Admittedly, I wasn’t a fan of Leffen. His coarse behavior on Smashboards was childish in my book. I was fully supportive of, even though I didn’t say a word to him in person. He initiated the “pause rule” to help eliminate my two norcal friends from doubles (In hindsight, I realized that Leffen was correct in doing so). Needless to say, I didn’t have a good first impression of him. For some reason, his irrational confidence intrigued me, so I always kept track of his progress, mainly so I could make fun of him if he lost. He was an easy target to make fun of and paint as a villain in 2009.

I also had a fairly low view of Europe in general at the time (which would later change drastically). Europeans touted strong fundamental play and tech skill that exceeded the standards seen in America, yet they all under-performed at Apex 2012 with the exception of Armada. Ice narrowly made it out of pools due to a strange 3-way tie in round 2 pools (PS: never do 4 man pools for a nationals). Amsah finished 33rd. Ravenlord finished 49th. Hack didn’t even make it out of pools. The disappointing performances made Leffen’s top 5 finishes in Europe inconsequential in my mind. Although Leffen was much better than me in a short stretch, I wrote him off as a passing fad of a player.

It wasn’t until Evo 2013 that I was able to spend some extended time with Leffen. A week prior to Evo, Leffen was in town, competing in a FGC tournament on the weekend. Looking for competition, Leffen wanted to play with Mango, who lived nearby. Not wanting to entertain him, Mango decided to dump Leffen to me in a Facebook conversation so I obliged and had him over for a night to play Smash. He came over and I was very surprised by his rather mellow demeanor. Not much with words, Leffen mostly remained silent as we played for hours. He’d laugh as I said some stupid things and respond to questions I had about the European scene, but it was hardly what I expected from his internet persona. Leffen had a very strange Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde vibe. I was still quick to dismiss him overall, but he was polite and cordial, so we naturally had as good a time as two strangers could.

Regardless of what I thought of Leffen as a person, he was destroying me in almost every match. Every up-throw made me fearful of landing as he was able to land u-air after u-air on my Sheik on Dreamland and Final Destination. If I landed (or died and had a fresh stock), I was confronted with endless lasers, and, later, nairs if I went too close. It was a perfect blend of aggression and defensive play that had me flustered as I was losing to pure fundamentals that reminded me of a prime JMan in 2008. To boast on my behalf, I was able to take a small handful of matches on Yoshi’s and Fountain of Dreams, but the overall score was something along the lines of 50-60ish wins for Leffen and 4 wins for me; I’m sure he got bored somewhere down the line, though he never made it known.

It was an interesting moment and he became likable in a strange way. Whereas everyone has become more “e-sports” and politically correct, Leffen embraced brashness, not for the sake of being “edgey”, but more-so being honest about how he felt about things even if it was controversial. Yet, this was refreshing as I always knew where he stood. He’s toned down his personal attacks against other smashers (which was one of the primary reasons why he was banned in the first place), but not to the point in which his answers seem fabricated – the same fabrication that is all too common among sports stars and figureheads. In our modern smash era, he’s become the voice that frequently articulates what everyone else is thinking, but is too afraid to say.

When we approach young kids, we often tell them to dream big… to become the best… to make a difference in some great way. For some reason in adulthood, we laugh at people who make big claims, deeming them to be childish and unrealistic. Yet, isn’t Leffen’s confidence what we really want in a player though at the end of the day? I’m not sure when it became a turnoff for a player to aspire to become the best. Instead, we value this strange sense of false humility, which oozes fake-ness. Do you really think Armada wants to settle for “simply playing his best”? Or Mango? Or Hbox? These players are competitors and they can’t stand losing.

On the flip side, we’ve seen countless players who make lofty claims and expectations, but don’t put in the work to obtain desirable results. To a certain extent, it’s understandable as to why people would laugh at these type of goals. How often do we see a new player at a local tournament claim to be the best, but fail miserably? Or tell everyone that they will become the best, but still bask in mediocrity, year after year? If anything, Leffen embodies what it means to set a high goal and put in the effort to achieve it.

Over the past couple of years, he’s risen from a perennial top 32 performer to an explosive top 10 competitor. With his fantastic performances in 2014, it would be silly not to include him in the top 6. He most certainly deserved it with his overall great performances that put him in the middle of the pack of the 5 gods. Although it’s early to make claims for who the best is in 2015, Leffen has a head start with his impressive 4-1 record* against the gods in 2015–as well as taking 1st place at Europe’s biggest tournament to date: BEAST V. He still has some things to prove to everyone (Can he handle Marth?), but it’ll be exciting to see how he ends up performing at Apex and for the rest of 2015.

* Was 3-0, but changed to reflect updates after Paragon