That's my opinion and in this article I'll unpack that statement and use argumentation, statistics and context to show why I think that is the case. As a myriad of arguments on TeamLiquid have shown over the years few people outside of South Korea can agree on exactly what the term bonjwa definitively means.
The five agreed bonjwas:
Lim "BoxeR" Yo Hwan
Lee "NaDa" Yoon Yeol
Choi "iloveoov" Yun Sung
Ma "sAviOr" Jae Yoon
Lee "Flash" Young Ho
All anyone can agree on is that the five players who are currently considered bonjwas definitely are bonjwas. In fact there was a period of time where some would use the logic that if you have to debate whether someone is a bonjwa then they aren't. In some ways you could say that despite all the different definitions and interpretations that bonjwa for Western fans is more of a feeling than a clearcut concept.
Without getting into overly lengthy discussions of the South Korean mindset and the history of the term, including its convoluted early association with July, I'll simply state up front that I acknowledge that the five bonjwas recognised by the South Korean community are all bonjwas and that I don't think any other player in StarCraft history deserves to also be considered a bonjwa with the exception of Jaedong, hence this article. So on the surface I agree with the reasons and interpretations usually employed for why someone is a bonjwa and it is due to those reasons that I also think Jaedong deserves to be recast amongst that elite group.
The basic definition of a bonjwa can be outlined fairly simply, while the more complex definitions become increasingly inclusive and exclusive of players even currently with the group considered bonjwas. It's also worth noting that the many varients don't always even agree.
The basic definition:
* One above all, the player who rules above all the other players for a significant period of time.
The more complicated definition:
* A player who has won multiple titles over a significant period of time and has no equal during that time period.
The split between the two could be generally resolved by assigning the basic definition as that of the South Korean community and the more complicated definition as that belonging to the Western community. Some Westerners will even fall back to the position that nobody from the West should use the term or attempt to apply it to anyone else, that instead only the South Koreans can agree on who a bonjwa is. Personally I'm of the opinion that terms can mean different things to different people and that this is a useful term for differentiating between the really good players and the truly great players. As a result I choose to use it in this article and apply it according to my own definitions.
I will argue my case using three umbrella criteria, each with their own sub-criteria, which I have labelled:
* Domination through excellence
* Historical context
One coherent thread amongst all of the bonjwas is that they all won at least three individual titles, MSL or OSL, during their careers. While it's not the case that simply winning three makes you a bonjwa, as evidenced by July and Bisu not being considered amongst that group, it is a starting point to establish Jaedong's eligibility on this criteria. In this section I will look at the similarities between Jaedong's career and those of the bonjwas in the criteria of accomplishments.
1st NaDa - 6 (3 OSL + 3 MSL)
2nd Jaedong - 5 (3 OSL + 2 MSL)
2nd Flash - 5 (3 OSL + 2 MSL)
2nd iloveoov - 5 (2 OSL + 3 MSL)
5th sAviOr - 4 (1 OSL + 3 MSL)
Jaedong has won five titles in total, three OSL and two MSL. This ties him for second all time in number of titles won, one behind NaDa, and the players he is tied with are all bonjwas, as is the player below them. Jaedong is tied for first place in number of OSL titles won. Two of the bonjwas were unable to win as many titles as Jaedong.
NaDa, July, Jaedong and Flash
Jaedong is also one of only four players to ever win the Golden Mouse, the trophy given to a player who wins three OSL titles. Two of the three other recipients of the trophy are bonjwas. Three of the bonjwas were unable to win the Golden Mouse.
BoxeR and Jaedong
Jaedong is one of only two players in history to ever accomplish the feat of winning back-to-back OSL titles, with the first being BoxeR. BoxeR is a bonjwa. Four of the bonjwas were unable to win back-to-back OSL titles.
Reach (SKY2002 OSL + Pepsi Twist KPGA 3rd Tour)
NaDa (Panasonic OSL + Baskin Robbins KPGA 4th Tour)
ChoJJa (Panasonic OSL + Baskin Robbins KPGA 4th Tour)
sAviOr (ShinHan2006-3 OSL + GOMTV MSL Season 1)
Flash (2009 EVER OSL + NATE MSL / 2010 Korean Air Starleague + Hana Daetoo Securities MSL / Korean Air Starleague Season 2 OSL + Bigfile MSL)
Jaedong (Korean Air Starleague Season 2 OSL + Bigfile MSL)
Jaedong reached the Bigfile MSL and Korean Air Starleague Season 2 OSL finals in the same season, making him one of six players to ever accomplish dual finals in a single season. Three of the other five players are bonjwas. Two of the bonjwas were unable to ever reach dual finals.
