NBK - Long Live The Kingmaker
Updated: Sep 3, 2019
One of the most underappreciated players within the French Counter-Strike scene is Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt. While he has always been at the forefront of the scene, NBK has often been overshadowed by the flashy flicks of Kenny “kennyS” Schrub or the superstar performances of Richard “shox” Papillon.
If he were a Game of Thrones character, an apt comparison to the often-chaotic French scene, he would be Daenerys Targaryen. Although he lacks Targaryen platinum blonde hair, purple eyes or penchant for fire, the number of titles, beyond literal trophies, that you could bestow upon him certainly fits the bill of a Targaryen ruler. Kingmaker, the CS Utility Man, Survivor of the Shuffles, the Stormborn Killer.
NBK today is one of the most decorated French CS:GO players and the third highest-earning French player across all titles, with only Dota 2 player Sébastien “7ckngMad” Debs and Fortnite player Clément "Skite" Danglot ahead of him. He’s also a founding board member of the Counter-Strike Professional Players' Association (CSPPA), all at the age of 25.
While not always being the ‘star’ of a team, he has demonstrated a level of consistency across the history of CS:GO that very few fellow Frenchies can relate to. His story of constant presence in top French teams throughout the highs and lows of the game is one I will tell, alongside his own words from two interviews from ECS Season 7 Finals in June 2019 and the StarLadder Berlin Major 2019 in August.
A Natural Killer Is Born
“I think it helped the French scene out as a whole because we don’t have so many big
support players in France. During transitions, there weren’t many people doing that dirty job with a background in being a star player.
I think it helped my career, but it’s a give and take where if I didn’t play that role, maybe I wouldn’t have been in those teams and I wouldn’t have been successful and maybe the teams wouldn’t have been as successful as well.”
NBK saw a meteoric rise from being praised as VaKarM’s ‘Future Hope of the Year 2009’ while on Dreamrar, to becoming 2010’s ‘Player of the Year’ and ‘Sniper of the Year’. Source rival in-game leaders Kevin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans and Sébastien "krL" Pérez both saw promise in the young player. At only fifteen years old, NBK was playing under the leadership of Ex6TenZ on VeryGames. NBK joined the team following the departure of Floran "crZ" Thoumelin and Vincent "EMSTQD" Cervoni, later known as "Happy".
“I am just glad I started when competing was just about the competition and not about money, fame and that kind of stuff. It was just people loving [the game] together and that built me”
In 2011, Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux returned to VeryGames for a second time and later, shox also joined. This was the first time, albeit briefly, that NBK and shox would be on a team together but far from the last. kennyS and Dan "apEX" Madesclaire would join VeryGames before the latter was replaced by the intermittent SmithZz shortly preceding the switch to Global Offensive. By this time, NBK had already met and played with a large number of the rising stars and established talents of the French scene.
Time To GO
Following the release of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, VeryGames made the switch from Source. While in this team, NBK took part in the European Championship as a member of France’s Team A. The pairing of kennyS and shox seen briefly at this time, with apEX and SmithZz’ presence alongside NBK, gave the scene a tantalising glimpse of a possible future. This exact roster only played two online games together, with four years passing before the same four players reunited on an official roster.
NBK remained on VeryGames until the organisation dropped its CS:GO roster due to financial limitations. Not homeless for too long, ex-VeryGames became the first roster to represent a new organisation called Titan. However, it wasn’t long until a clash occurred.
Belgian headshot machine Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom and SmithZz left the team, and with NBK in tow, the two Frenchmen were quickly in a new roster as the LDLC trio of KQLY, apEX and Maniac took their places in Titan.
Happy had emerged as the new rival to Ex6TenZ and picked up the pieces from the shuffle to rebuild a team under the LDLC banner after a brief stint as the orgless ‘Mercenary’. This shift became known as the first French Shuffle and NBK would have to fight for a spot at the upcoming Major: DreamHack Winter 2014.
In an unexpected blow to French hopes of Major victory, LDLC were the only French team left standing as Titan and Epsilon were disqualified due to the VAC bans of Hovik "KQLY" Tovmassian and Gordon "Sf" Giry respectively. The controversy didn’t end there, with the now-infamous ‘Olofboost’ in the quarterfinal of the tournament against LDLC, leading to Fnatic forfeiting the match. LDLC made the run all the way to a successful final, lifting the trophy in Jönköping over Ninjas in Pyjamas.
An offer from Team EnVyUs soon after this victory saw NBK and the rest of the LDLC roster join the new organisation in February 2015. A deep run at ESL One Katowice 2015 meant the team kept their Legends spot, but once again, there was a shuffle in the air.
