On the heels of Roger Federer's record breaking 15th Grand Slam singles title, let's reflect on arguably the most notorious stars from five different sports.
The only difference is that these athletes never got a chance to hold their respective league's championship trophy.
Granted, a list like this is an editorial based on one person's perception of statistical history.
I expect differences in opinion and plenty of banter. Did I get each sport's representative right?
Why not stay on the tennis theme to start?
Todd Martin was an American tennis player who made a name for himself in the 1990s. He assisted the United States in winning the Davis Cup final against Russia in 1995.
However, his career stalled from bad knee syndromes before ever getting the opportunity to win a Grand Slam.
During his 14-year career, Martin made countless finals and is still one of only a few male players to win over 400 matches. To boot, he only lost 234 times, while maintaining a ranking in the top 30 in the doubles seeds.
Martin was known for his wide-swinging, one-handed backhand as well as his volley abilities.
His best chance to win a major came in 1994, when a 23-year old Martin combated still up-and-coming fellow American, Pete Sampras, in the final of the Australian Open.
Sampras was known for skipping the hard and indoor circuits held in January and February so he would be better rested for the later stages of the year. This was relatively early for Sampras to play a match of this caliber.
Unfortunately, Martin, who would eventually rise to 4th in the ATP rankings amidst some of the greatest talent ever to play professional tennis simultaneously, did succumb to arguably the greatest ever in Sampras.
Pistol Pete won in straight sets on that hot Australian day.
Todd Martin would continue on to be a mainstay in the second week of majors for the duration of the ‘90s. He occurred in numerous quarter and semifinal matches, including a pair of semis appearances at Wimbledon.
His most frustrating loss at the All-England Club came after blowing a 5-1 fifth set lead to upstart MaliVai Washington in a ’96 semifinal. Washington lost to Richard Krajicek in the final.
Eventually, in the last Slam event of the decade, Martin made another final, this time at the U.S. Open. Unfortunately, another iconic countryman in Andre Agassi stood in his way.
Despite being outslugged at the baseline, Martin served with phenomenal precision, often pinning Andre in the corner and opening the court up for easy volleys.
Martin led two sets to one before Agassi’s return game slowly wore him down. The fifth and final set was won by Andre, 6-2.
Martin would gradually struggle the next couple years as age and chronic knee injuries caught up to him.
2004 would prove to be his swan song for the ATP Tour as he stepped away from the game with 13 career titles, including wins he accumulated playing doubles.
Looking back at the scene today, it really seemed like every superstar of that era had their one major tournament they made their own.
For Richard Krajicek, it was that ’96 Wimbledon.
For Goran Ivanisevic, the ’01 Wimbledon.
Michael Chang, of course, had the ’89 win at Roland Garros.
But Todd Martin was always blocked out of the spotlight, and, for that, he’s at the top of this list.
Though he often sat behind Sampras, Ivanisevic and Agassi in the rankings, Martin was often regarded as the most consistent player from season’s start. He just didn’t have a killer weapon to take him through an entire fortnight.
What’s not mentioned in the stats is Martin’s reputation for being one of the genuinely nice guys on tour, and a nobleman the player’s association confided in for relief activism.
Martin, at the very least, will be remembered as a Davis Cup champion and contributor to some of the best play during the deepest era of men’s tennis the world has ever seen.
Dan Marino, in effect, is a prime example of the strategic and technical nature of American football.
Here is a guy who dominated his position, owning every major individual passing record at the time of his retirement following a 1999 playoff loss at Jacksonville.
Despite his efforts, the Miami Dolphin teams were never strong enough to win the Super Bowl. They only made it there once during the quarterback’s entire career.
That happened in January 1985, when the defense was rocked like the Kasbah courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers, at the hands of superstars like Joe Montana, Roger Craig, and Dwight Clark.
When it was all said and done, Montana had thrown for over 330 yards. The game was essentially over when San Francisco made good out of a first quarter deficit by outscoring the Fish 31-6 over the next 30 minutes of play.
Marino had no chance to star in the hero role, which, unfortunately, was not an uncommon theme.
Over the years, the Dolphins would compile an 8-10 record in playoff games with Marino at the helm, most people blaming their consistent lack of a reliable run game behind him.
The postseason record is not phenomenal, but, hey, after all, they played in 18 postseason games in Marino’s 17 seasons…not bad, especially considering what ensued for the team during the Jay Fiedler years and beyond.
Following the 1999 season, the Dolphins decided not to pick up the option on Dan Marino’s contract. He chose to retire instead of betraying his loyal fans to play for another team.
There was stressed interest from many clubs including, no surprise, Minnesota, whom to this day are still obviously partial to aging quarterbacks (Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Brett Favre?); and Marino’s hometown Pittsburgh Steelers.
