How Did SK Telecom T1 Become The Biggest Name In League Of Legends?

sk telecom t1
Their nicknames and faces are familiar to millions of esports fanatics in Korea and China, but to many in the West, SK Telecom T1 remain something of a mystery. The three-time League of Legends World Champions are widely regarded as not just the best LoL team now but arguably the best ever.

In this article, we are going to take a closer look at the team, its players, its history, and sponsors to try and figure out what has made them so dominant.

To begin, let’s go back to the very beginning and recall how SK Telecom T1 formed.

The origins of SK Telecom T1

Strange as it may seem, SK Telecom T1 was born not as League of Legends team but a StarCraft Brood War team. It was formed under the name Orion in 2002. Lim Ho-Ywan, who went “Boxer” founded the squad and is regarded by many as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, esports player of all time.

The team played StarCraft 2 for 10 years, but by 2012, with a broader range of esports games available, the team started their own dedicated League of Legends squad. This team was the original SK Telecom T1, and their impact in the LoL world was immediate.

Just three days after forming from the roster of Eat Sleep Game, the team took on Europe’s best League of Legends teams at the IEM Season VII – Global Challenge Cologne and staggered everybody by beating Fnatic to win the event.

By November 2013, SK Telecom had become World Champions for the first time, defeating Royal Club in the Season Three World Championship final. At this time, they signed a new roster of players two branch into two teams — SK Telecom T1 S and SK Telecom T1 K.

The teams were both successful, but in November 2014, it was announced the Korean teams could no longer have two separate rosters. SK Telecom  T1 S and SK Telecom T1 K disbanded, and players from both reformed as a 10-man single team, simply known as SK Telecom T1.

They returned to the World Championships in 2015 after missing out in 2014 and won their second title, defeating Koo Tigers. One year later, they became the first team to win three titles and a second in succession with a 3-2 victory over Samsung Galaxy.

They have since qualified for this year’s Worlds in China as the No. 2 seeds from the Korean qualifying section.

The current roster

The current SK Telecom T1 roster is under contract until the Nov. 20. Here are the players:

  • Top Laner – Heo Seung-hoon (Huni)
  • Jungler – Han Wang-ho (Peanut)
  • Mid Laner – Lee Sang-hyeok (Faker)
  • AD Carry – Bae Jun-sik (Bang)
  • Support – Lee Jae-wan (Wolf)
  • Sub Top Laner – Park Ui-jin (Untara)
  • Sub Jungler – Kang Sun-gu (Blank)
  • Sub Mid Laner – Kim Ha-neul (Sky)

On the current roster, Lee Sang-hyeok (Faker) is widely acknowledged as the current best LoL player in the world.

Some of the most famous SK Telecom T1 players who have since moved on to new pastures with varying degrees of success include:

  • Profit, who moved to Ninjas in Pyjamas.
  • Bengi and Easyhoon, who both moved to Vici Gaming, though at different times.
  • MaRin, who joined LGD Gaming.
  • Duke and PoohManDu, who both moved to Invictus Gaming, again at different times.

Team awards and major victories

Major Championship victories

  • 2013 – LoL World Champions for the first time, HOT6iX Champions
  • 2014 – Pandora TV Champions, All Star 2014 Winners, ITENJOY NLB Summer 2014 Winners
  • 2015 – LoL World Champions for the second time, LCK Summer and Spring Playoff winners
  • 2016 – LoL World Champions for the third time. Mid Season Invitational, LCK Spring Playoffs and IEM X World Championships winners
  • 2017 – Winners of the Mid Season Invitational and LCK Spring Playoffs

Team awards

SK Telecom T1 were named the Best Esports Team of the Year at the 2016 Korea Esports Awards. Head Coach Choi Byung-hoon also won the Best Leadership Award at the same ceremony.

Can SK Telecom T1’s dominance be broken?

Although SK Telecom T1’s lengthy spell of success makes them clear favorites to win their fourth world title this fall, there are signs that other teams, and not just Korean teams, are starting to close the gap.

In the Summer Split, SK Telecom T1 were one of a cluster of top teams separated by just a couple of defeats. But that was enough to condemn them to a lowly fourth place in the seeding. That meant having to play through three tough games against the No. 5, 3, and 2 seeds before they took on the top seeds in the final.

There, Lonzghu Gaming confirmed their top position with a 3-1 win over SK Telecom T1. Although the current champs made it through to the group stage, they didn’t do so in quite the same style as in previous years.

SK also ended up surprise losers against Chinese esports side Team WE in the Rift Rivals Red Group.

So Longzhu Gaming and Team WE have shown SK Telecom T1 are beatable in spots. But will that hold true when it matters most?

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That remains to be seen. The bookies still have SK Telecom T1 as the 7/4 favourites ahead of Longzhu Gaming at 2/1 and Samsung Galaxy at 11/2 for Worlds. It will take a monumental effort to displace the Korean giants as the best team in the world.

Image credit: Simone Collins / Flickr.com/ CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Ian John

About

A lifelong poker fan, Ian is also well-versed in the world of sports betting, casino gaming, and has written extensively on the online gambling industry. Based in the UK, Ian brings fresh insight into all facets of gaming.

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