Happy Hanukkah: The Greatest Jewish Sports Stars of All Time

David LevinSenior Writer IIDecember 7, 2012

Happy Hanukkah: The Greatest Jewish Sports Stars of All Time

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    Happy holidays and happy Hanukkah to all of the Jewish readers here on Bleacher Report.

    While we seem to be caught up in the "Greatest of All Time" lists in various sports, I thought the end of the year and the celebration of potato pancakes and the spinning of dreidels could spark another debate or garner another list we all could enjoy: The Greatest Jewish Sports Stars of All Time.

    Some of the greats to ever garner a Speedo or swing a golf club or even swing a bat were Jewish. And most of them have since retired from the games that made them famous. Whether it was throwing a no-hitter, capturing Olympic gold or even throwing a knockout punch, there have been great moments created by Jewish athletes for decades.

    I hope you enjoy and add to this list and debate. And again, happy holidays!

25. Amy Alcott

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    Alcott is considered one of the all time greats in women's golf. As a five-time major championship winner on the LPGA Tour and winner of 29 LPGA Tour events in all.

    She is also a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

    Alcott is also a member of the National Jewish Museum Sports Hall of Fame and in July 2007, she accepted the position as girls' golf coach at Harvard-Westlake School in North Hollywood, California.

    As part of her great contributions to women's golf, from 2001 to 2004, the Office Depot Championship Hosted by Amy Alcott was a part of the LPGA Tour.

24. Bill Goldberg

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    He was a football player first, but few can forget this man rose to fame as a wrestler who caught the business by storm in the late 1990s.

    Goldberg! Goldberg!

    An original draft choice by the St. Louis Rams in 1990, he was taken in the 11th round overall and played in the NFL until 1994. He also played for his hometown Atlanta Falcons after time in the Midwest.

    After being cut from the Falcons, in 1995 he was selected by the new expansion team, the Carolina Panthers, in the 1995 NFL Expansion Draft, but never played a game with the team. His career ended when he tore his lower abdomen off his pelvis.

    Goldberg was a World Championship Wrestling World Champion whose rise to fame helped the wrestling promotion kick Vince McMahon's butt for more than 80 weeks during the "Monday Night Wars" on cable television.

     

23. Kerri Strug

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    Another Olympic moment that will live in our minds forever.

    Strug and her 15 minutes of fame created quite a buzz when she was carried off the Olympic floor by her coach, Bela Karolyi.

    Strug was a member of the 1996 American Olympic gymnastics team where she and her teammates were known as the Magnificent Seven, the victorious all-around women's gymnastics team that represented the United States

    During the Atlanta Games, she was best remembered for her performance in the all-around competition where she injured her ankle and still landed her vault exercise which led to the iconic picture of her being carried around by the famed coach, Karolyi.  

22. Sid Luckman

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    One of the greats of an earlier generation.

    Luckman was the first modern T-formation quarterback and was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1943. 

    Luckman's contribution to the game did not end when he retired as he became a tutor and coach of college coaches, helping them focus on the passing game.

    As part of his mark that he left on the game, Luckman was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965, and in 1988 he was declared a joint winner of the Walter Camp Distinguished American Award.

21. Sue Bird

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    Bird is considered one of the greats to play in the WNBA as a member of the Seattle Storm.

    Bird's accomplishments started in college.  In her senior year at undefeated UConn in 2002, she won the Wade Trophy and the Naismith Award as College Player of the Year.

    She has her name attached to many of the school's leading records, which include being ranked first in three-point field goal percentage and free throw percentage, second in assists and steals.

    She also was a three-time winner of the Nancy Lieberman Award as the top point guard in the nation, while leading her team to a record of 114–4.

    Bird was chosen by the The Seattle Storm first overall pick of the 2002 WNBA Draft, and she has been a seven-time WNBA All-Star.

    She is one of 9 women to win an Olympic Gold Medal, an NCAA Championship, and a WNBA Championship.

20. Al Rosen

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    Talk about consistency. Al Rosen played his entire career with the Cleveland Indians.

    During his time in Ohio, he drove in 100 or more runs 5 years in a row, was a 4-time All-Star, twice led the league in home runs and twice in RBIs, and was an MVP in 1953.

