10 Sports Stars Who Are Currently Unstoppable

Zac Wassink@https://twitter.com/ZacWassinkFeatured ColumnistMay 20, 2016

10 Sports Stars Who Are Currently Unstoppable

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    Stephen Curry grows his legend with each month
    Stephen Curry grows his legend with each monthMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Is Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry the most unstoppable force in professional sports today? 

    He may be until some team proves it can stop him. 

    Curry has, since the start of the 2014-15 National Basketball Association season, produced ridiculous offensive statistics that one would struggle to replicate in a video game unless he was playing on the easiest possible setting. The reigning two-time NBA Most Valuable Player will only grow his legend over the next month if he helps lead the Warriors to a second straight championship. 

    As incredible as Curry has been over the past two years, he is not alone among NBA players who are unstoppable in certain situations. Imagine being the guy tasked with standing in the lane as LeBron James drives, with momentum, toward the bucket. Guarding Curry on the perimeter is a frustrating assignment even for a proficient defensive player, but doing so does not lead to experiencing any physical harm as does being literally run over by one of the best athletes of his generation. 

    A specific National Hockey League line is a couple of wins away from leading a team to the Stanley Cup Final. Rob Gronkowski is a tight end unlike any other of his generation. Luis Suarez is above the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in goal production. 

    Nothing lasts forever, of course, and it is only a matter of time until each unstoppable sports force mentioned in this piece is stopped. Assuming that they will again meet in a NBA Finals at some point down the road, either James or Curry will be stopped during that series. Gronk's numbers will fall in time. Somebody other than Suarez will, one day, be the top scorer in La Liga. 

    Until they are stopped, though, watching these great athletes will make for great entertainment. 

Pittsburgh Penguins' HBK Line

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    Pittsburgh's HBK Line has been impressive during the postseason.
    Pittsburgh's HBK Line has been impressive during the postseason.Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Penguins aren't supposed to be two wins away from playing in a Stanley Cup Final. In fact, the Pens weren't even a playoff team several months ago until captain Sidney Crosby put the club on his back and carried it into the postseason, per SI.com

    It is not Crosby who is responsible for the Penguins making a run to the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals. Part of the team's success must be attributed to Matt Murray, the club's third-string goaltender who was called into action because of injuries and who out-played both Henrik Lundqvist and Braden Holtby this postseason. 

    Then, there is what is affectionately known among Pittsburgh fans as the HBK Line.

    The line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel is maybe the most unstoppable force in hockey this spring. All three made the scoresheet in Pittsburgh's 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on May 18, per ESPN.com, a victory that put the Penguins two wins away from a conference title. Bonino buried the overtime goal that clinched the series win over the Washington Capitals, and Kessel has, as of May 19, tallied seven goals and nine assists en route to emerging as a Conn Smythe candidate, per SI.com

    The line is also currently a social media sensation because of its link to a famous former professional wrestler. 

    Former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar known as Shawn Michaels had the nickname "Heartbreak Kid" during his in-ring career. Pittsburgh fans loving the HBK Line have, thus, taken to Twitter to encourage Michaels to cheer on their beloved Penguins. It's working, as Michaels has become a Twitter mainstay during Pittsburgh games. 

    HBK himself even teased, via Twitter, that he will attend Game 5 of the Penguins-Lightning series in Pittsburgh. 

    The best part about the HBK Line is that is consists of three castoffs. The Anaheim Ducks gave up on Hagelin and traded him to the Penguins this past January. Bonino was traded by the Vancouver Canucks to the Penguins in July 2015. Pittsburgh acquired Kessel in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer. 

    Those three are now part of the line that is the showstopper, the main event and arguably the best thing going in the NHL this spring. 

Rob Gronkowski

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    Imagine what a fully healthy Rob Gronkowski could do to NFL defenses
    Imagine what a fully healthy Rob Gronkowski could do to NFL defensesCharlie Riedel/Associated Press

    What's crazy about Rob Gronkowski is that we will probably never know how good he could have been had the football fates been on his side. 

