All-Time Athletes: Alabama Edition
I've decided to start a new series that I hope will give people some state pride and spark some debate. This series is a look at the best players from every state. I'm going to go in alphabetical order and do five states a week, starting with Alabama. The only criteria for a player to make the list is that they had to be born in the state and had to be a player. So this discounts coaches and players who played their college ball in a certain state. So join me on this journey through the ages and look back on the best players from your home state. Make sure and tell me in the comments if I missed one of your favorite players.
Here's the guys who didn't quite make the list:
(Note: This is in no order)
10) Ben Wallace
Born: White Hall, Alabama
Notable Stats: 2004 NBA Champion, 4 time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, 4 time All-Star
In the early 2000s there simply wasn't a better defensive player than Ben Wallace. Big Ben lead his Pistons to championship in 2004 with his amazing ability to rebound and block shots like one of the greats even though he is only 6'9. Those Piston teams were built on defense and hard work and no one best represents that than Ben Wallace. His play may of fallen off in his later years, but he will go down as one of the best defensive players to ever put on a jersey.
9) Walter Jones
Born: Aliceville, Alabama
Position: Offensive Tackle
Notable Stats: 9 time Pro Bowler, 7 time All-Pro selection, Jersey number retired by Seattle Seahawks
Along with Steve Hutchinson, Walter Jones made up one of the most dominant offensive lines of the 20001. Behind those two players Shaun Alexander was able to set a record for most touchdowns scored in a season and become the league MVP. Jones was a mainstay on the Seahawks line from 1997 to 2009. With him blocking for them the 'Hawks were always a threat to have a great running back.
8) Charles Barkley
Born: Leeds, Alabama
Notable Stats: 1993 MVP, 11 time All-Star Selection, 11 time All-NBA selection
The only knock on Charles Barkley is that he was never able to win a championship, but that doesn't mean that he isn't one of the greatest players ever. Sir Charles may of been one of the most difficult match-ups for opposing teams because of his uncommon skill set. At 6'6 he was able to play the power forward position and out play the much taller players tasked with guarding him. Barkley was widely regarded as one of the best rebounders in NBA history, which lead to his nickname, "The Round Mound of Rebound". Since Barkley has retired he has used his outspoken manner to become one the best studio analysts for TNT's basketball program. He was elected to the NBA Hall of Fame in 2006.
7) Ozzie Smith
Born: Mobile, Alabama
Notable Stats: 1982 World Series Champ, 15 time All-Star Selection, 13 time Gold Glove Winner, 1985 NL MVP
Ozzie Smith is often said to be the best defensive short stop to ever play the game. Because of his ability to make magical plays in the field, Smith was often called "The Wizard" . Smith wasn't a bad player in the batter's box either and has 2, 460 hits to his name. Smith was elected to the MLB Hall of Fame in 2002.
6) Bart Starr
Born: Montgomery, Alabama
Notable Stats: 5 time NFL Champion, 2 time Super Bowl MVP, 1966 NFL MVP, 4 time Pro Bowl Selection
Bart Starr is the Bill Russell of pro football. In the early days of the sport he was one of the best winners the NFL had ever seen. From 1961 to 1967 the Packers won five of the possible seven championships, which included the first two Super Bowls ever played. He will go down as one of the best players to ever play quarterback because of the many teams he lead to the promised land.
5) Evander Holyfield
Born: Atmore, Alabama
Notable Stats: 43-10-2 career record. 28 KOs, Heavyweight Champion from 1990-1992
Holyfield is probably best known for being the man whose ear was bitten off by Mike Tyson, but he has had a lot of successes in his career. During his career he has beaten some of the best; including George Foreman and Mike Tyson. The biggest blemish on his record is that he was unable to beat Lennox Lewis in 1999. Holyfield continues to box and won his last fight in March 2010.
4) Carl Lewis
Born: Birmingham, Alabama
Sport: Track and Field
Notable Stats: 9 Olympic Gold Medals, 8 World Championship Medals
Carl Lewis is one of the most dominant Olympic athletes of all time. His record for longest indoor long jump has stood since 1984 and his 65 consecutive victories in the long jump are the world's longest undefeated streak. Not only was he a great jumper, but he also set records in the 100 m, 4X100 m, and 4X200 m. Since he retired in 1996 Lewis has become a somewhat successful actor.
3) Bo Jackson
Born: Bessemer, Alabama
Sports: Football, Baseball
Positions: Running back, Outfielder/Designated Hitter
Notable Stats: 1985 Heisman Trophy Winner, 1989 MLB All-Star, 1990 NFL Pro Bowl Selection
Bo Jackson is probably the best two-sport professional athlete to ever play in the modern era. He might be higher on this list if he hadn't been hit by injuries early in his pro career. During his time he was widely regarded as one of the best athletes to ever live and he proved it by excelling in football and baseball. He was the first person to be an NFL and MLB All-Star and was made the most dominant video game character ever in Tecmo Bowl.
2 (tie) Willie Mays
Born: Westfield, Alabama
Position: Center Fielder
Notable Stats: 2 time NL MVP, 1954 World Series Champion, 24 time All-Star, 12 Gold Glove winner
Willie Mays is often thought of as the greatest all-around player in the history of baseball. The "Say Hey Kid" retired with 660 homeruns, a .302 batting average, 3,283 hits, and 1,903 RBIs. His most famous moment probably comes from his iconic over the shoulder catch that is endlessly replayed on highlight reels. Needless to say, he was elected in the MLB Hall of Fame in 1979; his first year eligible.
2 (tie) Satchel Paige
Born: Mobile, Alabama
Notable Stats: Over 1,200 recorded career strike outs, once pitched 29 games in a month, claimed to have 104 of 105 games he played in 1934.
Most of Satchel Paige's career was spent in the Negro Leagues and he wasn't able to play in the major leagues until he was 42 years old. This is unfortunate because we can never really be sure of how dominant he would of been in the MLB. However, we do know that many premier major leaguers have said that Paige was the greatest pitcher they've ever seen. Paige's full ability may never be known, but he will go down as one of the best pitchers to ever play. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1971..
1) Hank Aaron
Born: Mobile, Alabama
Position: Right Fielder
Notable Stats: 1957 NL MVP, 1957 World Series Winner, 25 time All-Star selection, 755 career home runs.
Hank Aaron is often thought of as the real home run champ in baseball history. His 755 career home run record stood until it was beaten by Barry Bonds, but many claim that feat was achieved through cheating. Not only could Hammerin' Hank blast the ball out of the field, but he also holds numerous other records. He is first all time in total base hits, runs batting in, and extra base hits. The man was simply a hitting machine and his dominance in the batter's box may never be seen again.
Well, that's it for Alabama's list. Did I miss any key players? If so, tell me about it in the comments.