10 Greatest Icons in Michigan Sports History

Mike PickneyContributor IJune 15, 2011

10 Greatest Icons in Michigan Sports History

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    DETROIT - OCTOBER 21:  A tiger statue is seen outside of Comerica Park before Game One of 2006 World Series between the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals October 21, 2006 at Comerica Park in Detroit Michigan.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    The Great Lakes state is known for automobiles, Motown music and natural wonders. But it's also rich in sports tradition. The Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons and Lions are joined by Michigan, Michigan State and others to complete a formidable amount of rooting interest. Here's a look at the state's top 10 sports icons. 

Honorable Mentions

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    Kirk Gibson
    Kirk GibsonTom Pidgeon/Getty Images

    Kirk Gibson, Dave Bing, Chuck Daly, Bob Ufer, Duffy Daugherty, Bubba Smith, Chris Webber, Cazzie Russell, Sparky Anderson, John Fetzer, Nicklas Lidstrom, William Clay Ford Sr., Mike Ilitch, Thomas Hearns, Gerald Ford

10. Steve Yzerman

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    Steve Yzerman
    Steve YzermanDave Sandford/Getty Images

    Yzerman served 20 seasons as the Red Wings captain, the longest service of any major North American sports team. "The Captain" led the Wings to three Stanley Cups.

9. Tom Izzo

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    Tom Izzo
    Tom IzzoAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Spartans have become one of college basketball's most successful programs since Izzo took the reins in 1995. Considered by some as the best coach in the country, Izzo has won a national title, been to six Final Fours and collected six Big Ten championships.

8. Magic Johnson

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    Magic Johnson
    Magic JohnsonJed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Magic led Lansing's Everett High School to a state title while becoming perhaps the most sought-after recruit in the state's history. After deciding on Michigan State, he led the Spartans to a national title in 1979. The game, which also featured Larry Bird, is one of the most famous college basketball games of all time.

7. Barry Sanders

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    Barry Sanders
    Barry SandersTom Pidgeon/Getty Images

    Sanders thrilled long-suffering Lions fans with electric footwork and an unforgettable style. The 10-time Pro Bowler retired in 1998, just short of the all-time NFL rushing record.

6. Isiah Thomas

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    Isiah Thomas
    Isiah ThomasDoug Benc/Getty Images

    "Zeke" was one of the NBA's fiercest competitors and led the Detroit Pistons "Bad Boys" squads to two consecutive NBA championships.

5. Al Kaline

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    Al Kaline
    Al KalineJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Kaline played his entire 22-year career with the Tigers, having never played in the minor leagues. The 18-time All-Star was the youngest batting champion ever and one of the game's finest gentlemen.

4. Joe Louis

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    Joe Louis
    Joe LouisGetty Images/Getty Images

    The Brown Bomber was the heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949. He defeated Nazi Germany hero Max Schmeling in one of the most famous bouts ever.

3. Bo Schembechler

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    Bo Schembechler
    Bo SchembechlerJed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Schembechler's Michigan Wolverines amassed a 194-48-5 record and 13 Big Ten Conference titles during his tenure as coach. His battles with Ohio State and Woody Hayes helped form college football's greatest rivalry.

2. Gordie Howe

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    Gordie Howe
    Gordie HoweRichard Wolowicz/Getty Images

    Mr. Hockey is the only NHL player to compete in five different decades. He won four Stanley Cups and six Hart Trophies as the league's most valuable player. Howe is considered one of the greatest hockey players ever.

1. Ernie Harwell

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    Ernie Harwell
    Ernie HarwellStephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Ernie broadcasted Detroit Tigers games for 42 years. The American Sportscasters Association ranked Harwell 16th on its list of Top 50 Sportscasters of All Time, but Tigers fans will always feel that is 15 spots too low.