Following eUnited’s tough loss in the CWL London grand final against 100 Thieves, I caught up with James “Clayster” Eubanks to discuss falling short, staying at the top and dealing with controversy in the public eye.
You placed 2nd at CWL London, again falling short at the last hurdle. How do you stay motivated to keep on going?
I guess for me it’s not as big a deal as it is for everyone else. I have 12 major championships across my career already including winning a World Championship, being MVP and all these other accolades. I’ve already accomplished more than 90% of the active professional player-base now. It’s more-so the newer fans who weren’t around when I was winning a bunch that seems to really care about it.
For me, to maintain motivation I just think “at least I’m still contending”. Every event we go to, we have an opportunity to win it if we play well, regardless of who we play. What really motivates me more than anything else is, if I was just going to tournaments and not even being able to compete then I probably would have stepped back a long time ago. The fact that we’re contending and reaching grand finals, we’re just a couple of matches away from winning the entire tournament. That’s what really keeps me going. It just takes one.
What do you think keeps yourself and the teammates you surround yourself with in contention for championships?
There are different answers to that question based on what variation of team we’re talking about. With my current team, Arcitys, Prestinni and I have been teaming for almost two years now, but that’s pretty much unheard of in Call of Duty. You don’t really team with people for that long unless you’re on that OpTic squad. We have an insane amount of chemistry just from how long we’ve been teaming together. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve made it through to the other side and are in a much better position now where we have a mutual respect and understanding for each other.
Arcitys and I have switched back and forth with the AR role and this year he’s playing very well with it, but the number one thing we needed this year was a talented, superstar submachine gun player and we got that at the start of the season with Abezy, and happened to get another one in the middle of the season with Simp. We’ve put together the ideal team for us, what we’ve been trying to put together for years now and we have the exact pieces we need to make the team work. That’s just making us work even harder. We’re the best team in the game right now except for one other team, and if we just keep it up, we know we’ll be able to pull one home.
With Abezy and Simp, who are both incredibly new to this level, do you feel like you need to take on the veteran leader role and help them build and develop as players?
I would say it’s my responsibility a little bit. I don’t really like to buy in to the ‘veteran leader’ side of things too much. These guys are all adults.
It definitely helps in certain situations, where I can help them navigate mid-tournament and help with their emotions but generally the pressure isn’t really on me to perform.
I’ve just had to shift my playstyle from being the superstar slayer on a team to a support role, calling strategies, just doing my job and nothing more.
It’s an interesting switch for me, and it was uncomfortable at first. I want to be the one to win the game, but not everybody can do it at all times, so I think for me, on a team like this, I just have to be a foundation for them so that if they’re not performing well I can step up, but they can rely on me to be a baseline for them to go off of. It’s definitely a different shift in perspective and playstyle, but I feel like I’m adapting well to it and understanding that I might not even be the third most talented person on this team, for example. And that’s a good thing.
Looking at past teammates, there were obviously issues with Jkap on eUnited and even looking as far back as your time on FaZe Clan, there were rumours of issues between yourself and Enable. How difficult is it to navigate these situations when you’ve got such a huge following and you’re right in the public eye?
It’s incredibly difficult to deal with team issues when everything is made public. That’s a fault of mine and has been forever – it’s kind of why I have a big following. I’m very open and honest, I talk about everything personal or professional, and it’s got me in trouble quite a lot but it’s one of those things… There’s a fine line between not letting people walk all over you and having to bite your tongue.
In a professional, competitive environment like we are, that should really never be the case. There should never be a bottling of emotion, or not saying what you want to say, and a lot of it comes down to delivery. How you say it is more important than what you’re saying. That’s something I’ve had to learn across many years of playing.
It’s hard to say how you really feel without upsetting people, and then every reactionary defence in your body is telling you to react and defend yourself. But that’s not always the best solution. It’s a lot different to how it was a few years back, but nowadays I just make sure my teammates understand where I’m coming from, my organisation understands where I’m coming from, and I’ll just try to explain to the fans but if they don’t get it then you’ve got to let it go.
There was a really interesting shot in The Ascent where you can be seen smiling at the crowd and showing your appreciation after your loss to 100 Thieves, before heading backstage and immediately yelling and letting your frustration out. Is this a conscious decision?
In a situation like that, it’s kind of hard to logically think about how you’re reacting. When you lose a match like that, you’re just trying to get off the stage. I don’t want to see the other team lift the trophy; I don’t want to hear the crowd cheer for them. I’m trying to get off the stage as quick as possible, but you also have to realise that without all of these people in the crowd and watching at home, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do for a living. We wouldn’t be able to travel to another country, another continent, to play for hundreds of thousands of dollars, if it wasn’t for all these people. You have to appreciate the people that make it happen.
It’s important to thank the fans. If it wasn’t for them, we’d all be on different paths and probably wouldn’t be living as comfortably as we are. In my head, I have all these negative emotions and I want to win, but you’ve got to take the time to appreciate and show love to the people that make it happen. When they can’t see me, that’s when the anger and frustration comes out.
My final question is a simple one: When you do eventually retire, what do you want your legacy to be?
I’ve thought about this quite a bit. I’ll never win the most, unless I do something crazy in the next few years. I’ll never have made the most money. I’ll never have a record in that sense. But at the end of it all, as long as I’m known as one of the best Call of Duty players to ever play the game, I’m pretty comfortable with that. I think I’ve already cemented a legacy in a way, I still compete at every tournament and I’m the oldest pro player. I think I’m getting there.
I just want to make sure that people recognise me as one of the best to ever touch the game.