Grrr..., GARIMTO, BoxeR, NaDa, July, AnyTime, sAviOr and Jaedong
Jaedong is one of eight players to ever walk the royal road by winning the first OSL he qualified for. Of the seven other players three of them are bonjwas. Two of the bonjwas were unable to walk the royal road.
BoxeR, Ogogo, XellOs, forU, iloveoov, Stork, Luxury, Jaedong and Flash
Jaedong won the gold medal at the 2009 World Cyber Games Grand Final. Of the nine players to ever do that three were bonjwas. Two of the bonjwas were unable to win the WCG gold medal.
sAviOr, iloveoov and Jaedong
Jaedong is one of only three players to win OSL/MSL titles in all three matchups in the finals. The other two players to accomplish that feat are bonjwas. Three of the bonjwas were unable to accomplish that feat.
Jaedong has won more titles than two of the bonjwas and as many as two of the other three, he has won as many or more OSL titles as all of the bonjwas, he has reached dual finals like three bonjwas, he has walked the royal road like three of the bonjwas, he has won the golden mouse like two of the bonjwas, he has won OSL/MSL finals in all three matchups in the finals like two bonjwas, he has won the WCG Grand Final gold medal like three of the bonjwas and he has won back-to-back OSL titles like one of the bonjwas.
As far as accomplishments are concerned Jaedong is one of the best players of all time without question. What's more when you add all of his accomplishments together he has had a career unlike any other player before him.
Taken separately at least one bonjwa can boast each individual accomplishment Jaedong has managed, but none can boast all of them simultaneously as he can. Based purely on his accomplishments Jaedong more than deserves to be considered one of the bonjwas.
Domination through excellence
Another thread that haunts the bonjwa term is that of dominance. The bonjwas include the most dominant players of all time, over varying amounts of time. I have defined the overall criteria as "domination through excellence" because it seems as though the term dominance is used very vaguely in arguments over bonjwahood. This is something I will address as a general topic under the context criteria but for now it is worth stating simply that I will show Jaedong's dominance by way of his sustained excellence over his entire career.
1st NaDa - 10 (3 OSL, 6 MSL)
2nd Jaedong - 9 (4 OSL, 5 MSL)
3rd Flash - 7 (4 OSL, 3 MSL)
3rd BoxeR - 7 (6 OSL, 1 MSL)
Jaedong has reached nine finals in total, which places him second all time. He is only behind NaDa, a bonjwa, and is two finals ahead of Flash and BoxeR, also bonjwas. Four of the bonjwas were unable to reach as many finals as Jaedong.
1st YellOw - 5 (2 OSL, 3 MSL)
2nd Jaedong - 4 (1 OSL, 3 MSL)
2nd BoxeR - 4 (4 OSL)
2nd Stork - 4 (3 OSL, 1 MSL)
2nd NaDa - 4 (1 OSL, 3 MSL)
Jaedong has won four silvers in total during his career. For players with few to no golds winning silvers proves a sign of their career's failure, but for players who are also listed amongst the most golds ever won silvers add to their overall dominance. A player simply cannot win a gold medal every season, but if he wins multiple golds and multiple silvers that shows that he is constantly putting himself in a position to be a champion and is only being bested by a single player each time. Jaedong is tied for second most silvers of all time, to go along with being tied for second most golds of all time. Of the four other players on the list two are bonjwas. Three of the bonjwas were unable to win as many silvers as Jaedong.
1st sAviOr - 5
2nd NaDa - 4
3rd Jaedong - 3
3rd iloveoov - 3
3rd Flash - 3
3rd Bisu - 3
Jaedong has reached three consecutive MSL finals, tying him for third all time as far as that streak is concerned. Of the five other players to have reached at least three in a row four are bonjwas. One of the bonjwas was unable to reach as many consecutive MSL finals as Jaedong.