Fire and Blood in the Water
Disappointing results throughout the rest of 2015 left the team wanting a change. shox asked to take over leadership and bad blood between him and Happy reached its peak, with the former wanting to remove the latter. However, EnVyUs players and management had struggled to rein in the behaviour of shox and SmithZz previously so the team was split on what to do.
Tensions boiled over at ESWC 2015, with NBK, Fabien "KioShiMa" Fiey and Happy agreeing to remove the duo, replacing them with kennyS and apEX from Titan.
An initial spark shown at ESL One Cologne 2015 had EnVyUs close enough to touch the trophy, but it was Fnatic who snatched it from their hands in the grand final. DreamHack Cluj-Napoca began with EnVyUs sitting comfortably within the top five after their changes. They met Fnatic in the quarterfinals, but were successful this time around. European mix G2 Esports failed to stop them in the semifinals.
The grand final against Na’Vi saw kennyS go scope-to-scope with GuardiaN, with the former ending up on top and NBK then leading the way on Cobblestone to secure his own personal second Major trophy and a second for France.
2016 saw ex-Titan sign with G2, with the duo of shox and ScreaM setting the scene alight. A win for G2 at ECS Season 1 Finals came as NBK’s nV were struggling to make deep tournament runs and seemingly struggled with all-too-familiar motivation problems. As time passed, the word ‘shuffle’ started to be on people’s lips once more. What followed was to be one of the most monumental roster swaps in the history of the French scene.
2017 saw G2 Esports seek to create a French roster fans had only dreamed of. The migration of NBK and half of nV to G2 united kennyS and shox on a permanent roster for the first time in their careers.
The French ‘superteam’ was born.
While previous shuffles had left two teams with high potential, G2 was definitely the ‘winner’ of the third French shuffle in terms of names and promise. The team had four of the most impressive French talents and an up-and-coming one in the form of Alexandre "bodyy" Pianaro.
The potential was there but the team was a slow burner, claiming a humble victory at DreamHack Open Tours before going on to claim the far more prestigious ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals trophy over North a month later.
Despite making playoffs at multiple events and securing another win at DreamHack Masters Malmo, it wasn’t enough to patch up the quickly sinking ship. kennyS was struggling with motivation issues, the team wasn’t achieving what was expected of them and NBK’s historic clashes with shox once again appeared to bubble to the surface as the team’s first year together had not lived up to expectations.
“I always remember a thing that Jason Brown, the guy from Last Chance U, the Netflix show, became notorious for, but it’s just ‘winning solves a lot of fucking problems’, and I think that was the case with G2. If we’re not gonna win, we would have those problems and the team would have imploded regardless. I think it was bound to happen no matter what.
If we were to win a lot of tournaments then sure, we would have stayed together, but that was not the case.”
Issues surrounding ‘motivation’ were thrown about publicly early in 2018. shox did not want NBK to lead, instead persuading G2 to bring back Ex6TenZ and SmithZz. Attempts to try rejoin G2 as part of shox’s project failed and NBK was exiled to the bench for the first time in his career, with the FACEIT Major in London being the first he had missed in his career.
Having sat on the bench with a rumoured high buyout preventing any possible move, NBK sought a team to lead - willing to take the reins for the greater good - and a prince he could crown as the next King of French Counter-Strike.
Into his hands fell the Chosen One.
The French Saviour.
Matheiu “ZywOo” Herbaut.
With France lacking strong AWPers, ZywOo took up the gun in the absence of anyone else capable. His story echoes with NBK’s own origins as a sniper, while also taking on the ‘for the team’ mentality many have lacked.
The mantle of Kingmaker was restored to NBK through the unleashing of ZywOo onto the top tier teams of Counter-Strike.
“If people compare him to me, good for me because I was pretty good back then, but it was a different competition. When I was playing, I faced teams that were playing worse than it is now. ZywOo is now doing it against anybody.”
Not Bending the Knee
NBK has been an omnipresent figure in the success of the French elite for over a decade. While he is still a valuable role player with maturity and experience on his side, he will not be responsible to oversee the scene forever.
In terms of what the future holds, there are plenty of doors open for NBK. As he has helped lead many players down their own paths to success, he has his own planned path for the future.
“The big thing I would like to do in the future would be based around general [esports] education. Education in the sense that a lot of people don’t really know what it’s like to be a professional player for real, what you need to be a successful professional player in terms of qualities, things you can work on or just being a better Counter-Strike player. All of those things are very important but a bit lacking right now.
I don’t really think about the end of it. It’s just I play until I feel that I either don’t want to play at all anymore or that I cannot contribute to a top, successful team. I’m not gonna quit my career when I’m in a top fifty team and then I’m like thinking ‘okay, maybe I am washed up now, maybe I’m gonna stop’. I want to retire before that and just find another purpose.”