Imagine it's the end of the month. The new NBA season is about to start just days later, but right before that, a majority of the Los Angeles Lakers' owners decided to cut their losses with the team and sign a new one. With a once proud legacy firmly in the rear-view mirror, they'd had enough. New blood was needed.
But not just any new blood. Old new blood, as it turned out. Imagine, if you can, that just days before the 2016-2017 NBA season's opening few games, the Lakers ditched every single one of their players and instead signed the previous year's champions: the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Imagining this bizarre turn of events is a struggle for any number of reasons, including the existence of a National Basketball Players Association and a National Basketball League, as well as player contracts and salary caps.
The world of competitive Halo doesn't have many of those same impediments, and so just hours before the first matches of new North American Halo Championship Series Pro League season were about to begin, Optic Gaming announced they had released their starting roster and replaced those players with the previous year's champions: Counter Logic Gaming.
— OpTic Gaming™ (@OpTicGaming) September 14, 2016
Nick "Maniac" Kershner, Aaron "Ace" Elam, Bradley "APG" Laws and Richie "Heinz" Heinz were all going to be let go during the current transfer period, with Counter Logic's previous roster of Paul "Snakebite" Duarte, Matthew "Royal 2" Fiorante, Brad "Frosty" Bergstrom, and Tj "Lethul" Campbell set to replace them.
Earlier this year, Optic Gaming came out of the NA Regional Finals 2016 with a bottom of the table finish, failing even to qualify for the Halo 5 World Championships. On the opposite end, Counter Logic Gaming finished last year's Pro League season with a 13-1 record before going on to demolish Enigma 6 in the Summer Finals.
Counter Logic Gaming tried to explain its decision to exit the competitive Halo 5 scene in a post titled "All Stories Come to an End":
"The greatest part of being involved in esports is that there are always new and exciting titles being developed. We made the decision to part from Halo with the intention to consolidate our resources to support existing teams and to prepare to expand into new titles. We accomplished what we wanted to in Halo, and it's time to move on.
It's time to create new story lines and make our mark in esports history once again."
While Counter Logic Gaming , an esports franchise with lots of other teams competing in games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends, is looking ahead to the future, the players left to pick up the pieces on Optic Gaming were more reflective.
In an interview with Visions, Optic Gaming's behind the scenes web diary, posted later that day, Nick "Maniac" Kershner couldn't help but get emotional while trying to process the changes he and his former teammates now faced.
Some of my final league matches start in 30min. Focused on those for now. Follow up video tomorrow maybe some tweets tonight.
— Nick Kershner (@OpTicMaNiaC) September 14, 2016
"Like I said before, the best way I can describe it is that it's like fucking divorcing your wife that you love after fucking 15 years but you just know that it's just not going to work out anymore," he said. "I've been playing Halo, since, addictively, since I was 13 years old. I'm now 25 and it's taken me places I never…"
The conversation is raw, with Kershner trying to stay positive despite what is no doubt a disappointing conclusion to a particular phase in his life. "The absolute best memories of my life. It's taken me places I'd never thought I'd be."
— ESL Halo (@ESLHalo) September 15, 2016
He continued, "I tried my damn best to do what I could. Obviously, it wasn't enough...I have zero regrets coming here."
And then later, "There comes a time when things don't work out and change is needed. At the end of the day this is a business."
"We fucking tried."
"Stats don't lie. Numbers don't lie."
Kershner says he and Optic Gaming's owner, Hector "H3CZ" Rodriguez, were on the same page about things, and are both still friends. At one point before signing off, however, he off-highhandedly notes, "This was brought to me at a very short notice, that we were no longer going to be part of Optic."
The next day, Kershner confirmed his retirement over Instagram. He also spoke candidly in a follow-up video, stating that his original conversation wasn't supposed to appear in Visions. Despite that, Kershner said he was going to make the announcement sooner or later either way. He takes the rest of the video to discuss his future plans and thank his fans for all of their support.
After a long career that culminated in winning the 2009 MLG National Championship for Halo 3 as part of Believe the Hype, the 25 year old decided he was ready to leave professional gaming behind.