During a lifetime, how often does someone receive the title ‘World’s best ____’? Not too often, especially in a field of professional work full of passionate workers. Despite this, there are still those who reach ever-greater heights and have a massive impact in their field; such individuals are often called legends.
It is extremely difficult to set a world record, yet against all odds there are two players in their 20’s who have achieved this - the world’s longest-running bot lane duo: SKT T1 Bang and SKT T1 Wolf. With their long history together and their numerous achievements, this bot duo is certainly a legendary pair in League Of Legends.
On a brisk winter day in South Korea, we were able to meet the two players at LoL Park. Bang and Wolf did not come with their SKT uniforms or in a SKT T1 supplied vehicle. Instead, they came in their own comfortable clothes from their own houses. From the very start, the atmosphere was quite different from a mid-season interview.
Related Article: Bang and Wolf's Last Video Interview.
This interview, which was initially intended as a farewell note to the legendary bot duo, was also captured on video in order to capture their iconic faces one last time. Before SKT T1’s official goodbye video is posted on their Youtube channel, we decided to hear an in-depth untold perspective of this duo. A well-deserved gift to Bang and Wolf’s dedicated fans.
The legendary bot duo is off for a new, fresh start. Let’s hear the story of these long-acquainted friends.
¤ I wonder when we will again have an interview with you guys both present? We meet again thanks to this farewell interview. Starting things off, as usual, could you guys quickly introduce yourself?
Wolf: Hi, I am former SKT T1 member-
Bang: You are doing that already?
Wolf: I am Lee ‘Wolf’ Jae-wan.
Bang: Hi, I am Bae ‘Bang’ Jun-sik.
Wolf: Is that it? Are you that type of person now?
¤ Let’s talk a bit about the past. After testing your synergy together in Najin Shield, not too long after, you guys were reunited on the ‘S-Team’ SKT T1. What happened?
Wolf: There were a lot of funny moments. Bang is, to me... he is my savior. At first[(after leaving Najin Shield], I told Bang that I was going to another team. Bang replied, 'Yo, don’t do that and just come to SKT T1 with me'. I am eternally thankful [that happened].
Bang: At the time, it was transfer season. After leaving Xenix, I felt the need to apply for the ADC position for SKT T1. Although there were a lot of teams at the time, even amongst them, SKT T1 was seen as a prestigious team. Back in those days, it was very common to try out for your role with a support you liked playing with. Unlike today where ADCs and supports test individually, back then, bot lane was commonly recruited as a pair.
Despite the competition being fierce, I believed, at the time, that Wolf and I were good enough to get easily accepted. This is why I remember telling Wolf 'Our lives will completely change if we go to SKT together’. That is how we got into SKT together, and qualified for the ‘S Team’ with flying colors.
Wolf: Also, we were friends before we became pro. It was really nice to hear that we were going to be together in the bot lane for SKT.
Bang: At that time, we were both extremely young. Amongst the vast player base, we were probably the youngest. Because we were both the same age, I believe this gave us even more motivation and strength.
¤ Reunited again on the SKT T1 S Team, how did it feel to make it despite the fierce competition? Were there any memorable moments?
Bang: I say this often in my stream. The time we spend on stage is vastly different to the time we spend preparing for a game. The ratio is almost 9:1. Rather than there being certain matches that come to mind, there are a lot of interesting instances when we were preparing for a match.
Thinking back to one of my oldest memories, when S Team and K Team were merging together, we gained some guidance from Coach Kkoma. During that time, the support’s main role was to engage. In order to have it almost embedded in our heads, Coach Kkoma told us to engage at every chance we could get. It was to the point that Wolf would get trauma from it (laughs). It must have been the time around the Master Series when Wolf carried a game with support Annie. After, Coach Kkoma would say ‘You are finally doing it’ and acknowledged Wolf.
Wolf: Back then, I didn’t even know I played the game the way I did. I didn’t even know what I had to do in order to win us the game. During that time, our team was in no way winning all of our games. I remember Coach Kkoma telling me ‘What are you even doing?’. It was the first time that I received such harsh feedback. While it was hard, as times passed, I gradually got better and saw the game differently. I began to truly trust what Kkoma was saying when I realized 'He is saying all this so I can play better'. After this realization, out of nowhere, I began playing extremely well on engage champions like Alistar. I felt like I had evolved. Even to this day, when new players come into the team, Coach Kkoma tells them ‘Don’t worry. Wolf did the exact same thing at first’.
Bang: When you think of it now, the obvious play was seen as a revolutionary one back then. All the talented players now have learned from this, and I guarantee there are players who have benefited from precise guidance from coaches. Because this game is ever so changing, it is crucial to always absorb feedback. Till this day, we still remember the first time we took in good feedback.
