There are superstars, and there are hall of famers in every sport. However, just how many of these players are, by themselves, worthy alone of the price of admission? What player have you seen play, that without question, you have no regrets spending the dough simply to watch them do what they do?
In no particular order, I’ll give you 10 of my own. This is completely open for discussion, in fact, it’s rather encouraged. Go.
Devin Hester– He’s the NFL’s all-time leader in punt returns for a touchdown, and he’s scored 15 non-offensive touchdowns, third most ever, and the most among active players. Many of his returns are of the jaw dropping nature that leaves both opponent and fan alike wondering what just happened. Just remember, “They are who we thought they were”.
Michael Vick– His off field exploits and questions of his work ethic aside, has one man single handedly left as many people breathless on the football field and in the stands as Michael Vick? Being the quarterback, the ball is in his hands on every play, which means every play has the potential to make SportsCenter’s Top Ten list at the end of the night. The ball simply being in his hands brings people to their feet. When the best athlete on the field has the ball in his hands, this is what happens.
Dominique Wilkins– For the duration of the 80s, the Atlanta Hawks were simply one step behind the NBA’s great teams, routinely falling short against the likes of the dynasties in Boston and Detroit. That they were even competitive with those teams was due to one man, the “Human Highlight”. You don’t receive a nickname like that for no reason. This current Atlanta Hawks squad that routinely comes up short in the playoffs may be lacking a superstar, but these Hawks of the 80s weren’t at all. If you ever get a chance to catch game 7 of the Hawks and Celtics in the playoffs in 1988, do it. ‘Nique went toe to toe with Larry Bird, shot for shot, in one of the most epic battles the NBA has seen.
Ken Griffey Jr– Griffey’s was a career that was shortened and limited by injuries towards the end of his playing days. However, that need not do anything to put a damper on what “Junior”, or “The Kid”, had done previously in his career. Griffey quite possibly was the most talented baseball player to ever come through the big leagues. An argument could be made that he was the best overall baseball player to ever suit up. Of all the players I’ve ever seen play, I’d have to rank Griffey has the best of all-time. One can only hope people remember that about his career, and remember the sweet swing he brought with him, and of course the smile that never left. Not only was Griffey phenomenal at what he did, he enjoyed every single minute of it, and you could tell.
Barry Sanders– Has a major athlete ever retired with as little fanfare as the great Barry Sanders did? It’s highly doubtful. And ultimately, his retirement personified his career. Sanders was as elusive a runner as the NFL had ever seen, and he snuck out of the league just as he was constantly sneaking away and dodging defenders throughout his career. Few people have ever been able to come close to matching Sanders agility, and ability to start, stop, and be back to high speed in a matter of seconds.
Deion Sanders– Before there was Devin Hester, there was Devin Hester’s mentor, “Primetime”. Few nicknames have suited someone as well as Deion Sanders nickname suited him. Professional athletes ultimately are entertainers, and there are very few in the history of sports who entertained the way Deion Sanders did. His flare was part of his persona, as was his flare for doing absolutely amazing things on the football field, and on the baseball diamond. While he had some memorable moments on the baseball field, “Primetime” made a name for himself on the football field, as perhaps both the greatest cover corner in NFL history, and the most dangerous man the league has seen with the ball in his hands.
Dale Earnhardt– You don’t have to be a fan of NASCAR to appreciate what Dale Earnhardt was. Just as Ali, Jordan, and Woods transcended their sports, so to did Dale Earnhardt. He elevated stock car racing to the national spotlight, putting it firmly in the discussion with football, baseball, and basketball in the struggle for the attention of the countrys sports fans. Earnhardt did it on and off the track. On it, if you were at a track, you kept your eye on the three car, at all times, because you never knew what might happen.
Calvin Johnson– How in the world do you spend your college career with Reggie Ball attempting to throw you passes and still wind up the number two overall pick in the NFL draft after your junior year? To start with, you need to be blessed with the freakish combination of size, speed, athleticism and hands that Calvin Johnson is blessed with. The Chan Gailey/Reggie Ball era at Georgia Tech didn’t leave a lot to be overly excited about. However, it did include three years of watching Calvin Johnson do things on a football field that shouldn’t be possible. If you need any more proof, just ask Clemson if they remember his coming out party his freshmen year up in Death Valley as he spearheaded and improbable Georgia Tech comeback.
Andruw Jones– Yes, watching Jones flail away hopelessly at sliders down and away was frustrating. However, watching the Braves try and fill the hole at center field since he left is arguably more frustrating. Andruw Jones is the classic case, for many people, of not knowing what you’ve got ’till it’s gone. Some may argue, and with some validity, that Jones was the greatest defensive outfielder in baseball history. It’s entirely possible. While there are others who flash some shiny leather quite a bit, none of them played nearly as shallow as Andruw Jones while still rarely having a ball get over his head. His instincts were second to none in the outfield, nobody could go get it quite like Jones could. Being able to enjoy Jones patrol center field for over a decade was quite a treat. Of course, so was his World Series debut in hallowed Yankee Stadium.
Michael Jordan– Do I really need to say anything? Arguably the greatest competitor in the history of sports, and also arguably the greatest basketball player to ever live (sorry Scottie).
Greg Maddux– No, not a pure power pitcher who just threw everything by people, Maddux was more like an artist on the mound. From 1993 thru the end of his career in 2008, his strike percentage never fell below 65. That’s how you do what he did. Maddux’s work on the pitchers mound was truly a thing of beauty.
Tiger Woods– More so perhaps for people who play golf themselves, but the pure power with which Tiger Woods would unleash a driver, to see it in person, simply awe inspring.
Barry Bonds– Nobody hit more of ’em, and nobody hit em farther. Steroids or no steroids, you wanted to watch this man bat.
Roger Federer/Rafael Nadal– I put both together, because they are quite often linked together as well, thanks to their many epic duels on the court. The question arguably is simply, which of the two is really the greatest of all-time?
Dante Hall – for a couple of years in Kansas City, the “Human Joystick” was as fun to watch as anyone who ever played the game. Seven return touchdowns, including this memorable return against the Denver Broncos in which Hall did everything you’re NOT supposed to do on a return. Seven return scores in a two year stretch is just phenomenal.
Reggie Bush– What Bush has done in the NFL, and what he did or not receive while at USC did nothing whatsoever to take away from what was a phenomenal college career. Bush was the best athlete on the field, and often, it wasn’t even close. He was a man among boys with the ball in his hands.
Herschel Walker– The record book may not show it, but many will argue Herschel Walker is indeed the greatest college running back of all-time. They might be right, too. His size and speed led Georgia to three straight SEC championships, and a national title, heights they’ve yet to revisit.
Adrian Peterson– Before Oklahoma had theirs, that went off to play for the Vikings, Georgia Southern had their own Adrian Peterson, who will long be one of the most underrated college football players of all time. He’s an honorable mention for this run alone.