some of the best South Korean teams and beat them. That alone should garner respect, but it’s how they did so that was inspiring. While the world was playing dive centric compositions, leave and Miraculous Youngsters opted for a slower, deathball style of play. What made the style of potent was leave’s incredible versatility that he had been showcasing since his debut in 2016 and predominantly during the Overwatch Premier Series. Miraculous Youngsters were the team emerging out of China, and were an exciting force to see in international competition, but for reasons unknown, they were overlooked for the inaugural season of the Overwatch League.
Leave, due to his age, would have been barred regardless until 2020, but that wouldn’t have stopped him from improving his resume of success.
Leave is one of the most skilled Overwatch players to ever touch the game. Not much needs to be said about your 2021 MVP and someone who rivals the best players in the world in both specific hero strength and versatility. From Widowmaker to Cassidy to Doomfist to Tracer to Echo, leave has, can, and will continue to do it all. Skill was never a question.
His resume of success is unique in the sense that he was a tested star from an emerging region. China was not nearly the region it is today and even then leave, and Miraculous Youngsters were going toe-to-toe with some of the best teams in the world. And during their prime, leave genuinely looked incredible. Leave was a name that was measured around the likes of Kim "Fleta" Byung-sun during his stint on Flash Lux and the KongDoo Panthera era of Kim "Rascal" Dong-jun, these incredibly potent and flexible players for their time. Leave compared and even arguably looked better than some of them. More prominent star players, especially during the Overwatch League era, argue far greater achievements, without a doubt, but the underlying factor is the time he’s spent with the game not the possible awards he would have, and possibly could have, won.
What hurts leave’s GOAT argument the most is his longevity. After Miraculous Youngsters quiet exit during 2017’s annual finals for the Nexus Cup, leave went on hiatus only returning during 2019 with a commitment to the Chengdu Hunters for their 2020 bid. Sure, we were reminded of his talent during the 2018 Overwatch World Cup, but that is a far cry away from world-class competition. Even during his rookie year alongside the Hunters, the magic wasn’t consistent which drew a lot of questions and worries around such an amazing talent. Obviously, 2021 put those concerns to rest, but that sadly doesn’t absolve or help his case.
However, if you could rewrite some small details about his history, leave’s case looks extremely relevant at the table of the greats. Let’s say for instance he stays with Overwatch and competes within Overwatch Contenders. Without even assuming victory, leave would have easily been a standout against the likes of Lucky Future Zenith, LGD Gaming, and the entrance of the academy teams. That alone strengthens his case. Now, what if we gave him an Overwatch Contenders title? What if he performed well at The Gauntlet and became the champion China was looking for? Extending further, what if his rookie showcase saw improvements based on his continued practice and growth in this scenario? What if the Countdown Cup trophy had his name engraved on the side?
Without even reaching into the absurd, this makes his cases infinitely more reasonable for Overwatch’s greatest of all time and even compares to select front-runners.
Now as a minor aside; no, this argument cannot be hijacked for every player ever.
These are all reasonable takes based on leave’s history and the context that surrounds each instance. Could the Chengdu Hunters have beaten the Los Angeles Gladiators if Kim "Shu" Jin-seo’s hero play? Absolutely. Could he have taken a team to multiple Overwatch Contenders titles and looked like a star while doing so? Without a doubt. These are all reasonable assertions based on pedigree and not something any forgettable bench rider can accomplish.
Leave’s biggest selling point to Overwatch’s golden throne is the strength of the recent competition. You can argue that each year Overwatch measures a different concoction. However, it is not up for debate whether or not Overwatch both has become more coordinated and has become more difficult with its odd testing methods. The advent of hero pools alone increased the demand and forced players, coaches, and entire teams, they become incredibly agile. Sat next to that are the regional metagames that developed within the post-pandemic world and the clear delineation between eastern and western regions. Leave not only has risen with the tide but emerged as the final MVP. If there was ever an arcade-style jackpot, this is it.
Is leave Overwatch’s GOAT? Absolutely not, but he is one of the greats and deserves his own immortalization.
Could he have been Overwatch’s GOAT if things went slightly differently? Yes.
Unequivocally and undeniably, yes.