The 50 Greatest Fictional Sports Movie Characters of All Time

Jim Poljak@@JimPoljakContributor IIIOctober 24, 2011

The 50 Greatest Fictional Sports Movie Characters of All Time

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    In every sports movie, whether good or bad, there is at least one character that stands out.  This character could have been the hero, protagonist, comedic relief or someone that had a small role and stole the show.  For some sports movies their characters are what make it happen.  A great character in a bad movie can still make the movie watchable.   

    Usually the most memorable characters come from movies based on real people or events.  Miracle, Rudy, Raging Bull and Pride of the Yankees are all incredible movies about incredible people and events.  I personally can't stand Notre Dame but still get goose bumps and a tear every time I watch the ending of Rudy

    Since movies are seen as a way to escape reality for a brief period of time, this list has been put together to celebrate the greatest fictional characters in all sports movies. 

Paulie Pennino

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    MOVIE: Rocky I, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, Rocky V, Rocky Balboa

    ACTOR: Burt Young

    An alcoholic with a bad temper? How could Paulie not be on the list!  After all, if it weren't for him then Rocky would have never developed his unique training method of punching slabs of meat in the freezer. 

    Of course he was also responsible for Rocky losing all his money between Rocky IV and V, but nobody's perfect, right?


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    MOVIE: Blue Chips

    ACTOR: J.T. Walsh

    It seems today that every major college sports program has their own version of Happy.  These "friends of the program" land the big recruits by making sure their requests are met. In Blue Chips, Happy made sure head coach Pete Bell knew who was in charge of recruitment and who the players on his team belonged to.

    Too bad for Happy that Coach Bell couldn't keep his mouth shut after knocking off the defending national champs in the first game of the season.

Steve Lattimer

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    MOVIE: The Program

    ACTOR: Andrew Bryniarski

    Steroids: Sure, they'll give you uncontrollable rage, make you break out in acne and shrink your distinguishable body parts, but they'll also turn a three-year special teams player into a starter on the defensive line and into one of the craziest mo-fo's in college football. 

    If only Steve Lattimer would have remembered that no means no, he would have never been busted...

Ernie Capadino

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    MOVIE: A League of Their Own

    ACTOR: Jon Lovitz

    Jon Lovitz is gold in almost any role he plays.  In A League of Their Own he played Ernie Capadino, the scout that landed the best players in the league while cracking one-liners the whole time.  Without his knowledge of how trains work and what not to do to the outfield grass, Dottie, Kit and Marla may have never made it to the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. 

Paul Blake

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    MOVIE: Necessary Roughness

    ACTOR: Scott Bakula

    It takes major stones to go back to college as a middle-aged man to play quarterback.  It takes even bigger stones when that football team doesn't have enough players to field a full team. 

    But when you're Paul Blake, not only do you accept the challenge, you also take home your English professor. 

Lou Brown

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    MOVIE: "Major League I", "Major League II"

    ACTOR: James Gammon

    Life is full of tough choices.  For Lou Brown, that choice was managing the Cleveland Indians or selling a pair of white-wall tires to a customer on the other line.  Lucky for Indians fans, Brown choose the former and led a team of no-names, has-beens and never-was's to the American League Pennant.

Paul Crewe

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    MOVIE: The Longest Yard

    ACTOR: Burt Reynolds

    Paul Crewe is a former NFL quarterback that goes to jail and is forced to put together a team of inmates to play a football game against the guards.  He wins the game, steals the guards new uniforms and most importantly, is played by Burt Reynolds.

Clubber Lang

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    MOVIE: "Rocky III"

    ACTOR: Mr. T

    He made Rocky afraid to fight and killed Micky.  Clubber Lang had pure strength and raw anger and was the baddest and toughest opponent Rocky had to face in any of the movies. 

Hamilton "The Babe" Porter

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    MOVIE: The Sandlot

    ACTOR: Patrick Renna

    The quick-witted portly backstop of The Sandlot delivered two of the most memorable lines from the movie and layed down the gauntlet against the rival little league team. 

Shooter McGavin

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    MOVIE: Happy Gilmore

    ACTOR: Christopher McDonald

    One of the greatest sports movie bad guys of all-time.  Shooter did everything in his power to get Happy Gilmore off the tour only to fail and, eventually, get his butt kicked by a very large Gilmore fan that he insulted earlier. 

