The Story of NiKo
Leaders bring out the best in us. (Casting) They push us beyond our limits. Isolate our strengths. And refine our weaknesses. (Casting) Leaders show up when the odds aren’t in our favour. When it feels like all hope is lost. (Casting) They redefine what loyalty means. They stick it out while their surroundings change, and they understand what it means to play as a team. “My goals at the moment are, that we become the best team in the world.” This is the story of leadership. The story of perseverance and eventual dominance. The story of becoming the best in the world at what you do. This, is the story of NiKo. “And Niko, that’s the final nail in the coffin.” Nikola “NiKo” Kovač was born on February 16, 1997 in Bosnia and was first exposed to Counter-Strike as a nine-year-old, when his parents introduced him to net cafes. From the very beginning, Counter-Strike for Niko was about being better than those around him. From besting his peers, then building a team of locals and finally in 2013 joining pro Counter Strike teams iNation and later Team Refuse. (Casting) Early on in his career, Niko primarily played with Serbian rosters and was focused on elevating his region to reach Counter-Strike relevancy. In fact, he wanted to become great with a regional roster so badly, that he declined an offer to join mousesports “When I was turning 18 I got my first offer from Mousesports which I declined. I still believe I can make it to the top with a Serbian team. I did not tell it to my parents because I know they would force me to to accept the offer. Because they knew that I wanted this since I was a kid.” But despite playing on a number of different rosters, he was never able to find the level of success he craved. He knew he wanted to be the best, and quickly realized that he couldn’t do that in Bosnia. So after two years playing competitively with regional rosters — Niko accepted a second offer from mousesports on March 4th 2015. “Now they enter ESL One Cologne with the biggest gun of them all. Boasting the mighty Niko, considered by some to be the best player in Counter-Strike. During his transition to mouz, Niko was known as a promising young talent and garnered a reputation as the region’s top prospect. (Casting) Mouz was largely in a developmental phase during Niko’s first year as the team lacked the fire power necessary to compete with the best. But Niko was proving that he was more than capable of rifling with the scene’s best, and as we’ve come to learn — the Bosnian marksman had an extraordinary ability to secure Frags with a Deagle, or just about any other weapon. (Casting) In an effort to shake up their lineup, Mouz dropped Gob B in December of 2015, the team’s primary shot caller. Which placed a metaphorical Captain’s crest on Niko’s chest heading into the new year and the next era of mousesports. (Casting) And as January came around, mousesports were more or less the Niko show. (Casting) But while Niko continued to wow the CS:GO community, Mouz were still a middle of the pack team. (Casting) During the beginning of their 2016 campaign they finished 5/6 at DreamHack Open Leipzig, won Acer Predator Masters Season 2, placed 9-12 at the MLG Major in Columbus and 8th at ESL Pro League Europe Season 3. Even throughout their flashes of brilliance it was always Niko clutching the round. Niko stealing the show. And Niko dragging his teammates up the treacherous side of the pro CSGO mountain. (Casting) Mouz were able to qualify for 2016’s second Major — ESL: One Cologne, but they walked away with a mediocre 9-12 finish. During the event, Niko finished a 1.07 rating and 71 total kills. But again fell short of adding a significant finish to his resume. With that said, the team did rebound from Cologne nicely. Putting up their most notable finish to-date with Niko on the roster. A semi final exit from ELEAGUE Season 1. (Casting) Through ESL: One Cologne and ELEAGUE Season 1 the CS world had more or less come to a consensus that Niko was the world’s greatest
Counter Strike players. But, he was playing on a team that was struggling to hang on to a Top 10 ranking. “He’s one of the best players in the world. He’s got unbelievable aim and probably a really good game sense as well.” (Casting) But Niko didn’t want to go anywhere. Something that has since become a fixture of his identity as a pro player. Unlike other star players who are willing to jump ship to chase wins. Niko has always tried to bring his team up to his level. Not abandon them. Niko has always been team-first. “You know everyone can say you’re the best player or whatever, your team’s getting better but, you have to get to that level sooner, so when should it happen, when is the point when Mousesports has to perform.” “I think now with ELEAGUE and the Major, I feel that we have to go through the groups to advance to playoffs and see what we can do there.” Throughout the remainder of 2016, Niko continued to shine bright as the game’s most feared player. But mouz maintained their mediocrity. They finished 3rd/4th at ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals and then 5-8th at ELEAGUE Season 2. (Casting) As the calendar turned and 2017 began, all eyes were on Niko at the ELEAGUE Major: Atlanta The community agreed that it was time for the world’s best player to add some much deserved hardware to his trophy case. If Niko could fight his way out, Mouz had a chance. But not even the best in the game could carry his team out of the hole they dug him into. “I think all of a sudden you have a situation where, nothing seems to be going right for NiKo and I think now we’re starting to see him kind of buckle under the pressure. Having to be the star player and at points having to be the in-game leader.” To say that ELEAGUE Atlanta was a disappointment would be a dramatic understatement. Mouz finished 12-14th and didn’t make it past the Group Stage. “Absolutely heartbreaking, they end up on Nuke and they did not look like a team that were prepared for it at all.” “It’s one of the more devastating losses that we’ve seen here, obviously it’s devastating you’ve lost you’re out of the tournament, but I don’t think anybody on Mousesports can say they performed up to the level they needed, and probably that they thought they could bring on Nuke.” It was clear that the Bosnian superstar needed to make a change to live up to his immense potential, and on February 9, 2017 Niko left mousesports. Despite his desire to stick it out with mousesports, Niko packed his bags and left for FaZe Clan. A move that was nothing short of a blockbuster signing. “Well speaking of leaving the team as you just mentioned you will be joining FaZe after this event How excited are you and what are your expectations joining this new team.” “I’m really looking forward to this, it’s been long time since I wanted to play with them, like maybe, especially with Rain cause I really like that player. So, I don’t know I think our goal is going to be to reach top 1 and that’s it.” FaZe already had its star power in Karrigan and mixing superstars in pro CS was and still is a big risk. But, as we know now. FaZe and Niko were the perfect match. “But now with the most recent addition of Niko, they’re actually looking like a team who can be a contender for championships moving into the future.” Niko, KioShima, Allu, Karrigan and rain began their journey together with their first premier event at Starladder Season 3. And they made their presence felt immediately. (Casting) FaZe Clan defeated the likes of SK Gaming, G2 Esports and Hellraisers to find themselves in the finals, their first big splash with Niko on the roster. (Casting) FaZe met Astralis in the grand final. And it was time that Niko showed the world that he could perform when there was some hardware on the line. (Casting) Niko had finally landed somewhere where the supporting cast wasn’t blinded by him being the game’s brightest star. And now, with winning on their mind, Niko and FaZe Clan had their eyes set on a Major title. But, Krakow wasn’t the place for Niko’s destiny to be realized. FaZe Clan didn’t even make it out of groups and even worse, were bested by Niko’s former team, mousesports. “That has to be, highest expectations, and worse outcome that I’ve seen in recent memory at a Major.” The community had high hopes for FaZe to make a run and prove themselves in Krakow, but they still had a long way to go. (Casting) They were close, but something else needed to change in order for them to reach the upper echelon of CS:GO. And what happened next, blew the lid off of the Counter Strike scene. “GuardiaN has joined FaZe. Replacing Allu.” “When you consider this is a superteam that even in the context of superteams is incredibly stacked, I mean they have three players who you could make a case at one point in history were legitimately the best player in the world. They have NiKo, they have Olofmeister, they have GuardiaN.” In the weeks following the Krakow Major FaZe Clan acquired Olofmeister and Guardian, two of the best players in the world. These two stars, in conjunction with Niko, Karrigan and Rain became the newest iteration of FaZe Clan. And Niko was the team’s linchpin. “If FaZe run into some problem, I would just look towards NiKo and he’ll probably close it down for them.” Now, this new FaZe roster would be a test for Niko. The traditional idea of leadership that he exemplified with Mouz couldn’t exist while surrounded by superstars. All egos would have to pushed aside, and Niko would have to focus on being the young gun instead of the team captain for the first time. This super team iteration of FaZe Clan had only a hand full of premier events to prove themselves before the next Majorm including ESL One: New York and the 2017 ELEAGUE Premier in Atlanta. FaZe Clan came. (Casting) They saw. (Casting) And they conquered. (Casting) Not only did they win both events. But they made it look easy . Sure, the squad was filled with an obnoxious amount of talent. But what was most impressive was their ability to play as a cohesive team together. (Casting) The pressure never rested on just one player’s shoulders, and the team wasn’t dragged kicking and screaming to glory by a single competitor. Everyone had one goal in mind — securing trophies. And that goal was realized in back to back events. “Just an incredible performance, this team is not really that old, they just formed and usually it takes a while before you get this level, not in this