    There are, after all, legitimate reasons for why Gronkowski wears what look like pieces of armor during games. The New England Patriots tight end underwent arm and back operations during the 2013 offseason. Gronkowski suffered a serious knee injury in December 2013. 

    Those physical setbacks did not prevent Gronkowski from being one of the best tights ends of the past decade. 

    Think back to this past NFL postseason. The Patriots possessed no real threat in the backfield, and thus opposing defenses were able to zero in on the New England passing attack. It was, in fact, Tom Brady who led all New England players in rushing yards during the 2016 AFC Championship Game. 

    Brady had 13 rushing yards that day, per ESPN.com

    A lack of a rushing attack did not prevent Gronkowski from posting big numbers against the defenses of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Broncos last January. In total, Brady targeted Gronkowski 23 times in two postseason games, per ESPN.com. Gronkowski reeled in 15 of those passes, he went for a total of 227 receiving yards, and he found the end zone on three occasions. 

    No tight end in history has scored more postseason touchdowns than Gronkowski, per ESPN.com. Gronkowski is, as Adam Stites of SB Nation explained last October, on his way to becoming, statistically speaking, the best tight end in NFL history. Scariest of all for opposing NFL defenses is that Gronkowski turned just 27 years old in May 2016. 

    Gronkowski should remain unstoppable for the foreseeable future. 

Harry Kane

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    Leicester City became the top underdogs in world football over the past nine months. Going from 5000-1 odds to win the Premier League last August, Leicester get off to a hot start, climbed to the top of the league table and then refused to be toppled by bigger clubs such as Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Manchester City. Leicester's officially won the Premier League on May 2 when a draw between Tottenham and Chelsea guaranteed the Foxes their first-ever top-flight title. 

    Those who enjoy a good underdog tale should not sleep on the story belonging to Tottenham striker Harry Kane. 

    It was only a few years ago when Kane could not get into the Tottenham squad. The forward was sent out on loan stints to multiple clubs, with Leicester being his last home, per BBC.com, before he settled in with his parent club. Just think what might have been had Kane been able to lead Leicester to promotion into the Premier League back in the spring of 2013, and Leicester would have then awarded Kane with a contract. 

    All involved are probably just fine with how things worked out. 

    Kane was a revelation in his first season under Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, notching 21 Premier League goals during the 2014-15 campaign, per the Guardian. Only Sergio Aguero of Manchester City scored more league tallies that season than the young England forward. 

    As good as Kane was in 2014-15, he was even better this past season. After going 748 minutes without scoring a goal in any competition, per the Mirror, Kane opened his Premier League account during a 3-1 Tottenham win over City this past September. The floodgates opened from there, and Kane scored 24 additional goals from September through the spring, per the Guardian. Kane finished the season as the league's top scorer. 

    Kane does not, at first glance, look like an elite athlete. He does not have tree trunks for legs as does Cristiano Ronaldo. Kane does not posses the elite speed of a Gareth Bale. The Tottenham forward isn't a maestro on the ball like Lionel Messi or Neymar. 

    Kane just scores goals. He scores, and he scores, and he scores some more. 

    Kane creates his own chances out of nothing as he did versus Chelsea last season, per DailyMotion.com. Kane scores from impossible angles as he did versus Arsenal this past March (see video above). 

    Kane turns 23 years old this summer. Don't bet on him to stop scoring anytime soon. 

Bryce Harper

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    Bryce Harper is, in a good way, becoming the Barry Bonds of his generation
    Bryce Harper is, in a good way, becoming the Barry Bonds of his generationAlex Brandon/Associated Press

    It turns out that Major League Baseball pitchers found a way to shut Bryce Harper down: just don't pitch to him. 

    Harper, who led the National League and MLB in multiple offensive statistics in 2015, per Baseball-Reference.com, and who finished tied for third in home runs with 42, is being given free passes by pitchers this spring. Pitchers who don't want Harper to earn extra bases or blast homers over the wall are instead putting Harper on first. 

