As a general sports fan, I can name most of the famous athletes in sports. But when our parents asked us who the most popular esports athletes were, we didn’t have an answer.
Who are the most popular esports players in 2019? Athletes like Faker, Karma, and Coldzera are considered some of the most popular esports athletes. Their popularity is measured not only by their wins but also by there viewership and reputation on social media platforms.
The most famous athletes in esports typically play one of the more popular games. These are League of Legends, Dota 2, CS:GO and Overwatch. These gamers aren’t just well known for their vast wealth but also for shattering expectations in the industry.
What Makes a Gamer Popular?
It’s not difficult to see why these athletes have become so popular.
To the broad general public, most of us don’t know their names, but within the next few years we will. Their names could become as famous as LeBron James and Tom Brady.
I have to admit; I didn’t know very many of these athletes before I started writing this blog. Now I can clearly see why they’ve become so popular.
Not only are all of them champions at their respective games but they also have a massive following across their social media channels.
Championships and Tournaments
Michael Jordan, Steph Curry, Tiger Woods, and Tom Brady. What do all these athletes have in common?
They’re all world champions! Each of them has shown they deserve our respect and our cheering.
Winning and winning big is what makes a lot of these athletes so popular.
It’s no different in esports. All of the most popular gamers have won championships for their teams. They’ve dominated the competition and have a winning reputation.
Winning a championship brings these gamers not only financial success but influence, additional sponsorships, and a much larger fanbase.
Massive Social Media Followers
When looking at the popularity of an athlete today, you have to see how many followers they have on Twitter and Instagram. These apps offer a great place to know how famous athletes are with fans.
Some of them have made very smart business decisions by using their championships to create engaging content on social media. It also helps that they have fun personalities.
Thanks to Twitter and Twitch, athletes have never been more available to the general public. Fans can ask them various questions and try to interact with them daily.
In the esports community, these individuals are considered rock stars.
Most of them live very comfortable lives and can be found signing autographs or having their picture taken at events.
Unique Personalities and Profiles
What’s fun to observe about esports most famous athletes is none of them look the same.
No one type of person is dominating the esports pro circuit. They’ve had champions from every nationality, race, and gender.
With esports being a worldwide phenomenon it’s not surprising to see such diversity amongst both fans and athletes.
It’s All in the Gamertag
One thing you’ll quickly notice about all these athletes is there use of a Gamertag.
Gamertags are the nicknames these athletes use when competing. For those of you that have never played an online video game, you have to set up a Gamertag before competing.
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Need a good Gamertag? Check out these free generators.
These athletes take their Gamertags very seriously. It becomes a part of their brand and their image.
Unfortunately, I never had a cool Gamertag 🙁 I typically used something really lame like jrainey.
The Games Being Played
As I said earlier, these athletes are generally the most popular because they are the best at the most popular games.
These games have the largest viewership and most fans. All of them are played on a worldwide stage with leagues in North America, Asia, and in South Korea.
League of Legends
As you’ve heard me mention before League of Legends is the most popular esports game.
It has the most active users and its tournaments bring in more viewers than most NBA championships.
The 2018 League of Legends world finals had nearly 100 million viewers and a total prize pool of more than $6 million.
Counter-Strike Global Offensive
The second most popular game in the world is Counter-Strike Global Offensive. It’s a very competitive game that requires a lot of strategies.
The 2018 CS:GO world championship had a viewership over 50 million and a total prize pool of $1 million.
Next would be Dota 2. Another favorite online game that requires a solid team to win a championship.
Dota 2‘s The International 2018 was the biggest esports tournament on planet Earth, with the biggest prize pool in the history of competitive gaming around $24.8 million.
Lastly, you have Overwatch.
Overwatch is unique because it’s one of the more recent games to join the esports scene and has a very different league setup compared to other games.
Blizzard reported over 10 million viewers watched the Overwatch League Finals 2018 with a prize pool of $13 million.
