On Jan. 10, T1 held an online retirement ceremony for Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan, also offering the media a chance to catch up with the duo and their thoughts and emotions about a journey ending.
Wolf retired much earlier than Bang, hanging the mouse after returning from a sting in Turkey at the end of 2019. Bang, on the other hand, played in Afreeca Freecs last year and announced his retirement just recently. Their staggered departure aside, however, Bang and Wolf have been inseparable throughout their careers and they were the bot duo that played alongside Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok during the apotheosis of SK Telecom T1, winning two out of the three Worlds finals they played in.
How do you feel about having this retirement ceremony?
Wolf: It’s been almost three years already since I retired. I thought, “Why now?” at first, but I’m happy that they’re still looking after me like this.
Bang: I’m happy to conclude my professional career this way and to have a time like this.
Due to the pandemic, the retirement ceremony is held online. Aren’t you sad for not being able to see the fans?
Wolf: If we could meet up with the fans and talk to them, it would have been fun for us as well, but the situation doesn’t allow that. We can’t help it, but at least we can communicate online.
Bang: There were events like that where we could meet the fans or have interviews with the reporters, but I’m sad that we can’t in this situation. Still, staying healthy is more important. Since the coronavirus has been around for quite a long time now, I’m quite used to doing things online like this, so it’s not that bad.
When did you decide to retire?
Wolf: Well, it has been a while since I did retire. [Laughs] Back in 2019, I thought my mental health would improve if I played abroad, but things didn’t go as I thought. I started thinking about retiring while I was in Turkey, and I kept thinking about it the whole time I was there.
Bang: Wolf retired much earlier, but over the past 2-3 years, a lot of the players that I had played with retired. I felt that I could be retiring soon as well. When I found out that I couldn't play next year because of my military service, I felt that the time had come.
You two were at the top for a long time. Which game is the most memorable?
Wolf: Since I’ve become a streamer, many fans talk about certain games I've played. The games they mention the most are the game against EDG where I played Rakan and my Zyra game at MSI. These games are the most memorable.
Bang: I don’t really remember the games, just some highlight moments come to mind. Some games that we won were really meaningful. Mostly, the highlights I see in posts about me are the most memorable. I’ve played too many games and there were so many meaningful matches — I can’t pick just one moment.
When did you feel good about becoming a pro gamer? Have you ever regretted it?
Wolf: I felt good every year that my salary rose. [Laughs] Ever since my debut, my life goal was to live a life without regrets. I don’t think I’ve ever regretted becoming a pro gamer.
Bang: When I got to meet celebrities, I thought pro gamers’ life is a bit different from other jobs. And then, there are some jobs that I could do in the future given my career as well. I also don’t have any regrets about becoming a pro gamer. There were so many great people that I met doing this job, so that’s what I feel good about the most.
If you pick one person that you’re the most thankful to over your career, who would it be?
Bang: I think we’d say the same person.
Wolf: Who? kkOma? Yes. He made us the way we are today. He always helped us so much in-game and morally as well. It’s definitely kkOma.
Bang: It’s the same for me. Whether it’s in-game or out of the game, kkOma always improved me as a person. I feel that I was loved a lot. He’s a great person, someone that has so much to learn from.
Besides being a pro gamer, what do you want to do the most?
Wolf: Over the past two years, I did almost everything that I’ve wanted to do, so at the moment, there isn’t much. When I retired, the pandemic wasn’t around, so I wanted to open a PC cafe. If the pandemic goes away, I might open a PC cafe, stream there, and hold events.
Bang: When I was back in school, I wanted to go to the Korea Military Academy. [Laughs] I wanted to become a military officer.
Wolf: Maybe you still can…?
Bang: No, it’s too late. I’m too old now. So what I want to do now is help others. If I hadn't become a pro gamer, I probably would have become a military officer, and it’s something I still want to do.
Do you plan to become a coach in the future?
