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CaliTrlolz's Final Fight for Team 8 | LoL Esports

CaliTrlolz's Final Fight for Team 8

This weekend, Team 8's top laner Steven "CaliTrlolz" Kim will play his last match in the NA LCS. He's not transferring regions, he's not starting a new team. He's going back to school, like he'd always planned to.

In fact, Calitrlolz never actually planned to play in the NA LCS. Even as he led Team 8 up through the NA Challenger scene in 2014, he always expected to return to pharmacy school at the end of the year.

But once he played on that big NA LCS stage, surrounded by cheering fans during the 2015 NA Spring Promotion Tournament, he was hooked. He quickly appealed to his new school, asking them to defer his enrollment for one year -- a boon typically reserved for students with family or medical emergencies. But with 18,000 LCS fan signatures behind him (thanks to his petition pitch on Reddit), the school agreed to let him start him start in January 2016 instead.

So Calitrlolz is now ready to retire from esports and move on to his next dream. But before he does, he's taking on one last fight this weekend to keep his friends on Team 8 in the NA LCS.

On the eve of his retirement, we sat down with the top laner to see what he thought of his time in the NA LCS and esports as a whole.

NA LCS, the Good Life

Calitrlolz took a big risk breaking from his plan to become a medical professional in order to play with Team 8 in the NA LCS, but he's leaving with no regrets.

As he explains, the NA LCS gave him something wholly unique -- something he describes as "priceless."

"I'd always dreamed of becoming a pro gamer," Calitrlolz says of being in the NA LCS. "My childhood dream has been fulfilled. It's given me so many good memories and excitement that it's just too valuable to be compared to money."

While he'll remember his time in the NA LCS fondly, it wasn't easy when he was first starting out.

Calitrlolz was playing League on a laptop when he first decided to go pro, until his close friends surprised him with the best birthday gift ever, a brand new gaming PC to help him achieve his goals. But his family weren't as pleased that he'd chosen video games over school.

He doesn't blame his "strict, conservative" parents for not supporting his pro gamer dreams early on, but he's glad they slowly changed their minds. And they're not the only ones. Calitrlolz is excited by what he's seen as a massive improvement in the respect that esports gets, and proud of what he's contributed so far during his time playing in the NA LCS.

"The perception of esports has been constantly improving," Calitrlolz explains. "Being recognized by major media like ESPN and The New York Times, being performed in major stadiums like Madison Square Garden, international player recruitment, and the sheer magnitude of the millions of viewers!"

"My passion for esports is what drove me to become a LCS player," Calitrlolz continues. "I feel thoroughly satisfied that I got the chance to contribute to what I love dearly... I’ll definitely still be a part of the scene, as an ardent fan."

Short-Term Dreams

Even the best things in life have downsides and Calitrlolz is facing what is, for him, the hardest part of the NA LCS: retirement. It's an amazing experience while it lasts, but only the truly steadfast players like Team SoloMid's Marcus "Dyrus" Hill and Fnatic's Bora "YellOwStaR" Kim have been able to survive in the hyper-competitive league for more than a few years.

And while Calitrlolz wants to continue playing games competitively, he's not going to. "I’d love to [continue playing esports]," Calitrlolz says. "But due to my age and academic situation, I’m afraid this year will be my only time in competitive esports." Not because he's lost his ability, but because he believes the pro gamer career path is too good to be true -- at least in the long term.

"Pro gaming was only a dream job for me -- unrealistic and unstable," he explains. "Despite all the fun memories I've had living the NA LCS dream, I promised myself, my parents, my school, and my community that the dream is only to be sought after for a year. I’m very grateful for the opportunity and am quite content to return to work on the professional [pharmacy] career that I've been working toward for so long."

Long-Term Bonds

Playing in the NA LCS may end up being just a short phase in the long lives of some players, like Calitrlolz, but it's an incredible one.

As Calitrlolz talks with us, he fondly recalls all of the wonderful fans he's gotten to meet and the kind gifts they've given to him and his team.

"Genuine gifts like brownies, cupcakes, hand-written letters, a catnip pouch for our cat, delivered food, artwork, custom stickers, Exodia cards for Yu-Gi-Oh, and personal gifts," Calitrlolz lists. "I will never forget about the love and support our fans showed us."

It's all about the people for Calitrlolz. Over the past year and a half of fighting in the NA LCS together, the Team 8 squad has become his second family. And that's why he postponed his NA LCS retirement -- again -- when the team was threatened with relegation at the end of the 2015 NA LCS Summer Split. He wanted to make sure he left them in a good position.

Calitrlolz's future isn't threatened by the NA LCS 2016 Spring Promotion Tournament this weekend. If Team 8 loses to Team Imagine and gets relegated, Calitrlolz's new career won't be crushed. But his friends' will. So he's staying to fight -- for them, and for the organization that's become his family over the past two years.

It's about loyalty. "The least I can do is to keep our spot," Calitrlolz insists.

The Fight to Survive

Be sure to tune into Lolesports.com this Sunday, September 6, at 5 PM PDT to watch Calitrlolz help fight to keep Team 8 in the NA LCS. They'll play a full Best of 5 series against Team Imagine to determine who gets the last spot in the 2016 NA LCS Spring Split.

If you miss the action, you can always check out our spoiler-free VODs page to watch the matches afterwards.

Josh Augustine's favorite champion is Gnar, he's never enjoyed a Darius, and he will always go for the kill, even when he knows he shouldn't. He currently works as a game designer on EverQuest Next at Daybreak Games. He’d love to talk with you on Twitter.

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