¤ Bang, do you also have any vivid memories of getting scolded like Wolf?
Bang: Oh yeah, I have a lot. The scolding that I missed out on in S team, I got a handful from the coaches when the two teams merged. It was to the point that everything I knew about the game up till that point was flipped on its head. When I play well, I get praised. When I play bad, I get scolded… actually...the scolding was more close to genuine guidance than punishment. During 2014-2015, most of the players were so talented, the players would learn and adjust over the slightest guidance.
¤ As time passes, the fans tend to agree that 2015-2016 was SKT T1’s prime. In terms of results, style, and much more. You could even say that SKT T1 had become a ‘World Class’ team. There must have been mixed feelings of pride and pressure. How did you guys feel?
Bang: In regards to pressure or burden, I didn’t realize it during 2015.
Wolf: For me, even 2016 was a bit…
Bang: During 2015, the fans thought ‘The players would have loved that period,’ because we were playing well with good results. However, if I were ever to go back, I would choose not to. It was that difficult. As much as we accomplished, we worked just as much. Every movement and CS I would take gave me immense stress. But at the same time, due to everything we put in, I knew victory was ours. Right before the World Finals, we ate with Coach Kkoma. We were so certain we were going to win that I said, ‘It wouldn’t make sense if we lost. If we lose, it means God has abandoned us’.
I had felt the burden of ‘World Class’ when we entered 2016. The fans’ memory of SKT playing well was us in 2015. We worked incredibly hard to match that. Honestly, we really did play our heart out. While some people praise us for the results we had produced, we received criticism in the 2016 Spring Split when we weren’t doing well. There was hostility, and I genuinely questioned why they cursed at me. That day I had felt what pro people called the ‘Heavy weight on my shoulders’. Especially in 2016, I began to truly understand what ‘Pressure’ and ‘Burden’ actually meant.
Wolf: Like Bang had said, we really trained with tears running down our face in 2015. On top of all this, the players did not have a lot of experience in winning either. We didn’t necessarily have the time to take in the pressure of being ‘World Class’. It seemed like the results for that year came out as much as we prepared for it.
In 2016, I knew we were going to do well. We worked as hard as we did in 2015. However, when we started losing a few games, I asked myself 'Why is it like this? What is so different? We prepared the same as last year. Why are we getting flamed?'. Because of this, just like 2015, we cried while trying our best.
Bang: Rather than saying the practice itself was hard, there were as many people who would say bad things as there were fans who would say good things. Back then, when my mind was more susceptible, I only saw the negative comments. It was because I had never experience it before. It kind of felt like I wore the crown too soon. Regardless, I am not saying that those comments were difficult to cope with. I’m just saying these things came to mind.
¤ It must have been very difficult to deal with the negative comments on the internet directed at SKT. How did you guys manage to ignore or get over the criticism?
Bang: Personally, I had psychological counseling in the early parts of 2016. From that point onwards, I realized that I was not the perfect person. While the fans wanted to see me as this perfect person, even if I had mistakes along the way, I wanted to slowly change the perception my fans had of me. It is inevitable to be cursed at and flamed. I believe it is the same for all sports. It is a natural phenomenon.
Wolf: I actually think the percentage of criticism was small. If we got compliments 9 times, we would get criticism once? But, that one criticism does catch the eye. I tried to trick myself into believing ‘They are only saying these things because they like me, right?’.
Bang: I couldn’t think like Wolf did back then. My only thoughts were ‘Why am I getting cursed at?’
Wolf: I also got a lot of help from fan letters. Regardless of the negative comments I find online, there is no one who sends hate letters. If I were to open a nicely wrapped letter to only see flame… it actually gives me the chills. Anyways, I tried to keep all my fan letters. They really did help keep me in check.
¤ Passing the so called ‘Glory Days’, SKT had a rough time in 2017 and 2018.
Bang: It was hard for us. In regards to a lack of performance, whichever year it was, the stress gained in the same. After 2016, a very daunting thought came to mind. ‘If I keep living like this, I am going to die’. I even thought to myself 'How long will I have to live like a machine for?'.
Especially in the 2017 Spring Finals, I felt like my head was about to explode when I heard the schedule for MSI. The MSI schedule went from 2 weeks to a month worth of work. I also heard that, if we were to go to MSI, we would come right back into the Summer Split… I thought to myself 'The schedule is hell. When do we get a break? Are we machines?'. I even tried to appeal to the team. Thankfully, the team allowed us to take a short break. After that, we began to play a bit lesser than the other teams. Come to think of it now, was it…bad?
Wolf: It was a lose-lose situation.
