s1mple is the Tiger Woods of Counter-Strike, but these other players have their own sports counterparts too

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I love sports.

Something about watching athletes do their thing at the pinnacle of their respective disciplines is captivating. Esports, specifically Counter-Strike, is really no different. It invokes the same feelings. The players we watch etch themselves into the history books with each passing tournament do so in the same way our favorite athletes do in sports. There’s obviously a huge difference between being able to hit a 99 MPH fastball and being able to hit a one deag — that’s not what this article is about.

As a fun exercise, I picked out a few of the most iconic CS:GO/CS2 players of all time and tried to find their most accurate sports counterparts. There were no specific criteria I followed for this. For some, I used career parallels, for others I used their general demeanor and playstyle, or both. I stretched myself to the limits of my sports knowledge, which I’ll admit, isn’t complete by any means. There will definitely be someone out there who thought of someone better to fit the mold of their favorite player. I tried to include as many sports as possible, both while keeping it within the scope of my knowledge and making it entertaining.

dupreeh – Tim Duncan

dupreeh at PGL Major Stockholm (Copyright: PGL)

A serial winner. A guy who plays the tough spots, but doesn’t have as much fanfare as his contemporaries. Won on the biggest stages repeatedly. And, most importantly— often forgotten about in GOAT conversation.

Tim Duncan is one of the greatest two-way centers of all time. Incredible offensive ability paired with suffocating defense. His style of play was a treat to watch. What’s even more incredible is he did this all with essentially no external ego to speak of. He was mature and disciplined, and totally unselfish in his commitment to winning.

I feel for dupreeh in the same way I feel for Duncan. He’s one of the most tenured and successful players in the modern era, and when Astralis were at their peak, they could not be stopped. The entry role he served during those championship runs isn’t that comparable to that of a center/power forward like Duncan, but their calm, cool demeanor with teammates, paired with great performances in the ugly areas of the game, makes me think of them in a similar light.

Both players have five wins on the biggest stages in their respective disciplines, but neither are mentioned in the conversation for greatest of all time. Players like device were (rightfully so) ranked higher on a yearly basis for doing the stuff that did show on the stat-sheet, but real ones know it’s the intangibles that make a great team into a championship one. Duncan and dupreeh both possess these intangibles in spades.

NiKo – Jarome Iginla

NiKo at PGL Major in Antwerp (Copyright: PGL | Stefan Petrescu)

Being born in Calgary, I have a soft spot for Iginla. He was the quintessential hockey player.

Iginla is best known for his time with the Calgary Flames. Strong on the puck, meaning he wasn’t giving it up easily when he had it. Would never back down from a scrap, even if it meant trading blows with the biggest guy on the other team. Iginla truly embodied what it meant to be the captain of an NHL team. Not just a tough guy, Iginla was also an elite scorer in every sense and was so at a young age. Between 1998 and 2008, only one guy scored more goals than Iginla did (Jaromír Jágr, if you’re curious). During his prime, he could run you over, fight a guy, and shoot it in the net. The hockey player’s hockey player.

Much like NiKo, who I also happen to have a soft spot for. A fiery rifler who has one of the most complete skillsets in the game. Came up young and was immediately effective, much like Iginla, who made his NHL debut at just 18 years of age and was immediately a force. Their careers both share one, gaping hole in their resume, however.

NiKo has never won a major, and Iginla never won the Stanley Cup.

Despite multiple deep runs in the playoffs, Iginla failed to hoist the Cup. And it wasn’t for a lack of performance, either. In his prime, he averaged over a point per game in the playoffs, which is considered elite in hockey. NiKo has done the same. Despite putting up MVP-like numbers, he’s never quite managed to get over the finish line. You could make a solid argument for NiKo being the best player to never win a Major in CS:GO. Iginla also has a strong case in his sport for being the best to never do it, despite later in his career being traded to contending team after contending team.

