10 Greatest Icons in Michigan Sports History
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.
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
1. Ernie Harwell
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.