Bang: The system is really messed up. My goal was not to win as a professional player but to be allowed some sort of rest. I had spent that period between MSI with ease. My performance began to drop, and I began to realize ‘This is not working out’. I started to regain focus. Despite this, my performance did not recover. I got a lot of a criticism. Of course, I did self-reflect. Anyways, it was a hard time. To be honest, even if I did not rest then, I would have inevitably rested later. Whatever the consequences were, I believe it was the deciding factor for me to be here right now.
Wolf: A month or even 2 months during 2017 might seem short for a fan. But, it was immeasurably long for us. During that time, all the players are training hard and it was difficult to catch up to them.Looking back on it now, it totally makes sense that we weren’t able to perform as well as we did before. It is simply because the other players practiced a lot while we were taking it easy. As a pro, my motto was always ‘Let’s not do anything I regret.’ Looking back, it was one of my most regrettable moments.
Bang: What if you were able to go back to that time. Would you have changed your decision?
Wolf: We would have probably chosen to rest, right?
Bang: We had no choice but to rest. If someone offered me the lotto numbers of today to go back to 2015, I would decline no matter how much they gave me. It was that hard. If that does not convince you, there was seriously a point where I thought ‘Can I live through this?’.
Wolf: We literally had no time for rest. Even during the off-season… There was not a single moment when we did not have a game to prepare for.
Bang: Back then, there were a lot of struggling teams. In order for them to improve, a lot of the teams demanded more tournaments like the Kespa Cup to practice. Participating in MSI, Worlds, Kespa, and everything else in between, we had no time off. The longest we would take a break in a year was maybe 3 days? 4? And that was Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving).
Wolf: Chuseok was only 3 days. Right after Worlds, we would have Kespa. The team told us ‘You guys did well at Worlds so take a break.’ Despite saying this to us, they would always add ‘But don’t you think we should at least play a few scrims?’... When I heard this, I completely lost my mind.
Bang: This probably is something all the teams know all too well about but... the schedule was impossible to follow. I don’t think there are many people who know about this. Anyway, the time we were lazy was due to our lack of professional awareness and we will never let that happen again. The title of a professional player is a heavy one. It might be completely wrong to expect humane treatment if you carry the title of a pro player. What I am saying right now, I didn’t perform well because I simply did not try as hard. I was not professional. As a human being, it is not unusual to be worn out when things get tough. I guess I showed a little too much of my human side. This is something I cannot blame anyone else for.
¤ Coming back to the present, the SKT bot duo is disbanding. While making this decision, you guys must have thought deeply about the future. What will 2019 be like and from here on...what kind of professional players do you guys want to be?
Bang: The conditions pro players work in is getting better. It is a very attractive job to most, and it fits me well. I think I am going to be a pro for a long time. I have improved from all the time I have spent as a pro. Nothing makes me more happy than sharing moments with my beloved fans. Nothing surpasses it; I cherish it. Because all things come to an end, my goal is to spend the remainder of the time living every moment to the fullest and sharing it with my fans. Of course, as a pro player, it is a given I will focus on my performance as well.
Wolf: My answer is kind of a follow up response to the previous question. Because it was so difficult, I said to myself ‘I’m not doing this anymore. I am actually going to quit’. But then, this news come up: ‘Wolf’s contract renewed’ (laughs). This time, I am really leaving SKT T1 and starting anew. I think I am going to continue playing as a pro. As long as nothing goes wrong. One of the things I am most excited about is a new environment. No matter who I meet or where I go, I love to be thrown in a new environment. Because I believe every new experience is a good one, I am excited. But, I am a bit scared. There’s that cliched worry of 'Would I be able to adjust?' I have spent 5-6 long years with SKT. Still, I am ready for the next adventure.
Bang: I am more curious than afraid. I feel excited, curious, and upbeat. Because every region and fans overflow with good vibes, I have no worry about where I would go. With this game, we are one big community. If the time is now to take on a fresh start, I kind of get the feeling I might not be truly ready.
¤ You guys have been together for 5 years. What is the biggest change you see in yourselves?
Wolf: Every person changes. All the teammates we have played with so far have shaped us till today. For me, the thing that has changed the most is… my actions and words. I had always made mistakes when saying the wrong things and offending people. My teammates and coaching staff have always helped me. Now, I don’t make mistakes. I think that is the biggest difference.
Bang: Personally, after becoming pro, the part of me that changed the most was the way I think. My basic thought process is completely different now. I guess you can say that I have suppressed my emotions? Whatever is being said, I think long and hard about if the statement is true. If someone tells me a certain food is good, I don’t believe them on the spot. I ask myself ‘Is this truly tasty? I doubt it is good?’. My self reflection as also changed. The only reason it has is because it is the one true answer to League Of Legends. It is important to define the line of right and wrong. Because of all this, people around me tend to ask 'Why do you have no facial expressions?'.
