LA Thieves' Rings Are Inscribed With The Best Character Arcs Of All-Time
When the dust settles from LA Thieves' celebrations, and the champagne corks are swept away, the Call of Duty World Champions can reflect on a season that was filled with ups and downs which has led to an unbelievable twilight of a campaign. But what comes as just an impressive achievement on the face of it, comes a deeper backstory, and for the LA Thieves, their story to become champions of the world is a tale of redemption and the most tasteful character arcs we've ever seen.
Prince of Thieves' Coronation
It was only twelve months ago when we saw Dylan "Envoy" Hannon break down in tears on the OpTic Process series shortly after being delivered the news that he was being let go in favour of Anthony "Shotzzy" Cuevas-Castro amid the Team Envy merger. Once destined to be the predecessor to the throne that warms the hiney of Seth "Scump" Abner, Call of Duty hearts broke worldwide when Envoy, dressed in his multicoloured hoodie, couldn't keep the water out of his eyes when saying farewell to the Green Wall.
Having somewhat saved the OpTic brand from abolishment when he won the 1v1 vs Thomas "TJHaly" Haly back in Modern Warfare, Envoy's exit was harsh to come by. Although he would undoubtedly still be by the side of Scump if it wasn't for the merger, a new door had opened for Envoy, and the Prince was soon the main gunner for a rabble of thieves.
Standing on his own two feet now, recognised as one of the leading SMG players in the league, Envoy quickly found himself with a target on his back and not much help on his six. Particularly struggling in the respawns, Envoy especially suffered from a non-cohesive Thieves structure, dropping negative overall K/Ds in Major 2, 3, and even the Stage 4 qualifiers. While Hardpoint continued to be a struggle for the entry SMG, as his partners were catching up to Envoy's speed, his individual brilliance on Search and Destroy proved pivotal for LA Thieves who relied on the game mode for crucial wins and relevant seeding opportunities. With Kenny "Kenny" Williams joining the SMG partnership, a beautifully annoying duo was formed, which then corrected their respawn troubles, especially on Control where the pair became unstoppable.
From a discarded member of a merger, to a struggling solo SMG, to a Search and Destroy expert and a pivotal part of the slaying department that benefitted from his pacing, the Prince of Thieves was crowned as a world champion, finally being able to sit on his throne.
Free at last. Sam "Octane" Larew's journey to be a World Champion in the CDL era is one of the best turnarounds we've ever seen. Although his personal ability has never been doubted, it took two years for the shackles around his ankles to be unhinged, and a free Octane is a force to be reckoned with.
Dubbed "The Human Turrett" for a reason, Octane came into the CDL off the back of his best year to date, given that he ended the Black Ops 4 circuit with two chips under the 100 Thieves banner. Having risen through the ranks at Rise Nation, Luminosity, and 100 Thieves, Octane became one of the most sought-after ARs on the market, going into the CDL era.
Unfortunately for Octane, his beloved 100 Thieves were not ready to splash tens of millions of dollars on a CDL spot, and he was shipped off to Seattle in what appeared to be somewhat of an all-star lineup. Blessed with three-rings Damon "Karma" Barlow, fellow 100 Thieves alumni Ian "Enable" Wyatt, and the ever-consistent Bryan "Apathy" Zhelyazkov, the future looked bright for Seattle. How mistaken we were. A string of shocking team results and teammate retirements took the gloss off Octane's league-leading stats, resulting in the circulation of hashtag FreeOctane.
Flashes of brilliance persisted in Octane's LAN performances in Black Ops Cold War, earning himself a free passage back to the guild of 100 Thieves. Free, flying, fabulous. With a sniper in hand, Octane dominated. Whether it be Desert Siege or Berlin, Octane was consistently finding the angles and patience to get picks. With an Assault Rifle in hand, he became equally ferocious, especially following the switch between Kenny and Zack "Drazah" Jordan. Applauded for his comms, leadership, and individual domination at range, Octane's redemption arc from the bottom of the league to outright champions is one that is sprinkled with the sweet taste of justice.
