The Over/Underrated Sports Stars List

Nick Dimengo@@itsnickdimengoFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2014

The Over/Underrated Sports Stars List

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    AJ MAST/Associated Press

    As all of us know, not all athletes are created equal.

    And because some players have a better game, personality and competitive gene than others, they often carry the weight as being considered the best in their sport.

    That doesn't always mean it's deserving, though.

    Which ones are overrated and which ones are accurately rated? I'm here to give you my opinion—and some of them may surprise you.

Maria Sharapova

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    Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press

    One of the most gorgeous—and accomplished—athletes in her sport, Maria Sharapova actually doesn't get as much attention as one would think for someone of her stature.

    Often overshadowed by the more polarizing Serena Williams—who seems to catfight with Sharapova whenever she can—this four-time Grand Slam singles champ actually doesn't get as much pub as she probably deserves.

    Verdict: Underrated

Rob Gronkowski

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    He's one of the most popular American athletes—even though he has been injured the past few seasons—but I'm not so sure that New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is deserving of all the attention.

    Don't get me wrong, Gronk is a complete bro who parties hard and is a regular on TMZ, but, seeing how his last productive season was in 2011, I'm personally a little over him—even if I would party with him.

    Verdict: Overrated

Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Generally the consensus top players in the upcoming NBA draft, both Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker's hoops games have been critiqued to death at this point, with scouts looking for any weaknesses they can find to get a true grade on them.

    Contrary to my belief that one or both would become epic with a deep March Madness run—both bowed out fairly early in the tournament—Wiggins and Parker aren't as superstar-ish as everyone had expected before their freshman seasons.

    Both are intriguing pro prospects but probably aren't as esteemed as they once were a few months ago.

    Verdict: Overrated

Stephen Curry

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    When I originally added Golden State Warriors All-Star guard Stephen Curry to this list, my gut told me that I had to list him as overrated.

    Then I remembered just how spectacular the dude is, coming through in the clutch seemingly every time his teammates need him to—and he revels in it.

    Sure, he has yet to reach the Western Conference or NBA Finals in his brief career, but Curry is the most lethal shooter in the game and backs it up whether it's the first quarter or crunch time.

    Verdict: Underrated

Andy Murray

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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    When put up against the star power of other male tennis players like Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, Britain's favorite son Andy Murray doesn't even come close.

    He has put himself in the conversation as the world's best over the past few seasons, finishing as runner-up at Wimbledon in 2012, winning an Olympic gold medal just a few weeks later in the same venue and, finally, breaking the 77-year drought of a British man winning the U.K.'s native tournament last summer.

    Who knows how many more Grand Slam single titles Murray will end up winning—he currently has two—but Murray is a guy definitely on the rise.

    Verdict: Underrated

Peyton Manning

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    He's undeniably the best quarterback in the league—even if he is "ancient" at 38 years old.

    Breaking numerous passing records during the 2013 season and adding another NFL MVP to his already previous record of four, Manning proved that he's the best passer in a league that likes tossing the pigskin all over the place.

    Sure, he might not be as highlight-worthy as Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick or Robert Griffin III, but Manning is still the most exciting quarterback thanks to his throwing ability—which he's pretty damn good at.

    Verdict: Even

Yasiel Puig

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Although he can occasionally be a jackass with his decision making on and off the field, LA Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig is one of the most exciting players in baseball.

    Blessed with speed, power and agility, he has shown the full arsenal so far this season. He's on pace for more than 30 homers and 125 RBI.

    For all his talent, Puig seems to be the Gronk of baseball, though, often finding himself in the headlines for reasons other than his playing ability.

    The dude is as gifted as they come, but with just 144 games to his credit, he may be wise to take it easy on some of the extracurricular stuff for a while.

    Verdict: Overrated

Jameis Winston

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    I know that Florida State's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston is on everyone's B-list these days after his little theft—among other things from earlier last season—but there's no denying his ceiling.

    Thanks to being overshadowed by the wrath of Johnny Manziel and the quest for a three-peat most of the season from Alabama, Winston actually wasn't as huge as he probably could have been.

    With at least one more season left in Tallahassee and a national title to defend, he has quite the sequel to live up to—and will no doubt rule the airwaves even more next college football season.

    Verdict: Underrated

Ronda Rousey

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey is well-known among MMA diehards—and those who pay close attention to the Maxim Hot 100—but few casual sports fans probably know much about her.

    To put it bluntly, though, she is essentially the queen of her sport, known for a lethal armbar that usually buries opponents to earn her victories.

    Becoming the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic medal in judo back during the 2008 Games, Rousey's star should grow even more—which is totally cool with me.

    Verdict: Underrated

Lionel Messi

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    Alberto Saiz/Associated Press

    Depending on whom you ask, or prefer, Argentine national team and Barcelona club forward Lionel Messi is either the best or the second-best soccer player on the planet.

    With that kind of acclaim in the world's most popular sport, it's only natural that he is often featured in various ads with other world-class athletes.

    While he has earned numerous honors on the club level, he is still looking for that defining moment on the international stage—which he has a chance to do at this summer's World Cup.

