Lee ‘Kuro’ Seo-haeng’s head hung in shame, drooping down to the desk like a weeping willow, his hands covered his face, devastated at another missed opportunity.
The Afreeca Freecs came close to silencing their critics and proving their worth. Their first two games against Samsung Galaxy dominantly displayed their competitive ability. Led by the combined carry efforts of Kuro and Jong-Hoon “Kramer” Ha, the Freecs looked polished and professional versus their more esteemed opponents.
Sadly, in typical fashion for Afreeca, the progressive performance did not last. In Game 3, Samsung Galaxy subbed in Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong and from there, Afreeca gradually lost control of the match.
Ambition was much more effective at turning around his opponents’ proactive plays than Kang “Haru” Min-seung. Afreeca found themselves unable to sustain early leads, or truly capitalize off of their big plays.
The dream had shattered, as Kuro and Afreeca were cast back into the nightmare that defined the rest of their season. Once more, they had tried to compete with the best of Korea and once more, they had failed to prove their worth.
— KeSPA (@KeSPAen) August 26, 2017
Kuro has always been the odd one out from the 2016 ROX Tigers lineup. Fans appreciated Han “Peanut” Wang-ho and Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho as the best top-jungle duo in the world, and Kim “PraY” Jong-in and Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyeon as one of the best bot lanes in the strongest region in the world, but where did Kuro stand?
Many knew Kuro as the guy who always came off second best against Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, meaning his individual accomplishments often went uncredited.
Mistakes were magnified, prominently shown as proof that he couldn’t compete with the best of his region, meanwhile, all of his small, yet important plays to help his team succeed went unnoticed.
Kuro’s dark horse persona has continued after his Tigers tenure. Peanut joined the most legendary organisation in League of Legends history following his departure, with Smeb and the bot lane both joining all-new super teams bent on dethroning their SKT overlords.
Kuro, on the other hand, joined a ragtag lineup of ex-pros, challenger rejects, and former exports, without a hope of top-level success.
He did his best to take the team to new heights – despite Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-Hwan receiving most of the media attention – with Kuro’s consistency proving crucial in Afreeca’s Spring playoff run.
In the Summer Split, Kuro truly came into his own as a top-tier mid laner, often overshadowing MaRin and Kramer in terms of day-to-day carry potential.
By the end of the season, Kuro had racked up enough MVP points to tie with Longzhu Gaming’s Kwak “BDD” Bo-seong as the ‘Most Valuable Player’ of the Summer Split.
Yet, despite a career-defining split, Kuro’s breakthrough has gone largely unrecognized; he will continue to be omitted from the list of the world’s best mid laners.
With dreams of individual success rained out, for now, Kuro will have to settle for the shadows.