    Rosen was also an amateur boxer. Rosen was proud of his heritage, even stating he knew what he was up against when he got to the major leagues. He spoke out against anti-semitism.

    "I have broad shoulders. I took it upon myself. There were times I had to assert myself and other times I just let it roll, but I've always managed to handle it and I thought I handled it well throughout my career."

19. Morgan Pressel

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    Morgan Pressel turn professional on the LPGA Tour when she was 17 and hasn't looked back.

    She is also the youngest woman to ever win a major golf championship and in her years on the tour, she has ranked as high as fourth in the world.

    The 24 year old from Tampa, Florida has five professional wins since joining the LPGA Tour seven years ago.

18. Ron Mix

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    Mix is a retired football player who spent time in the AFL and NFL and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    Mix went to the University of Southern California, and played right tackle and guard for the AFL's Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers (1960–1969) and the NFL Oakland Raiders.

    In college he was selected as the National Jewish College Athlete of the Year.

    Mix was elected to the AFL All-Star team for nine straight years as a Charger, is a member of the All-time All-AFL Team, and is one of only 20 men who played the entire 10 years of the AFL. He was the first Charger to have his number retired in 1969 after he announced he was quitting football after playing injured that season.

    He was also elected to the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, being elected in 1980.

17. Max Baer

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    No, not the actor from the Beverly Hillbillies. The senior Baer, who was a boxer, and wore a Jewish star on his boxing trunks.

    He was a one-time Heavyweight Champion of the World. In 1934, Baer, beat Primo Carnera, after knocking him down 11 times. He won by technical knockout and would hold the title for 364 days.

    In 1935, one of the greatest upsets in boxing history took place in New York. Baer fought boxer James J. Braddock in the so-called Cinderella Man bout.

    He also had a career in film upon retirement.

     

16. Irina Slutskaya

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    Slutskaya is a Russian-born figure skater and Olympic champion.

    She is a two-time World Champion (2002, 2005), two-time Olympic medalist (silver in 2002, bronze in 2006), seven-time European Champion (1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006), a four-time Grand Prix Final Champion (2000–2002, 2005) and a four-time Russian National Champion (2000–2002, 2005).

    Slutskaya is known for the fact she was the first woman to ever land a triple lutz-triple loop combination.She is also known for her trademark double Biellmann spin with a foot change, which she also invented.

15. Mitch Gaylord

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    He is one of the most decorated gymnasts in Olympic history and was part of the 1984 American Men's Olympic Gymnastics team that captured gold in Los Angeles in 1984.

    Gaylord became the only male gymnast to ever score a perfect 10 in Olympic history. He also won the silver medal in vault, the bronze in parallel bars and the bronze in the rings.

    His performance helped the US men's gymnastics team to a gold medal in the team competition for the only time in Olympics history.

    Gaylord now works as a motivational speaker. Following the Olympics, when his star was red hot, Gaylord tried acting as a stunt double for Chris O'Donnell (as Robin) in the 1995 movie Batman Forever and starred in American Anthem.

    He was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.

14. Aaron Krickstein

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    He was nicknamed "The Marathon Man" for his long matches when he was on the Pro Tour.

    He had nine career titles to his credit and rose as high as 6th in the World Tennis Rankings. His greatest finish in major events was a semi-final placement in both the Australian and U.S. Open Tennis Tournaments.

    Krickstein set an ATP record for being the youngest player to win a singles title on the ATP Tour (at age 16, 2 months after his 16th birthday, in Tel Aviv. Krickstein also set a record for being the youngest player to ever break the top 10).

    He is the uncle of LPGA's golfer Morgan Pressel, who is also on this list.

     

13. Larry Brown

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    Before Larry Brown was known for traveling all of the country seeking head coaching jobs, he was a pretty good player and All Star in the ABA.

    To his credit, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.

    Although he is only, 5'9", Brown played basketball at the University of North Carolina under famed legendary coaches Frank McGuire and Dean Smith. His play led to a place on the 1964 Olympic team where the United States won the gold medal.

    He coached at the University of Kansas from 1983-1988, his final year claiming the NCAA Title with player Danny Manning for the Jayhawks.