    He plays for my favorite club team and has the heart of a lion for a dude his size, but until Messi wins big with Argentina, he hasn't fulfilled his massive potential.

    Verdict: Overrated

Bryce Harper

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    Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

    Much like the aforementioned Yasiel Puig of the LA Dodgers, Washington Nationals two-time All-Star outfielder Bryce Harper has had his fair share of injuries since entering the league in 2012.

    That doesn't mean he isn't one of the most exciting players when he's out there on the field, though.

    An absolute gamer, he plays with a passion and aggression that most 21-year-old kids play with while trying to maintain a roster spot on their college team, not while making a few million dollars.

    Since he plays in the nation's capital and is a star, one would think Harper would actually be talked about more, so he's actually a bit underrated when it comes to exposure.

    Verdict: Underrated

Sidney Crosby

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    Sure, plenty of fans dislike Sidney Crosby, but most of the hate comes from the fact that he is undeniably the best player on the ice anytime he's out there skating.

    Typically a fixture during the league's award season, he led the league in points this season, while guiding his Pittsburgh Penguins team to another postseason.

    Unfortunately, since the team last made—and won—the Stanley Cup Final in 2009, the Penguins haven't been able to duplicate similar success, making Crosby an easy target for critics and fans.

    Still, he is unbelievable as a scorer and a leader.

    Verdict: Even

Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    What's crazy about Floyd Mayweather Jr. is that, because of his flamboyant lifestyle and boisterous personality, fans seem to target him as a villain.

    As one of the last, truly great fighters, though, they may want to rethink that.

    Sure, he promotes the hell out of himself and is never shy to show off how he spends his millions, but an undefeated career record—regardless of how he got there—is something that should be applauded.

    He's the best in the sport and a headliner on any fight card.

    Verdict: Underrated

Patrick Kane

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    As the first overall selection in the 2007 NHL draft, Patrick Kane has always been expected to perform at a high level—and he has certainly come through.

    Winning two Stanley Cups already in his short career, Kane won last season's Conn Smythe Trophy to establish himself as a dynamic player in the league.

    Just 25 years old, the Chicago Blackhawks winger should start to get mentioned as one of the best players in the league—and not just locally loved/respected by those in the Windy City.

    Verdict: Underrated

Adrian Peterson

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    Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

    Before anyone gives me hate by calling me a moron—to keep it PG-13—in the comments section, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is the most punishing, toughest and lethal runner in the NFL.

    But as amazing as he is, I'm not sure he's worth all the press—which isn't necessarily all his fault.

    Due to the position he plays beginning to wilt away and players like Alfred Morris—a sixth-round pick two years ago—proving that big-time running backs aren't a high priority, Peterson's value has taken a hit.

    Don't get me wrong: He carried that Vikings team to the playoffs in 2012, but, at this moment, it seems more guys could rush for 1,300 yards if offenses ran the ball more.

    Verdict: Overrated

Kevin Durant

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    Playing in a city like Oklahoma City, the reigning league MVP might get props from media around the country but not nearly as much as he could in a bigger market.

    While every single basketball fan knows his name and respects his game, Durant seems to still be held back by the smaller NBA city he plays in.

    Every night, the dude seems to drop in 30 and lead his team to a win, yet he continues to fall behind other players on the highlight reels.

    Verdict: Underrated

Mike Trout

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    He's probably the most complete baseball player on the planet right now, but LA Angels outfielder Mike Trout isn't even the most popular guy on his own team—he's behind Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in recognition.

    That will all change, though, as Trout as supplanted both of those guys as an annual MVP candidate, and now that he's signed a mega-extension, he will be paid in the same neighborhood as both of them.

    An absolute stud in every baseball category, he plays in a huge market and does amazing things—and still isn't a household name yet.

    Verdict: Underrated

Johnny Manziel

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Sorry to all of my fellow Cleveland sports fans, because I'm about to jinx us—newly drafted quarterback Johnny Manziel gets way too much press.

    I love the charisma, heart and fun that the kid plays with, but his mug is everywhere.

    Here's to hoping he can duplicate the success he had in college for my beloved Brownies—with the addition of a few championships.

    Until he shows he can do that, sadly and hesitantly, I have to do this.

    Verdict: Overrated

Cristiano Ronaldo

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    As I mentioned with Lionel Messi earlier, Cristiano Ronaldo is either 1A or 1B as far as the best players in the world.

    And just like Messi, CR7 has yet to show that he can succeed on the international level, failing to do anything impactful during the World Cup four years ago.

    He's a great player for Real Madrid, but he'll have to redeem himself in a few weeks on the biggest stage to be mentioned alongside the all-time greats.

    Verdict: Overrated

LeBron James

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    As good and dominating a force as LeBron James is, I honestly think people take him for granted.

    Coming in with a label that most ballers could never live up to, James has already won two titles ahead of Michael Jordan at the same age—though barely—and has a real chance at capturing his third this season.

    Even in an age where news travels at the speed of light and he seems to be all up in that news, I really think that he could grow even bigger.

    That's saying a lot for the best player in the world, but by the end of his career, James will have accomplished things that have never been seen before. Just watch.

    Verdict: Underrated