Of all roads leading to the League of Legends Championship Series, Kyle "Danny" Sakamaki's is like no other. After starting to play League of Legends at the age of 6, Danny hit challenger for the first time in Season 7, and by Season 10, began his competitive career as "Shiro" in the North American amateur scene. After spending spring with Evil Geniuses Prodigies, Danny has been promoted all the way to the LCS — skipping Academy entirely — to make his debut as EG's starting AD carry.
After his first two games in the 2021 LCS Summer Split, Danny talked about his road to becoming a professional League of Legends player, his meteoric rise through the Evil Geniuses pipeline, and which AD carries he wants to test himself against the most.
Welcome to the LCS, Danny. While your first two games have ended in losses, how do you feel you've played individually thus far?
I think my early game has definitely been super solid. Our transition to the mid game is pretty rusty, but I think I did a lot of good things in the early game.
In both games, your bot lane has played well and been a potential win condition for Evil Geniuses. How does playing with IgNar compare to your previous bot lane partners?
I've only been competing for a year, so I'd really only say I've had two supports, which are IgNar and Mist. They're both really good shotcallers and they have a lot of knowledge on basically everything in the game. It's really nice having IgNar as a guide in the LCS for me as a rookie. I really like having him as my support.
What led you to begin your competitive career a year ago?
I was just doing school for the most part; nothing really exciting before competitive play. The reason I wanted to compete is that I really felt like I had a chance as a young individual to showcase my talent and skill to everyone. I feel like that was the reason I decided to join amateur teams and showcase myself in LCS Proving Grounds.
How long have you been playing League before deciding to compete?
*Laughs* I've been playing for a long, long time. I've been playing since 2009, back when I was six years old.
Was there something specific that made you decide you were ready to compete or was it just a matter of being old enough to enter the amateur scene?
Yeah, my age also has something to do with it. General Sniper is a very young player in challenger, and tried to get on Cloud9, but it didn't end up working out because he wasn't old enough.
That's a really big part of being able to sign with a team to compete or stream for them, so it was when I became 17 that I thought, 'Hey, maybe I have a shot to play in the LCS or the Academy League.'
You've been playing since season 1 at the age of 6, but when did you first hit Challenger, and how much longer after did you decide you had a potential future in the competitive scene?
I roleswapped from top lane to AD carry in season 7, which was, of course, the Ardent Censer meta. It was also when Xayah and Rakan came out. I got to high ELO playing duo queue, utilizing the Xayah/Rakan combo and Ardent Censer supports as an AD carry. I eventually reached Challenger in June 2017. In season 10, I actually felt like I was at a level where I understood the game enough AND my mechanics were really solid, so I decided to take a shot.
Has the unusual speed in which you've risen through the various tiers of competition changed your motivating force to compete?
It's definitely shocking to hear about a brand new 17-year old rookie from the amateur skipping Academy. That sounds super crazy, and I didn't expect it myself. However, I did have thoughts that I could maybe get into LCS because EG needed to make a change, and they want to promote talent from within. I did think I had a chance...just a small one, of course.
How did your promotion conversation go, exactly?
They quite literally just hit me up and said, "Hey, we're gonna promote you to LCS instead of Academy."
And then you just said, "Ok, sounds good to me?"
How long have you been practicing with the team, and what are your first impressions of your teammates?
We've been practicing together for three-ish weeks now ever since I landed in LA. I think I really look up to Impact the most. He's a World Champion, a superstar, and he's been playing for SO long. He's really well-known and recognized. IgNar, too, has been to Worlds, he's very experienced, he shotcalls, and he's really good on a wide champion pool.
Did you get into League of Legends esports before your own career, and if so, are there any players you have looked to learn from at the pro level?
I started watching competitive play in season 6, but really in season 7 for the most part. I really respect and look up to Ruler from Gen.G the most. He used to be on Samsung Galaxy, and he really inspired me to become super good and transition from top lane to AD carry.
Are there any specific bot lanes you're looking forward to facing in your upcoming matches
Oooh *laughs* I'm really excited to play against k1ng and Vulcan, and also, Tactical and CoreJJ. They're probably the best bot lanes in the LCS currently.
If EG was to make it to Worlds, what are some bot lanes from other regions you'd like to test your mettle against?
T1's bot lane, Gen.G's bot lane, DAMWON KIA's bot lane, GALA and Ming from RNG...those are the ones off the top of my head. I'd also like to face JackeyLove.
Have you set any personal goals in your rookie split?
I just want to see how far I can go. I don't have any personal goals as of right now because I just came here. I want to experience it first and see at first glance what the scene is all about. Of course, I've watched LCS, but this is my first time actually playing in it, you know? laughs
Yeah, that's quite different from watching! Thanks for the interview, Danny. Is there anything you want to say to the Evil Geniuses fans?
As long as you guys are believing in me, I will go really far. I'll be sure to make EG fans really happy in the future.
All images by: Evil Geniuses