Athletes Who Were Made for YouTube
It's pure visual pleasure and goodness, and it's streaming over the internet and into our homes via the good people at YouTube.
As sports fans we can barely get enough of the site—every thunderous hit, net-pounding strike and raucous throwdown can all be found in one place and re-mixed with jam-rocking soundtracks.
It is the Mecca of sports highlights, and a place in the internet where the most exciting plays in sports are immortalized instantly.
Most professional athletes might end up with a few of their plays on the site, but the following list is for the players both current and past who now seem as though they were born and bred to pump out YouTube greatness.
“Momma, there goes that man.”
He howled at the moon, shot through gaps like a musket ball and hit like a Spanish bull.
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis might be leaving the NFL at the end of this season, but even in his absence it will be impossible to forget the myriad game-changing plays he made during his career and the impression he left on the position of linebacker and the game as a whole.
We’ll always remember the heart with which Lewis played, and I’ll always believe he was the reason game developers at Madden invented the “hit stick.”
Saying Deion Sanders was a special player would be a grievous understatement. The Dallas Cowboys multi-tool athlete made plays on both sides of the ball that no one else on the field—or even in the league—could fathom doing in their silkiest of dreams.
The NFL Network might’ve dropped a brick on Sanders’ birthday cake by putting him 34th on their list of “Best NFL Players Ever,” but lest we forget—there was a reason we called him “Primetime.”
“Please fasten your seat belts and make sure your seat and tray table are in their full and upright position prior to takeoff... we’d also like to take this time to remind you that all Air Griffin flights are non-smoking, and any tampering with Blake during his flight is punishable by posterization.”
It seems like every week Blake Griffin is throwing down the kind of high-flying heroics that earned the Clippers young forward his nickname “The Blake Show.”
“Tango neutralized” should be the call announcers make when Ed Reed does his work.
He slips into the backfield and assassinates hand-offs before their run can even begin. He haunts quarterbacks' dreams by seemingly materializing out of thin air to pick off their best balls.
Ed Reed is about as close to a modern day ninja as there is in the NFL, and the veteran free safety has made more highlights than you can count over his 11-year career as the Ravens’ resident black-ops agent.
The Internet is filled with mash-ups of Mike Tyson’s knock outs, poor personal conduct and milk-curdling quotes.
Tyson’s highlights (and lowlights) are repulsing and wrong, but we still chow them down like a sleeve of barbecue Pringles—each time promising ourselves, “Alright, but this is my last one.”
Sweet sackular madness, Jadaveon! Why you gotta hit ‘em so hard?
Let’s make this clear—If you’ve been stuck in a jar of banana peppers or have been living inside a tanutaun stomach for warmth this past week, you missed University of South Carolina defensive end Jadaveon Clowney torque up one of the biggest football hits in recent memory.
Clowney’s hit on Michigan’s Vincent Smith was a moment of pure aesthetic beauty that will play on televisions and be shared on the internet until modern civilization crumbles into dust.
While Reggie Bush’s highlight moments are coming fewer and further between in the NFL, the reel of nigh indescribable moves the former USC running back rolled out during his college career almost defies the possible.
Breathes were held around the stadium every time the Trojans gave No. 5 the ball, because no one knew what was going to happen, but everyone had come to expect the ineffable from Bush.
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson
When you have “the unique ability to put any human being to sleep with one shot” you’re pretty much guaranteed to rake in the interest of pretty much everyone on the internet with time on their hands.
Watching videos of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson savaging his opponents into limp nothingness only confirms my belief that the man is part human, part werewolf and a hundred percent the last individual I would ever want chasing me through a dark forest in the dead of winter.
One of the forefathers of the modern skate scene, Tony Hawk’s creativity and guts on in the half pipe awed extreme sports lovers and traditional sports fans alike, and pioneered the way for a whole generation of young skaters.
One second he’s going down, wrapped and destined for dirt, and the next he’s gone—popping off a shoulder pad and spinning through a crush of defenders.
Barry Sanders style of running was a pin-balling affair of close calls, last second shake-n-bakes and old-fashioned grit. Watching it now only confirms his moves are as timeless as they are brilliant.
Lionel Messi can slip past you with a sly nutmeg or belt you with a net-punishing strike from outside the box.
Barcelona’s masterful striker is a genius on the pitch, and his incisive field vision and bold finishing skills make for a rich and chocolatey YouTube experience.