Coach Morris Buttermaker

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    MOVIE: The Bad News Bears

    ACTOR: Walter Matthau

    What could go wrong when your team has an alcoholic as the manager of a little league baseball team?

    Absolutely nothing.

Cal Naughton, Jr.

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    MOVIE: Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

    ACTOR: John C. Riley

    Whether he was coming in second place as half of "Shake and Bake" or winning as "The Magic Man", Cal knew one thing; that he liked to party with the radio and television on at the same time. 

Roger Dorn

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    MOVIE: Major League I, Major League II, Major League: Back to the Minors

    ACTOR: Corbin Bernsen

    The epitome of baseball arrogance, Dorn wasn't about to do anything on the field he deem necessary or wasn't in his contract.  He was also perfectly fine with cheating on his wife. Although he went from the field to the front office for the next two movies, Dorn still delivered great lines and won every scene in which he appeared.

Jesus Quintana

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    MOVIE: The Big Lebowski

    ACTOR: John Turturro

    Normally I don't condone putting anyone that touches eight year olds on a list celebrating greatness, but nobody f@#&s with The Jesus.  Easily one of the creepiest and coolest characters to ever grace the silver screen, Jesus Quintana was a small character in the movie that made a huge impact.

Roy "Tin Cup" McAvoy

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    MOVIE: Tin Cup

    ACTOR: Kevin Costner

    Just how sweet of a character was Tin Cup? He shot par on the back nine of a US Open qualifying event with just his seven iron because he broke every other club in his bag.  In order to play in that qualifying event he had to play someone for money with a set of gardening tools because his clubs were pawned. 

    He also refused to lay up on the water hazard on the 18th losing numerous balls in the drink only to finally put it in from over 200 yards with the last ball in his bag.

    As McAvoy would say, it was a defining moment.

Billy Hoyle

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    MOVIE: White Men Can't Jump

    ACTOR: Woody Harrelson

    A goofy looking white boy playing street ball in Cali so he could hustle enough money to pay off a couple of bookies...yep, that's comedic gold right there. He's bad with money and doesn't always make the best decisions, but you should see him stretch.

White Goodman

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    MOVIE: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

    ACTOR: Ben Stiller

    The Global Gym founder is better than you and knows it.  He also just happens to be the captain of a dominating dodgeball team.  Goodman is kind of dumb, kind of an idiot and gets screwed over by Chuck Norris. 

Michael "Squints" Palledorous

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    MOVIE: The Sandlot

    ACTOR: Chauncey Leopardi

    Forget his story telling, propensity to exaggerate and the way he said "forever".  Squints is on this list for one thing and one thing only: he faked drowning so he could put the moves on the incredibly hot life guard, whom he later married.


Dr. Harvey Mandrake

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    MOVIE: Any Given Sunday

    ACTOR: James Woods

    He wasn't going to let any member of the Miami Sharks not play on Sunday if they didn't want to.  The players' safety wasn't exactly a top priority for the team's orthopedist, giving them whatever shots and treatments they wanted in order to suit up. Woods was fine with injecting athletes as long as they signed a statement saying they wouldn't sue if they got paralyzed. 

John Gillon

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    MOVIE: Diggstown

    ACTOR: Bruce Dern

    John Gillon was so rich and powerful that he literally owned the town of Diggstown.  Gillon made a fortune betting against the town's heavyweight champion Charles Macum Diggs, his own boxer, in a title fight.  To make sure he won the bet, Gillon drugged Diggs in-between rounds which effectively destroyed his mind and left him wheel chair bound for the rest of his days. 


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    MOVIE: Kingpin

    ACTRESS: Lin Shaye

    Nasty; Disgusting; Vile.  The landlady from Kingpin is one of the most repulsive characters in any sports movie ever made.  The image of her signaling to Roy Munson of how he could pay the rent without money is nauseating and one of the most memorable scenes from the movie.

Cecil "Stud" Cantrell

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    MOVIE: Long Gone

    ACTOR: William Peterson

    The player/manager of the Tampico Stogies had to deal with an owner that refused to spend money, the KKK and the moral dilemma of throwing the league championship or playing for his favorite team in the majors.  Through it all, the man known as "Stud" came out on top by living life by his own credo, "F@&% 'em if they can't take a joke."