    In 2012, he was hired as coach of the SMU Mustangs, replacing former Tar Heel Matt Doherty.

12. David Stern

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    Could be considered one of the greatest heads of  any business organization in the world. Under his guidance, the NBA has reached heights it could not foresee before his direction.

    And in 2014, a 30-year run as the NBA's top dog will come to an end.

    In Stern's tenure, the rise of basketball has never been greater, making the NBA a cultural beast worldwide. His rise to fame, along with the greats like Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone and others in the 1980s helped revive a struggling sports industry.

    Stern has seen the NBA expand to 30 franchises, and televise games in countries around the world.

    Stern helped develop the WNBA, a professional women's basketball league. He has been credited for developing and broadening the NBA's audience, by setting up training camps, playing exhibition games around the world.

    The NBA now has 11 offices in cities outside the United States, is televised in 215 countries around the world in 43 languages, and operates the Women's National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Development League. All of this was done while Stern has been in office.

11. Kane (Glen Jacobs)

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    Even at almost 45 years old, Glen Jacobs puts on a mask and gets in a ring and does things that only people can imagine.

    Glen Jacobs, as "Kane" in the WWE, is one of the most underrated wrestlers of his generation and his gimmick is still one that stirs the crowds upon his arrival to the ring.

    Currently, he holds the WWE World Tag Titles with Daniel Bryan. Jacobs has had a distinguished career, winning 19 championships  during his WWE career.

    He is a three-time world champion, having won the WWF Championship once, the ECW Championship once, and the World Heavyweight Championship once.

    "Kane" is most known for his gimmick with The Undertaker, as part of a program where the two are brothers and have fought in the ring together and on opposing sides. This continues to be an angle fans love and want to see.

    Jacobs is still performing at a high level against younger competition.

10. Red Auerbach

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    If there is one owner who deserves to be on this list, then Auerbach is the one.

    A man who is as famous for being the former owner of the Boston Celtics as he is at lighting up his famed "victory cigars," Arnold Jacob Auerbach helped shape the NBA as much as anyone in sports history.

    Auerbach was the coach of the  Washington Capitols, the Tri-Cities Blackhawks and the Boston Celtics. After he retired from coaching, he served as president and front office executive of the Celtics until his death.

    Through coaching he won 938 games over his career which was surpassed only by Phil Jackson. As general manager and team president of the Celtics, he won an additional seven NBA titles, for a grand total of 16 in a span of 29 years, making him one of the most successful team officials in the history of professional sports.

    He was was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and is honored with a retired No. 2 jersey, which hangs from the rafters of the TD Garden where the Celtics now play.

9. Marv Levy

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    One of the greatest football coaches of all time and the architect of the Buffalo Bills masterful run at four consecutive Super Bowls.

    His coaching career started in Canada with the Montreal Alouettes from 1973–1977 and he then moved to the Kansas City Chiefs from 1978-1982 before joining the Bills in 1986.

    He has coached the Chicago Blitz of the USFL.

    Under his watch, the Bills and Jim Kelly's offense instituted the "No Huddle" passing game which caught NFL teams off guard and led to the Bills dominance of the AFC.

    Levy was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001, the first USFL alum to get the nod.

     

     

8. Nancy Lieberman

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    She helped define women's professional basketball. Her nickname is "Lady Magic," and yes, she was that good. Before Cheryl Miller and others after her, there was Lieberman.

    Lieberman is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, and the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

    In 2008, at 50 years old, Lieberman signed a seven-day contract with the Detroit Shock, breaking her own previous record as the oldest player in league history. She played one game and had two assists and two turnovers against the Houston Comets. 

    Also in 2008, she was part of the inaugural class to be inducted into the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame, honoring athletes, coaches and administrators who made contributions to sports in Southeastern Virginia.

     

7. Kurt Angle

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    Before he became a superstar in the WWE, Angle became one of the great stories of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

    The freestyle wrestler captured gold. His picture of him holding the American flag upon winning the 100 kg event is an iconic shot we will all remember.