Wolf: I don’t want to become a coach yet. I do have some backup plans about becoming a coach, but my life right now is very satisfying. I want to live a more free life than a life full of wins and losses, so I don’t want to become a coach just yet.
Bang: It’s the same with me. When I was a pro gamer, I saw what it meant to be a coach. The stress is similar to what the players experience, and it hasn’t been long since I’ve retired. I do think I could do well as a coach, but I don’t want to do it just yet. I don’t know if it’ll change after some time. I’m aiming to finish my military duty before November next year, so maybe then? I do think it’ll be fun, but there’s a lot of stress involved.
If you had to pick one player or team that was the most difficult to face, who would it be?
Wolf: To me, it was Mata. I remember having a hard time because of his plays around vision. I learned a lot from him, and the strengths I learned from him were very helpful. Deft was also difficult to face.
Bang: Among the teams, I’d have to say ROX Tigers. They were our biggest rivals when we were doing well, and it was difficult facing them. As for the players, I think it was Pray and Deft. It’s difficult to pick since it was different almost every week, depending on the meta. I won and lost to so many players.
Is there a special champion that made you who you are today?
Wolf: There are so many champions, but I’d have to go with Alistar. I was very confident playing Alistar, and he’s the champion I played the most as well. I felt comfortable playing him.
Bang: There are several champions that come to mind. There were some that I was good at, but there’s one champion that put me in this spot. One of the reasons I became a pro player was Graves. When I played ADC, I mostly played Graves, and other players recommended me. I believe Graves was the champion that made me.
It’s not common to have a joint retirement ceremony. How do you feel about that?
Wolf: I’m thankful to T1 and Bang for such an opportunity. The chef cooked us a great meal, so I’m thankful for that as well. I’m extremely happy because I’m quite full now. [Laughs]
Bang: It’s been more than three years since I left SKT T1, but I've always thought this was my home that I could return to. I’m really happy that I could finish my career at a place I consider my home.
There are many pro players that looked up to you. Are there any tips you could share with them about building a successful career?
Wolf: It’s really difficult. There have been many players and there are a lot that have been forgotten as well. There will be difficult times throughout your careers, but if you close your eyes and focus on what you have to do, it’ll be helpful for your own improvement. I used to think the most important thing is to work hard, but looking back, luck is also… [Laughs] Several things have to go well. The most realistic advice I can give is to just work hard while not thinking about things that could sway you.
Bang: Working hard is something everyone does in the pro gaming scene. It’s compulsory to survive here. I think playing in an environment where you could play well is important.
What was your happiest moment as a pro player?
Wolf: There were a lot of happy moments but the most electrifying and satisfying moment was when I sat to negotiate my salary. [Laughs] When we sign a contract, even if we have complaints, we need to just keep moving forward, working hard. Being compensated at the next salary negotiation were the happiest moments in my career. The happy vibe lasted for about a week.
Bang: My happiest moments were when the season was over, and when I'd travel with friends. I was able to rest without feeling the pressure of competing all the time. It was fun wherever we went, and it was refreshing.
Any word to your family that has been supporting you throughout the years?
Wolf: It's been a long time. From when I was 17 till now. I didn’t spare much time for my family, so I’m sorry about that. Still, I want to thank them all for always encouraging me, cheering for me, and loving me. Even after retirement, I didn't go visit them that often and I’m sorry about that. I’d also like to thank those who look after me like family.
Bang: I also came to Seoul when I was 17. I also didn’t spend much time with my family, but they always made an environment where I could return to. I was able to come all this way because of them. Thank you.
Any last comments?
Wolf: The LCK begins on Jan. 12, and I’ll be resuming my stream then. Please keep an eye out for me. Thank you to those who loved Wolf the player and please continue to send your support to Wolf the streamer as well.
Bang: Thank you for cheering for me over my career and paying attention to me. All of my memories and experiences are so valuable. After all this time, I see that I was very happy. I don’t know if I’ll have a chance to meet the fans much and I’d like to thank all of you. The last thing I want to say is that I was happy this whole time.