25 Sports Legends Who Weren't Really That Great

David DanielsSenior Writer IMay 10, 2011

25 Sports Legends Who Weren't Really That Great

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    When Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Wayne Gretzky, Jack Nicklaus or Jim Brown's names come up, adjectives of greatness will be thrown around.  Unparalleled...matchless...the greatest of all time.

    The phrase, "The man, the myth and the legend," may even be added.  

    The players on this list aren't comparable to Ruth, Jordan and Ali, but that phrase is still usable.  These players' legendary statuses are myths.

    I guarantee there are going to be players we disagree on.  If so, tell me which player on this list is a legitimate legend. 

    Here are 25 sports legends who weren't really that great:

25. O.J. Simpson

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    Subtract O.J. Simpson's 2,000-yard season in 1973, along with his 1975 and 1976 seasons, and what do you have?  Definitely not a great NFL player.

    Sure, he dominated while at USC, but his reign didn't last long in Buffalo.  

    He was inconsistent.  Seasons of fewer than 700, 600, 500 yards happened all too often.

    Simpson was, for the most part, one-dimensional.  He had six catches in his 2,000-yard season.

24. Larry Holmes

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    In boxing, in order to be truly great, you have to defeat great opponents.

    Larry Holmes was once a sparring partner for Muhammad Ali.  You might say that he never learned to do more than jab and spar and outlast opponents. 

    He defeated no truly great fighter except Ali when Ali was far beyond his prime.  He did defeat Mike Weaver, Bone Crusher Smith and Michael Spinks, but that's not saying much. 

    Holmes was one of the most likable boxers who was blessed to fight when no real legends were around to test him.

23. James Worthy

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    James Worthy was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.  He also had his jersey number retired by the Los Angeles Lakers, a task which is just as hard to accomplish.

    Worthy only averaged 17.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and three assists a game during his career.  That is not the stat line of a Hall of Famer. A 5.1-board average is actually pretty bad for someone standing at 6'9".

    If Worthy didn't play alongside Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he wouldn't be remembered as a legend.

22. Darryl Strawberry

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    Darryl Strawberry looked the part of a legend earlier in his career, but he doesn't deserve the title for how he finished.

    He recorded a lifetime batting average of .259.  In his last eight years in the league, he only eclipsed that number three times.

21. Terry Bradshaw

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    Terry Bradshaw is the luckiest quarterback in NFL History.  

    He got to hand the ball to a Hall of Fame running back.  He threw to two (should be one) Hall of Fame wide receivers.  The offensive line in front of him was even led by a Hall of Fame center.

    Of course, don't forget about the greatest defense of all time backing him up.

    For being the quarterback on that team, Bradshaw got a ticket to the NFL Hall of Fame.

    He only threw two more touchdowns than interceptions in his career, which is actually a lot better than some of the other passers on this list.  That in itself is baffling considering he threw for 20 or more interceptions five times in his career.  

    He also had a career completion percentage of 51.9.

20. Pete Maravich

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    Like O.J. Simpson, Pete Maravich was a phenomenal college player, but just a very good pro.  Neither qualifies for the status of "greatness."

    He had all the talent in the world, but he never really put it all together.

    Maravich was a great scorer and put up numbers, with a career average of 24.2 points a game.  None of those numbers ever translated to winning in the NBA.  His teams only made the playoffs four times, once when he was a reserve.  

    He's known as a great passer, but he only averaged 5.4 assists a game.  Defense wasn't his specialty either.

    Again, he was very good, but a spot in the NBA's top 50 players of all time was not deserved.

19. Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Cristiano Ronaldo may not be a "legend" now, but for how popular he is now, there's no doubt that he'll retire as one.

    He has plenty of talent.  His ego outweighs that talent, but that's another story altogether.

    Ronaldo often fails to show up in big games.  His flashy play has been criticized because it often translates into turnovers.

18. Phil Rizzuto

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    Phil Rizzuto was inducted in Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994, somehow.

    He batted .273 lifetime and hit a whopping 38 home runs for his career.  He was known as a good defensive shortstop, but that's about it.

