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20 Athletes Who Would Make the Hall of Fame Today

Eric NewmanCorrespondent IIIJanuary 11, 2013

20 Athletes Who Would Make the Hall of Fame Today

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    Halls of Fame are temples. They enshrine sacred sports relics and honor the sporting equivalent of saints.

    Only canonization in a HOF is somewhat tougher—instead of two miracles, inductees need a career full of them.

    Following is a list of the top two Hall of Fame shoo-ins—all active players—for each of the following sports: athletics, tennis, soccer, hockey, NASCAR, boxing, baseball, MMA, basketball and football.

    Phew! Let me tell you, this was a real writer's exercise in superlatives. I mean how many ways are there to describe men and women who are truly the best of the best?

    So you'll kindly forgive the upcoming semantic deluge of awesomes, greatests, and bests.

    Click on and meet your future Hall of Famers.

Athletics No. 2 Pick: Bryan Clay

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    Note that the National Track and Field Hall of Fame honors only athletes from the USA.

    Sorry, Mr. Bolt. Though I'm sure you are already enshrined in your homeland.

    Though Bryan Clay was DQ'd for a stumble at the 2012 Olympic trials, his previous  accomplishments bring little doubt that his name will have a home in the HOF.

    Open his war chest and out will tumble plenty of gold and silver for his decathlon wins in the 2008 and 2004 Summer Games, his 2005 World Championship win and numerous World Indoor Championship wins.

    On top of that, generosity and dedication to a charity cause never hurt one's HOF chances.

Athletics No. 1 Pick: Tyson Gay

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    You know how some cool teachers take the highest score on a test out of the equation so that there are no curve-busters?

    Let's do that with sprinters.

    So say hello to Tyson Gay, "fastest" man in history.

    A future Hall of Famer, sure as sunshine in Florida.

Tennis No. 2 Pick: Serena Williams

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    On the subject of Serena Williams and the Hall of Fame:

    "...anyone who fails to vote for Serena's Hall of Fame candidacy ought to be put under 24-hour surveillance, forced to surrender their boarding pass and then denied the right to vote for anything north of a Pepsi taste test ever again."

    - Jon Wertheim, Sports Illustrated Tennis Mailbag

    Members of the induction panel, consider yourself warned.

Tennis No. 1 Pick: Roger Federer

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    Federer is usually ranked as the No. 1 men's tennis player of all time. He held the No. 1 spot in men's tennis for a surreal 237-consecutive weeks. For the math-challenged (like myself), that's more than four-and-a-half years.

    If he doesn't make the Tennis Hall of Fame, may all Halls of Fame shake in their foundations. May they collapse into rubble.

    May the whole concept of a Hall of Fame be wiped from existence.

Soccer No. 2 Pick: Kaká

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    Enshrining players in a Hall of Fame isn't as embedded in other cultures as it is in the United States and Canada, so soccer gets a little bit of a bum deal.

    International soccer Halls of Fame pop up here and there. Some are just plans, some actual buildings, some have real estate only in cyber space. For examples, there are England's IFHOF and Mexico's  International Soccer Hall of Fame.

    And of course lots of national and team Halls of Fame.

    But for argument's sake, let's just say there exists a truly international and ultra-prestigious HOF. Which active players would live among the shrines of Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, Beckenbauer...

    Kaká?

    While he's not currently ranked as high as Messi, Ronaldo or Rooney, he's older and has a bit more career to boast. Remember, Hall of Fame ballot considerations nearly always includes the whole body of work.

    So what does Kaká have that the others don't? Oh, just a World Cup and a pair of Confederation Cups.  

Soccer No 1. Pick: Lionel Messi

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    That whole "the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long" just doesn't seem to pertain to Messi.

    He is as good now as he was when he came on the scene at age 13. In 2012, he won an unprecedented fourth Ballon d'Or. And he just clinched the world record for most goals scored in a calendar year.

    His personal trophy cabinet is bigger than a lot of Manhattan apartments.

    If he retired today, he'd still be listed among the top 10 players of all time.

    If he keeps playing, some think he might top Pele and Maradona as the best player in history.

Hockey No 2. Pick: Teemu Selänne

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    ESPN Insider's Neil Greenberg considers the Finnish Flash the No. 2 HOF lock behind Jágr. He's got just one less Cup and is only a pair of goals behind.

    And at 42, he's already one of the oldest players in the league.

    This shortened season will be his twentieth, yet he told an AP reporter that "he's far from finished with hockey."

Hockey No 1. Pick: Jaromír Jágr

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    The Hockey Hall of Fame induction process is an odd beast.

    I mean, come on, Brendan Shanahan with 656 goals and 21 years in the league... well, he's not in yet. Neither is Lindros. Granted, they will surely get in at some point.

    So why can we call Jágr a shoo-in?

    Well, quite frankly, he's better than those other two. Hockey News has Jágr ranked as #37 on the all-time best list.

    Lindros sits seventeen rungs down from that. And Shanahan doesn't even make the list.

NASCAR No 2. Pick: Jeff Gordon

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    Gordon has the media's backing for a place in the Hall of Fame:

    "He is a lock for the NASCAR Hall of Fame (and quite a few others) as soon as he becomes eligible."

    - Mike Hembree of Fox Sports Speed

    Consistently ranked as one of the top five greatest NASCAR drivers of all time. He is a four-time NASCAR Series Cup champion, a three-time Daytona 500 winner and a four-time Brickyard 400 winner.

NASCAR No 1. Pick: Jimmie Johnson

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    From 2006 to 2010, Jimmie dominated the Sprint Cup championship. Five consecutive wins—a stat not even legends Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt achieved.