    After his future in Atlanta, Angle joined the WWF/WWE and became the star in the world of professional wrestling he is today. Angle is the only wrestler in history to be a Triple Crown winner in both WWE and TNA. He is the first man to have held the WWE, WCW, TNA, IWGP, and World Heavyweight Championships in his career.

    While professional wrestling is predicated more on "entertainment" than sport, some of the same moves Angle used to capture Olympic gold are used to pin the likes of Sting, AJ Styles, Shawn Michaels and other wrestling greats.

     

6. Hank Greenberg

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    Detroit's favorite player of all time. Known as the "The Hebrew Hammer," he played in the 1930s and 1940s. A first baseman , Greenberg was one of the premier power hitters of his generation.

    As part of his greatness, Greenberg was a five-time All-Star, was twice named the American League's Most Valuable Player, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1956. Greenberg became the first major league player to hit 25 or more home runs in a season in each league.

    Greenberg is the American League record holder for most RBIs in a single season by a right-handed batter—183 RBI in 1937.

5. Randy Savage

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    He was as iconic a figure in wrestling as Hulk Hogan.

    Loud outfits, Slim Jim commercials, a marriage to the lovely Miss Elizabeth. There were few like Randy Savage, who was also a minor league baseball player before he changed his uniform to tights and boots.

    Savage was a champion in Memphis for Jerry Lawler's outfit before moving up north and taking the WWF by storm. He held 20 championships during his professional wrestling career.

    In biographies by both Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, they talked about Savage outside the ring as a perfectionist and wrestler who was always on edge. Part of this was due to the strained relationship with his wife and wrestling manager, Elizabeth Hulette, which ultimately led to their divorce.

    In May of 2011, Savage died in a car crash that was determined resulted from him having a heart attack. He was 58 years old.

4. Al Kaline

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    One of the most prolific hitters in Major League Baseball history.

    Kaline played his entire 22-year baseball career with the Detroit Tigers.

    After Kaline retired from playing for the Tigers, he became the Tigers' TV color commentator, a position he held until 2002. He is still affiliated with the team, working in the front office.

    Because of his immense talent, Kaline was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980. He was the 10th player to be elected on the first ballot of eligibility. He was also honored by the Tigers as being the first player in team history to have his uniform number retired.

     

3. Dara Torres

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    She is without a doubt one of the greatest women's swimmers of all time and arguably one of the best all around swimmers of all time.

    Torres had 12 Olympic medals to her credit and still shows signs she could win on the world's grandest stage. She barely missed qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Swim Team in London for the 2012 Games.

    Torres has won twelve Olympic medals (four gold, four silver, four bronze), one of three women with the most Olympic women's swimming medals.

    At the 2000 Summer Olympics at age 33, she won five medals. She was also the oldest member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic Swim Team. She has also won at least one medal in each of the five Olympics in which she has competed, making her one of only a few Olympians to earn medals in five different Games

2. Mark Spitz

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    The most decorated Jewish swimmer of all time and one of the most decorated male Olympians of all time.

    There was nothing Spitz could not do in a Speedo in the 1972 Olympics, taking eight gold medals and putting competitive swimming on the map.

    He won seven gold medals at the 1972 Summer Olympics, an achievement only surpassed by Michael Phelps who won eight golds at the 2008 Olympics.

    Spitz set new world records in all seven events in which he competed, a record that still stands. After the Munich games in 1972, at the age of 22, he retired from competitive swimming.

     

1. Sandy Koufax

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    He was considered one of the greatest pitchers of his era and had it not been for arm trouble which resulted in his early retirement, Sandy Koufax could have been the greatest of his generation.

    Koufax was a left-handed pitcher, he played his entire Major League Baseball career for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, from 1955 to 1966. He retired at the peak of his career, and in 1972 became the youngest player ever elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, aged 36 years and 20 days.

    Koufax was the first major leaguer to pitch four no-hitters. He is also remembered for his decision to not pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur.

    He was named the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1963. He also won the 1963, 1965, and 1966 Cy Young Awards, all by unanimous votes This made him the first 3-time Cy Young winner in baseball history and the only one to win 3 times when the award was for all of baseball,

    In each of his Cy Young seasons, Koufax won the pitcher's triple crown by leading the NL in wins, strikeouts, and earned run average. No one has accomplished that feat since.