Coach Wally Rig

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    MOVIE: Necessary Roughness

    ACTOR: Robert Loggia

    He delivered one of the greatest halftime speeches of all time by telling the Texas State Armadillos how exactly to play football.  He is also the genius that gave us Kathy Ireland in a football uniform, and for that men across the country say "Thank you."

Carl Spackler

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    MOVIE: Caddyshack

    ACTOR: Bill Murray

    There are so many reasons for Carl Speckler to be on this list.  He had some of the most memorable lines from one of the funniest movies ever made, he battled a groundhog for golf course supremacy and grew his own grass, just to name a few memorable achievements.

Jackie Moon

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    MOVIE: Semi-Pro

    ACTOR: Will Farrell

    Jackie Moon wrestled a bear and did all the team's choreography for the halftime shows.  He dreamed of his ABA team merging with the NBA and the often aloof player/coach of the Flint Michigan Tropics got serious when the team needed him and also sported one of the best hair dos in the league.

Sidney Deane

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    MOVIE: White Men Can't Jump

    ACTOR: Wesley Snipes

    He was the king of the basketball court that turned down an invite from Michael Jordan to play in the NBA.  He gave his running mate Billy words of advice, helped him get his girlfriend back and, maybe most important, explained to him the difference between listening to Jimi and hearing him. 

Bobby Bouche

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    MOVIE: Waterboy

    ACTOR: Adam Sandler

    Bobby Bouche wasn't very smart and was easily manipulated.  He was also the most impactful player in college football, as long as he visualized something or someone that made him mad.  The scream he let out on his way to tackling the ball carrier sounded like it was filled with years of pain, anguish and too much love and protection from his mother. 

    But he had a way of making everyone around him feel better and transformed the Mud Dogs from a college football laughingstock to a bowl winning team.

Apollo Creed

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    MOVIE: Rocky I, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV

    ACTOR: Carl Weathers

    Apollo Creed was the ultimate heavyweight boxing champion.  He was as dangerous as they come inside the ring and as entertaining as they come when he wasn't fighting.  Creed was the perfect combination of strength and skill with a mind for business and a knack for entertaining. 

    And let's not forget that if it wasn't for Apollo, Rocky would have retired and faded into oblivion after the beating Clubber Lane dished out when he took his title. 

Scott Howard

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    MOVIE: Teen Wolf

    ACTOR: Michael J. Fox

    Scott Howard was werewolf cool before the world was cursed with the "Twilight" series. The "Teen Wolf" captured the hearts of his school and community, albeit short lived, and helped his basketball team get to the championship game. 

    Most importantly, he taught Scott Howard and those around him a valuable lesson (just like almost every other teen comedy from the 80s.)

Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn

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    MOVIE: Major League I, Major League II

    ACTOR: Charlie Sheen

    You don't see too many Major League pitchers get their start in the California Penal League, but Ricky Vaughn wasn't like any other Major League pitcher.  The "Wild Thing" didn't like to wear sleeves, had the most unique haircut in the league and could throw over 100mph. 

Coach Bud Kilmer

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    MOVIE: Varsity Blues

    ACTOR: Jon Voight

    Coach Bud Kilmer was the king of Texas high school football.  In his 35 years as head coach of the West Canaan Coyotes he won 22 division titles.  He controlled everything in the town that concerned his players, regardless of what mischief they got in to. 

    Kilmer was conniving and a bully that pushed his players to the brink of their physical skills and used their naivety for his personal gain.  And he would have continued to get away with it if it wasn't for that damn Dawson's Creek kid...

Ray Kinsella

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    MOVIE: Field of Dreams

    ACTOR: Kevin Kostner

    The man listened to a strange voice that told him to plow under his crop and build a baseball field.  Ray Kinsella might have taken the largest leap of faith in any sports movie by listening to that voice and was rewarded by watching the members of the Black Sox scandal play ball in the field he built. 

Al Czervik

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    MOVIE: Caddyshack

    ACTOR: Rodney Dangerfield

    Al Czervik is the ultimate millionaire.  He says what he whatever pops into his head, does whatever he wants to do and buys anything that strikes his fancy.  His golf bag had a radio, television and beer dispenser and he broke almost every rule that could be broken at Bushwood Country Club. 

Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh

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    MOVIE: Bull Durham

    ACTOR: Tim Robbins

    Ebby Calvin LaLoosh was so talented, and such a flake, that the ballclub traded for a veteran catcher to babysit him. That's how LaLoosh learned how to be a professional baseball player.  He was a young punk that wanted to do things his way until he learned that his way wouldn't get him to the majors. 

Happy Gilmore

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    MOVIE: Happy Gilmore

    ACTOR: Adam Sandler

    If you saw Happy Gilmore when it came out and went to the driving range, odds are you tried to drive at least one ball with the same run-up style he used.  Happy had anger issues and a 400-yard drive.  He gave up his lifelong goal of being a hockey player to play golf and save his grandmother's house.

Lincoln Hawk

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    MOVIE: Over the Top

    ACTOR: Sylvestor Stallone

    How great of a story is this? It's about a truck driver that is really good at arm wrestling.  To make it better, in order for Lincoln Hawk to win all he has to do is turn his hat backwards.

Walter Sobchak

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    MOVIE: The Big Lebowski

    ACTOR: John Goodman

    All Walter wanted to do was bowl and stay in his ex-wife's life.  The Vietnam vet was a stickler for the rules that found a way to bring everything back to his experiences overseas.  He knew everything (at least he thought he did) and wasn't afraid to tell you. 

Mickey Goldmill

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    MOVIE: Rocky I, Rocky II, Rocky III

    ACTOR: Burgess Meredith

    He was Rocky's trainer and father-figure.  Mic was a boxing lifer that used his old school training and inspiration methods to help Rocky beat Apollo Creed for the title. Without Mickey, Rocky would never have become a champion or held on to the belt for as long as he did. 

Ty Webb

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    MOVIE: Caddyshack

    ACTOR: Chevy Chase

    Ty lived life without a worry in the world.  He played golf every day but never kept score.  He was quick-witted and as clumsy of a ladies' man you'll ever find.  Ty had a aura of cool about him and wouldn't let anyone know if he was worried or felt any pressure.

Ricky Bobby

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    MOVIE: Talladega Nights: The Ballard of Ricky Bobby

    ACTOR: Will Ferrell

    Ricky bobby loved to drive fast and he was the best in his sport at doing it.  He lived his life by the motto, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”  He was arrogant and unapologetic on and off the race course.  Ricky Bobby was the perfect combination of stereotypes, whether accurate or not, of what NASCAR fans and drivers are like. 

The Voice

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    MOVIE: Field of Dreams

    ACTOR: Unknown

    The Top 10 starts off the only character not attributed in the movies' credits. 

    The Voice from Field of Dreams that tells Ray Kinsella to build the field, seek out Terence Mann and Archibald “Moonlight” Graham  has been embedded in the culture of our society since the movie was released in 1989. 

    The most famous phrase from the movie, “If you build it, he will come” has been spoofed a thousand times over and even has its own Facebook page.  It was the driving force in the movie and is still debated today as to what, or who, the voice actually was.

Mr. Kesuke Miyagi

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    MOVIE: The Karate Kid, The Karate Kid II, The Next Karate Kid

    ACTOR: Pat Morita

    "Wax on. Wax off."  Mr. Miyagi might have had odd ways of training Daniel Larusso in the art karate, but he effectively turned a skinny kid with bully issues to a karate tournament champion.

    Mr. Miyagi was a peaceful man that didn't teach karate as a way of attacking, but rather as a means of protecting yourself from others. But try to attack him and he won't be afraid to serve up a whipping of epic proportions on you and your crew.

Jimmy Dugan

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    MOVIE: A League of Their Own

    ACTOR: Tom Hanks

    Jimmy Dugan didn't want to manage a team of female baseball players and he had no qualms letting his feelings show.  The once proud star major leaguer drank himself out of the game and into baseball obscurity before he was hired to manage the Rockford Peaches. 

    He refused to believe that women could be ball players and used the games to sleep off his previous night's drinking binge. Eventually he saw that there were some talented women on the team, accepted them as ball players and looked out for their well being. 

    Dugan was full of one-liners and outbursts that even people that haven't seen the movie would know. Dugan's "There's no crying in baseball," is the most famous line from the movie and a variation of it has been used in advertising and comedic skits. 

    He was the best and most entertaining character in a very good movie, owning every scene in which he appeared.