    If he wasn't on such a popular team and in such a huge market, there is no way Rizzuto would be in the Hall of Fame today.

17. Denny McClain

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    Denny McLain was the last pitcher to win at least 30 games in a single season.  That's what he'll be forever remembered for accomplishing.  Subtract that season from his career, though, and you don't have much.

    Other than that season, he has only two other 20-win years, one in which he actually led the league in hits surrendered.

    Trouble off the field began to derail his career.  In his final full season, he led the league not in wins, but losses with 22.

16. George Blanda

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    George Blanda played in four different decades.  Think about that for just a second.

    OK, now think about these stats...for a Hall of Famer.  He threw a total of 236 touchdowns compared to 277 interceptions.  

    He was an interception machine with a 6.9 interception per pass percentage.  One season, he only threw 19 passes, yet he managed to throw three picks.

    Blanda had a 47.7 career completion percentage.  That's not counting interceptions as completions, by the way.

    His 60.6 career passer rating just tops it all off.  Guess which quarterback in Oakland Raiders history has a higher passer rating than Blanda.

    Forget Ken Stabler, Daryle Lamonica and Jim Plunkett.  Think even more recently than Rich Gannon.

    THE JaMarcus Russell with a 65.2.

15. Scottie Pippen

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    Scottie Pippen has six NBA championship rings.  Yeah, and Robert Horry has seven.

    Pippen played second fiddle to Michael Jordan, and there is no denying that.  Has there ever been a more honored sidekick?  

    He was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history, yet he only averaged 16 points, six rebounds and five assists a game.  

    Yeah, but he was one of the greatest on-ball defenders ever.

    Older fans often preach that any offense in the '90s is superior to the same offensive output today because the defense was much tougher with all the hand-checking.  

    The same theory can be used to say that anyone known for their lockdown defense in the '90s wouldn't be able to play at such a high level in today's game.

    And let's just say Pippen wasn't nearly as clutch as his partner in crime.  He posted playoff shooting percentages of 44 percent from the field and 30 from behind the three-point line.

    Oh yeah, and after his Chicago days, he never once averaged as much as 14 points a game.

14. Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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    How can someone who is undefeated not be considered great?

    Mayweather is dominating at a time when there isn't much talent out there.  Who is the one true legend that is fighting today?  Manny Pacquiao.

    Until Mayweather mans up and fights Pacquiao, he will go down in boxing history as a big-mouthed coward.

13. David Beckham

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    David Beckham is, or at least, was one of the best passers in the world.  "Bend it Like Beckham" sound familiar?

    The media has created his incredible hype, and because of that hype, he'll go down as a legend.

    He's not the most talented player on the soccer field, and he never was.  Defender Frank Leboeuf once labeled Beckham overrated and credited his "nice face."

    Leboeuf is not alone, as Diego Maradona has also called him overrated.

12. Grant Fuhr

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    Grant Fuhr is widely known as one of the greatest goalies in hockey history.

    His stats really don't fit that reputation.  He has a goals-against average of 3.38.  His career save percentage is .887.

    Fuhr's Edmonton teams also scored in bunches to pad his win totals.

11. Oscar De La Hoya

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    Oscar de La Hoya is often mentioned in the same sentence as the greatest boxers of all time.

    Again, in order to be considered elite, you have to beat the elite.  De La Hoya didn't do that.

    He defeated many fighters past their prime.  A number of his decisions are controversial victories.

10. Troy Aikman

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    Troy Aikman had one season where he threw 23 touchdowns, and that was as good as it got.  He never threw 20 in any other year.  He never threw for over 3,500 yards.

    He had Hall of Fame weapons in Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.  The Cowboys had the best offensive line in the entire league in the 1990s.

    With all of that talent around him, he couldn't put up better numbers.  A passer in the '90s like Dan Marino would've put up huge numbers in Dallas compared to the talent he had around him. 

9. Eric Lindros

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    Eric Lindros may have been a talented player, but how great he truly was is up in the air.

