Fleta wanted the world to know his name. Now, it's immortalised in history.
Ever single Overwatch League playoff race has had a tagline, a stinging quote that frames all of the narratives that will both continue and end in the coming months. This year's tagline of "champion the future" perfectly encapsulates Kim "Fleta" Byung-sun rise from winless to champion. The man they call "the meta" for his shocking flexibility, the young boy who once dreamed of simply winning a match now stands at the top, not only as the MVP of the regular season but also as a member of the final four teams still in the 2020 playoff race.
2018 saw the inaugural season give birth to the first-ever playoff race, where the London Spitfire “captured history” as the first Overwatch League champions. 2019 saw the playoffs as a two-horse race, between the Vancouver Titans and the eventual champions the San Francisco Shock. Seeing those two teams battle in the grand finale really was “the best of us.” Now in the Overwatch League’s junior year, we come to “champion the future.” There simply is not a better fit. It’s almost as if fate itself decided this was to be the year that Fleta would see his time in the sun, however, that stands superimposed over the many years we all spent wondering “what if” and “wouldn’t it be nice.”
From the highs of winning multiple events alongside as well as the lows of spending his first few years losing, Fleta has truly seen all that there is to see in Overwatch.
During his major debut in APEX Season 2, Fleta recorded zero match victories and only one map win as a part of Flash Lux. Season 3 ended winless both in terms of matches and maps for Fleta, and Season 4 didn't see that record improve much at all. At the end of three different outings, Fleta was still winless, and it wasn't from a lack of effort. During numerous outings, Fleta was able to rack up 50% of his team's kill participation. Stop and think about that for a moment; one player, during a professional Overwatch match, earned half of all six members kills. Esports journalist Sascha' YiskaOut' Heinisch lovingly dubbed the feat as a "Fleta Deadlift" - and we've used that metric of success ever since.
Fleta's two-season stretch with the Seoul Dynasty looked promising. The core of the team performed well during OGN's Seoul Cup, but they never settled on a concrete identity. Season one felt like Fleta was given carte blanche with any resource he saw fit. It was like he was deemed Seoul's star player, and become the sole spearhead of their aggression, and to their credit, it worked for the first half of the season, but near the mid-way point there seemed to be a disconnect from all parties. Season two began on a strange note with how dominant the metagame was thought to be. With tanks and supports being the only thing on the menu, Fleta and Seoul were once again in a strange position. The deathball centric style of gameplay wasn't going away anytime soon, and the team needed to find the right fit.
Again, to Seoul's credit, the team performed fairly well outside of the playoffs, but still flubbed on the potential their roster had. By the end of 2019, Fleta, for all he was worth, still hadn't seen much - if any - sunlight. He was still just potential collecting dust on a shelf, like that book you've wanted to read but just can't find the time to sit and enjoy.
2020 has been different for a lot of reasons. You could point to the global COVID-19 pandemic and what that has meant for the Overwatch League, point towards the chaos that the new Hero Pool system has brought us, point towards Fleta joining the Shanghai Dragons - it has been a wild year. This was the year for Fleta to do something different; this was his time to finally step out and embrace the world as the star we all knew he could be. The May Melee title, a strong performance at the Summer Showdown, and the Dragons' return at the Countdown Cup not only solidified Shanghai as the undisputed frontrunners in Asia, but it put Fleta front and centre.
No matter the pool of heroes he was allowed to choose from, no matter the metagame, he still found a way to impose his will. Lest not we forget, this isn't something that has fallen into his lap; he's playing in front of world-class DPS players like Bae "diem" Min-seong and Yang "DDing" Jin-hyeok. Now, while he prepares for his coming opponents in the grand finals, those who look to challenge him in his region, he can call himself the most valuable player of 2020.
That has to have a nice ring to it.
To champion the future seems almost like an oxymoron, right? To become the greatest at something that isn't guaranteed or hasn't even happened yet seems impossible, but Fleta's story almost begs you to believe. Not just in him and his abilities, but to your own hopes and dreams. From dreaming of football stardom and playing casually in arcades, to battling the best in the world in Overwatch for millions of dollars, from the lowest of lows to the heights that he and the Shanghai Dragons have reached this season. Think for a moment on what his story means. Think of all the people living in the world today, and all of their collective potential. If we're honest with ourselves, most people won't pursue or chase their passion. Their potential might be that dusty book sitting on your shelf. Fleta took his book, cleaned it up, read it, and even when they said he couldn't finish it all, he did. He read and read until he was undeniable. Fleta is your archetypal champion of the future if there ever could be one.
As the 2020 regular season MVP, Fleta now joins an elite few, players like Sung-hyeon "JJoNak" Bang and Jay "sinatraa" Won, who not only will be immortalised in the game, but in the history of its competition. Fleta has always championed the future, from his meagre debut with Flash Lux all those years ago, to now as the 2020 Regular Season MVP.
The arc of the red lantern is dead. Long live the captain.
That stark crimson shadow will no longer peer over Fleta's shoulders. His potential has been realised. He reigns not only as a domestic champion, but now as an MVP.
The Fleta of 2018 wanted the esports world to know his name.
The Fleta of 2020 has his name immortalised in history.
It's okay to dream a little dream.
Images via OGN | Blizzard Entertainment