The fading star of Cody Sun

At one point, Cody Sun looked like the next great North American AD carry. Now, he might not even be in the NA LCS in 2019. What happened?

Image Credit: Riot Games 

When Cody Sun joined Immortals, he was the definition of a rising talent. He was a bit rough around the edges in spring, but he stepped up his game in summer, and his teamfighting prowess became the driving force behind IMT’s second-place finish. Being second in both KDA and DPM in his role was the icing on top of the metaphorical cake, and Cody Sun legitimately looked like the next great North American AD carry.

Now, less than two years later, he might not even be on an NA LCS team in 2019. What are the reasons behind this downfall? And how can Cody Sun ensure it never happens again?

The fall

If you were to look for the root of the problem, you’d have to go back to Cody Sun's days on 100 Thieves. Much like with Immortals, Cody Sun was the main carry of their 2018 roster, and—at first—he seemed like a perfect fit for the team. 100 Thieves didn’t hesitate to funnel resources into their bot lane, and Cody Sun paid them back by routinely topping damage charts in teamfights and skirmishes. With his help, 100 Thieves placed second in the 2018 Spring Split—a feat that’s practically unheard of for a newly-promoted org.

Yet, unbeknownst to anyone, something went horribly wrong in this 100T lineup. The cracks began to show in the Summer Split semifinal against Team Liquid, as 100 Thieves inexplicably benched their veteran AD carry in favor of a complete rookie in Rikara. The result was a predictable 3-1 loss. To make matters worse, 100T didn’t even bring Cody to the studio, meaning they had no intention of subbing him in at any point in the series. 

Still, it looked like whatever dispute occurred was resolved when Cody Sun came back for the third-place match against TSM. And then Worlds 2018 happened. Any hope for a peaceful resolution flew out the window, as Cody Sun didn’t play a single game despite his team struggling to stand up to world-class bot lanes with a substitute AD carry. Once the dust settled, it didn’t take long for Cody Sun to announce that he’s looking for new opportunities in 2019.

These opportunities never came.

The aftermath

The weirdest thing about this situation is how hard it is to discuss it. So much happened behind closed doors that fans only hear murmurs about Cody Sun’s attitude issues and conflicts with 100 Thieves’ coaching staff. And even though a strong native marksman should be a steal for most NA LCS orgs, the idea of him being hard to work with has laid the foundation of a very deadly narrative.  

Suddenly, signing Cody Sun was akin to committing a leap of faith. Would you be getting a solid carry threat for your NA LCS roster? Or would you be voluntarily subjecting yourself to personality clashes and internal conflicts? 

Granted, similar doubts didn’t stop teams from working with problem players in the past. Doublelift stayed on CLG for years despite self-admittedly being a bad teammate because he was so exceptionally talented that management and coaching staff looked the other way. For a more contemporary example, Dardoch is notorious for his attitude issues. He’s also a top-tier jungler that doesn’t require an import slot, so teams are willing to take a chance on him to this day.

In that sense, perhaps the biggest issue is that Cody Sun hasn’t shown enough to justify the risks of signing him. Despite having two solid splits in summer of 2017 and spring of 2018, he never quite made it past the line that separates the good players from the great ones. Meanwhile, the 2018 summer was his least convincing split to date, as Cody Sun struggled to carry 100 Thieves despite being the focal point of their team comps. 

Then, there are the misplays. 

IMT fans will likely remember the dreaded Tristana play at Worlds 2017 that set the stage for a Fnatic comeback. And while he admitted this was a bad judgment call on his part, he later made a similar error in the deciding game of the 100T vs TSM series. Of course, he doesn’t make plays like this on a regular basis. But the perception that Cody Sun loses the ability to position in do-or-die moments is akin to a death sentence for a professional AD carry.

The future

So, where does Cody Sun go from here? The only two reasonable ways forward are to a) get so good that teams will consider signing you regardless of possible attitude issues or b) clean up your act well enough that none of your future coaches and teammates will be able to say anything negative about you.

The problem is that there are only so many places for Cody Sun to redeem himself. With NA LCS not being an option, his only remaining choices are NA Academy and emerging regions. And once he moves away from the major leagues, it will take a very, very long time to rebuild his reputation as one of the potential biggest ad carries in North America.

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Daniil Volkov

I craft League of Legends narratives and cover LCK, NA & EU LCS.