1st Jaedong - 5 (2 OSLs -> 2 MSLs -> 1 OSL + 1 MSL)
1st sAviOr - 5 (4 MSL -> 1 OSL + 1 MSL)
3rd NaDa - 4 (2 MSL -> 1 MSL + 1 OSL -> 1 MSL)
3rd iloveoov - 4 (3 MSL + 1 OSL)
Jaedong has reached an MSL or OSL final five seasons in a row, beginning with the 2009 Batoo OSL and ending with his dual final appearance in the Bigfile MSL and Korean Air Starleague Season 2 OSL. The only player to have tied this feat is sAviOr, a bonjwa, who reached four MSL finals consecutively and then the OSL and MSL finals simultaneously in the next season. Four of the bonjwas have been unable to have as many consecutive seasons in one of the finals as Jaedong.
1st Jaedong - 12 (4 OSL, 8 MSL)
2nd NaDa - 11 (4 OSL, 7 MSL)
3rd YellOw - 10
3rd Flash - 10 (5 OSL, 6 MSL)
5th BoxeR - 9
5th iloveoov - 9
Jaedong has reached the 12 semi-finals, of both OSL and MSL combined, across his career. Jaedong has also reached the most MSL semi-finals of any player in history. All five of the bonjwas have been unable to reach as many semi-finals as Jaedong. Four of the bonjwas have reached at least two semi-finals less than Jaedong in their careers.
1st Jaedong - 7 (1 OSL -> 1 OSL + 1 MSL -> 1 MSL -> 1 MSL -> 1 OSL + 1 MSL -> 1 MSL -> 1 MSL)
1st YellOw - 7 (1 OSL -> 1 OSL + 1 MSL -> 1 MSL -> 1 OSL + 1 MSL -> 2 OSL -> 1 MSL)
2nd NaDa - 6 (2 MSL -> 1 OSL + 1 MSL -> 3 MSL)
Jaedong has totalled seven consecutive seasons with an appearance in at least one semi-final, beginning with the 2009 Batoo OSL and continuing on to the ABC Mart MSL. This ties him for the longest streak in history, with YellOw, and this streak has yet to end for Jaedong as the ABC Mart MSL is the last to have been played so far, so he may yet be able to extend the streak and take first place outright. All five of the bonjwas have been unable to put together such a streak of semi-final appearances as Jaedong has.
1st Jaedong - 6
1st NaDa - 6
Jaedong is tied for first place all time in number of consecutive MSL semi-finals with the bonjwa NaDa. Four of the bonjwas were unable to reach as many consecutive MSL semi-finals as Jaedong.
Jaedong has reached the semi-finals of both leagues twice. Once in the season fearuring the 2009 Bacchus OSL and the Avalon MSL. Once the season fearuring the Bigfile MSL and the Korean Air Starleague Season 2.
Jaedong has been knocked out in the Ro8 or better in the MSL and OSL 11 times in total, and of those appearances has been eliminated by the eventual champion in a BoX series eight times. That number will become nine if ZerO manages to win the ongoing ABC Mart MSL. Five of those eliminations were by the same player: Flash. Two of those eliminations, three if ZerO wins this MSL, were by Zergs. Six were by Terrans.
1st Flash - 2443
2nd Jaedong - 2378
3rd Bisu - 2375
Jaedong has the second highest overall ELO peak of all time, higher than four of the five bonjwas. He is 23, 51, 52 and 73 points above four of the bonjwas respectively.
1st Flash - 2348
2nd Jaedong - 2302
3rd YellOw - 2267
Jaedong has the second highest vT ELO peak of all time, higher than four of the five bonjwas. He is 77, 79, 111 and 126 points above four of the bonjwas respectively. He is one of two players to reach 2300 points, something four of the bonjwas could not accomplish.
1st Flash - 2346
2nd Jaedong - 2341
3rd Bisu - 2316
Jaedong has the second highest vZ ELO peak of all time, higher than four of the five bonjwas. He is 28, 52, 60 and 123 points above four of the bonjwas respectively. He is one of four players to reach 2300 points, something three of the bonjwas could not accomplish.
