LeBron interview: “I wanted to play with Dendi because I trust him”

WePlay! Tug of War: Mad Moon marks the LAN debut for the newly formed organization and Dota 2 team, B8. Our special reporter in Kyiv, Ukraine, Taras Bortnik, had the chance to talk to Nikola “LeBronDota” Popović who has been next to Danil “Dendi” Ishutin from the very beginning of the project. 


You don’t look too disappointed about the loss versus Gambit, why so?

Yeah, well, we actually played pretty good in the early game, I believe we won all three lanes, but at some point, we stopped playing together, we split badly on the map. I would say we lost on macro decisions and that’s something we will analyze when we are going to watch the replay. Anyway, this BO1 with Gambit didn’t have a big meaning because we already were in the playoffs upper bracket. 

Your next series is only tomorrow, so what’s the plan for the rest of the day?

First thing, we will go back to the hotel and watch the replay of this game, analyze it and then prepare for tomorrow’s series with Nigma. Later in the day, we will probably play some pubs and maybe some scrims.

Let’s talk a bit about B8. Dendi did a few videos and was pretty open about the whole process of building the team but, I’m interested in your story, how did you get on the team?

I wanted to play with Dendi because he really helped me over the years, he helped me when I joined Na’Vi, he helped me outside the game as well, and I really appreciate everything he has done for me. I wanted to play with him because I trust him. I wanted to join his team from the very start of the season, but unfortunately, we missed the first Major qualifiers because the team couldn’t be ready in time. I had some offers back then, but I wanted to stay with Dendi and wait for everything to be sorted out. 

Tell me a bit about the current line-up of B8 and more precisely about  pio65. You were the one who suggested him when the team was left without a carry. Where did you know him from?

I met him in Greece at some WESG qualifiers. He was playing with his national team for that tournament and it somehow popped to my mind when we needed a player super fast. I knew he is playing some of the heroes that fit the current meta, so I suggested talking to him. He was free when we contacted him so we were like “ok, let’s go.”

You are a special pro player because you joined the competitive scene rather late in your life and you know, years are passing and you’re not getting any younger. Are you sometimes afraid that you will not have the time to accomplish your career goals?

No, not at all. I was 25 years old when I started my professional career, I have just finished university studies and I had two options: turn to a Dota 2 professional career or start my engineer career. I didn’t like what I studied at the Uni, so it was no question on my mind of what to do next. I actually would say I became a pro player at 26 years old, I know that for some might seem like I was already super old, but for me, the age doesn’t matter.

Did you have a moment in your career when you felt like a sense of urgency to accomplish something, let’s take for example the moment when you left Na’Vi. Did you regret that decision, did you have any doubts moving forward?

I thought about that moment myself, yeah. I don’t know, maybe it was a mistake to leave the team, but who knows, maybe they would have kicked me if I hadn’t left. What I know is that at that moment we were super favourites to qualify for TI from the CIS region. I remember we were winning against all CIS teams, we even won versus, but they got a direct invite. After I left the team, they didn’t get out from open qualifiers and I realized that if I didn’t leave maybe we could have qualified for that TI.

Anyways, that’s in the past, it doesn’t matter anymore. I feel like I’m improving every year. For example, when I was with Na’Vi, I was super bad at laning and I really did a lot of stuff to improve on that aspect and now I feel like that’s one of my strongest sides. Right now I need to focus on talking more during the games, be more vocal, make calls, communication, over-all.

Besides these step by step goals, improve in certain aspects, what is your big career dream?

I have a three years plan if you want. The first big goal is to get to TI. It doesn’t matter what place I’ll finish, just go to TI. Next year I want to be at least top 8 at TI and on the third year be in the very top, a true contender for the Aegis. If I fail the first year, I’m just prolonging the plan. I know that it sounds crazy for someone my age, but I believe in my power to reach these goals. For example, when I wanted to turn pro, there was a very small chance that I’m going to actually do that, but I believed in myself.

I was also dreaming about playing for Na’Vi, and that was like something insane at that time. Not many foreigner or non-Russian speaking players have been a part of Na’Vi, but again I worked hard towards that goal and I achieved it. That was a big dream come true for me.

It’s been about four years since you took this big decision of becoming a pro player. What is your family thinking now, are they supportive?

They are fully supporting me. At first, my mom was like, “you need a real job” and stuff. She was supportive, but she was still buzzing me with this real job thing, but now she stopped with that. I think it’s been a bit more than a year since she tried to persuade me into finding a “real job.” 

credits: WePlay! Esports

Dendi is such an iconic figure, for esports really, not only for Dota 2. He was your idol like he is for so many people following this game. Now he is your best friend. Tell me how did you guys come to be this close now, from your idol to teammate, to best friend. 

Oh, I feel like all the “walls” were broken from the first time we met because he is acting like a normal person, he is super friendly, super funny, willing to help you if he sees that you are committed to what you do and with time we became super good friends.

I’m pretty sure every now and then you came across all these social media discussions or Reddit topics about Dendi and how he should switch to support. What is your opinion about that?

To be honest, he is doing well in mid and I don’t think he should switch. Everyone should do what he likes. 

We will wrap up our interview with this positive thought and I’m going to let you join the team for practice and everything that you guys need to do for tomorrow’s series. Thanks a lot for stopping to talk to us and we wish you best of luck in the tournament and further on in the season. 

Thanks for having me. 

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