The following is a list of MY PERSONAL TOP 10 favorite NYC athletes. Being that I was born in 1988, I am only including athletes that I got to see play (obviously no disrespect to the all time greats a la Babe Ruth, Joe Dimaggio, Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Earl Monroe, Bernard King, Joe Namath, all the great old-time Yankees etc...)
*this list is not based solely on career achievements or individual skills, I am taking into account crowd favorites, odd/memorable plays, off-court/field behavior etc etc...
And without further ado...
Yes, a punter is on my list. Not just any punter though—the greatest punter of all time! How can you not love Jeff Feagles? He's the ultimate professional—doesn't complain, does his job whether it's in a dome or at Lambeau Field in December in 15 degree weather. He may not have the strongest leg, but his accuracy is unmatched. He also holds about every record that a punter could hold:
* Most consecutive games played, career: 336 (streak still active)
* Most punts, career: 1,585
* Most punts inside the 20, career: 508
* Most punting yards, career: 65,793
That's more than enough to land Mr. Feagles at #10 on my list.
As New Yorkers, we were certainly lucky to have one of the all time greats lead our Rangers to their first Stanley Cup in 54 years back in 1994 (and unfortunately we are now enduring another 15 year streak of bad luck). For all his individual skills and talent, Messier will always be remembered for his leadership, on and off the ice. Just adding to his legend was the fact that he guaranteed victory in Game 6 vs the Devils in the 1993-94 playoffs and not only did he back this up with a win—he backed it up with a hat trick! All the sweeter that it came against the Devils too. If only we had Messier back this year, we wouldn't have blown that 3-1 lead to the Capitals. Long live Mark Messier!
Boomer! First things first, the main reason David Wells is on this list—HE PITCHED A PERFECT GAME DRUNK! Come on, that's amazing. Whether you love the Yankees or hate them, or whether you love David Wells or hate him—you gotta respect a man who can go out and pitch a perfect game after throwing back God knows how many beers. Or in his own words "half-drunk," but whatever, still awesome. This quote says it all: "As of this writing, 15 men in the history of organized baseball have ever thrown a perfect game. Only one of those men did it half-drunk, with bloodshot eyes, monster breath and a raging, skull-rattling hangover. That would be me." 'Nuff said.
Can a player make this top 10 list for only one play? ABSOLUTELY! Especially if it's one of the greatest catches in the history of professional football—"the Helmet Catch"—which will live on to haunt Patriots fans for eternity and live in Giants lore. For me, personally, there couldn't have been a more deserving guy to catch this ball than David Tyree (and it was even sweeter coming against the despised, dirty player Rodney Harrison). I'd always been a Tyree fan and thought he should get more touches (I foresee him playing a bigger part in the offense this season now that Plax is gone) and what a way to cement a legacy—he could quit football and work at a 7-11 for the rest of his life and he'd still be a Giants legend, always and forever. Thank you Mr. Tyree, without you we all may have had to endure 19-0 shirts, hats, banners, stickers and obnoxious "Massholes" bragging about the "Pats pahfect season" forever—the world thanks you.
Larry "Grandmama" Johnson, aka "LJ," aka "FOUR POINT PLAY!" The inspiration for my blog and one of the most entertaining Knicks we've had in a long time. Ok, so if it wasn't for his epic four point play, he probably wouldn't have made this list (as with David Tyree), BUT luckily we don't have to worry about that! Bill Simmons can "refuse to acknowledge" this shot all he wants (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/090603&sportCat=nba) but the fact remains that it happened, it beat the Pacers and it got the Garden rocking like never before. Is there anything better than MSG when the Knicks are good? I think not.
The Oak Man! One of the toughest NBA players of all time and an all-time Knick great. Oakley wasn't scared of anybody—not even MJ (as pictured above) and he'd let you know it. One of the great things about him and the Knicks teams of his era was their sense of pride and their attitude, that MSG needed to be a place that teams were scared to come play at. Maybe that stemmed from Riley's physical tactics, but it would never have worked if guys like Oakley, Anthony Mason, Ewing, Starks, Herb Williams etc. etc. didn't buy into that mindset. If only the current Knicks could find some inspiration from these defensive juggernauts they may have a chance to compete with the best. Unfortunately these days, the Oakley-type players are a dying breed (the closest comparison I can think of is Ben Wallace, and he's now well past his prime and never possessed the offensive skills Oakley had...I do see promise in Blake Griffin though as a modified, more skilled Oakley-like player...too bad his fate is sealed to rot with the Clippers...that's a shame).
Adding the stellar legacy of Giants defense, Michael Strahan will be remembered as one of the greatest DE's of all time. He still holds the single season sack record of 22.5 sacks and until the day he retired continuously struck fear into the heart of every opposing QB. We're lucky that his spot on the D Line will be filled by the more than capable Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, who benefited greatly from having Strahan around as a mentor. Giants fans will always remember his goofy gap toothed smile and his devastating pass rushing and every other offensive line/QB let out a huge sigh of relief when he decided to call it a day...going out on top nonetheless, like a true champion should.
The Captain. My favorite Yankee of all time...Mr. Jeter. I can't remember in my lifetime a New York athlete with such an overall positive reputation with the NY media than Jeter. It may be the four World Series rings he brought to the Bronx, or his demeanor as an intelligent, witty, nice guy, or the laundry list of gorgeous celebrities he's dated...but whatever the case, Jeter commands respect from Yankee fans and haters alike. Talk to any Red Sox fan, and sure they'll make fun of him or sell stupid shirts on Landsdowne St., but in the end, all the rational ones have respect for Jeter. Sure his skills are slowly declining in the twilight of his career, but the intangibles he brings to the team can never be replaced. Whether its his classic diving catch, trademark running throw to first or his overall "clutchness", Jeter will live on as one of the great Yankees of all time...and I fully expect to see his statue in Monument Park sometime in the future.
Ok, so I never got to watch LT play live (thanks Mom and Dad! Couldn't you have planned my birth a little better so I could've gotten to see the greatest defensive player of all time in action?!)—but that doesn't mean I haven't gotten my hands on any and all footage of this all-time great and watched in awe as THE REAL LT inflicted terror upon opposing offenses throughout his career. Still to this day, with the NFL becoming stronger, faster and more violent...I haven't seen a player (LB or any other position) wreak as much havoc as LT did and I probably never will.
Say what you will about Big Pat—he couldn't win a title, he was overrated, etc.—he will still always be No. 1 in my book. First off, I'd like to thank David Stern for rigging the 1985 Draft and letting Ewing come to NY (we owe you for that one!). Beyond all the talk, nobody could deny Ewing's skill on the court—he will go down as one of the best big men of all time, skillwise and the way he pumped up the crowd at MSG—for that we will always love you Pat. It's a shame he didn't get to finish his career where he belonged, but you can blame that on the long track record of inept Knicks management (I'm hoping that's finally over with Donnie Walsh in charge, but as long as Dolan owns the team...you can never be too sure). I'll always remember emulating your fade away jumpers or throwing down "Ewing dunks" on my Little Tikes basketball hoop and torturing my downstairs neighbors the Healey's. Ewing turned me from liking basketball to loving it and living it—whenever I played, I tried my best to find my "inner-Ewing", and although you never brought NYC a championship, and some people will never forgive you for that, or that Olajuwon always got the best of you—it doesn't matter to me. Big Pat is still the No. 1 Knick and always will be (until LeBron get's here that is).