Na’Vi were eliminated from the SL ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 last night by Fnatic. VPEsports had the opportunity to catch up with Nikola “LeBron” Popović just before what turned to be Na’Vi’s final series in the event.
LeBron, you once used to be exactly as one of the dudes in the audience. I guess everyone knows by now how big of a Na’Vi fan you were. Now you’re one of their players. How does it feel to play in front of these absolutely amazing fans that showed up yesterday and today at the Cybersports Arena?
It’s an amazing feeling, I don’t think I can describe it in words. Although we lost yesterday versus Fnatic, we still feel comfortable to play here because we are on our home turf. We have our training facility here and not having to come to an event after a long flight and things like that is so much better. We bootcamped in Kiev for about 10 days and we hope that the recent training will bring good results. Plus, the fans here are truly amazing and we want to make them happy.
Can we rewind a bit to the point where you got to stand in for Na’Vi, and tell me how is it when the team you are supporting for your entire life is saying, “hey man, are you available?”
Yeah, I stood in for Na’Vi for the Jakarta Minor qualifiers and it was quite out of the blue. I was contacted by their manager, I remember I wasn’t even sure if someone is playing a prank on me or if it’s for real. We won those qualifiers but I knew right from the start it was just a one time thing until they would sort out their stuff. So, I went back to train with Team Serbia for WESG. I was supposed to go with them in China but then, one day I saw XBOCT posting on the Russian social network Telegram that he might be playing as a stand-in for the LAN portion of Jakarta. So, I had this impulse to message their manager and ask if they need me for the LAN because somehow I felt it would be only fair to go to that event since they qualified with me.
I was supposed to go with Team Serbia at WESG but I really wanted to be with Na’Vi at that Minor so I choose to go there instead of WESG. Then, around the official shuffle deadline, the manager told me not to lock in with someone because I might get a new trial with them. Again, it was surreal for me and I was even afraid to fully picture myself as an official Na’Vi player. I felt like it was really my time but at the same time, I was afraid to tell even to the people really close to me.
Hahaha, I perfectly remember that on the night Na’Vi announced that they decided on their fifth, I actually messaged you “congrats?” and you said, “I really don’t know”.
Yeah, I remember. Seriously, I really didn’t want to jinx that for myself although deep inside my heart I was feeling it would be me. I was on three trials with them, so it felt like they would pick me.
I guess your life changed a little bit since you joined them. I recently found out that you are married, how are you balancing the family life with the professional career?
Yeah, I’m married for four years now. I’ve met my wife during my university studies and we married right after both of us finished uni. She is playing a lot of games as well, so she perfectly understands me. We even agreed not to have children just yet. She understands that this is my passion and we kind of wait for kids when I’ll retire. It’s been hard for her recently because of my schedule. For example, I was away from home for 45 days, she wasn’t happy of course, but I’m extremely lucky to have someone that supports me in everything I do.
Tell me, how is it to be on the same team with your idol?
Yeah, Dendi and XBOCT were my idols and it feels super good to be with them now. They are super friendly persons, and they made all the things possible to make me feel relaxed. Although we don’t have the best results as of yet, the atmosphere in the team is really nice, we don’t feel anxiety and things like this. The entire staff here makes us feel good and support us in all this process of building the team.
That’s nice to hear, because from the outside, when we get to talk about Na’Vi there‘s always these sort of question coming up; ”will they get into the top 8 and qualify to TI via DPC points, are Lil’s points enough for them to win an event and snatch that 8th place and so on, so yeah a lot of talking around Lil’s points.
From how I see it, we need to win an event, we need to place top four, top two at a Major, we need to qualify for TI because we deserve it not because of Lil’s points.
You mentioned the bootcamp before this tournament, but as the event started we had a new patch and a couple of things were switched up. Did the 7.13 blow off everything you prepared?
I don’t think it changed too much. There are a couple of things that are different now with the Strength heroes and the attributes, but I wouldn’t say that this patch wiped out our practice.
You had a hard fought series against Fnatic last night and now you will play an elimination match against them. How do you feel going into that series?
I personally greatly enjoy playing against Fnatic to be honest, because this is a team that pushes you to your limits in all the ways. All Fnatic games are super demanding, they like to play these super long games and after two or three hours of play, every small mistake matters. You can lose or win a game on a mistake like that and that’s why you can never relax in a game with Fnatic. And yes, I’m looking forward to take revenge today.
Alright, good luck then tonight. I won’t take too much of your time because the FlyToMoon vs VGJ. Storm series already started and you guys are next. Any shoutouts you might want to make at the end of our interview?
Shout out to my wife, to my family, to all the Na’Vi sponsors and to all the Dota 2 fans!
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