But with a slightly bum knee he carried with him through college, and a personal life he didn’t want to uproot, Marino decided to retire from the NFL before the 2000 season.
In addition to some of the records, which include most passing yards in one season (5,084 in 1984) and most career games with 400 or more passing yards (13), Marino's biggest accomplishments just may have come off the field.
He has battled society’s challenge with autism via his eponymous titled foundation, while maintaining side careers as an actor, analyst and co-owner of a NASCAR Winston Cup team.
Who needs a Super Bowl ring, anyway?
Major League Baseball has too vast and rich a history to officially declare one player “the greatest never to win a World Series.”
So, I decided to cut corners and list a guy nobody can complain about in this spot.
Not only was Ted Williams a legend on the field, but he had his life priorities straight, too. He twice stunted his playing career for service with the Marine Corps.
Williams next transcended the game à la Joe DiMaggio with two celebrity-studded marriages to famous models.
But Williams’ work on the field is what earned him that beautiful bronze statue outside Fenway.
He was without a doubt one of the greatest hitters to live, and for my money the outright best contact hitter.
Williams was the last man to bat over .400 in one season (.406 in 1941).
Over the course of 19 years with the perennial also-ran, Boston Red Sox, he maintained a ridiculous on-base percentage of .482, meaning he was almost on base with every other at bat. That’s the greatest percentage of all time.
Ted Williams was also a 17-time All Star, a two time American League MVP, currently a top 20 career home run hitter (521) and ranks in the top 15 in runs batted in (1,839), as well.
Williams and Rogers Hornsby are the only players in MLB history to have won two triple crowns, leading their respective league in home runs, runs batted in and batting average.
Ted Williams is, simply put, what today’s best hitter, Albert Pujols, aspires to be.
Williams’ Red Sox appeared in one World Series (1946) but lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.
I can't conclude without citing that, for all just mentioned about Williams, did I consider Ty Cobb for this article?
You bet ya'.
The one and only true Sir Charles...
Despite serious competition from Karl Malone, Elgin Baylor, and LeBron James, the “Round Mound of Rebound” is going to be called here, currently, the best player never to have won the NBA Finals.
He did make an appearance in 1993, as a member of the Phoenix Suns during his best individual and team season. The Suns pushed Michael Jordan and the Bulls to six games but it wasn't enough.
Barkley was named season MVP that year for his 1,944 points.
All in all, Chuck manned the glass for three teams during his 17-year NBA tenure. He began his career with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1984, and ended with Houston in 2000.
Barkley is now known for being a spontaneous analyst for TNT’s award winning NBA coverage, in addition to being an avid, yet self-proclaimed “not so good” golfer, and author with political aspirations.
But unless he becomes President, there’s not much Barkley can do that would come even close to overshadowing his phenomenal basketball career.
When the NBA celebrated their 50 greatest players in the late '90s, Barkley reigned as one of only a pair of players with a league MVP but no Finals ring (Malone).
Malone ended his career with more points scored than Sir Chuck, but, then again, the Mailman had the most prolific assist player in the history of the sport on his side (John Stockton), stamping those envelopes for him.
Barkley had a dominant shooting percentage to Malone’s (.541 to .516); more career points, rebounds, and assists than Elgin Baylor; and holds the benefit of tenure over LeBron James.
But, make no mistake about it; a couple years from now this article may need a serious addendum should the Diesel-King James hook-up not pay off in championship gold for the Cavs.
This 19-year NHL veteran, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992, is probably the most obvious pick of the afternoon for inclusion into this list.
Case in point, Marcel Dionne is the fourth most prolific scorer in NHL history (731 goals), trailing only icons Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Gordie Howe.
In the 1979-’80 season, Dionne (then with the Los Angeles Kings), went skate-for-skate with a rookie named Wayne Gretzky for the Art Ross Trophy (most points in a season).
He actually topped the Great One by two goals scored (Gretzky had two more assists, but goals scored are the tiebreak when any number of players have the same amount of points overall).
Dionne also suited up for Detroit and the Rangers in a marathon career spanning 1,348 games playing the world’s most physically relentless team sport and calendar.
He is one of two players to ever win both the Lester B. Pearson award (MVP as chosen by the Players Association) and Lady Byng Trophy (awarded for sportsmanship) at least twice. The only other to do so is Gretzky.
Will Alexander Ovechkin, who shattered Marcel Dionne’s all-time NHL point record for a rookie by a 106-77 mark, eclipse him on this list in the upcoming future?
Well, if Syd the Kid, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins keep it up, then, yeah, I’d say there’s a noteworthy chance Ovechkin will based on his girth of points scored. Plus, remember Alex the Great already won a Hart Trophy (MVP), which Dionne never received.