It’s somewhat tragic, reliving the careers of those who never reached the mountaintop. They were no doubt good enough to reach it, but just being good enough, is not enough.

s1mple – Tiger Woods

s1mple at PGL Major in Antwerp (Copyright: PGL | Joao Ferreira)

I find that sports fans often overuse the term “generational talent.” I hear it at least once a year in relation to any given sport’s rookie class, which comes around every year, not every generation. However, when people talk about Tiger Woods in this way, it’s justified. In fact, it’s probably underselling him.

For those of you who didn’t follow golf in the early 2000s, Tiger Woods completely transformed the sport. After a stellar junior and college career, he turned pro and set the golf world on fire. He became the youngest player to win The Masters, a notoriously difficult tournament to win. In 2000, he won six PGA Tour events in a row, a feat not achieved since Ben Hogan did it in 1948. I could keep going, but his list of mind-bending records could fill up multiple pages on its own.

On top of it all, he brought a swagger and bravado to a sport that desperately needed it. I don’t need to convince you that golf is boring, especially to those who don’t play it, but it didn’t matter if you were watching Tiger in the 2000s. He captivated a whole new generation of golfers. It truly can’t be understated how good he was. Golf had seen dominance in its history, but this was different. He was consistently doing things that nobody had seen before, so often in fact, that courses had to change their layout in an effort to make it more difficult for him to win. You quickly run out of superlatives when talking about an athlete as great as Woods.

Unfortunately, you can’t talk about Tiger Woods without talking about his many controversies. The guy hardly has a clean rap sheet off the course, between his infidelity and DUIs alone. Now, s1mple hasn’t crashed any SUVs or had any DUIs, but he’s certainly had his share of controversial moments.

It has sort of happened in reverse for Sasha. His career started with a different kind of controversy, being known as a very good player with terrible attitude issues. The Ukrainian was banned from ESL events for derogatory comments directed at German people, kicked from teams because of his toxic behavior, and even caught a cheating ban once upon a time. Hardly the start you’d expect for someone considered one of the greatest of all time.

The rest of his career has been nothing short of incredible. A longer highlight reel than anyone in the game. His play changed the way teams would prepare. The clutches he would routinely pull off, the AWP shots he would hit, not to mention his swagger and bravado, made him one of the most captivating players in the game. Stop me if this sounds familiar.

Two guys who were marred by controversy but have had Hall of Fame-level careers in their respective disciplines. Tiger’s best years are certainly behind him, but it’s yet to be seen what becomes of s1mple in the coming months.

donk – Shohei Ohtani

donk at IEM Dallas 2024 (Copyright: ESL FACEIT Group | Viola Schuldner)

Speaking of generational talent, here’s another guy who’s just as deserving of that title.

Ohtani is part of a dying breed in baseball. Guys who both pitch and hit at an elite level are true unicorns in the modern MLB. Very few players have ever been able to. Usually, you’re good at one or the other, but rarely both. Ohtani isn’t just good at both. He’s elite. The Japan native won two batting titles, been in the top 5 in voting for best pitchers in the league, and won 2 MVP awards. Oh, and he was Rookie of the Year in 2018 at the age of 23; pretty young for a baseball player.

donk is also a unicorn of sorts. It’s a rarity in CS to have a player come up from the academy level and immediately begins dominating, but it’s even more surprising that his play is so well-refined for his age. The kid relies on his aim a lot, but he also rarely makes mistakes positionally, in the clutch, with utility; the kinds of mistakes that you’d normally see from a promising rookie. Ohtani is extremely similar in this sense as well, he’s extremely consistent in his approach and his attitude.

I see donk’s career taking a similar trajectory. Came up incredibly young, is an obvious choice for any Rookie of the Year award, and is already a fan-favorite player in his first year. Already competing (and beating) some of the best teams in the world. Ohtani spent his first few years in the MLB with the Los Angeles Angels, who weren’t championship contenders most of the time he was there, but he was still mashing at the plate and pitching like a man possessed. Team Spirit has a way better chance to win than the Angels ever had, which can only help propel donk further into the stratosphere.

gfx: @R0NNcs

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