The only time where you’ll hear “Michael Jordan” and “AD Carry” together.

OVERTHINKING IT: LOL is like Basketball

So as you have read in my previous articles, I play League of Legends…a lot. Almost to the point that it is nearly equal to my OTHER timesink, World of Warcraft. I can dominate the top lane with my AD Carry Caitlyn, I can go mid with AP Build Master Yi (get dunked), and I can give hefty support in the bottom lane with Soraka or the Village People’s healadin—I mean Taric. I could go on and on about the subject (I could bore a man to death on why my reasons why Berserker Greaves are better on Vi than Ninja Tabi) but that’s not the main intention of this article.

As of right now, there are 70 million registered users in the game with a daily active player average of 12 million, making it the most played game in the world. Still, while that is a high number of people, there are around 7.2 billion people on earth, and if my calculations are correct, that’s only around 0.9% of the world (and around 0.16% when we are doing only the daily active players). So that being said, not everyone knows about this massively popular MOBA game, despite that fact that the game is everywhere, even in the remote parts of my family’s origin country of the Philippines (sure my cousins in Narvacan can barely get a decent connection but they can still outplay me with Cho’Gath). Even with the rising numbers of popularity, people may have a hard time explaining the game to those who are new the genre or just don’t have the proper way of understanding it.

After a round of ARAM games (all random all mid) on LOL with my guild mates from my WOW guild, we got to talking about the subject on how to make a good comparison so that non-players can understand the game in a decent manner. During this time, I had ESPN on my TV in the background and found out that the Bulls were eliminated from the Playoffs (adding another to the pile of “Reasons why I hate Lebron James”). Since I’m originally from Illinois and a majority of the guild are from Chicago, we all mentioned that the current Bulls starting lineup would never hold a candle to those of its glorified days (1991 – 1993 and 1995 – 1998). That got me thinking…overthinking to be exact. The best starting lineup of a good basketball team was like a really good League of Legends team, balanced and experts in their role. Instantly, I started jotting down notes and talking my friends about the subject. From it all, I came up with this article, that will serve as a guide on explaining the important factors of LOL to those who don’t know or play the game but could understand if it was put in a simple manner:

“League of Legends is like basketball.”

Don’t believe me? Well let me point out some things.

1. How to Win in LOL is Like Basketball

You know…people would watch more basketball games if they had Werewolves and Ninjas in it.

Aside from the Crystal Scar-Dominion Map (which is basically king of the hill mode), all the maps’ main goals are nearly the same: Destroy the other team’s nexus. How do you do that? You level up your champions (characters that you control) by killing more minions and the other team’s champions. Basically, the one team that has more kills than the other usually wins (though winning with lesser kills is possible but very uncommon). So like basketball, baseball, and football, the one with the most points usually wins.

2. Teamwork is Essential and Everyone’s Role is Important.

What does Rose and this AFK Vayne have in common? Aside from making me rage.

Like the saying goes, there is no “I” in team. It goes for basketball, it goes for baseball, it goes every sport out there…even e-sports like League of Legends. If you have that one person that does something totally inane, it can cost the team the game.

But “Geron!” you say, “how can you link that to League of Legends?”

“Simple” I ask in reply. Then I ask you to call your brain insurance because I’m going to blow your mind.*

(blowing your mind not guaranteed)

In League of Legends, one of the most common problems that causes a team to lose is an AFKer, a numbskull who despite clicking on the “Lock in” button and had already selected a champion, is magically away from the keyboard for most of the game or at least the first couple vital minutes. How does this relate to basketball? Well, recently my Bulls had a hard time in the playoffs because Derrick Rose (the man with one facial expression) refused to play despite showing up and being fully active in team practices and having his doctors deemed that he was ready to return to play. While I love the kid, his refusal to play was in my opinion one the many reasons why the Bulls didn’t advance this season. So basically, Derrick Rose was like an AFK player in an important rank game. Should he had played, he would have given the right push that would have turn the tide completely in the series. That being said, Derrick Rose’s AFK was like the AFK Ezreal that was “coincidentally” AFK because he didn’t get mid.

3. Speaking of the Team, What Makes a Good LOL Team?

Missing from this photo, Dennis Rodman dressed up like Ghost Bride Morgana.