These are the most popular games in the world meaning the prize money at their various championships is also the largest.
Not only does the winner get all the notoriety that comes with being the champion but they also get a huge payout.
Now that we’ve covered some of the reasons why these athletes are considered the most popular…let’s get to why you came here.
League of Legends Players
Lee Sang-hyeok aka ‘Faker’
A list of the most popular esports players would be incomplete without talking about Lee Sang-hyeok aka ‘Faker.’
Faker is South Korean and is generally regarded as the best League of Legends player in the world.
The 22-year-old worldwide phenomenon is a three-time League of Legends world champion.
He’s well known for both being very skilled and for being able to use just about any champion in the game.
Which is not easy! There are over 100+ champions.
He’s won countless awards from esports writers and organizations. Some of the press have even referred to him as the Michael Jordan of League of Legends.
He has a ton of followers on his various social media feeds and is a fan favorite.
Thanks to his various sponsorships and titles he has a net worth of 4 million dollars.
Song ‘Smeb’ Kyung-ho
When talking about the best League of Legends players in the world you have to mention Song ‘Smeb’ Kyung-ho.
He’s been known to continually lead his team to the World Championships and is regarded as one of the best ‘laners’.
His accomplishments include being named MVP of the League of Legends Korean League in both 2015 and 2016.
The only real knock against Smeb is that he’s never been able to defeat Faker.
Popular gaming website Den of Geek refers to Smeb as, “The bridesmaid and never the bride when he goes toe to toe with Faker.”
Fans will constantly have debates over which of these 2 gamers are really the best League of Legends player.
Marcelo ‘Coldzera’ David
Next, let’s talk about the most popular Counter-Strike Global Offensive player.
Marcelo ‘Coldzera’ David is not only incredibly popular but is also considered the best CS:GO player in the world.
Coldzera continues to prove my point; you never from what part of the world an esports star going to come from.
He’s actually Brazilian and is only 24 years old.
Esports fans respect him not only because he’s a champion but also for his consistency. He’s continually lead his team every year to various titles.
On the CS:GO circuit there are a variety of top tournaments with prize money equaling $200,000. Thanks to Coldzera his team won 6 of those tournaments last year.
I am more of a casual gamer and hearing about the stats and skills of these athletes terrifies me.
I would never my wildest dreams try to compete with them at their game. I believe they would beat me in just a few seconds.
Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kova
With Counter-Strike: Global Offensive routinely offering the highest prize pools of any of esports leagues they continually get phenomenal athletes competing.
Another fantastic CS:GO player is Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kova. He’s Bosnian and has been dominating esports leagues for many years.
Before playing CS:GO, NiKo made a name for himself playing Counter-Strike 1.6.
NiKo is well known for racking up insane kill totals in his matches. Even though he played on teams with other players he would always have the highest numbers.
Having high kill totals obviously made him a fan favorite.
At only 22 years old it will be interesting to see where he takes his career from here.
Dota 2 Players
Peter ‘ppd’ Dager
The third most popular game in the esports world is Dota 2. There are actually two different stars that come to fans minds when they think of Dota 2.
The first is Peter ‘ppd’ Dager. He is our first American on this list.
Ppd is unique because he is both a well-known player and a respected businessman.
He was the former CEO of successful esports team Evil Geniuses. They won many tournaments, and he was instrumental to their success.
His net worth is around 2 million dollars thanks prize money, sponsorships, and his other business ventures.
Ppd is also famous for his frugal nature regarding his money and winnings. He famously drove a 1996 Chevy Blazer and lived in a condo with friends.
People like stars that are relatable which ppd has used only to grow his popularity.
Saahil ‘UNiVeRsE’ Arora
Speaking of esports team Evil Geniuses, it wouldn’t be fair not to talk about Saahil ‘UNiVeRsE’ Arora.
UNiVeRsE is an American player and was instrumental in some of Evil Geniuses championships. He currently plays for Forward Gaming.
