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Esports is having a moment. After a global pandemic pushed the world inside and upended our means of interaction, gaming, in general, took off like never before. Specifically, the world of esports experienced a surge of talented players and eager spectators who’ve never been more dedicated to the craft.

Gamers who once picked up a controller as a hobby have quickly become prominent figures in the esports community, forging a life and community in this highly entertaining, interconnected universe. As the popularity of esports continues to grow, it’s moving past a moment and into something more permanent. 

The momentum behind esports has accelerated by a small handful of players making a splash and forging ahead, bringing a throng of zealous fans along with them. Like those recognized below, sensational eSports players are driving the movement forward, earning them rank among the most successful sports players of 2021.

Johan “N0tail” Sundstein

Johan Sundstein, more commonly known by his gaming moniker, N0Tail, is the world’s highest-earning gamer in history. Since he emerged onto the sceneN0Tail has raked in close to seven million dollars by captaining winning eSport teams. His current team, OG, was one of the first Dota 2 teams formed in 2015 and immediately became a dominating force, earning this captain an honorary eSport lifetime achievement award.

While a few gamers are hot on his heels to claim the title of top-earner, it will be a tough crown to take. Most of the past decade’s top-earners are also members of the OG team, one of whom has retired. With consistently demonstrated skill, a steadfast passion for the sport and critical industry knowledge, N0Tail shows no signs of slowing down. 


Miroslaw “Mira” Kolpakov

As long as we’re talking about significant earnings here, and we often are in the world of esports, the top-earning player of 2021 was Miroslaw “Mira” Kolpakov. The 22-year-old from Ukraine had a breakthrough last year, earning just shy of $3.7 million. 

Mira is also a dedicated Dota 2 player and made their mark on the game as an integral part of Team Spirit. Mira’s teammate, Yaroslav “Miposhka” Naidenov of Russia, came in second for overall earnings last year. 

Overall, this young player’s future in esports is looking up and hurtling along at neck-breaking speed. Even though they’re only sixteenth in current world rankings, Mira is perfectly poised to take on pole position for the coming year.

Magomed “Collapse” Khalilov

Earnings aren’t everything in the esports universe, just as they don’t always lend an accurate reading in traditional athletics. The highest-paid player isn’t always the most talented, and vice versa. Sometimes, a player’s worth is evidenced by their undeniable ability to propel their team to victory. 

Magomed “Collapse” Khalilov demonstrated this powerful capacity at Dota 2’s International (also known as TI10). Collapse demonstrated an uncanny ability to isolate and disable some of the competition’s most highly favored players, using a distinct strategy and powerful teamwork skills to drive Team Spirit to victory. 

Evan “M0nkey M00n” Rogez

Before 2021, M0nkey M00n was already hailed as one of the best players in Rocket League and is an up-and-coming player to keep on your radar. As part of Team BDS, he led his teammates to victory at the RLCS Fall Split Major and exceeded expectations at the RLCS X, winning all three EU Majors.

M0nkey M00n’s impressive goal and save ratings, pitted against some of the top-rated players in the league, ultimately led to him receiving the Esports Controller Rookie of the year from the Esports Awards

Whether you measure success in earnings, rankings or notoriety, the pivotal rise of esports is propelling young gamers all over the world to a place they never thought possible. As the world shifts into an overdue time and place where esports is a widely recognized, competitive sport, these young players take a firm grasp on the opportunity before them. 

Stay tuned as the year unfolds and brings us more extraordinary, game-changing players who are ready to shake up the world of esports as we know it.