    And in May of 2012, he garnered his third NASCAR All-Star race win, which put him in an elite club three members strong. The other two being Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon.

    Sandra Macwatters, a featured columnist here at Bleacher Report wrote, "If he stopped racing today, his record would guarantee him a place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame".

    And Dave Rodman from NASCAR.com calls Johnson's induction "inevitable."

    Also, Terry Blount of ESPN put Johnson in the 100-percent club for a guaranteed spot in the HOF.

Boxing No 2. Pick: Manny Pacquiao

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    If Freddie Roach made it to the Hall of Fame (under the manager and trainer category) primarily for his part in training Pac-Man, you can take a pretty good guess as to what the HOF panel thinks of Pacquiao himself.

    Sure, his best days may be behind him, but with a record of 54-5-2, he has already established his greatness.

Boxing No 1. Pick: Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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    All of these sporting news sources put Mayweather as the No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer in the world:

    1. Sports Illustrated

    2. ESPN

    3. Yahoo Sports

    4. Bleacher Report

    5. Fox Sports

    6. The Ring Magazine

    7. About.com

    Plus, he's undefeated at 43 fights with 26 KOs.

    But David Matthew of boxing.com sums up the case for Mayweather in the HOF best:

    "Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, it’s simply the case that Mayweather is at the apex of the sport and is a once-in-a-lifetime talent that can make even the greatest Hall of Fame first-ballot fighters look somewhat amateurish and surprisingly ineffective."

    Well said.

Baseball No 2. Pick: Jim Thome

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    No living members inducted in 2013. None. No Bonds. No Sosa. No Biggio. Why? The steroid taint of their era is the No. 1 suspect.

    With that in mind, I give you Jim Thome.

    He has 612 home runs. All of them were hit off the juice.

Baseball No 1. Pick: Derek Jeter

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    It's so taken for granted that Jeter will be a Hall of Famer that the debates have turned to whether or not he will be the first unanimous selection.

    Sam Borden of Sports Illustrated for one, thinks DJ has got a shot at the elusive 100-percent vote.

MMA No 2. Pick: Georges St-Pierre

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    Some people believe that if anyone anywhere has any shot at all of defeating Anderson Silva, it would be GSP.

    He is currently the No. 1 welterweight and has defended that title seven times.

    He is known for his wrestling brilliance, though he never had formal wrestling training. His vertical leap is reportedly higher than many NBA stars.

    According to an article in Maxim, St-Pierre "has almost single-handedly cemented MMA as Canada’s second sport—behind hockey."

    Hall of Fame material? Indeed. Even before his last three UFC wins, he was considered a shoo-in.

MMA No 1. Pick: Anderson Silva

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    Question: How do you not make the UFC Hall of Fame when you are unbeaten in 17 UFC appearances?

    When you have been named Fighter of The Year at one time or another by just about every MMA publication out there?

    When you are so superior to the competition that you seemingly get bored mid-bout?

    When it is pretty much unanimous that you are the best fighter in the history of the UFC?

    When the word supernatural is thrown around to describe your talent?

    Answer: You turn out to be a cyborg and are therefore deemed ineligible.

Basketball Honorable Mention: Tim Duncan

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    Nearly unanimously considered the greatest power forward in history.

    Duncan's won just about every award you can win and has four knuckles glittering with championship diamonds.

    No doubt he is a Hall of Famer even if he never picks up a ball again. If for by some fluke he didn't get in, he'd at least have his title of orc-slayer to hold onto.

Basketball No. 2 Pick: LeBron James

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    Let's imagine we all wake up tomorrow to learn that LJ will air another "Decision" special on ESPN. Only this time he has decided to leave the NBA. Effective immediately.

    The titular decision is in reference to whether he will tryout for the NFL or play baseball.

    Has he done enough in his nine-plus years in the NBA to become a Hall of Famer?

    Duh!

    In 2012, James stuffed his already-full coffers with Olympic gold, a championship ring and numerous individual awards. 

    He has the greatest player-efficiency rating in the history of NBA basketball.

    Sure, he's just 28 years old. But his achievements and accolades are already Hall of Fame-worthy twice over.

Basketball No. 1 Pick: Kobe Bryant

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    If Kobe melted down all his trophies, plaques and championship jewelry, there would probably be enough metal to build a replica of the Statue of Liberty.

    Well, at least the mini one in Las Vegas.

    You know how pretty much anyone famous has a Wikipedia entry about him or her? Well, the same is true for KB, only he also has a separate entry just to unfurl that massive tome of text which is his list of career achievements.

    A certified no-brainer Hall of Famer.

Football No. 2 Pick: Peyton Manning

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    Words from a rival:

    "To me, [Peyton Manning] is the greatest of all time."

    - Tom Brady

    In 2008, ESPN picked him as the QB of the decade. Keep in mind this was over both Brady and Favre.

    Well guess what? New decade, new neck, new team.

    And Peyton is still firing off bullets with the accuracy of a sniper.

Football No 1. Pick: Tom Brady

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    Will Tom Brady be inducted into the National Football League Hall of Fame? Yes, anyone with a sense of football can see this. He puts up MVP like stats week in and week out.

    - Deion Holse in yardbarker.com

    He's usually in the top five on all-time greatest QB lists put out by various columnists, analysts and sports bloggers, including:

    Clark Judge of CBS Sports

    Mike Olson of Men's Fitness

    An ESPN panel of analysts that included Marv Levy, Art Rooney Jr., Zeke Bratkowski, Ken Meyer, Larry Kennan, James Harris and Dick Haley

    Kerry Byrne of Cold Hard Football Facts

    A panel of analysts from The Denver Post

    The voting public on ranker.com

    Yes, Mr. Brady, your shrine awaits you.

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