* UPDATE: As of March 24, 2019, UNiVeRsE is no longer with Forward Gaming.
In addition to being a champion, he has earned over $3 million in prize money. Which is only second to Faker.
Fans also love how much he competes in various tournaments. He is one of only eight players in the history of esports to have played in over 1,000 DOTA matches on a professional level.
That is a ton of video games!
Even though I’ve played video games since the 90s, I don’t think I’ve ever played that many matches of any game in my whole life.
I have a lot of respect for UNiVeRsE and his ability to play for that long.
Austin ‘Muma’ Wilmot
Let’s look at the stars of the newly-formed Overwatch League here in the United States.
Not only are these two gamers considered some of the best in the world but they are also the faces of the Overwatch League.
First up is Austin ‘Muma’ Wilmot. Muma is an American and currently plays for the Houston Outlaws.
He has quickly become one of the faces of his franchise because of his skill on a worldwide stage.
One aspect of being an esports athlete that isn’t as widely known is sometimes gamers have to change what video game they decide to go professional in.
It happens every so often as developers work on and release new games. The video game scene is always changing, and its players are having to adapt continually.
Muma was one of those players when he had to switch from Team Fortress 2 to Overwatch.
In addition to being one of the best Overwatch players in the world, Muma is also famous for coming out as LGBT.
This has endured him to a new fandom that may not have watched esports competitions before.
Jong-yeol ‘SaeByeolBe’ Park
The other face the Overwatch League is North Korean player Jong-yeol ‘SaeByeolBe’ Park.
SaeByeolBe currently plays for Overwatch league team New York Excelsior.
What makes him such a favorite player among fans is the fact that he’s considered one of the best Tracer players in the world.
If you are anything like me, I had no idea what a Tracer was. I have a basic understanding of Overwatch, but I still wasn’t entirely sure what that meant.
A Tracer is the name of the character from Overwatch that appears on the cover of the game.
With that particular character being basically the mascot for Overwatch it’s not surprising the best gamer in the world to use her is so popular.
It’s time to bring some much-needed girl power not only to this list but to esports in general.
As I said before esports is so popular because of its inclusion, of just about everyone but the one barrier that still needs to be broken is for female gamers.
Kim ‘Geguri’ Se-Yeon
The organizers of tournaments are trying their hardest to continue to bring in female gamers and fans. Men aren’t the only ones playing video games anymore; there are a lot of outstanding female video game players.
Including our very own sister who we started this blog for in the first place.
Kim ‘Geguri’ Se-Yeon is a legend for being the first female to be signed to an Overwatch team. She now plays for the Shanghai Dragons in the Overwatch League in Asia.
Her road to stardom has not been easy. She has been accused of cheating and has experienced an unwelcoming environment at times.
But through it all, she has persevered and now plays for a professional Overwatch team.
Hopefully, they’ll be more gamers like Geguri to continue to bring in more diversity into esports and to be a hero for our sister.
To wrap up this particular post I’d like to talk about some of the most popular gamers who play Halo, Call of Duty, Madden, and Street Fighter.
None of these games have the viewership total of the previous games.
But these gamers are still very popular, and the games they play mean more to me because I’ve actually spent time playing them.
It’s ironic the first two gamers I’m writing about both play for the same esports team OpTic Gaming.
Damon ‘Karma’ Barlow is regarded as one of the best Call of Duty players and the best Canadian esports athlete in history.
While playing for OpTic Gaming, he has led them to three championships and is the player in history to have three titles.
He also has the record for the most money earned playing console esports with over $630,000 in prize money.
Who knows where the next esports star is going to come from in the next 10 years…. you might be on this list when we update it.
Who are the highest earning esports athletes? The list is continually fluctuating but a great resource website is Esports Earnings. I highly recommend their website because you can see listings by country, game, and even age. You’ll routinely see us reference their information in our blogs.