Dribble & Carry: Why Nike repped Uzi first

There are only a very few players other than Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao, the AD Carry player for the League of Legends team Royal Never Give Up (RNG), who were better suited to be the first esports player to rep the major sports franchise Nike.

As one of the personalities that will promote NBA superstar LeBron James’ ‘Dribble &’ campaign for his new ‘Shut Up and Dribble’ documentary series, Uzi brings his own take with the statement ‘Dribble & Carry.’

Only a few others in LoL can epitomize the word ‘carry’ better than Uzi, arguably the greatest AD carry of all time. His insane mechanics and almost inhuman map awareness separate him from the rest of the field.

But of all the great players in all of esports, why did Nike choose Uzi to be their first sponsored esports athlete? Maybe Uzi’s storied career can give the answer.

Uzi burst into the competitive League scene back in 2012 by quickly climbing the Solo Queue ladder and being picked up by the Chinese team Royal Club. Uzi and his team won the 2013 Chinese domestic league and qualified for the World Championships in the process.

There, Uzi introduced himself to the world by leading his team to the Finals, an unprecedented feat for a young player from a young team. However, they fell short of the title against the juggernauts of SK Telecom.

Uzi and Royal Club continued their dominant run by qualifying for Worlds the year after, blazing through the competition to become the first team in LoL history to reach the finals in Worlds two years in a row. Despite a valiant stand against Samsung White, Uzi fell short of the coveted championship once more. But by then he had already established himself as one of the best AD carries in the world.

A victorious Uzi hoists one of his many championship trophies. Image courtesy of Riot Games.

The year after, Uzi changed clubs to OMG due to internal issues with Royal Club. That move didn’t pan out well however and he later moved to the Qiao Gu Reapers in the spring of 2016. Despite his sheer talent, Uzi’s teams at the time had poor showings.

After that string of poor runs, Uzi joined RNG, a relatively new team to the scene at the time. With Uzi leading the way, they managed to reach the finals of the League of Legends Pro League but fell short against Edward Gaming. But this was enough for the team as their strong showing guaranteed a spot at Worlds. They were unluckily placed in the a group of death there however and had to contend against strong opponents such as Samsung Galaxy, TSM, and Splyce. They managed to come out of that bloodbath, only to be booted out by the eventual champions SK Telecom in the quarterfinals.

Uzi tried to bounce back in 2017, reaching the finals of both the Spring and Summer Splits. While RNG lost in both of them, it was enough to book another spot at that year’s Worlds, where they dominated the group stage. In a close series against the eventual runner-ups SK Telecom, Uzi proved he is still the king in his role as he fought tooth and nail despite losing the close series.

This year was the year of redemption for Uzi and RNG, as they did the exceptional feat of winning every possible trophy in League’s competitive calendar, including both regular splits and the MSI and Rift Rivals. All throughout the year, RNG pooled all their resources into making sure that Uzi can come up big in every game and carry them to victory.

However, Uzi would fall short of the ultimate goal of winning Worlds once more this year, as RNG fell in the quarterfinals to G2 Esports.

But would that stop Uzi? Throughout his career, the vaunted carry player has been literally carrying his teams as far as he can. His feats even have the other greats of the game acknowledging him as the best AD carry they played against. No matter how big the task is, Uzi will always be carrying.