Late yesterday evening a man considered one of the few bonjwas, the most dominant players of their era, called time on his StarCraft and StarCraft 2 career.
That person was Lee Young Ho, better known as "Flash", one of the most dominant forces in all of StarCraft and perhaps one of the most dominant forces in all of eSports.
His 1v1 record in standard leagues for Brood War alone: 457 wins, 180 losses. That's a 71.74% win rate, the highest of any recorded player in the long and intensely competitive world that is South Korean StarCraft. If you extend the numbers to include special and offline events, Young Ho's two wins shy of the magic 500 (498-203).
His record in StarCraft 2 isn't quite as superb, but it's nothing to cough at either. According to the global index for Heart of the Swarm (post-release), Young Ho's record is a healthy 238 wins and 158 losses. That's a 60.10% win percentage, something any professional player would be reasonably proud of.
Combined with his record in vanilla SC2 (65-37, 63.73%), that makes Flash's record, across standard leagues, special and offline events a gargantuan 801 wins and 398 losses.
That's a win rate of better than two-thirds for an eSports career forged in the most difficult game, in the most difficult conditions (South Korea, televised leagues, team houses and a game, Brood War, that had an incredibly unfriendly UI for multi-taksing) that lasted nearly a decade. And other databases have higher win rates. The Aligulac website puts Young Ho's SC2 record at a staggering 62.92% (465-274).
"As a progamer, I`ve got so much more than I deserve," Young Ho was quoted saying in a translation posted on Team Liquid. "It`s been long 9 years, and I won`t forget the love that my fans gave me. From now on, I`d like to travel or rest a while, thinking about future. However I will say, I won`t put down my keyboards, and mouse."
Young Ho was such a force in Starcraft that his transition to StarCraft 2 was considered something of an apocalypse. Players were palpably concerned that, having reigned supreme in the more mechanically complex Brood War, he would slaughter all and sundry in Blizzard's (at the time) newest RTS. This meme, one of many, sums up the reverence and fear with which he was held.
To put that into context, let's go back to the numbers. Specifically the ones on his Wikipedia page, which is more substantive than many athletes will ever have -- his overall record across Brood War and SC2 is 926-449, a 67.34% win rate.
Young Ho's earnings are listed at over US$500,000, although the end figure is undoubtedly far more than that. It certainly doesn't take into account the salary that KT Rolster have been paying Flash for the last several years, or any endorsements he may have received on the side.
"When I watch Flash play the game, without pretense, I'm amazed," Hong "YellOw" Jin Ho, another long serving veteran of the South Korean Brood War scene, once said. "I've never seen anyone who can manage the eco as well as he does. Every eco falls into perfect timing."
"Not only that, it seems like he's spending all his eco, yet he always have spare mineral to expand more... That really is breathtaking to watch. Is he really calculating all the timing? Or is this by his sense?"
Young Ho added in another interview that while he's received proposals on what he wants to do post-eSports, he won't make his mind up until after Christmas. It doesn't seem likely he'll leave the scene for good though, with a rough translation saying that his main goal is to become KT Rolster's head coach.
There are many videos and legendary matches of Flash that could be posted to remember his passing. Discussion of his greatest games will inevitably fill social media and various forums in the coming weeks and days. But to close off, I'll leave you with a video that struck an incredible chord with me, and one that communicated why I find it so difficult to even contemplate playing Starcraft again these days.
The video's title: The Hands of God, a term that is absent from irony. It's early days yet, but it could be a very, very long time before anyone comes close to matching Young Ho's record ever again.
God bless, Flash, and thanks for all the victories.