Afreeca Freecs' Kuro: 'For me, the team always came first'

Lee "Kuro" Seo-haeng, seen here as a member of ROX Tigers, recently earned his 1000th kill in the LCK as the mid laner for Afreeca Freecs. Provided by Riot Games

It's nearing midnight, and he already has gone through two interviews, but Afreeca Freecs' Lee "Kuro" Seo-haeng is still all bubbly smiles as he leisurely strolls across the stadium lobby . On that night Kuro became the fifth player in the League of Legends Champions Korea history to reach 1,000 career kills; only Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok, Kim "PraY" Jong-in, Bae "Bang" Jun-sik, and Go "Score" Dong-bin precede him.

"I never imagined I would ever age this much, but here I am," he says, then laughs. Looking at him, you'd never imagine he was LCK's oldest mid laner at 23.

With shy enthusiasm, he wonders if OGN will make him a commemorative video. "The ones for [the four others] were really cool and reminiscent, so I hope I get one, too. Positive thoughts!"

Those who have closely watched Kuro's play over the last five years will know he has produced more than enough material for an excellent highlight reel. Some fans who value superstar flair far higher than cooperation and teamwork, however, will most likely ignore that accomplishment out of principle. They will turn their noses up as if the very idea of Kuro joining the thousand-kill club is a joke, for in their eyes, he always has been a weak link deserving of much less.

Kuro never cared about their opinions, of course.

"All pro players want to receive praise and attention, and yes, that includes me too," he muses. "But for me, the team always came first. As long as our team won I was always happy. Always. Whether or not I shined as an individual didn't concern me that much."

Whether it be on Incredible Miracle #2, Najin Black Sword, ROX Tigers, or Afreeca Freecs, Kuro has always played what his team needed, how his team needed. Kuro is one of the most flexible mid laners to have ever played in LCK, having piloted 47 distinct champions since his debut in 2013. Very few others have displayed such well-rounded excellence over all archetypes of the role, ranging from control mages to heavy roamers to AD assassins.

Most of Kuro's former head coaches have appreciated his selfless attitude. But his newest, former StarCraft legend Choi "iloveoov" Yeon-sung, does not.

"Kuro is a very gentle person who wants everyone to get along," iloveoov explains in a soft tone that clashes wildly with his physique. He picks his words carefully. "[Kuro] is the type that tries to always maintain team balance, the type that takes it upon himself to care for teammates who feel left out. His personality should serve him well if he ever decides to become a head coach -- I actually think he's cut out for it. But for a player, it's not an advantageous disposition to have."

While iloveoov holds Kuro's professionalism and consistency in high regard, he is not fully satisfied with the mid laner's current level of play. Having observed, evaluated, and nurtured scores of players over a long and storied coaching career, he is absolutely convinced Kuro has a much higher ceiling. The catch is that Kuro will have to become a different person in order to unlock it.

"Kuro is yet to realize his true potential," says iloveoov, voice growing firmer and louder. "To get there, however, he will have to become steelier, mentally and emotionally. I actually started to poke at his ego recently [by talking about] how good the new mid laners' mechanics are -- I want him to have more ambition and passion than he does now."

So what does Kuro make of the new mid lane talent?

"Well, when I look at the new mid laners, I find them cute ... and I think they'll do very well!" Kuro answers earnestly, beaming with adoration and goodwill.

Good luck, iloveoov.