    Harper has, in 39 games, reached first via base on balls a total of 45 times, per Baseball-Reference.com. That is good for a rate of 1.154 walks per game. Let's say, for argument's sake, that Harper plays in 153 regular-season games as he did in 2015, and that his walk rate holds true up through September.

    Harper would, in that scenario, finish the campaign with roughly 176.5 walks (round up or down as you wish). That would be good for fourth all-time in that category, per Baseball-Reference.com.  

    There is no reason to think pitchers will begin testing Harper as spring makes way for summer. The Chicago Cubs put Harper on first via base on balls six times earlier in May. The New York Mets gave the reigning NL MVP first base four times during a game that occurred on May 18. 

    Barry Bonds, the iconic slugger who thrice set records for single-season base on balls, recently offered some advice for Harper. Per Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press

    "He's going to need to learn to steal bases and get to second base and make his teammates' job easier.

    "My kids used to tell me, 'Daddy, I'm sorry they walk you all the time,'" said Bonds, who led baseball in intentional walks 12 times and tops the all-time list with 688. "I said, 'Yeah, but my job's now to steal.' I could run then, so I had to steal bases and my job's to score runs and keep the pressure on the team regardless of what happened. But I had a different game than him."

    Bonds stole 514 bases during his 22-year major league career. Harper has 43, and it's an element that Bonds says would make the 23-year-old a five-tool player.

    Harper is only 23 years old. He has plenty of time improve on his base-stealing abilities. 

LeBron James

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    Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James was third in NBA MVP voting for the 2015-16 regular season, per ESPN.com

    Nobody can really dispute James finishing behind Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. Curry has been on an unbelievable run since the fall of 2014, and he helped the Warriors set the all-time record for most regular-season wins. Regardless of who you think is the best overall player in the NBA today, Curry deserved and earned MVP honors for this season. 

    Third, for James, though? Third? 

    Were voters suggesting that Kawhi Leonard was more valuable to the San Antonio Spurs than James was to the Cavs? Maybe they think Leonard is the better player. Perhaps voters became sick of voting for James year after year. 

    Whatever the reasons, those writers may have unintentionally provided James with some extra motivation for the postseason. 

    James and the Cavaliers have, as of the afternoon of May 19, gone a perfect 9-of-9 in the 2016 playoffs. Cleveland's ninth victory of the postseason, a 115-84 trouncing of the Toronto Raptors in the opening game of the Eastern Conference Finals, featured James delivering quite the statement to the Raptors, the Warriors and just about everybody else watching. 

    Tom Withers of the Associated Press explained. 

    James made his first nine shots — one an arena-rattling powerhouse dunk — and the Cavs, healthy and hungry after losing in the Finals a year ago, shot 67 percent from the field in the first half while improving to 9-0 this postseason. Cleveland is the first team to start the playoffs with nine straight wins since San Antonio reeled off 10 in a row in 2012.

    James scored 24 points in three quarters of action, and the 31-point victory was the most lopsided postseason win in the history of the Cavs. 

    Does James take regular-season games off? Of course, as do other NBA stars. Are there times from October through March when it looks like James is going through the motions? Sure. It's the postseason now, and James may prove himself to be a force that even Curry and the Warriors cannot stop as James and the Cavs pursue Cleveland's first pro sports title in over 50 years. 

Odell Beckham

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    It is humorous, two years after the fact, to remember how Odell Beckham Jr. began his NFL career.

    The wide receiver was selected by the New York Giants in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. Beckham didn't show what he could be during his first few months with the Giants, though, because he was sidelined by a curious hamstring injury. Beckham did not take the field for meaningful action until Week 5 of the 2014 NFL campaign. 

    The rest, as the saying goes, is history. 

    No wide receiver in history ever had as impressive a first two seasons in the NFL as did Beckham. Not Jerry Rice. Not Randy Moss. Not Calvin Johnson. Nobody. Beckham has the statistics and the records to prove it, per NJ.com. Beckham has also put together as impressive a highlight reel as you will see from any other young offensive player who has only two NFL seasons on his resume. 

