Call me by my nickname - How Nivera is stepping out of ScreaM's shadow
Eight years had passed since Boris "flex0r" Latry and ScreaM last crossed paths when they ran into each other at Richard "shox" Papillon’s wedding in June 2019. The three had been teammates in a 3DMAX CS:Source roster that beat Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt’s VeryGames at MaxLAN 2011 in the small town of Épinal in Northeastern France. Not long after their victory, which netted the whole team a grand prize of little more than 1,500€, flex0r, who played as an AWPer, retired from Counter-Strike to join the Gendarmerie—a branch of the military charged with police duties in France—, while the others went on to become big stars for their respective countries when the game's popularity skyrocketed after the release of Global Offensive. flex0r and ScreaM caught up at the wedding, where the former AWPer revealed he was working on a team of young talents called Wonderkids that he wanted to help develop.
"ScreaM asked me why I didn’t pick his brother for my team, but I had already tried and had been turned down," flex0r tells HLTV.org. "I wanted to take young talent under my wing and give them my experience, both in the game and in real life. I’ve been training young French talent every single day for the past two years. One year ago I heard of Nivera, so I started to watch some of his demos and I immediately realized that he was an insane player. He refused to join at first because he didn’t want to leave his former team, but at the wedding, ScreaM told me that he would talk to him and Nabil became a part of the project soon after that."
(photo courtesy of Louvard Game)
Before joining flex0r—who had been forced to fill in for the team whenever they didn't have a fifth player —, Nivera had only two LAN events under his belt. The first had been "when I had just started playing CS:GO, around 2016 or 2017", and the other had been LouvardGame 4.3, where he played in a mix team put together by Malik "Malikof" Kofkof. Now with Wonderkids, he attended LouvardGame 4.4, which flex0r had to sit out to take care of his young daughter, with veteran Sebastien "KRL" Perez taking his place. It was here that Nivera popped off and started to turn heads despite his team finishing in a middling 5-6th place. "I was playing on a team, in my role, and with no pressure", he tells HLTV.org. "I finished the LAN as the player with the highest KDR and that's when people started to notice me."
Nivera grew up watching his older brother ScreaM, who made his fame thanks to a flashy playstyle in some of France's most successful teams. The 25-year-old has since become one of the biggest influencers in the Francosphere despite his reduced competitive activity at the highest level in the past two years. "I’m inspired by his career and what he has done," Nivera says. "We have a very similar disposition, so he understands me well. He gets me because he’s already been through what I’m going through now and he helps me a lot."
Nivera relied more on himself and his teammates to develop inside the server, however, becoming a proficient AWPer early on in his career as opposed to a rifler, like his brother, who became a sensation with fans thanks to his signature one taps. "ScreaM hasn't really been a part of my development as a player," the younger Benrlitom explains. "That has all happened more on my own and in the teams that I've played in. He has never tried to speed things up for me, he has always wanted me to experience things at my own pace, which I think is a good thing, and although he really helped me with certain aspects of the game, I've grown mostly thanks to my teammates."
In regards to being seen as ScreaM's little brother, Nivera admits that "at times it does feel like I’m not given due credit when people call me 'ScreaM's brother' instead of calling me by my own nickname." But he doesn't let it get to him too much and remains confident that he will shine on his own thanks to his abilities: "I want to be a good player so that it will reflect well on my brother, of course, but I'm not very pressured by it. I believe in myself and my own game."
Much like Kévin "misutaaa" Rabier before signing for Vitality, Nivera didn’t have much of a platform to showcase his talent to a greater public, but he had a niche following among French and Belgian fans who were keeping an eye on his progress. Besides the few LANs he had attended and Wonderkids' road to ESEA Advanced, his chances to prove himself to a wider audience came only if he and his team managed to make it far in the grueling massive open qualifier brackets. It was in such a tournament that Nivera was able to make a mark when he came out of a 6-16 loss against North with a 1.35 rating in the IEM Katowice 2020 Europe Open Qualifier. The Belgian youngster also took the opportunity to display his talents in the WESG 2019 West Europe Closed Qualifier around the same time, ending third in the stats leaderboard with a 1.28 rating despite PRINCEADIL, a mix-team featuring both his brother and his coach, finishing last.
Although kinship has no doubt helped Nivera gain some notoriety, he more than made enough noise in the French subtop scene to move up the ladder on his own merits. Heretics had their eye on him even before the aforementioned matches, calling him up to stand in for the team around the time he joined Wonderkids in September of 2019, and he made headlines on VaKarM earlier this year by becoming the French website's first subject in a series about young up-and-coming talents. It was only a matter of time before he made it to the next level, and when Heretics parted ways with Jérémy "jeyN" Nguyen, it was him they called.
Nivera may not look to his brother for help in the server, but he does take heed of the lessons ScreaM has learned during his career, and when he was confronted with the decision of signing for Heretics he turned to his brother for advice: "I asked if it would be good for me to join the team, and he told me kioShiMa and xms were nice teammates, something he knew from playing with them before." But just like when he had joined Wonderkids, he needed time to think about whether he should take the next step, also because of the impact the move would have on his role as the AWP would stay in Bryan "Maka" Canda's hands. "I get attached to my teammates, I don't like letting go of them or leaving them behind," he says. "Switching from AWPing to rifling was going to be a sacrifice, but after a while, I realized it would be a bonus to know how to play both roles and I want to be considered a hybrid player. I don't want to be pinned as someone who can only play with one weapon."
Less than a month after joining Heretics, Nivera reached an important milestone as he helped the team to win the Cyber.Bet Cup after they beat Movistar Riders 2-0 in the final. "I had never won a tournament before, so when I joined, my goal was to win one," he says, before hailing the atmosphere in the team. "Heretics had quite a few lineup changes and inconsistent results in the past, but when I joined the team I realized everyone is quite serious and the competitive spirit is very much alive."
Although the monicker of "ScreaM’s little brother" will be his cross to bear in the near future—at least until he starts to make his own legacy—, Nivera has been steadily proving his worth since picking up the rifle in Heretics. He and Lucas "Lucky" Chastang were the two top-rated players in the aforementioned Cyber.Bet Cup with a 1.29 rating across eight maps, and he's not falling short in the ongoing BLAST Rising, in which he is averaging a 1.13 rating. The 18-year-old also had a dream start to his biggest tournament to date, ESL One: Road to Rio - Europe, managing a 1.23 rating across his first three matches, against Dignitas, ENCE and Complexity, and although he deflated as the competition went on, he currently sits on a palatable 1.03 rating ahead of Heretics' last fixture, the fifth-place decider match against NiP.
Having had a hand in Nivera's development, flex0r is overjoyed to see the youngster breaking out and competing at the highest level. "Nivera is now a part of me, so I follow every game he plays," he adds. "I've watched him become a part of his new team very quickly, which I had no doubt he would do. CS:GO seems so easy when you watch him play, he’s like a chameleon. He’s doing good things with Heretics, which is becoming a top 30 team in the HLTV ranking, and he now has the chance to gain the experience that he couldn’t gain with me by playing top tournaments every month. If he keeps the same mindset there is no doubt that he will be in the top 20 players list next year."