Chatted Out Of Challengers
The Jamie Vardy of the Call of Duty League - for the Americans, Vardy's strapline of: "Chat s**t, get banged," is iconic in football, and also perfectly sums up Drazah's cocksure villainous arrogance that boasts the ability to walk the walk. "F**k it then". Few players in Call of Duty history have been able to play Devil's advocate and back it up with a ring, but Drazah's journey has seen him become the first player to smack-talk their way out of challengers and win a Call of Duty World Championship.
Drazah only burst onto the scene in 2020, starting a career in the Challengers scene under Illusion Esports. After just five months, he had already proven why the Challenger system was beneficial. A string of top four finishes in the North American cups and various Challengers Opens, he was pulled in by OpTic Gaming Los Angeles to bolster their flex ranks, completing the path to pro in record time.
Having proved his worth in a short spell at OGLA, Drazah was kept on by LA Thieves following their acquisition of the spot, and instantly made his name known in the scene. Under the wings of veteran players such as Austin "SlasheR" Liddicoat and John "John" Perez, Drazah learnt his trade as a substitute and continued to light up the Challengers' competitions in the Cold War era before finally being pulled into the starting roster. Here, he took absolutely no time in laying down the law, using his lippy mouth to smack Kaden "Exceed" Stockdale as a "dogs**t f**k" following their 3-0 sweep of Minnesota ROKKR at the World Championship, unearthing his pantomime villain status.
Since, Drazah has matched his vocals with his performance, and after switching to a much comfier flex position mid-way through the Vanguard season, he soon began to match Call of Duty royalty such as Chris "Simp" Lehr both on the pitch and in the battle of wits. Finally, Drazah put his money where his mouth is and won back-to-back events, including the World Championships, and became the first-ever player to rise through Challengers to win a ring. "Drazah was born in Challengers, but he was made in the CDL."
Rogue One: A Star Story
Kylo Ken is no stranger to the Star Wars puns and has since leaned into his character arc as the Sith lord sent to take down the republic. Armed with a black cloak and a red saber, Kenny was always one object away from becoming a true Emperor: a Call of Duty World Championship ring.
Kenny's road to redemption might not be as extensive as Octane's, as heart-throbbing as Envoy's, or as loud as Drazah's, but his turnaround might just be the most impressive. Coming into the Vanguard season, Kenny could have been considered the best player to never win Champs, and mid-way through the season, it looked like he never would. Dropping disastrous numbers as a secondary AR in Stages 2 and 3, Kenny's head was on the chopping block and Skywalker's blue light was coming to claim it.
But there was still magic up his cloak's sleeve. Moving to a submachine gun role, Kenny's performances flipped on their head almost instantly, especially in Search and Destroy. Having dropped an SnD K/D of 0.67 in Stage 2 qualifiers, 0.7 at Major 2, and 0.68 at the Pro-Am, the empire struck back, and he hit a colossal 1.45 K/D in Major 4 to epitomise one of the most miraculous switcharoos ever.
It wasn't just in SnD either, as his whole game was completely transformed. Following hundreds of Reddit Threads, Tweets, and other social media interactions calling for Kenny to be dropped after Major 3, a simple role swap saw him go from the league's worst player to its best, and back-to-back championships were topped off by back-to-back MVP awards - and rightly so.
A Journey Epitomised By King Thief
If anybody deserved a Call of Duty World Championship win, who hadn't yet achieved greatness as a player or a back-room busybody, it would be Matthew "Nadeshot" Haag. Individually transcending Call of Duty esports to whole new realms of popularity back in the golden age, Nadeshot only became agonisingly close to a ring as a player.
From flipping patties at McDonald's to becoming arguably the biggest content creator of the scene in his age, winning gold at the X Games, creating his own esports organisation, to finally winning a World Championships (even if it was a CEO and not a player), nobody deserved this successful chapter of their journal that Nadeshot.
The stories continue into the backroom staff, all of who are deep-rooted into the Call of Duty stage. Jack "Courage" Dunlop revisited his esports beginnings by announcing the walkout for his own organisation just minutes before they were crowned as champions. Jordan "JKap" Kaplan added a coaching championship to his previous two player rings despite facing Kenny-levels of criticism for two years straight. The stories go on.
Los Angeles Thieves now don the champions' rings for life. After so many personal struggles throughout the respective careers of players, coaches, and staff, the organisation and Gamertags of LA Thieves and its roster will go down in Call of Duty folklore, and it'd be difficult to write a better script than their story.