    You remember Beckham's one-handed catch against the Dallas Cowboys. Odds are that you have witnessed Beckham complete long treks into end zone and then celebrate those touchdowns with different dances. Beckham's dominance during games, his marvelous catches and even his 25 career touchdowns, per Pro-Football-Reference.com, do not provide the largest proof that he is unstoppable. 

    Beckham defeated the so-called "Madden Curse" in 2016. 

    Beckham was featured on the cover of Madden 16, and yet he did not fall victim to the supposed hex that has downed others before him. In his second season in the NFL, Beckham went for 96 receptions, 1,450 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. All of those were career highs for the 23 year old. 

    No Madden jinx could stop Beckham. What hope can there be for NFL defenses? 

Luis Suarez

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    Luis Suarez is now the world's best goalscorer
    Luis Suarez is now the world's best goalscorerAssociated Press

    Luis Suarez will never fix his reputation in the eyes of some fans. To some, Suarez will always be the player who has, to date, been caught biting opponents during matches no fewer than three times. Suarez will forever be a player who was banned for eight games after the Football Association found him guilty in 2011 of racially abusing Patrice Evra.

    Like him or don't like him, you must respect that Suarez is now a worthy Ballon D'or candidate and arguably the best goalscorer on the planet. 

    Nobody who has followed Suarez over the years should be surprised. Play on the pitch was never the issue. Suarez was a clinical striker of the ball during his days at Liverpool. He scored 31 goals across 33 league games in 2013-14, per BBC.com, and he was named the Barclays Player of the Season in 2014 before he made the switch to Spanish giants Barcelona. 

    Suarez is now better than ever. In his first season with Barcelona, Suarez combined with Lionel Messi and Neymar to break the record for the most goals scored by any Spanish trio in a single campaign, per the Guardian. That same trio notched 137 tallies in 2015, and Barcelona's 180 team goals broke the record for the most goals scored by a team in a calendar year, per FCBarcelona.com

    Neymar and Messi are international superstars and worldwide brands. Suarez, meanwhile, is the top scorer in the land. His 40 goals across 35 league games this past season put him atop that category in La Liga, per the Daily Mail. Fourteen of those goals occurred in the final five league matches of the season when Barcelona needed victories to secure the league title. 

    It was only fitting that Suarez would score a hat-trick on the final day of the season to clinch the title for Barcelona, per ESPN FC

Jake Arrieta

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    Jake Arrieta was unbeatable during the first month and a half of the 2016 season
    Jake Arrieta was unbeatable during the first month and a half of the 2016 seasonDavid Banks/Associated Press

    Just how unstoppable has Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta been during the first month and a half of the 2016 MLB season? Arrieta makes headlines when he doesn't throw a no-hitter. 

    Seriously. 

    While humorously pointing out via an article title that Arrieta is, in fact, human and not some android able to no-hit opponents when functioning properly, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune provided statistics to show Arrieta's dominance during the ace's first eight starts. 

    Arrieta (7-0) is now 18-0 since last July, the fourth longest winning streak in the majors since 1913, behind Carl Hubbell (24), Roy Face (22) and Roger Clemens (20). He has allowed three or fewer runs in his last 28 starts, the most of any starter since 1893, when the pitching rubber was set to 60-feet, 6-inches.

    Along with no-hitting the Cincinnati Reds on April 21, Arrieta held the Los Angeles Angles to two hits on April 4, and he gave up only two hits to the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 3, per Baseball-Reference.com. In his first 56 innings of work this season, Arrieta surrendered 29 hits and 18 BB. Arrieta's 1.29 ERA is the best in baseball among starters, per ESPN.com, and he is nearly striking out a batter per inning (55 strikeouts in 56 innings). 

    Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times recently compared Arrieta and the Cubs, the latter being the hottest team in baseball, to Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. 

    But perhaps the Cubs resemble the Warriors most of all. The Warriors, who’ve come together and flourished so remarkably that they’re still at the top of their game despite the temporary absence of the NBA’s MVP, Stephen Curry, who’s battling injuries.