1st Flash - 2333
2nd Jaedong - 2319
3rd sAviOr - 2274
Jaedong has the second highest vP ELO peak of all time, higher than four of the five bonjwas. He is 45, 83, 98 and 134 points above four of the bonjwas respectively. He is one of two players to reach 2300 points, something four of the bonjwas could not accomplish.
iloveoov vZ 2003 - 85.19% (27 games played)
Jaedong vZ 2008 - 82.14% (28 games played)
BoxeR vZ 2001 - 79.27% (82 games played)
Flash vZ 2009 - 78.95% (57 games played)
Bisu vZ 2010 - 74.36% (39 games played)
NaDa vZ 2004 - 71.74% (46 games played)
sAviOr vZ 2005 - 63.64% (22 games played)
Jaedong achieved an utterly incredible 82% winrate against Zergs, a mirror matchup, over the entire year of 2008. Only iloveoov managed a better year vZ as he achieved an 85% winrate in 2003, playing one game less. Four of the bonjwas never had a year vZ as good as Jaedong's.
Flash vP 2010 - 83.33% (48 games played)
Jaedong vP 2010 - 81.58% (38 games played)
sAviOr vP 2006 - 79.31% (30 games played)
Bisu vP 2009 - 76.74% (43 games played)
iloveoov vP 2003 - 75.00% (16 games played)
NaDa vP 2002 - 66.28% (86 games played)
BoxeR vP 2001 - 63.29%(60 games played)
In 2010 Jaedong managed an astonishing 81% winrate against Protoss players. Only Flash managed a better year vP as he achieved an 83% winrate in 2010 after playing 10 games more. Four of the bonjwas never had a year as good vP as Jaedong's.
2006 vZ and vP
2007 vZ and vT
2010 vZ and vP
Discounting 2011, which is less than half finished, Jaedong has had two of his three matchups at above 70% winrate for three of the five years he has played. All five of those years his vZ has been above 70%. During his five full years as pro Jaedong has had each matchup over 70% winrate for a whole year at least once.
OSL 7-1 (87.50%)
MSL 15-6 (71.43%)
Total 22-7 (75.86%)
Most would agree that Bo5 series require the highest level of play to win in comparison to Bo3 series or single maps. It is generally agreed that the player who plays better in a Bo5 series will emerge the winner a much higher amount of the time, and typically this will be the better player overall.
Jaedong has only lost seven OSL/MSL Bo5s in his entire career. In the OSL he has only lost one of the eight he has played. His career Bo5 winrate for the MSL and OSL combined is 75.86%.
In comparison Flash, a bonjwa still at or near his peak, has a 77.27% Bo5 winrate, 1.14% higher, but has played seven less Bo5s. Flash has lost two Bo5s in the OSL.
Jaedong's stats, consistency and dominance, as defined here, more than qualify him as worthy of being one of BW's bonjwas. If he is not a bonjwa then he is the only player in history to outperform nearly all of the bonjwas in nearly every imaginable category across his entire career as a professional.
It's one thing to list raw statistics alongside each other and look at the differential between them but stats do not tell the entire story. There are intangibles which prove significant and certain stats or facts whose importance is only fully recognised with the background of context filled in. In this section I will provide arguments for why Jaedong should be considered a bonjwa, and is by me, with the help of contextual information and interpretation.
JvZ - Master of the mirror matchup
In BW people often cite ZvZ as the most variable matchup and, as a result, the most boring to watch. While no other Zerg in history can boast a career winrate of over 70% in ZvZ Jaedong's sits at 73.97%. Jaedong has never lost more than three ZvZs in a row over his entire career of 242 games played. During that time period he has managed a 12 win streak in the matchup. Jaedong is not only one of the greatest vZ players of all time, top three at a minimum, but he is the only Zerg who is even in the conversation. That's how difficult the matchup is. On the ELO vZ peak list Jaedong is one of three Zergs in the top 15. YellOw is 10th, EffOrt is 14th and Jaedong is 2nd. That is true greatness on display, beyond the bounds even of his own race.
One thread which often follows the bonjwas is that they change the metagame and revolutionize a matchup. One cannot deny that Jaedong has done this in ZvZ.
The other side of the Zerg coin
While Jaedong is incredible enough to overcome the seemingly random nature of ZvZ, which is typically plagued by Build Order losses and purely micro-based early game deciding battles, even he has suffered from the matchup. It's worth pointing out that of Jaedong's eight MSL semi-finals his only losses have been to Zergs. In comparison it is hard to say that Terran players suffer as much from TvT or even Protoss from PvP. Most would agree that ZvZ is the hardest mirror matchup in BW history to be consistently good at.
