For Jason “WildTurtle” Pham his journey was anything but linear. It may come as a surprise for those of you who are new to this world that WildTurtle once played for a scrappy Challenger team that would go on to be one of the biggest powerhouses in esports today. Before Cloud9 was Cloud9 as we know it, WildTurtle was their starting ADC -- though his future lay on different shores.
During Season 3, TSM was struggling with internal conflicts and motivational issues related to their ADC, Shan “Chaox” Huang. Team owner and then-starting mid laner Andy "Reginald" Dinh knew he needed to make a change, and ultimately asked WildTurtle to sub in for Chaox during TSM's LCS match against compLexity gaming.
It was a moment that would define two careers.
“After our game he told me you’re going to go back to Toronto you’re going to go pick up all your stuff and you’re going to come back here and play for us.”
WildTurtle played magnificently. His Caitlyn went 12/6/5 in an MVP performance that was capped off with a Pentakill. The showing secured his position as the starting ADC for TSM and signaled the death knell for Chaox’ career on the LCS stage. Two arcs on completely different trajectories. One would become one of the most storied ADCs in the NA LCS. The other would see the best chapters of his career come to a close.
“To be honest I didn’t know what to expect when I joined TSM. It was surreal to me. I didn’t ever know that I’d play on a team like TSM. I always saw them playing in Season 1 and Season 2 and I couldn’t see myself on a team like TSM. It was really crazy to me.”
His time with TSM bewildered his wildest expectations. There were six split Finals appearances (including three wins and three trips to Worlds), a victory at IEM Katowice, and countless highlight-reel plays.
Though like all good stories, nothing stays perfect forever. During the 2015 Summer Split, TSM found themselves decidedly in a slump, with analysts and the community alike pointing at WildTurtle as the culprit. The reckless style that had once defined him as a player was now viewed as one of the team’s biggest weaknesses.
History repeated itself as TSM brought on a sub in Yuri “KEITHMCBRIEF” Jew. What had once happened to Chaox could now happen to WildTurtle. Even though he managed to hold onto his position, WildTurtle knew that his future at TSM had come to an end. In a mutually agreeable split, WildTurtle stepped down as starting ADC for TSM in favor of Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng as of the start of the 2016 season.
It was a moment that defined the journey of WildTurtle. Would he pick himself up and overcome the challenge or would he sail off into obscurity?
“I decided to prove myself because I really wanted to show all my fans that ever doubted me that I am WildTurtle and I will come back this season a lot stronger.”
WildTurtle found a new home on Immortals -- a team of NA LCS veterans and international superstars. They proceeded to take the NA LCS by storm and WildTurtle smashed any and all expectations of him -- racking up the highest number of kills in their opening Split. What we saw from WildTurtle defines a Legend. It’s not about what you do when you’re at the top; it’s how you pick yourself up when you’re knocked down. As Immortals chase the NA LCS Championship and a Worlds appearance, whatever the result one thing is certain: WildTurtle will not retreat back into his shell.