    And while we’re at it, we might as well go ahead and call Jake Arrieta the Cubs’ version of Curry. Both players are doing things statistically that haven’t been done before.

    The Warriors won a championship last spring. Will Arrieta be on the hill when the Cubs are clinching a World Series victory this coming fall? 

J.J. Watt

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    How good will J.J. Watt be when hits his prime?
    How good will J.J. Watt be when hits his prime?Patric Schneider/Associated Press

    You shouldn't need me or anybody else to tell you how unstoppable J.J. Watt has been during his NFL career. You have eyes. You've witnessed the All-Pro defensive end of the Houston Texans get to the quarterback time and time again. You know greatness when you see it. 

    Let others tell you about Watt's skills. 

    New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick compared Watt to Lawrence Taylor in December 2015, per CBSSports.com. Taylor himself had high praise for Watt, per John McClain of the Houston Chroniclewhile speaking during a public appearance this past March. 

    "That J.J. Watt is a bad SOB," Taylor said Saturday during an appearance at Fiterman Sports Memorabilia at Baybrook Mall. "He's going to get it a couple of more times.

    "I think he's one of these guys that only comes around once every 20 to 30 years."

    Watt may not be completely rewriting all of the record books, but he is certainly adding his name to them. In December 2014, Watt became the first player in NFL history to accumulate at least 20 sacks in two different seasons, per ESPN.com. Last January, Watt joined Reggie White as the only players to have 15 sacks in three of their first five pro seasons, per SB Nation

    Watt played through a broken hand for part of the 2015 campaign. He still led the NFL in sacks with 17.5, per Pro-Football-Reference.com. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year doesn't need two healthy hands to utilize his speed and agility to blow past offensive linemen as if they aren't even trying to block Watt. Along with leading the NFL in sacks, Watt had more pressures (90) during the regular season than any other player, per Pro Football Focus.com

Stephen Curry

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    Stephen Curry hasn't been stopped in two years
    Stephen Curry hasn't been stopped in two yearsMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Stephen Curry is the most unstoppable force in pro sports today. Done. Thanks for coming. Have a great day. 

    Not enough for you? All right. 

    Everybody watching knows what Curry is going to do during games. Curry is either going to look for openings on the perimeter, or he is going to create his own opportunity by utilizing a step-back. The Golden State Warriors guard is then going to chuck a three. 

    You know it's happening. I know it's happening. Opposing coaches and opposing players know it's happening. 

    Yet nobody has found a way to consistently guard Curry. 

    Andrew Lynch of Fox Sports wrote about this following Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals involving the Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC did all it could short of putting five players on Curry before the end of the first half, but the Thunder could do nothing as Curry splashed a three-pointer at the buzzer. 

    As Rodger Sherman and Mark Hinog of SB Nation pointed out in April 2016, Curry has made a mockery of old three-point records over the past couple of years. The worst three-point shooting teams in the NBA from 2007 up through 2012 all made fewer threes than the 402 that Curry buried during the 2015-16 campaign. 

    There have been a plethora of pure shooters in NBA history. Many players have possessed ball-handling skills similar to those had by Curry. Others before Curry had lightning-quick releases. 

    Curry is the total package, though, an offensive player unlike any guard we've ever seen. 

    Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal broke down the science behind Curry's sweet shot for a piece that ran in December 2014. 

    Curry quietly lifts off but stays so low that an Oxford English Dictionary could trip him. His kinetic efficiency comes from Curry shooting as he’s jumping, rather than jumping and then shooting, which also lets him release the ball in as little as 0.3 second.

    The result is a sharp arc that has become Curry’s shooting hallmark. The average three-pointer this season reaches a maximum height of 15.77 feet, according to Stats LLC, which tracks such geospatial coordinates with high-resolution cameras in every NBA arena. Curry threes average 16.23 feet.

    This is the science to Curry’s art: The steeper a shot, the wider the opening into the rim. 

    There you go, young would-be future NBA stars. Get into the gym and get to work, and maybe one day somebody will write about how you are the most unstoppable player in the NBA.