The era in which he'd played
As seemingly conclusively proven by practically all progamers from the first half of the decade eventually being unable to keep up with the current standard, despite genuinely applying all of their efforts in some cases, the modern era has an overall much higher level of parity in skill level as well as understanding of the game, build orders, tactics and timings. This is the most difficult era to play BW in that has ever existed. The five and a bit years Jaedong has competed in have been the most difficult five and half years in the game's history. In spite of all of this Jaedong still holds records, is tied for records and is in the top three of records which all place him amongst the very best players to ever play BW. Objectively one would have to say on his accomplishments, his skill level and his consistency he would be at worst top 3 of all time, if not top 2.
Players like NaDa, iloveoov, sAviOr and BoxeR all played in the same eras as other great players but nearly all of them can be marked out as having the bulk of their success in specific periods which barely overlapped, or did not at all, in most cases. Examining their successes one often finds that as one rose to his peak the previous one(s) was waning or slipping out of peak form. In contrast Jaedong has accomplished all he has accomplished during the peak eras of arguably the most skilled players from each race: Bisu, Flash and Stork. All three of those players have had their best years in terms of skill level, winrates and titles during the same era Jaedong has played and won all of his titles.
Level of competition also becomes significant in that it makes every accomplishment that much harder in comparison to previous years. So while BoxeR won his back-to-back OSL titles in 2001 one would have to consider Jaedong's repeating of the feat in 2009 more impressive due to the increased degree of danger at every point of the tournament, which he had to overcome. One of Jaedong's OSL titles also came over fantasy, a player who has since won an OSL, while BoxeR's both came over players who never won a Starleague in their careers.
Likewise NaDa's 10 finals and 6 titles are incredible to think of but one has to give allowances for the era he played in. Firstly NaDa's three MSL titles were in fact before the league was called the MSL, when it was the KPGA Tour. Those three "MSL" tournaments only featured 16 players in each. And would anyone truly argue that the overall and relative skill levels of the players involved and the field were even comparable to Jaedong's MSL titles? One could very reasonable make the case that Jaedong's two MSL titles and five finals are a more impressive, and difficult, accomplishment than NaDa's three titles and six finals.
It should also be noted that all of the original four bonjwa's MSL wins came prior to the switch from double elimination to single elimination Bo5 series, meaning if a single player knocked you out into the upper bracket and then made it all the way to the final then you could potentially meet him there if you won the lower bracket. This meant it was easier for players to reach finals and win silvers in comparison to the era Jaedong played MSLs in which meeting the eventual champion once in the BoX stages meant being eliminated at that stage, with no additional chance to reach the final.
It's also mindboggling to consider that Jaedong has been knocked out of eight individual leagues by the eventual champion. So on a monsterous eight occasions it's possible Jaedong could have been the second best player in the entire tournament. It's one thing to do mental gymnastics and think "well if he had won one more map then beat such and such then he would have..." since that is going a little too far. But taking into account that, for example, the OSL doesn't reseed at any point after the group stages that means there have been occasions where if the bracket draw/group draw had come out a little differently Jaedong might have collected additional silver medals even if he had lost to the exact same player in the same tournament. This is not a case of wish fulfillment but rather some food for thought in terms of his overall level of excellence and consistent domination over the year.
Jaedong also lost one of his MSL finals to a team-mate, who had intimate knowledge of his play from practice, and with a map pool universally criticised as one of the most biased to the race of his opponent, Terran, if not the most.
The team needs you
Whether the reader will agree that the fields, overall skill level and tournament structures Jaedong has faced make golds and silvers more difficult to obtain or not they should at the very least acknowledge the heavy workload the Proleague puts upon Jaedong's shoulders. Aside from the rest of TaekBangLeeSsang (Bisu-Stork-Flash-Jaedong) none of the great players in history had the kind of overloaded schedule the modern Proleague demands of superstar players like Jaedong. If Jaedong doesn't win in the Proleague, which sometimes he must practice for simultaneous to his individual leagues, his team simply will not win any championships.
