NiKo: The underrated hero of CS:GO

You have definitely heard his name before: Nikola “NiKo” Kovac, the Bosnian rifler/AWPer currently playing for G2 Esports. With s1mple getting all the love and attention these days, it is pretty easy to forget about NiKo. I am going to tell you why you shouldn’t forget about this 24 year old machine who, unfortunately, hasn’t won a single Major before.

Deciding the GOAT (greatest of all time) on the basis of winning Majors is pretty outdated in my opinion, as s1mple didn’t have a Major before this November. On the other hand, deciding s1mple is the GOAT is very easy as well, as he is dominating everything while NiKo is having a rough period at G2 Esports, where the team had its ups and downs. If you don’t know about him, let us introduce you to NiKo first. Then, we will decide whether he is a contender for that spot or not.

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NiKo’s start

NiKo started playing CS:GO very early. He has been active in the Counter-Strike arena since 2009, and he was one of the first CS:GO professionals as well. Although he did participate in some S-Tier tournaments and showed himself under the iNation banner, NiKo’s rise mostly started in 2015 with mouz.

Showcasing their strength in different tournaments and getting good results, even a 9th-12th at a Major, NiKo and mousesports finally had their best result at CEVO Season 8 Professional by losing in the finals against 2016 was the year of establishing themselves around not the best but a level behind them for mouz, getting consistent results and winning some A-Tier tournaments. Of course, it also helped NiKo to show himself and his mechanics.

With that in mind, NiKo joined FaZe Clan in 2017 where he had a second place at IEM XI World Championship and won the StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season 3 on his first two tournaments. Visit HLTV’s video below to find a cool summary of his MVP performance:

If you followed CS:GO this year, these won’t surprise you: NiKo and FaZe took three second places and won three more S-Tier tournaments. What was their result at PGL Major Krakow 2017? 15th-16th. By losing all three of their games and getting eliminated from the first possible stage, NiKo was denied a Major once again.

2018: Still on top, but no Majors

At the start of 2018, NiKo came closest to winning a Major. Right at the first tournament they participated in, FaZe Clan advanced to the finals while demolishing every single team on their way without losing a single map. Surprise: Cloud9 defeats them to win their one and only Major ever in a best of three which ended 2-1. The last map, Inferno, went to overtime, where Cloud9 won it 22-19. pffts, tarik… Find a great ace from NiKo below:

NiKo was born this way, carrying his team's all the way to the finals but not quite showing up at the finals. FaZe won more events in 2018, like IEM Sydney, EPICENTER 2018 or ESL One: Belo Horizonte 2018. The second Major of the year ended early for them at FACEIT Major London: 2018, where Astralis and dev1ce defeated them and advanced to win the whole thing.

2019 ends and pandemic starts

2019 went pretty quiet for FaZe Clan. I mean, it’s not bad to win the BLAST Pro Series: Miami 2019, finishing top four at ESL Pro League Season 9: Europe and winning the BLAST Pro Series: Copenhagen 2019 is not bad. But, at S-Tier events, FaZe couldn’t show up. Their best results were top four, and they were rare considering how many tournaments they played in.

After getting the top three at BLAST Premier: Spring 2020 Regular Season in February, and with the start of pandemic, FaZe’s performance dropped even more. Their best was winning IEM New York Online: Europe, but before October, FaZe was just missing, getting third place at best. It wasn’t fitting for this organization and NiKo.

While his transfer would still be a shock, my sincere belief is that a change was needed. For both FaZe, and NiKo.

Joining G2 Esports and current performance

Then, NiKo joined the rising star of Europe, G2 Esports. With their aggressive attitude in esports, social media and even building rosters, G2 was shining bright on every game. After getting NiKo, they built another super team for League of Legends, too. Announcing NiKo’s arrival, G2 Esports’ fate in CS:GO also changed.

Joining his cousin huNter-, NiKo was expected to start fast. It didn’t happen, obviously. The team needed time. As the criticisms got harsher, G2 Esports’ performance was getting better, this proves what NiKo needed was time. Which brings me to the last part of NiKo’s career, and why I have a problem with how people consider NiKo.

G2 was never a bad team at CS:GO, they were always fighting for the top. However, they couldn’t make the cut—just like NiKo. He was fitting for this team, and I think he understands the situation of the team so well. He is one of the most mechanically gifted players in the history of CS:GO and maybe even FPS games. Still, what NiKo brings to the CS:GO scene and G2, is underrated most of the time.

Although G2 had a rough patch in 2021, their best performance was PGL Major Stockholm 2021. Focusing on that event, G2 really did bring whatever they can to the table. According to HLTV, NiKo was the second best player of PGL Major after s1mple with 1.36 rating. Watch NiKo’s play which sent the last map at the finals against NAVI to overtime:

During this grand final against Natus Vincere, NiKo had 52-50 K/D, inferior only to electronic’s 53-45 and s1mple’s unbelievable 72-41. Yes, s1mple has been showing one of the greatest performances of all time, but he played for NAVI for more than 5 years now. If you call NiKo a “choker” or if you think he is really that behind of s1mple, I think you are wrong.

With an organization that would give anything to him, just to get success and just to achieve something, NiKo is at the right place, and maybe not in 2022, or in 2023 even, but you will see that NiKo will own CS:GO and dominate it. He has the skill, he has the mindset, and the rest will be provided by G2 Esports. He is not the number one now, but he is definitely the number two, above ZywOo.

And although I really believe that he has already proven himself, he will convince everyone that he is the best one day. It was amazing how s1mple silenced his haters in 2021, and I can picture NiKo doing that as well. With such a talent and such a professional mindset, he deserves his moment before leaving CS:GO for good.

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