My name is Gordon Hayward, spelled with a G. And I am the best player in the game today.

Utah Jazz Video Media Day

Go back and read that sentence again in case you think you misread it. You didn’t.

It may come as a shock to read me saying something like this because most of you see me as pretty humble. And 99.9% of the time, I am.

This is different.

I know this sounds like bragging. That’s because it is. I’m so confident in my abilities that I would put money on myself, hypothetically speaking.

One on one versus LeBron James? He would get crushed. We would all be witnesses to a straight up annihilation.

The reigning MVP, Kevin Durant? I’m LOLing. Go ahead and put him with Russell Westbrook. Throw Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard in there, just for kicks. They’d still have no chance.

Honestly, take any five NBA players you want and put them on the same squad. It doesn’t really matter. I’d beat them all. It would be like playing a bunch of kindergartners.

I repeat: I’m the best in the game. And probably in all the other major sports, too.

No athlete on earth is as good at League of Legends as I am.

A DIGITAL GIFT

The path to digital greatness is a long one. I know from experience.

Today, I’m here to share that journey with you. I didn’t become the best gaming athlete in the world overnight.

I started gaming when I was six years old. My father introduced me to video games, buying me the original Nintendo. I played anytime I had free time. Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, Contra, Double Dragon — I just fell in love with the games. My dad and I would play together. Back then, the controller only had two buttons, so it was easy for him to do.

As I got older, the game system did, too. We kind of grew up together. Nintendo, Super Nintendo, N64. Then there was Xbox Live, and that changed everything for me. The game was Unreal Championship. I was 12, and I played that game a lot. By the time I was 13, I was on one of the best clans in the world. They put my name on the Internet. Unfortunately, some of the images on the web site where that happened weren’t age appropriate. When my mom saw them, she said, “You have to get off that clan immediately.”

So I did. I switched over to a game named Halo.

halo1

We had a team, a group of my high school friends and me, and we got good. Really good. I wasn’t like a pro, but we went to local tournaments, and we’d win those. There were different games types you could play, and the highest level you could reach in them was 50. I was a 50 in every single game type except a couple of them.

The reason why was simple: It was the only other thing I did in high school. I didn’t have a girlfriend. I didn’t go to dances. Literally all I did was play sports, then come home and play Xbox. I was logging two or three hours a day because my parents put a limit on it, and I always went right up to the max on that. When you play at least 20 hours a week, you improve. The beauty of Halo was that when you won, your rank improved, and when you lost, your rank would go down. It didn’t reward people for just playing the game for 100 hours. It rewarded people for how good they were.

The highlight of my Halo days came at the end of high school. I was a senior, and my Halo team was about play in a tournament for money. By this time, I had already committed to play college basketball at Butler, and I wasn’t sure whether I could play in a tournament for a cash prize. There are a lot of NCAA rules about what you’re supposed to do.

I picked up the phone, and called Brad Stevens, who was the Butler head coach at the time. As an incoming freshman, that was a really awkward phone call. 

“Hi coach. It’s Gordon. I want to play in this video game tournament. Is that okay?”

He was actually all for it. He thought it was funny. He thought it was cool. (Or at least, he said he did.)

In case you were wondering: yes, we did win money at the tournament, so it was good I asked.

A HIGHER CALLING

Right at the beginning of college, I started getting into Starcraft. Starcraft is a PC game— a game that you play on a regular computer. I still like console games and play them all the time, but I made the shift to PC games because they’re a lot more challenging. 

It’s the difference between algebra and calculus. I like calculus.

In Starcraft, you play one-on-one against another person in real time, and basically, you’re controlling an army. You tell every single person in the army what to do. As your army gets bigger, there’s more and more to do. Starcraft was like Halo in that it had a good ranking system, and it was super competitive. Strategy is everything. Win and you get points. Lose, you lose points. You want to get as many points as you can so you can improve your ranking.

But in another way, Starcraft was nothing like Halo. In Halo, I put a bunch of time in, and we were actually pretty good, and that was kind of just how it was. But in Starcraft, I put in a bunch of time, and I was middle of the road. It’s the hardest game I’ve ever played. If you watch the video below, you’ll see what I mean. Professional Starcraft players perform 300 actions per minute. That’s a lot of stuff. It just gets out of control.

I made the jump from Starcraft to League because my friends from my Halo team were playing. In League, you play on a team of five people against another team of five, so right from the beginning, it was a lot more social. It’s a lot slower of a game than Starcraft, and in the beginning, it was more chill and less stressful. 

There turned out to be a lot of comparisons between basketball and League. First, you have five players on your team in each game. Communication is extremely important in both. When you watch pro League of Legends teams, the best ones communicate really, really well. They tell each other what they’re going to do. They tell each other where to go. That’s just like basketball. We have to call out plays and tell each other where we want to be. The team rapport is very important.

The mental game is also similar. In video games, because you really just have the hand-eye coordination, it’s mostly thinking. But with basketball, the players are one step ahead of the game. They’re thinking about not just the move they’re going to make, but the next move and the move after that, or maybe how the defense reacts to something you might do. It’s very similar to League of Legends.

lol

How good am I at League? Better than any other professional athlete, as I already told you. And I’m better than average for like the world population. But professional players are on a whole other level. It’s ridiculous. Last year, I played with a team called Curse with a professional friend of mine, which was pretty cool. I could keep up, but you could tell that I wasn’t a pro player. My friend made me look good.

As much as I like playing League, I honestly don’t know if I would want to become a professional player. Their schedule is brutal. They have 16-hour days. They play all day long, training for all the things they want to do. Then after that, in their free time, they play more League. That’s what it takes if you want to be the best. It would be like going to basketball practice for 12 to 14 hours, and then after practice, spending your free time working on hook shots or left-hand floaters.

I can tell you one person who’s happy that I’m staying an amateur. My wife. She thinks that I’m a nerd, especially because I play PC games. She’s got brothers. Both her brothers play Madden, Call of Duty — what almost everybody plays. When we meet someone and gaming comes up, she’ll say, “You play video games?” “Yeah,” they’ll answer. And then she’ll say, “No, that’s not what I mean. Do you play PC games? Weird games like that?” 

THE GAME WITHIN THE GAME 

I know what you’re thinking. If I had to pick and train an all-NBA League of Legends team, who would be on it?

Point guards.

Point guards have to think quickly, and they have to think ahead. So I’d take Chris Paul, Jeremy Lin, Rajon Rondo, Ricky Rubio, and me. We’d be tough to beat.

Of course, I don’t need four other NBA players on my League of Legends team, or any other pro athletes, for that matter. And at the end of the day, if there’s one thing I want you to take away from this blog entry, it’s that simple truth.

When it comes to professional athletes who can rain down threes on the court and execute pentakills off it, there can be only one, and he goes by GDHayward.