NaDa, iloveoov, BoxeR and sAviOr never had that much additional stress placed upon them as a result of the Proleague. sAviOr is the closest of the bonjwas to experiencing that but even he is quite far off in terms of how vital his individual play is/was to his team being able to win a match, and how many Proleague games he had to play per year.
The Flash factor
The biggest factor which must be considered when examining Jaedong's career is the impact Flash co-existing during his era has had on his career, both positively and negatively. Firstly Jaedong has beaten Flash in an MSL final and two MSL Bo5s overall. That is impressive in and of itself. Throw in the GOMTV Star Invitational final where Jaedong beat Flash, who was then the #1 ranked player in the world, soundly 3-0 and Jaedong has had his share of success even against the man who went on to become the fifth bonjwa.
Let's not forget the general racial trends in BW of: T > Z > P > T. In a general sense Flash should have an advantage on Jaedong when they play, based on the way their races have tended to matchup throughout BW history. On top of that it has been noted, essentially across the board, that the maps have been Terran favoured in the TvZ matchup during the era Flash and Jaedong have met during their OSL/MSL finals. Power outages aside the NATE MSL final Jaedong had over Flash can be accurately cited as one of the best ZvT series ever played, perhaps even the greatest, in the context of the map pool.
So the fact Flash has beaten Jaedong in three of their four OSL/MSL final matchups, and the last three to be played between them, is not the bullet which ends the discussion about Jaedong's career. In fact on his way to every single title Flash has won, all three OSLs and both MSLs, he has eliminated Jaedong from the tournament every time. On one side of the coin one can complain and say "how many titles would Jaedong have had if Flash didn't exist", which perhaps involves a little too much speculation bearing in mind Jaedong has been eliminated in three semis by fellow Zergs and one final by another Terran, but on the other you have to give Jaedong credit for accomplishing all he has in spite of the enormous shadow Flash has cast over this era and his career.
One of the most subtle effects Flash's dominance has had on Jaedong's career is to cast a spell on everyone and make us all forget how clutch Jaedong has been throughout his career. Which leads nicely into my next point.
Jaedong as an all time clutch player
Firstly, of his seven career Bo5 losses three, 43%, have come from Flash alone. All of those coming during the period Flash was a flourishing bonjwa in action. Even with all the damage Flash has done to Jaedong in terms of number of titles, Bo5 losses and general eliminations Jaedong still sits on a monsterous 75.86% win rate in Bo5 series.
Secondly let's cast our minds back to the 2009 Batoo OSL where Jaedong came back from 0-2 down in maps to win three straight and the title against fantasy. Truly an incredible accomplishment, against a Terran and future OSL champion.
Thirdly consider the phrase "Lee Jae Dong" score as we head into the next sub-criteria.
LWWW vs. Stork (EVER Starleague 2007 Final)
LWWW vs. Flash (GOMTV MSL Season 4 Quarter-Final)
LWWW vs. Mind (GOMTV MSL Season 4 Semi-Final)
LWWW vs. Kal (GOMTV MSL Season 4 Final)
LWWW vs. Hwasin (Arena MSL Ro8)
In five Bo5 series in a row Jaedong overcame a one map deficit to win three straight and the series. Not only is that an amazing display of clutch play, but he also did it against three Terrans. One of those Terrans was future bonjwa Flash. Two of those opponents were members of TaekBangLeeSsang (the dominant foursome of the last five years)
Jaedong also accomplished an LWWW series score against fantasy in the Bacchus Starleague 2009, bringing his total against Terrans up to four. In the Bigfile MSL semi-final against Light, a player with a 64.94% career winrate in TvZ, Jaedong came back from 1-2 down in the series to win 3-2 and move on to the final. During the same season, but in the OSL semi-final, Jaedong came back from 1-2 down against Stork in their semi-final to win out 3-2. That marked back-to-back clutch play that season in the semi-finals. Despite Flash's dominance during 2010 Jaedong's clutch play was still at a high level against players not called Flash.
The sAviOr factor - Domination without qualification
sAviOr is often, and rightfully so, cited as one of the most dominant players of all time, if not the most dominant. Having reached six finals in five seasons, including five straight MSL finals, sAviOr displayed utterly incredible dominance over the StarCraft world. His four titles in that five season span speak for themselves and mark one of the most dominant eras ever witnessed in professional BW. Still sAviOR, like NaDa as I will soon discuss, is often granted allowances which Jaedong is then not in the discussion over whether Jaedong can be considered a bonjwa.
