When 100 Thieves let go of 80% of their starting roster following the 2022 League of Legends esports season, it came as a surprise to many. It may have seemed peculiar to dissolve a roster that were able to win a LCS Championship in their 18 months together, qualify for the finals the following two splits, and attend the World Championship in both 2021 and 2022 — but for the only remaining starter on the 100 roster, it was a no-brainer.
“I think it was obvious that we needed a change after last year,” said 100 Thieves jungler Can “Closer” Çelik after his team’s first win of the 2023 season.
Closer knew that the 100 Thieves roster from the back half of 2021 and 2022 had already reached its limits. “We were the only team that made three finals in a row, but we only won one of them,” said the jungler. “Though, I don’t think it’s a failure that we lost, because I do think making three finals in a row is a very big thing. But it was time for a change and I think everyone was aware of it.”
There was never a conversation between the starting players on 100 Thieves last year regarding 2022 marking the end of their time together, but according to Closer, there was a vibe down the stretch amongst the players that the end was near: “I think it was obvious…you could feel we hit our ceiling.”
On 100 Thieves in 2023, Closer has found himself between two rookies making their debuts as LCS starters — top laner Milan “Tenacity” Oleksij and support Alan “Busio” Cwalina — and the two most decorated LCS players of all time in mid laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and AD carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng.
“I really liked my teammates for my last year, but sometimes change is good, you know?” Closer said. “When I come to the compound and I get to know my teammates again – when you are building the basics again from zero — it’s just fun. And I think I kind of missed that.”
“Even though I really liked the last group, we are having a really good time together in this group,” Closer continued. “I think we also have a really strong coaching staff. I think they’re doing a good job at understanding what we need.”
Closer was looked to as the spiritual leader of 100 Thieves in 2022, often making impassioned speeches to rally the team when the chips were down and being the first to speak up when something needed to be said. However, Bjergsen and Doublelift have fulfilled the same role in many a team throughout both of their respective careers — and at multiple times on TSM, led squads together to multiple domestic titles.
“I was the leader of the old team, and I had a really strong voice, so coming into this team, I didn’t really know what my role was going to be,” Closer explained. “But I know that I’m clear — if I see a mistake, I will call it. If I have to be loud, I will be loud.”
A clear, flexible approach has worked well for Closer so far — through four games of the 2023 LCS Spring Split, 100 Thieves is 3-1 in a three-way tie for 2nd place: “Right now, I think we are perfect. We don’t have one leader, but like we are sharing roles and I’m not holding myself back. If I have to be loud, I’m being loud, and no one has an ego. Even though Doublelift and Bjergsen have achieved many things. they don’t have egos and they are really good teammates. They’re very open to improving.”
Closer isn’t being eclipsed by the prestige of his carries, either — throughout his time on 100 Thieves he has established himself as a bonafide LCS star in his own right.
Couldn’t make it to the LCS after party?
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— 100 Thieves Esports (@100T_Esports) January 27, 2023
“I guess I’ve been playing here for a long time,” Closer said. “I didn’t really realize how many fans I have. I had Turkish fans before I came to LCS, but yesterday [opening day of the LCS Spring Split] 100 Thieves shared a post asking about autographs and which player people would want. I was kind of expecting Bjergsen and Doublelift, but there were a lot of people wanting my name. That made me really happy coming into the game. I was like, ‘I can’t let these people down.’”