Name anything “extreme” and the chances are Travis Pastrana has added a McTwist to it and done it in front of a live audience.
The “Wonder Boy” loves his daredevilries and monster truck flipping, and presumably won’t stop until he pulls off a stunt so “epic” that it breaks the internet.
Javale McGee is a YouTube sensation.
Sure, it’s for all the wrong reasons, but hey, he’s an entertainer, and the only thing YouTube likes more than a great highlight reel of athletic excellence is a side show of strange failure and quizzical facial expressions.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is a prolific scorer and quickly turns tight situations into scoring opportunities for his team.
His speed and skill on the ice makes him a dynamic threat for the opposition, and his play over the past seven seasons in the league has generated a veritable cottage industry of Crosby highlight producers on the internet.
Metta World Peace
As we all know full-and-well, on-the-court heroics make for great internet fodder, but it’s the extra curricular violence, bad sportsmanship and pie-eyed moronics athletes show that keep the servers oiled and the almighty mainframe appeased.
And as he’s shown time and again, Metta World Peace and his antics are the fuel that feeds the trolls and helps to maintain the fragile balance of ridiculousness to human aggression that keeps the internet going.
His set-pieces ruffled the laws of physics and his ball control in the open field turned professional defenders into straw men.
Brazilian soccer prodigy Ronaldinho oozed brilliance and creativity in his prime, and even the least soccer-savvy sports fans in the world could take one look at the surreal plays in his highlight tapes and realize why soccer is called “the beautiful game.”
Randy Johnson threw pure hell at batters on a regular basis, and once accidentally crushed a bird into feathery oblivion with one of his pitches.
The “Big Unit” was one of the hardest throwing pitchers to ever take the mound, and his dove-obliterating fast ball will likely remain a baseball legend and YouTube favorite for many years to come.
Jumping clear out of the camera shot is Derrick Rose’s specialty, and his tendency to dunk and score over much bigger opponents is plastered all over the World Wide Web.
Here’s to hoping Rose recovers fully from his injury and returns to dunk-facing opponents on the regular, because there will never be enough footage of point guards dropping two-handed jams on guys like Greg Oden without this young man.
Alexander Ovechkin doesn’t just bring the wood when he hits you, he uproots the whole damn tree.
And when he isn’t laying you out cold on the ice, the Washington Capitals left winger is either blasting mach speed slap shots in the net or daring Sidney Crosby to make his day.
All in all, "Alexander the Gr8’s" mix of power and skill on the ice is a recipe for YouTube success. Plus the guy even does a bang-up job with “the late night filings” on his ESPN commercial.
Few athletes can light a basketball arena on fire quicker than LeBron James.
You might like him, or you might sit on your bed every night quivering and crocheting a voodoo doll of the man.
But regardless of whether or not you wish leprosy upon the man, “King” James can do things on the court that baffle and awe even the most seasoned of basketball fans.
Mix-tapes of the “Great One's” unstoppable skill and goal-scoring proficiency are all over YouTube.
Sure, a lot of the footage looks like it was shot with a table lamp, and Gretzky occasionally appears to be a crumbly ice-skating gingerbread man, but the overall message comes through—the man flipped pucks into the net and faked goalies out of their jocks like he changed his socks.
Last-second buzzer beaters. Tongue-lolling dunks from the free throw line. Blind free throws.
Was there any doubt His Airness would make it on here?
Mike Trout is young, powerful and tearing up the MLB quick-fast and in a hurry.
The Los Angeles Angels center fielder whips the bat hard, runs like a banshee and can lay out for balls with the best gloves in the league. And he’s going to be the reason we finally break the replay button.
Oh, how I had almost forgot about the dominance of Seattle Supersonics great Shawn Kemp.
There almost aren’t enough descriptors for this blast-from-the-past footage of Kemp in his prime, but if I had to come up with a flavor for his style of game it would be “dunkolate.”
As in “Shawn Kemp slammed home a dunkolatey mamba-jamba all over Clyde Drexler and the Portland Trailblazers.”
More Cowbell: Dominique Wilkins
What’s that? You want more?
Easy, my friends—I got you covered. How about some vintage Dominique “The Human Highlight Reel” Wilkins?
Because you know I gotta have more cowbell, baby. Trust me, you’re gonna want that in there.