By reaching six finals in five seasons, and winning four titles, sAviOr can claim to have had no equal and to have dominated all of his opponents, at least until one looks a little closer. Those statements are not entirely accurate when one considers that sAviOr's OSL title win came in the last season of that five season run, and saw him walk the royal road to win that OSL. So for four of those MSL finals runs sAviOr was unable to qualify for the OSL. In other words sAviOr was utterly lacking in domination for four entire OSLs in a row, simultaneous to his success in the MSL.
sAviOr did not win his titles all in a row, never losing. The most he managed was two MSL titles in a row without a loss, so losing is clearly acceptable within the bonjwahood period of a player's career. In contrast to sAviOr's four titles in five seasons Jaedong managed to win five titles in seven seasons. Total up the golds and silvers and sAviOr managed four golds and two silvers in five seasons while Jaedong managed five golds and four silvers in nine seasons.
To make it simpler to visualise, here are the records of sAviOr and Jaedong, in line with each other, over their finals run spans:
(CMB = Combined, G = Gold, S = Silver, 0 = nothing)
sAviOr managed five consecutive seasons with a finals appearance, six finals total in that five season span.
Jaedong managed five consecutive seasons with a finals appearance, six finals total in that five season span.
sv = sAviOr
jd = Jaedong
sv CMB G-S-G-G-G+S
jd CMB G-G-S-0-G-G-G-S-S+S
In sAviOr's case he is not discounted from being a bonjwa because he lost in finals, as he only managed two seasons in a row with at least one gold. Silvers are acceptable as part of his dominant run. Also he is allowed to completely fail in one of the leagues, not even qualifying for the Ro36, which happened three times in a row. So then why is Jaedong not allowed to fail to get a medal for a single season, of nine, when he was qualifying for both leagues practically every season?
sAviOr's dominance is clearly apparent but I would make the argument that Jaedong was also dominant and when you look at the bigger picture was more dominant over a longer span of time, and more successful, than sAviOr's less successful but more intensified dominance. Looking at the record for both leagues we even see that sAviOr's dominance is less intensified than perhaps people took for granted, due to ignoring his lack of OSL qualifications. Jaedong only had one season in a nine season span without a medal. That's incredibly dominating. Instead of switching attention to one league we must look at both combined to get a truer picture.
Also what price does one put on gold medals? Is four in five seasons really better than five in seven? Sure that's two more seasons but it's also one more gold medal, a unit so precious it stands for 1/6th of the success of the most accomplished player ever.
The NaDa factor - one part or the whole?
When people define what a bonjwa is, or must do, they often cite someone who has completely dominated the BW world for a significant period of time, usually at least a year, and seemingly had no equal during that time period. For players like iloveoov, sAviOr and Flash it is easy enough to accept this reasoning and show that they met it entirely. It becomes a little tricker when one considers the most accomplished player in history, NaDa, and his career path.
NaDa had a period in which he won two MSLs (KPGA Tours) in a row, then an MSL and an OSL in the next season. So four titles in three seasons. The question then becomes if that is where people cut off NaDa's career and stop considering him an active bonjwa. If that is the case then my previous argument about the level of competition, field strength and field size of those tournaments comes into play and one has to wonder why NaDa's winning four titles in three seasons should be considered more significantly dominant than Jaedong winning four in six seasons during an era with more parity amongst all levels of players and bigger tournament fields.
If the person arguing for NaDa being a bonjwa but Jaedong not, on grounds of dominance, then cites the Terran's whole career then we must allow Jaedong the same allowances. NaDa managed three MSL titles and six finals in the space of an eight season span. In the MSL Jaedong managed two MSL titles and five finals in the space of an eight season span. NaDa managed his three OSL titles and five finals in the space of a 12 season span. In the OSL Jaedong managed his three titles and four finals in the space of a nine season span.
That is giving each player his shortest amount of seasons to get those titles too. Expanding it to all of the seasons they played in a league it becomes more drastic. In total NaDa played in 17 MSLs, winning three golds, and 12 OSLs, winning three golds. In total Jaedong has played in eight OSLs, winning three golds, and 10 MSLs, winning two golds.
