Today we celebrate the good in competitive gaming -- miracles happened, Cinderellas stayed out past midnight and underdogs found a way. These are ESPN's best moments of 2017 in esports.
Ambition wins; Faker loses
Kang "Ambition" Chan-yong and Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok have been connected in their pro careers ever since Faker debuted five years ago. On that night, Faker used Ambition as a springboard, defeating the mid-lane superstar to begin his ascent to the greatest the game has ever seen. After changing teams and even positions, 2017 was the year Ambition finally got his long-awaited revenge, captaining his team to the Summoner's Cup and handing Faker his first ever best-of-five defeat at the World Championships. -- Tyler Erzberger
Zeus wins his first major
After losing to Team Liquid in the quarterfinals of ESL One Cologne 2016, Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko famously tweeted that he would not give up until he "won a f------ major." A few weeks later, this tweet became infamous as he was kicked from Na`vi, relegated to a middling team in Gambit. A year later, Zeus fulfilled his promise against all odds, winning the Krakow Major in incredible fashion. After getting so close so many times with Na`vi, Zeus' miracle Major run tugged at many heartstrings. It may have taken more than three years, but he won that major. -- Sam Delorme
Astralis wins Eleague
The core of Astralis -- Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz, Peter "dupreeh" Rothmann and Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth -- developed a reputation over three years time of struggling in high-pressure moments. When they were favorites, they faltered. Under the banner of Astralis, the Danish core came into the ELeague Major as favorites, after being dominant in the last two months of 2016. It would've been typical of Astralis to falter, to get outclassed in the grand final. And it seemed that way. On the final map of the grand final against Virtus.pro, Astralis were on the edge of losing out once against. But, down 13-7, a heroic Tec-9 rush launched the Danes back into the game. From there, it looked as if a demon possessed the team, as it lost only one of the final 10 rounds of the tournament. "Not this time," said Astralis, and with that attitude they willed themselves to their first major trophy, the final piece to complete three legendary careers. -- Sam Delorme
Plup ascends to godhood
An excerpt from Alexander Lee's "This is the first tournament of a new era."
When Justin "Plup" McGrath and Adam "Armada" Lindgren walked on stage for their winners' semifinals match, victory was all but assured for the Swedish world No. 1. After all, the players' record was a definitive six-zero in Armada's favor -- Armada hadn't lost a single set to a player ranked outside the top five since William "Leffen" Hjelte in 2015, and before that to Jeff "SilentSpectre" Leung in 2010. But in Armada and Plup's first meeting since last November's Smash Summit 3, Plup showed that he had improved beyond all expectations, walking away victorious in a 3-1 upset that sent shockwaves through both the tournament venue and the community at large. With this win over Armada, Plup was able to put his final demon to rest, completing his ascendance to Melee godhood.
MenaRD upsets Tokido
As Hajime "Tokido" Taniguchi came bearing down on Saul "MenaRD" Segundo's Birdie and closed in on a possible Capcom Cup title, a friend of MenaRD's cried out from fifth row of seats.
"¡Eso es tuyo!"
This is yours, his friend shouted to the native of the Dominican Republic. Despite the odds, MenaRD took it. The young Street Fighter V pro reset the bracket in Anaheim, lifted a Capcom Cup trophy not just for himself and his friends but for his region. He reverse-swept the Evolution Championship Series winner, and in front of about a half-dozen close friends and thousands of fans, held a $250,000 novelty check while choking back tears.
His buddies had one more cheer ready to go in his native language.
We are millionaires.
And the winner is: Ambition wins; Faker loses.
An excerpt from Tyler Erzberger's story on embracing the emotion of esports:
The lasting image from the 2017 League of Legends World Championship final from the Bird's Nest in Beijing was the game's all-time greatest, Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok, doubled over in his seat. His teammates stood next to him, staring out the window of their playing booth. Confetti fell from the air. For the first time in three years, it was not SK Telecom T1 who got the honor of raising the Summoner's Cup.
When players like Faker and Martin "Rekkles" Larsson show emotion on the stage after a tough defeat, we shouldn't feel the need to protect their reactions. There is nothing wrong with tears or emotion. These players put their entire lives into a game as a profession. When you're giving it everything you have to reach the title of world's best, a loss that ends your entire year of hard work can break you. Every preseason scrimmage, every practice, every domestic game, every dinner out with your teammates, and all of it comes to an end because you weren't good enough that one day. It doesn't matter if Faker has won three world titles already -- he knows the world expects the best. To him, no matter if it's the fourth or 40th Summoner's Cup, it's just as important.