One of the longest serving professional players in League of Legends has retired at the age of 23 after an eight-year career, with Jian ‘Uzi’ Zi-Hao forced out of the game due to repeated shoulder and hand injuries, type-2 diabetes and chronic stress.
Zi-Hao, who won the Mid-Series Invitational, reached the League World finals twice and won two titles of League‘s premier circuit in China, LPL, has been one of the greatest AD Carry players since professional League was established. Zi-Hao began professionally playing from 2012, not long after the game’s full release.
Over the last four years, Zi-Hao played under Royal Never Give Up, a team whose parent company also owns Overwatch League’s Chengdu Hunters.
Zi-Hao’s longevity and time in the spotlight made him one of the most recognisable players in the game, alongside players like Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. The Chinese AD Carry also gathered a large international fanbase thanks to his team’s playstyle, which revolved around boosting Uzi’s capacity to gain kills and individually dominate. Inside China, the League player beat out other Chinese celebrities, musicians and actors to win Weibo’s Person of the Year award with over 486 million votes, highlighting League‘s enormous popularity in China.
In a translated version of his post on Weibu, and in a televised interview with Chinese state media, the player explained that the pain was so severe at times that he wasn’t physically capable of holding a mouse.
In an announcement post, Royal Never Give Up said the player had amassed the injuries “over 8 years of high intensity training”. But in a way, the writing was on the wall. Last year, Zi-Hao featured in a documentary produced by Riot and Nike, where players went to a high performance sports lab. After some evaluations, Zi-Hao revealed that doctors once told him that his arms had the capacity of someone twice as old, and that often his legs felt like they had no strength.
Zi-Hao’s retirement is still fairly recent, so there has been little discussion as to whether Royal Never Give Up could have extended the player’s career with better management. Part of the maturation of esports over the last five years has been a better understanding of the balance between physical training and time spent in-game, with the former specifically designed to stave off the sorts of injuries and downtime that Zi-Hao faced.
Nike, which remains a sponsor of Royal Never Give Up, posted an image on Weibu thanking Uzi for his achievements over the last eight years. Other professional players and teams have posted similar tributes.
All the best to one of the greatest legends ever. @UziRNG
— T1 LoL (@T1LoL) June 3, 2020
One of the all time League of Legends greats has retired. With the surge of LPL I had hoped to see him continue on & compete for his first Worlds title.
— Isaac CB (@RiotAzael) June 3, 2020
— FNATIC (@FNATIC) June 3, 2020