The League of Legends esports scene has lasted far longer than many other titles before it, and so the tenure and accomplishments of certain individuals in the scene cannot be understated. Despite the rise of new talents, some of whom have even surpassed him at times, T1 mid laner Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok has retained his Greatest of All Time (GOAT) status as a player.
But alongside his unwavering period of domination, another GOAT has been established: Faker’s former coach Kim "kkOma” Jeong-gyun.
While many players, particularly mid laners like DWG KIA’s Heo “ShowMaker” Su, Hanwha Life Esports’ Jeong "Chovy" Ji-hoon, and Invictus Gaming Song “Rookie” Eui-Jin have at times met or surpassed Faker's peak, kkOma has only continue to add to his legacy as a coach. This year, kkOma added two more trophies to his cabinet: the 2021 Spring and Summer LCK titles at the helm of DWG KIA.
Since the establishment of LCK in 2013 — at the time known as OGN Champions Korea — no coach has been more accomplished than kkOma. The coach GOAT has won a grand total of 15 domestic and international since, most of which as head coach of SK Telecom T1, but even after parting ways with Faker, kkOma as continued to establish his greatness, leading other talent.
As coach, kkOma has won the following tournaments, more than any other of his craft:
- IEM Season 7 Cologne
- 2013 OGN Champions Summer
- 2013 World Championship
- 2014 OGN Champions Winter
- 2015 LCK Spring
- 2015 World Championship
- IEM Season 10 World Championship
- 2016 LCK Spring
- 2016 Mid-Season Invitational
- 2016 World Championship
- 2017 LCK Spring
- 2017 Mid-Season Invitational
- 2020 KeSPA Cup
- 2021 LCK Spring
- 2021 LCK Summer
15 titles at home and abroad, especially in the historically toughest domestic competition of South Korea, is a towering achievement. In addition, in winning his three most recent domestic titles with DWG KIA, kkOma has proven he can still be great without relying on Faker, though admittedly working with just as talented players like ShowMaker and Canyon.
Aside from kkOma's first title in 2012, Faker was part of every single championship run kkOma made with T1. The first title at IEM Season 7 Cologne featured the last great run of the pre-Faker T1 lineup led by top laner Bok "Reapered" Han-gyu, current head coach of 100 Thieves.
When it comes to the most impressive years of kkOma’s career — namely, the three Worlds titles with SKT T1 in 2013, 2015, and 2016 — we see a head coach who had to win with three very different power levels of his teams.
The 2015 title comes off as the easiest, where kkOma was given perhaps the strongest SKT roster in history and properly balanced the line-up through a mid lane tour de force of Faker and Lee "Easyhoon" Ji-hoo to create a team that didn’t have to rely on starting Faker to win games.
Just two years earlier, in 2013, kkOma was given a young team, seen as the organization’s B Squad, and led it to a Summer title and subsequently SKT’s first Worlds trophy off the back of an otherworldly rookie season by Faker.
Yet, kkOma’s arguably greatest accomplishment came in 2016, the one year SKT had to truly grind for its Worlds title. SKT had an imperfect team that year, representing Korea as the #2 seed after losing the Playoffs Finals to KT Rolster.
At Worlds, SKT not only outlasted Korea’s #1 seed, but then played what’s perhaps the best series in LoL esports history — a brutal five-game series against ROX Tigers. Down 1-2 and at match loss point, kkOma brought in veteran jungler Bae "Bengi" Seong-woong, who, after a poor performance throughout the season had been replaced by Kang "Blank" Sun-gu as SKT’s primary starter.
Since losing the final of Worlds 2017 3-0 to Samsung Galaxy White with SK Telecom T1, kkOma has not been back to a Worlds final. Now, despite losing MSI 2021, DWG KIA heads to Worlds as one of the favorites to win the event and kkOma is an undeniable factor, contributing to the team’s greatness and title potential.
It looks more and more likely that November will bring kkOma’s 16 title — a monstrous average of two titles a year.