case.” To say that Niko was integral to the team’s rise to the top would be an understatement.. He sacrificed his frags, his stardom and his stats for the better of the team and set a new benchmark for what it means to be a leader. And it’s here where Niko separates himself from the pack. While other superstar players like s1mple have been mired by instability and claims of toxicity — Niko keeps quiet. His numbers aren’t those of a hard carry, and they might not always jump off the page at first glance. But the wins pile up all the same. The stage was set for the pinnacle of Niko’s career to be reached. FaZe Clan were the overwhelming favourites to win the Boston Major. Anything less than first place was simply a failure. FaZe went 3-1 at the New Challengers stage with significant wins against both Natus Vincere and Team Liquid. Then they swept their way through the New Legends Stage beating Fnatic, Vega Squadron and the almighty SK Gaming. (Casting) FaZe Clan were meeting expectations — and the New Champions Stage was set. First up was a revamped version of Niko’s former team. This time though, the Bosnian got the better of mousesports. (Casting) Next FaZe met s1mple and Natus Vincere in the semifinals. A team of superstars against one of the scene’s deadliest players. (Casting) Not only did FaZe put up another 2-0 sweep, but Niko popped off. He finished with a +20 over the two games and a 1.51 rating. Niko’s eyes were now set on the game’s top prize. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the ELEAGUE Major: Boston.” The stage was set for a David vs. Goliath-esque finals as FaZe Clan’s super team were set to take on a young Cloud9 squad that were hungry to become the first North American Counter Strike franchise to win a Major. (Casting) The series went to a game three. Inferno. For a Major title. “I can’t wait to see, what these teams have to offer us here on Inferno. FaZe Clan on the CT side, Cloud9 will will start as they mean to go as the aggressors.” “Boston makes some noise in this b*tch!” C9 were playing out of their minds, and early in Game three FaZe was having trouble keeping up. (Casting) As with all great stories of competition, this one went into overtime. (Casting) In overtime, Cloud9 made it clear that they were not going to lay down and let FaZe Clan complete a comeback victory. C9 took the first three rounds to open up an 18-15 lead. (Casting) But FaZe responded. Rattling off four of their own round wins consecutively. (Casting) And then – heartbreak. (Casting) In the wake of landing on the unfortunate side of Cloud9’s historic run, FaZe Clan has more or less maintained their stranglehold as one of the best teams in the game. Niko is still considered one of the best players in the game alongside the likes of s1mple and Coldzera. And this still may be the most intimidating roster in the game’s history. But as with anything in esports, things are constantly in flux. Olofmeister had taken a series of breaks from competitive play, returning to FaZe full time in July. Astralis meanwhile had taken over the throne as the number one ranked team in the world with s1mple and Na’vi nipping at their heels But, even though FaZe aren’t untouchable. They’ve still proven to be the same lethal force when their stars align. Even without OlofMeister at ESL One: Belo Horizonte Niko and company were able to take the first place prize. Sending a message to the rest of the community that they were nothing to scoff at when major season comes back around. (Casting) As the FACEIT London Major loomed in late September 2018. Olof returned to FaZe Clan and Niko and company had another shot to make history. With their hopes for Major glory in the balance — FaZe tripped out of the gate to an 0-2 start in the group stage. (Casting) But as we know, champions don’t quit when the odds are against them. (Casting) Niko and FaZe clan rallied off three consecutive victories to find themselves qualified for the elimination rounds. In the quarterfinals, FaZe would face maybe their toughest challenge since Boston — Astralis, the world’s top ranked team. “Ladies and gentlemen, bring the noise for Astralis and the FaZe Clan.” The match was a war. (Casting) Another chance to seal the letter on a storied career for Niko. And another bracket exit. From staying loyal in Bosnia, to trying to make it work with mousesports and coming so close with FaZe Clan Niko has become a household name in the CS:GO scene. There aren’t that many win/loss metrics that separate the best players in Counter Strike, but above all else the ability to take home that Major trophy can make or break the legacy of a career And for someone as bent on greatness as Niko — nothing short of a Major winning moment will do. “I really love what I’m doing and I’m going to try and play as long as I can, I don’t know what my family will say at the end of my career, but I believe that they’re gonna be really proud.” To prove what it means to be the best in the game. That it takes loyalty, teamwork and sacrifice, the things he’s branded himself on. The consummate professional. The leader. The captain. The Superstar. NiKo. Thanks for watching. If you want more great content just like this, be sure to hit the subscribe button.