    He put up numbers, but he wasn't known as a team player. He never led his team to a Stanley Cup victory.

    It's debatable whether ego should be included in judging a player's greatness.  If it is, though, Lindros definitely wasn't great.

8. Sonny Liston

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    Sonny Liston looked like the meanest fighter ever.  But his glare was more lethal than his punching.

    He looked powerful against Floyd Patterson but so did most other boxers.  Liston seemed ancient and helpless against Ali in both fights when Ali was yet to develop as a champion.    

    He’s more famous for his face than his fists. Liston was very strong but never channeled the power into consistent hits.

7. Andy Roddick

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    Andy Roddick will forever be remembered as the man with the 155-mph serve.

    The one-time No. 1-ranked player is far from that title now.  Arrogance got in the way, and his level of play plummeted.

    The man who could've once been the next great American athlete now isn't on the same level as the game's best tennis players.

6. Bill Sharman

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    Bill Sharman was ranked as one of the NBA's 50 greatest players, but I don't even know how he got in the Hall of Fame.

    Sure, he won four NBA championships—on the back of Bill Russell.

    Sharman averaged 18 points, four rebounds and three assists a game for his career.  Solid numbers, but not even close to Hall of Fame-worthy.  

    He was known for his defense, but the type of defense that wouldn't be allowed in today's game.  Jerry West once said of Sharman, "I'll tell you this, you did not drive by him. He got into more fights than Mike Tyson."

5. George Mikan

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    George Mikan is considered one of the NBA's 50 greatest players.  

    Mikan dominated early in his career because he was the tallest player in the league.  

    As soon as the league widened the foul lane, his stats plummeted.   The first year with the new rule, his field goal percentage dropped to 38.5 percent.

    Mikan only played seven years in the league and dominated three because of rules that do not exist today.

4. Joe Namath

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    Joe Namath's "guarantee" guaranteed his place in the NFL Hall of Fame.  He is widely known as one of the greatest passers in league history.

    Namath threw for 173 touchdowns to 220 interceptions in his career.  He retired with a completion percentage of 50.1.  His lifetime quarterback rating is a 65.5.

    Want to hear a list of names with a higher quarterback rating?  Joey Harrington, Kyle Boller, Kordell Stewart, Rex Grossman, Quincy Carter, Alex Smith and the list goes on.

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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    Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of the most popular NASCAR drivers in the world.  He'll go down in history with legendary status because of his last name, not his driving.

    He has only won 18 races since 2000 when he entered the Sprint Cup Series.  His best finish in the series was third and that was back in 2003.

    Earnhardt also hasn't won since 2008.  If you really want to, you can keep track of how long it's been since his last win at over88ted.com to the very second.

2. Jose Canseco

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    Jose Canseco will be remembered more for his steroids than his play, but he still put up 462 homers, giving himself legend status.

    His batting average wasn't a bright spot, though, as he batted .266 for his career.  

    If there was an actual word for the opposite of clutch, that would be Canseco.  Oh wait, there is: a choker.

    If you thought .266 is bad, he batted a disgraceful .184 lifetime in the postseason.  

1. Lynn Swann

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    Lynn Swann is known as the Hall of Fame wide receiver who introduced the acrobatic catch.

    How Swann even got into the Hall is beyond me.  He never once caught for over 900 yards in a season.  In fact, he only caught for over 800 yards twice.

    He had one 61-catch season and one 50-catch season, and every other year is in the 40s or worse.

    Jabar Gaffney has more career receptions than Swann.  Antonio Bryant has more receiving yards.  Chris Chambers has more touchdowns.

    Don't give me junk about the era.  There are plenty of wide receivers from the '70s or even earlier who are in the top 50 in career receiving statistics.  

    Swann didn't even crack the top 150 for yards, or 250 for receptions, but he did sneak in to tie for No. 99 in touchdowns.

    Yeah, and Cris Carter and Tim Brown still aren't in the Hall of Fame.  


    David Daniels is an NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and a Syndicated Writer. Follow him and Bleacher Report Swagger on Twitter.