All of a sudden, Washington, D.C. is home to some of the biggest stars in sports. No other city in America has four overall No. 1 picks since 2004, and the No. 1 star in D.C. would have been picked first overall in the draft most other seasons. No other city has four of its top five stars under the age of 25.
D.C. tried it with other teams’ stars who were past their prime in Michael Jordan, Jaromir Jagr and Donovan McNabb. That didn’t work, but now, the most powerful city in the country has its own homegrown stars in each of the four most popular American sports leagues.
It has been a rough couple of decades for Redskins fans. Hardly anyone under 40 remembers the last time the Bullets won the NBA title. And the Caps, while they usually make the playoffs, may be the most underachieving playoff team in the history of American sports. But with a baseball team in the playoffs for the first time since 1933, things may be turning around for D.C. sports fans.
With the five stars on this list, D.C. fans have a future most cities can only dream about. The top stars on this list aren’t necessarily the best players in that order, but they’re pretty close.
Without further ado, here are the five biggest sports stars in Washington, D.C.
Nicklas Backstrom, center, Washington Capitals
Honorable Mention: Nicklas Backstrom, forward, Washington Capitals; Dwayne De Rosario, midfielder, D.C. United; London Fletcher, linebacker, Washington Redskins; Brian Orakpo, linebacker, Washington Redskins; Jayson Werth, outfielder, Washington Nationals; Ryan Zimmerman, third baseman, Washington Nationals.
Who would have thought that after being the NBA’s top pick in 2010 and playing two seasons with the Wizards, John Wall would become only the fifth-biggest star in D.C?
The former Kentucky star has produced good statistics but not many wins. In fact, the Wizards actually had a worse winning percentage during Wall’s two seasons—280 and .303—than the .317 mark they achieved in 2009-2010. Wall did average 16.3 points, 8.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds his first two years, but his outside shot was non-existent. He shot 3-for-42 from three-point range in 2011-2012.
Wall didn’t have much help, but the team showed flashes after acquiring Nene late in the season. Supremely athletic, Wall still has a chance to be a great point guard.
Drafting Bryce Harper as the second consecutive No. 1 pick overall for the Nationals in 2010 helped build the foundation for a team that has the best record in baseball and whose best players are mostly under 30. Harper became the youngest position player to make the All-Star team in 2012 at the age of 19, and his 20 home runs are the second-most ever for a teenager.
After being hit by a Cole Hamels pitch early in the season, Harper stole home. He also possesses one of the strongest arms in baseball and exemplifies the Nationals' “Natitude.”
Stephen Strasburg’s 14-strikeout major league debut two years ago remains one of the most exciting regular season games in D.C. sports history. Strasburg’s career numbers are 21 wins, 10 losses, an ERA of 2.94 and an incredible 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
Why does Strasburg get ranked higher than his rookie teammate? Attendance at Nats games when Strasburg starts is significantly higher than when he doesn’t. And he hits triple digits on the radar gun with regularity.
The controversy about shutting Strasburg down early this September after his 2011 injury was the talk of baseball.
Alex Ovechkin is one of the most electrifying players in the NHL. The two-time league MVP has helped make the Caps the hottest ticket in town, although he has yet to lead Washington past the second round of the playoffs.
Despite a dropoff in production the past two seasons, Ovie’s talent, speed, enthusiasm and somewhat reckless style ensures that the top pick in the 2004 NHL draft will be jumping into the boards after goals at Verizon Center for years to come. If the NHL doesn’t have a season this year and Ovie stays in Russia, Strasburg or Harper may leapfrog the Russian left-winger on this list.
D.C. is still a Redskins town, and Robert Griffin III promises to be the biggest star in Washington for the next decade barring an injury or multiple championships by other teams. It’s early, but so far, it looks as if last year’s Heisman Trophy winner can do it all.
Despite a 1-2 start, RG3 has helped the Redskins become the NFL's highest scoring team at 33 points a game. Just as important, RG3 possesses a charisma and leadership ability that instills confidence in his teammates.
No Redskins quarterback has had a truly great season since Mark Rypien in 1991, and RG3 has the potential to eventually be the best Skins QB since Joe Theismann won the MVP in 1983, and maybe the best since Sonny Jurgensen in the 1960s.