Again, being as Jaedong's titles come across a more competitive era from top to bottom it's hard to see how, or why, NaDa's accomplishments would be considered significantly different enough from Jaedong's rank him as a bonjwa but not Jaedong.
The iloveoov factor - the deceptive nature of perfection
iloveoov's godlike status, even after all these years, stems in part from his unparalleled record of five golds from five final appearances. Certainly on paper this looks especially attractive and neat, giving the impression of the ultimate clutch player who never failed to come through in the big moment. However, when we compare iloveoov's finals performances against Jaedong's we can see some of the deceptive qualities that "perfect" record might have.
Firstly it should be established that having five golds and zero silvers, iloveoov's record, is actually less impressive than having five golds and four silvers, jaedong's record. While it may seem counterintuitive one could even make the case that the former is less clutch than the latter. To state it more simply, by using a nine season example:
Jaedong made it to five finals in which he won and four which he came second in.
iloveoov made it to five finals in which he won and finished third or worse in four additional tournaments.
So in five finals iloveoov and Jaedong were equally clutch but then in four additional tournaments Jaedong was more clutch and progressed further in the tournament than iloveoov.
Again once must cite that all of iloveoov's MSL wins, and finals appearances, came prior to the MSL switching to single elimination Bo5. iloveoov came from the lower bracket to win his first MSL. As previously outlined, this is a luxury Jaedong did not have.
The BoxeR factor - silver still shines in the light of greatness
As previously alluded to having silvers does not always signify failure outright. In the case of players like YellOw or Stork obviously their silvers tell the story of their lack of dominance and inability to win in the clutch. For players who are also amongst the most successful ever though silvers add to their legacy and provide background shading to their picture of their overall dominance. If winning silvers were unacceptable then we must consider the career of BoxeR, the first bonjwa in the chronological ordering of them after the fact.
If winning silvers is not allowed for a bonjwa then we must conclude that BoxeR's bonjwahood lasted only for three seasons, as he won two consecutive OSLs and then an MSL in the next seasons. If that is really where bonjwa begins and ends for BoxeR then Jaedong can put up his own string of two consecutive OSLs and an MSL victory the next season in comparison.
If winning silvers is allowed, as one would imagine it is in measuring the greatness of BoxeR, then BoxeR's three golds and four silvers are not more impressive than Jaedong's five golds and four silvers. Once again it can also be noted that BoxeR's tournaments featured less difficult overall tournament fields and qualification for them was easier. His MSL victory was also arguably the easiest MSL tournament field in the history of BW.
In reality BoxeR's inclusion as a bonjwa was an afterthought. People had put together the three obviously most dominating players of all time in NaDa, iloveoov and sAviOr and they decided that for his brilliance as a player and a figure in BW's history that BoxeR deserved to be included as essentially an honorary bonjwa. If this is really the case then why can Jaedong not also be granted honorary bonjwa status, if there is still argument on other grounds/criteria? Has he not accomplished more than BoxeR? Has he not succeeded in a more difficult era of higher skill, more players, tougher practice and more mapped out gameplay?
Usually my approach to arguing a case in an in-depth article would be to select a small handful of the strongest points and focus solely on those. In this case the sheer volume of different criteria, interpretations and angles which can be highlighted for why Jaedong deserves to be a bonjwa is significant enough to warrent a wider and more detailed approach. Those who don't agree on one front find themselves bombarded on many other fronts simultaneously and thus it was my intention that even the staunchest anti-fan or bonjwa canonist would have to at least engage in discourse or consider some of the additional food for thought on the matter.
Ultimately whether South Korean people or readers of this article decide Jaedong deserves to be considered a bonjwa by their own feelings or analyses is up to each and every one of those individuals. For my part I consider Jaedong a bonjwa of StarCraft, the fifth bonjwa of six in total, according to my definition of the term.
What should still excite all of us is that this story is not yet over and Jaedong's career has yet to have the book closed on it. With a record seventh consecutive semi-final this month Jaedong's resume still has space for more to be written in.
A huge thanks to those who have contributed to TeamLiquid's forums, live report threads and Liquidpedia over the years. Without those people most of this article would simply not be possible.
(Photographs copyright of FOMOS.kr, FighterForum and NeverGG)
@Thooorin on twitter.
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