On October 6, the Los Angeles Gladiators announced Ji-hyeok “Birdring” Kim’s retirement from the Overwatch League. After five years of playing Overwatch competitively, Birdring decided it was time to move on. The news of his departure put his fans into a state of long reflection. A look back at Birdring’s Retirement and Overwatch Legacy is a must to appreciate his legendary career.
Birdring found success and made a name for himself even before joining the Overwatch League. As a member of Kongdoo Panthera, he played a pivotal role in helping to nearly capture a title. During this time, he and Dong-jun “Rascal” Kim became an iconic DPS duo. Their combined firepower pushed Lunatic-Hai to their limits in the championship game. Birdring was one map victory away from being a champion before he ever stepped foot on the Overwatch League stage.
Birdring drew interest from fans, analysts and casters alike during this time. His explosive level of play and versatility throughout various metas made him a true spectacle. Clearly, Birdring developed a strong reputation during 2017 which ultimately helped him make the Overwatch League.
In two years of playing for the Spitfire, Birdring saw high levels of success. Him and Joon-yeong “Profit” Park were the centerpieces behind London’s success. Their explosive playmaking led to numerous memorable moments and major victories. There were some ups and downs for London when Birdring played for London, but they always managed to maintain relevance.
At the end of Stage 1 in 2018, Birdring was regarded by some on-stage talent as the Stage 1 MVP. During any pivotal match in either season, Birdring almost always put on a show for the fans.
He most commonly rolled through the opposition on his signature Widowmaker. But this was far from his only strong pick as seen by his prowess on Hanzo, Genji and McCree. Generally speaking, his dominance over many premier DPS players of the league was a major key to London’s championship runs.
Birdring and the Spitfire made the Playoffs both in 2018 and 2019. He was also a part of the team’s only Playoff and regular season tournament victories in franchise history.
Los Angeles Gladiators
After the original London Spitfire core broke up, Birdring joined the Los Angeles Gladiators in 2020. This was the first time he would be a part of a Western roster but it clearly did not slow him down. His mechanical prowess and motivation to show he can still play propelled him back into superstar status.
He was back to his old ways. It was as if the struggles at the end of his London tenure never happened. Birdring was back to clicking heads and carrying on a regular basis. Season Three was mostly just a precursor though. 2020 was more about proving himself and establishing unforgettable memories such as his own version of the flu game.
Season 4 was when it became more than just about individual play. In his final season, Birdring capped off his career with a Countdown Cup first-place finish. While the spotlight was shared with other big names at this point, Birdring still brought major value. As a veteran, he usually came up with big plays when his team needed a hero. He was a leader and valuable piece of the Gladiators’ overall tournament and playoff success.
Birdring’s successful career was not full of smooth sailing. He dealt with his fair share of struggles he had to overcome. The first of which was a wrist injury during the inaugural season. This particular injury saw him miss multiple games and it clearly had an effect on his play once he returned.
During his recovery period, there were serious question marks surrounding him. Birdring had to fight through extreme negativity and doubts he would ever be the same player. However, he managed to get through it while playing a pivotal role in London’s championship run.
During and after Season Two, doubters came back to the surface. Once again, the idea of Birdring no longer being good enough was the subject. But yet again, he showed his haters up. After joining the Gladiators, he regained his superstar form. As the season progressed, the level of hype from his gameplay escalated to its boiling point. He put out one of most dominant seasons from a DPS player in recent memory. Birdring finished with the third-highest total final blows among all players while tallying over 1 million damage in 2020.
Birdring had to prove himself multiple times throughout his career. Adversity always stared him in the face but he handled it like a true legend every single time. It is ultimately why he will go down as one of the greatest players to ever touch Overwatch.
-OGN Apex Season Three Second Place Finish
-OGN Apex Season Four Top Three Finish
-2018 OWL Stage One First Place Finish
-2018 OWL Grand Finals Champion
-2021 OWL Countdown Cup First Place Finish
-Fourth in Career Final Blows
-Ninth in Career Eliminations
-Second in Career Solo Kills
-Sixth in Career Hero Damage
The End of an Era
In Birdring’s eyes, now felt like the right time to call it a career. As for what comes next in his career, he left it open. According to him, there is a possibility he could pursue a different game one day. For the time being, Birdring intends to rest and stream as he hangs up his Overwatch League jersey for the final time.
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