Rulers, Rivals, Ringers! With the ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals in Dallas looming ahead, let’s look back: the history of North American Counter-Strike

The Early Emperors

When people first started playing Counter-Strike competitively in 2000/2001, the search for the best teams around the world immediately commenced. One squad didn’t waste any time to claim NA’s throne for themselves, Xtreme3. They dominated their national competition both online and offline all year long, and finished a very impressive second place at the first ever Counter-Strike major, the CPL World Championship in 2001.

After the tournament, Craig “Torbull” Levine approached X3 and asked them to play for him: Team 3D was born. The first professional CS team in North America. Sponsors like NVIDIA and CompUSA, salaries, traveling round the planet to play Counter-Strike? A bunch of 17 to 19 year old kids, namely Kyle “KSharp” Miller, Ronald “Rambo” Kim, Dave “moto” Geffon, Dave “kane” Cannon and Sean “Bullseye” Morgan, were living their parents’ nightmare. What a glorious way to live!

Team 3D 2002/2003. Kane, moto, Bullseye, KSharp, Rambo, steel. Photo courtesy sk-gaming.

With that kind of backing, Team 3D had what they needed to thrive, and thrive they did. In 2002, Team 3D won their first major, an extremely stacked CPL Winter in Dallas, with all the world’s best teams in attendance. The next year, they placed third and second at two more majors, the CPL Summer 2003 and the World Cyber Games, an event they won one year later in 2004. With two major titles and several good placings under their belt, Team 3D were the indisputable emperors of the North American empire.

The Arrival of a Rival

As emperors often do when they sit on that golden throne too long, wielding a sceptre, wearing ermine coats, they get lazy and complacent. They forget to lock the rear door.

Enter Jason “1” Lake and his team, compLexity. They came out of nowhere. A picture of Lake and Bullseye, who had been kicked from Team 3D, signing a contract went viral.

Lake and Bullseye shaking hands. Photo courtesy of sk-gaming.

A slap in Levine’s face. The other coL members were Corey “tr1p” Dodd, Matt “Warden” Dickens, Tyler “Storm” Wood and Danny “fRoD” Montaner, four relatively unknown players… at the time. Lake stepped onto the stage and declared war on Team 3D. “Their time’s over”, he said, “It’s our turn”.

Levine could only laugh at such blasphemy. Who were these nobodies anyway? He would find out soon. Fast forward to CPL Winter 2004, the first tournament both teams attended. Team 3D placed 8th, and compLexity 5th. Game on! One of the greatest rivalries of not just NA, but CS history kicked into gear.

For the next two years, the two giants would meet in nearly every final of all the national tournaments. Led by fRoD’s ungodly AWP, coL was mostly getting the better of 3D.

Danny “fRoD” Montaner! One AWP to rule them all. Video courtesy of TAO-CS / TAO-fRoD.

Internationally, coL would go on to win two majors. In 2005 a gold medal at the Electronic Sports World Cup, and in 2006, first place at CPL Summer, Dallas. As it turned out, Lake was right. It was compLexity’s turn!

Now, those two teams shaped the first era of North American Counter-Strike. With 3D reigning supreme throughout the years 2000-2004 and coL earning the title “NA’S Best” from 2004-2006. But there were a couple other teams and players that we shall not, must not, forget!

In 2003, a team called zEx, featuring legendary players Griffin “shaGuar” Benger and Justin “sunman” Summy, placed second at the World Cyber Games.

Later that year, shaGuar and Michael “method” So, two of the most individually skilled players NA has ever seen, joined team NoA (Norwegian, North American), the first team to unite the two continents. They teamed up with Norwegian players Ola “elemeNt” Moum, Lars “Naikon” Olaisen and Jorgen “XeqtR” Johannessen. In 2004 they won a major, the CPL Winter in Dallas.

NA’s Downfall

In 2007, the Championship Gaming Series was introduced and marked NA’s disappearance into insignificance. The CGS lured North America’s best players with big salaries into exclusivity. It was against the rules to participate in other leagues. The CGS turned out to be a massive failure, and had to fold up shop after only two years. Since the chosen game for the CGS was Counter-Strike: Source, those two years were enough to take away America’s ability to compete internationally. The gap had become too great.

Before the CGS, there were 18 majors in total. NA  placed top three at 14 of them. After the CGS another 14 majors were played and NA placed top three at, wait for it, not a single one.

The only team that got close to the international elite after that was Team Evil Geniuses in 2009. The team was built around none other than 17-year-old prodigy, Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert, alongside fRoD, Storm, Ediz “goodfornothing” Basol and Tomi “lurppis” Kovanen.

Check out n0thing’s insane CS 1.6 skills. Video courtesy of DomeH1k.

Nationally, Team EG were the clear number one, and they held a solid fifth to sixth place in the world rankings.

The ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals in Dallas, Texas

This was part I of a look back at North America’s Counter-Strike history. We will be back with part II in two weeks’ time, with a focus on NA’s history in CS:GO. Next week, the Pro League resumes its action, so do not forget to cheer on your favorite teams, and tune into the ESL CS:GO YouTube channel. Over at the SL i-League Finals in Ukraine, G2 is currently wiping the floor with their opposition. Finally, the French Superteam is finding its rhythm. Will it be enough though to qualify for the LAN Finals in Dallas, Texas?

Secure your tickets for the finals from June 3rd – 4th here, while they are still available. For live coverage and all of the latest updates on the ESL Pro League, be sure to follow ESL Counter-Strike on Twitter and Facebook.


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