¤ Wolf, in your opinion, what do you think changed the most about Bang?
Wolf: (laughs) His weight was a big one. At first, we started working out together. But mid way through, I gave up. Because of this, I heard a lot of “He lost weight but what are you doing?’. It did give me a bit of stress. Overall, I believe we both improved all around.
¤ Bang, what do you think are some of Wolf’s changes?
Bang: All I can think of is his mental improvement. As adults would say, 'Damn, he grew up fast.' It feels like Wolf is steadily maturing as an adult. His appearance, knowledge, wisdom, and language [have improved].
¤ With the time that you’ve spent with SKT, it won’t be easy forgetting the people that you met within the team. Is there a specific person that you want to especially thank?
Wolf: I want to say a word to Bengi. I’m always thankful for what he’s done for us. Especially because I played jungle for a little while. I used to have overnight debates with Bengi. We debated over if I would be better in the jungle or not. Because I was confident in the jungle role at the time, I said to Bengi 'I know I can do well. Don’t I just need to learn how you played?'. Bengi replied, 'It is going to be hard…'. He always gave me guidance. I also want to thank Coach cCarter. While Coach Kkoma helped me inside the game, Coach cCarter helped me with outside matters. Granted, I am not saying that Kkoma didn’t help me out either.
Bang: Although there were a lot of players I had played with, I will take this opportunity and say… the first people who come to mind are all the players that helped me improve. During 2017 and 2018, we became some of the oldest members. Teaching younger players on our team, I began to realize 'Wow...This is not easy at all'. I am a bit sad that I was not able to repay all the older players who helped me in my time of need. I am also thankful for the organization. They really tried their best to make everything comfortable. SKT was amazing, and I am sure they will continue to do great. The coaching staff has consistently done well. I believe they are always going to be outstanding. I thank everyone.
¤ This is the last question. Would you say a word to your long-time fans that cheered for you and SKT all this time?
Bang: I want to say this to not only the players’ fans, but SKT’s fans -- and moreover, all the LCK fans. Please absorb the good energy of the LCK! I sincerely hope that the LCK stadium will become a place to relieve stress and to rid of bad memories. Also, my former teammates and coaching staff are all working hard. They truly are. Although I’m leaving, please take good care of my teammates. Please show them a lot of affection. Thank you for having cheered for me. I’m also very thankful for all those who worried for me and cried for me. Please continue to root for SKT and show the team the same affection.
Wolf: Whenever I had bad thoughts, my fans put me back on the right path. The words that I remember the most from my fans were, “Thanks to you, I took in a lot of positive energy from today’s games.” A lot of the fans told me that cheering for SKT, and cheering for me, ended up helping them cheer up. I’ve been collecting all of the fan mail. Whenever I’m having a hard time, I revisit them. Reading them makes me think, “I’m doing well, I’m influencing others in a positive way. I haven’t wasted my time.” Your support means a lot to me. It’s something that I lean on. I’m not deserving of your love, but I’m extremely grateful. Your support was a bigger help to me than you’d think. “The Chase,” video was also a wonderful surprise; it gave me a lot of strength to move forward. I’m saying this as Lee Jae-Wan, and not just Wolf.
This is what I always want to say. Wherever and whenever, I’d love to see you guys again. I’d also like it if you guys can continue to contact me! In a way, we left a lot of rookie players behind when we left SKT. Please watch over them well. Especially Effort… They’re like little sprouts! There was a science experiment where an onion that received a lot of praise and love grew nice and tall. Please show the affection that you showed us to them!
¤ As for the last question: you guys went from a legendary bot lane to fellow competitors. Is there anything that you wish to say to the other?
Bang: If I meet him on stage, I’ll have to beat him down…
Wolf: Oh this will be fun.
Bang: Talking to each other from time to time will give us something to lean on. I’ve come to realize that I’ve been blessed. As a professional gamer, I met a lot of great people, and I think I’ll continue to meet great people. “You were a great person. I hope you stay that way. But I’m going to beat you when I see you on stage.”
Wolf: We’re friends, and [with friends] there is no better feeling than beating him or her in League. Meeting a friend in solo queue is really something…
Bang: We might be too far away to meet in solo queue though…
Wolf: Meeting friends in solo queue is fun. Meeting them on stage? I know what he hates, so I’ll have a lot of fun making him miserable. Honestly, meeting Duke or Impact in a game is really fun.
Bang: I’ll just say one more thing. The fans and teammates that I met in SKT T1, the time that I spent with you is all very valuable to me. I’d like to see you soon! Goodbye!
Wolf: Take care everyone!
A managing editor who can do more things than you think.