How JKnaps and Rizzo became the longest standing partnership in Rocket League esports.
September 14 saw a monumental milestone surpassed, as Jacob "JKnaps" Knapman and Dillon "Rizzo" Rizzo became the longest standing duo in Rocket League history. With 1299 days together and counting, they overtook the recently split pairing of Mariano "SquishyMuffinz" Arruda and Jesus "gimmick" Parra, and it's not a surprise to see why they've accomplished this feat. From top to bottom, the duo has risen to the pinnacle of Rocket League esports, currently wearing the crown worthy of the North American champions.
The pair officially joined G2 Esports on the same day, on February 22, 2017, and haven't looked back since. Originally joining former World Champion Cameron "Kronovi" Bills, the trio began their journey together in Season 3 of the Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS). Their debut season together was ultimately a foundation that they could build on. Finishing League Play in third place after back-to-back losses on the last weekend of the season, G2 faced Denial Esports in the deciding playoff game for place at the World Championships. Going toe-to-toe with Denial, they traded blows until the fateful game seven, where the Samurai stalled, losing 3-0. Whilst the hugely motivated players would have wanted the world to swallow them whole at that moment, what was to come wouldn't have been achieved without tasting disappointment.
Whilst many teams in a similar position looked to identify flaws in their team and remove the abscess, but not G2. Typical of a Samurai they studied and learned, looking at where they can improve as a team and become a warrior to be reckoned with. A testament to G2, for sticking by the team, with a lot of emerging talent rising through the floorboards.
Season four came thick and fast, and the lessons were traded for scrims, and practice was transitioned onto the dancefloor, as Rizzo and JKnaps began to improve alongside Kronovi. The fruits of their labour were evident, slicing through the competition in League Play, racking up a convincing 6-1 record. Fending off the best talent in North America, they beat emerging stars Cloud9, alongside the likes of Ghost Gaming and NRG.
The building blocks were there to be mantled, and they secured their place at the World Championships, facing off against the talent in EU which, at the time, was stronger than NA. Soon to be champions, Gale Force eSports, would knock them into the lower bracket at worlds, but impressive bounce-back-ability and insane mechanical teamwork saw the trio rise from the depths to secure a fourth-place finish. In just two seasons, their project had catapulted the trio to the highest calibre of Rocket League, and their names were known throughout the world. Their infectious personalities may have also played a part here, nobody will ever forget the Rizzo dance.
Fourth in the world wasn't where they stopped though. Teams have come and gone from the top of the tree, but for G2, it was all about staying in the conversation and wanting to be the best. Next on their list was North America. With the scene developing quickly, staying on top was vital. Another convincing 6-1 record in League Play of RLCS S5 showed that Rizzo, JKnaps, and Kronovi were more determined than ever to get their hands on some silverware, although a vastly improved NRG roster stood in their way.
Come the NA Championships, there were only two teams ever in contention. Both G2 and NRG burned through the semifinals with 4-0 victories ver Cloud9 and Evil Geniuses respectively and were inseparable in the opening matches of the final. Another prodigious game 7 saw NRG have a stranglehold on G2, as they couldn't get out of the orange half, but with just seven seconds left on the clock, Rizzo capitalised on a counter-attack, knocking in a tap in and crowning themselves champions of North America. This was their first major accomplishment, and nobody had deserved it more than the consistently developing G2 roster. JKnaps, Rizzo, and Kronovi were on the perch they had grafted for, and G2 were a force to be reckoned with.
If North America is their playground, World Championships is the kryptonite. Season 6 came along and NRG had their revenge in NA Championships, but still, they booked themselves a ticket to Las Vegas, where they would begin in the quarter-finals. Whether it was the gulf in class between North America and Europe or simply another World Championship underperformance from G2, they suffered back to back losses to FlipSid3 Tactics and PSG Esports, crashing out in last place. A team that was set for success had crumbled on the big stage. Here, the Samurai made their first change to their sword since the post-Season 2 transfer window, sharpening edges with a grindstone imported from Chicago. Kronovi's time at G2 was over, and Reed "Chicago" Wilen was brought in.
Kronovi moved on to Rogue, which led the dynamic duo of Rizzo and JKnaps to begin a rebuilding project. The two had become close off the pitch, and their social media presence had lifted off. Not only were the pair monsters on the pitch, they'd also become one of the faces of Rocket League Esports, with G2 helping along the way. Their bond is solid, and being more like brothers than friends off the pitch has been mountainous for G2. Adding their new third in was easy with their infectious banter. Chicago came in from the Evil Geniuses roster that knocked G2 into the lower bracket at the previous World Championships, who came with that extra spice that could be the catalyst needed for them to advance.
This time, their target was Worlds. Going into RLCS S7 their eyes were solely on the biggest prize that there is. It didn't take long to hit the ground running, as again, a 6-1 record saw them secure second place in League Play and a spot at the World Championships. It was here that G2 would be tested, and to see just how sharp their new sword was. Well, ex-teammate Kronovi felt the full force of their new strength, as G2 surpassed Renault Vitality and Ground Zero Gaming in the group stages, and PSG in the quarterfinals, setting up a date with destiny versus Rogue. With the fire in their belly and the eye of the tiger, Kronovi and Rogue were sent back to America with their tail between their legs, as G2 advanced to the final with a 4-0 win, notching up twelve goals in the process. G2 was in the top two in the world for the first time ever, and whilst Vitality had their revenge from the group stages, JKnaps and Rizzo had proven their worth, with Chicago complementing the pair perfectly.
Arguments could be made that this was the height of their partnership. Only a handful of players have been there, and G2 were cemented in Rocket League history thanks to them both (with help, of course). Their sustainability was unrivalled and JKnaps and Rizzo were a huge factor this.
Their only blip so far has been in Season 8, where they finished in eighth place in North America, a huge drop from where they were just months before. But whilst it was easy to jump off a sinking ship and replace the captain, G2, again, started a rebuild, only this time it was internal. Patching up the leaks and cracks, G2 headed into Season 9 with fresh petrol and war paint on their faces. Losing just 13 games in the nine matches that they played throughout the year, G2 finished in second in League Play, setting up a favourable route in the NA Championships. With JKnaps as "Clutch Playmaker" and Rizzo as the Regional Championship MVP, G2 stormed the championships, beating Susquehanna soniqs, NRG, and then Spacestation Gaming (4-0), to reclaim their crown which had been absent since Season 5. G2 are back on top, and who knows where they could end up?
The reigning NA champs have started RLCS X in blistering fashion. Rizzo and JKnaps look stronger than ever, and this accolade will be one that won't be broken for years to come. With G2 behind them, the future, for both, is still bright.
Image via Rocket League Esports | G2 Esports | DreamHack