Every team is made up of individuals, that while they have the same goal, each one of them has a different role that is essential for winning the match. In a game of basketball, you have forwards, guards, and a center. In League of Legends, you have AD/AP Carries (attack damage/ability power), a Tanks, Supports, and Junglers. Each role has a certain specialty they need to carry out in order for the team to win over the other. In the following, I’ll explain each role of a LOL team and what they compare to on a basketball team.

(NOTE: I’ll be using examples of both NBA’s past and present rosters because…I’m a glutton for nostalgia of the NBA’s best years)

– Tank (Center)

NBA EXAMPLES: Luc Longley, Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard
LOL EXAMPLES: Taric, Leona, Thresh

The tank is the champion who you really don’t want to get in front of and holds the line from being pushed back. They use their overwhelming size and abilities to score and lead others in scoring kills. Using their overwhelming size and abilities to dominate and lead the charge? Sounds familiar? That’s right, the tank is like a center on a basketball team. Though I doubt anytime soon we’ll see Tim Duncan yelling they “CAN’T MILK THOSE!” while rebounding.

– Support (Guard/Forward)

NBA EXAMPLES: Isiah Thomas, John Stockton, Toni Kukoc, Deron Williams
LOL EXAMPLES: Soraka, Lulu, Sona, Nami

The Support is a champion who gets most of the Assists points by keeping the flow of things moving by helping the others. While they don’t get many points for kills, they do rack up the points in assisting others in getting theirs. So basically adding a poke or two of damage to help others get the final blow on someone is just like passing the ball to an open point guard a three-pointer from downtown. The same could be said for healing those carries or tanks and helping them survive the oncoming slaughter they are producing. In a comparison example, Golden State’s Stephen Curry passing the ball to Harrison Barnes for an easy two points is like Sona healing Garen to deal the final blow (except Stephen Curry doesn’t have Double Ds on him and Harrison doesn’t scream “DEMACIA” when he shoots).

– AD/AP Carries (Guard/Forward)

NBA EXAMPLES: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, Lebron James
LOL EXAMPLES: Jayce, Draven, Jax, Veigar

The ones who score the most points by outdoing and eliminating the competition. They’re the ones that deal the damage, strike the final blow, and carry the team towards victory. The meat and potatoes of the team. It’s kind of easy to see the comparison here. Though at times, Carries can argue amongst themselves and the team about kill stealing and QQ-ing about stupid things. For an NBA example of this, see J.J. Barea of the Timberwolves.

– Jungler (Any Position)

NBA EXAMPLES: Jason Terry, Manu Ginobili, BJ Armstrong
LOL EXAMPLES: Rengar, Udyr, Warwick, Shaco

The ones that come out of nowhere and can quickly turn things at any moment. A jungler doesn’t play in the main theater of battle. They wait and come in when the opportunity arises and strikes. They give a sigh of relief to anyone on the team. It’s like any player that is very effective when coming off the bench. Both the starting teams are could be exhausted from playing but once someone comes off the bench and is fully charged, they can really make a mess of things for the opposition.

Thinking of NBA players and Junglers…I’d think Manu Ginobili’s game would really improve if he started wearing make-up like a scary clown. Just saying.

4. The Fanatical Fanbase and Game’s Atmosphere/Culture

Basketball and League of Legends…I play both yet the pros that play them
would probably make more money in a game than I would in a year.

NBA fans are fanatical about their teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, the Chicago Bulls, and many others. The League of Legends community has people that are fanatical about certain teams like Team Solomid, MoscowFive, and many others. I call myself a fan of Team Solomid while my friends would probably disagree with their tactics and choices of champions and tell me that their team would own my choice. The same could be said when it came to basketball talk (though somehow our arguments about which team jungles better is more enthusiastic than talks about what would happen if the Spurs faced the Bulls).

Speaking of teams and competition, there is something I’d like to point out. Many years ago it would seem daft and laughable that a gamer would make a salary that you’d except from a rookie NBA player. But if you look at the competition and sponsors of LOL tournaments, you’d be amazed. With sponsors like Adidas and Intel sponsoring the league and teams themselves, they’re making cash that gamers used to dream about. Well if I ever get my team to those levels, I can finally go back to my fifth grade teacher and tell her that playing video games did earn me a living.

And there you have it folks, my thoughts and explanations on why League of Legends is like playing basketball. While it might not be a direct correlation, it sure does have a significant amount of similarities. So remember, while you may not dribble well or set up a pick right, you can always call dibs on middle lane and spin to win.