Than Hanson Brothers

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    MOVIE: Slapshot

    ACTORS: Jeff Carlson, Steve Carlson and David Hanson

    They fought more than they played hockey and were the lightning rod the Charlestown Chiefs needed.  They famously started a fight during the pregame skate and were the driving force in bringing fans back to the stadium.  They wore extremely thick glasses, over-zealously interrupted the coach during his pregame speech and traveled with their toys. 

    The Hanson Brothers' popularity has translated into pop culture from Chiefs hockey jerseys popping up at hockey arenas all over the country to a Canadian rock/punk band naming themselves after them. 

    They are Halloween costumes and fantasy hockey team names as well. Most importantly, they are three of the most memorable characters from any sports movie.

The Dude- Jeffrey Lebowski

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    MOVIE: The Big Lebowski

    ACTOR: Jeff Bridges

    He was an easy going guy that just wanted his rug back.  The Dude, as he was called, wanted to avoid confrontation and continue living his life one bowling frame and white russian cocktail at a time.  Instead he was forced into the middle of a millionaire's scheme to extort money from his own foundation. It was all because they had the same name. 

    The Dude wasn't a guy with a bunch of catch phrases, he didn't get overly excited about much and was perfectly happy existing in the background of society.  Even though he wasn't the flashiest guy around, El Dudarino was easily one of the best and most memorable characters in any movie, not just sports.

Crash Davis

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    MOVIE: Bull Durham

    ACTOR: Kevin Kostner

    Crash Davis was a career minor leaguer that has more baseball knowledge than talent and gets traded to babysit the big club's newest scatter brained phenom.  Crash was both the comedic relief and leading man in Bull Durham, he made epic speeches and helped his manager deal with a team of kids. 

    He accepted his demotion to teach Nuke the ropes and fast track him to the majors while hiding the fact that he was about to break the career minor league record for home runs out of the media. 

Judge Elihu Smails

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    MOVIE: Caddyshack

    ACTOR: Ted Knight

    Being powerful and affluent is what most people strive to achieve in life.  Judge Elihu Smails achieved both and was the toast of Bushwood Country Club, at least he thought he was.  He was a snob that believed he was better than everyone else. 

    If he had his way only the rich that acted and thought like him would be allowed membership into Bushwood.  Judge Smails played the villain role perfectly in Caddyshack, he was easy to love and easier to hate.

Ernie McCracken

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    MOVIE: Kingpin

    ACTOR: Bill Murray

    Ernie McCracken was the greatest bowler of his time once he got rid of Roy Munson.  He was eccentric and a womanizer and had everyone in the bowling community fooled into thinking he was the perfect man. 

    Armed with a custom bowling ball and one of the greatest comb-overs in the history of comb-overs, McCracken won the Odor Eaters $1 million winner-take-all bowling tournament and proudly proclaimed that he was finally above the law and could buy his way out of anything. 

    What a guy!

Roy Hobbs

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    MOVIE: The Natural

    ACTOR: Robert Redford

    Roy Hobbs was the greatest baseball player of all-time.  His bat, Wonderboy, was the most famous baseball bat ever made.  There wasn't anything he couldn't do on a baseball field.  Originally recruited as a pitcher, he flourished as a hitter. 

    Hobbs' final at-bat in the movie is one of the most epic scenes in any sports movie ever made.  Bleeding through his uniform, Hobbs crushed a home run that hit the light tower atop the stands, causing sparks to rain down over the field, clinching the pennant for the Knights. 

Rocky Balboa

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    MOVIE: Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, Rocky V & Rocky Balboa

    ACTOR: Sylvester Stallone

    Rocky Balboa has become more than a movie character.  His statue is still up in Philadelphia and the actor that played him, Sylvester Stallone, is the unofficial rally starter for the Philadelphia Eagles. He singlehandedly ended the Cold War (and avenged Apollo Creed's death) by defeating Ivan Drago and beat a heavyweight champion in a street fight.

    What's the kicker for Rocky being the greatest fictional sports character of all-time?  He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame last year.  Yes, a sports movie character was inducted into a real life Hall of Fame.  If that doesn't get you number one ranking on an all-time list then I don't know what will.

Honorable Mentions

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    Hindsight is always 20/20.  There will always be someone that feels an all-time list is missing someone or something, even the ones who put them together. 

    While I stand firm on the choices for the top 50, here are a few others that were too good to not be mentioned.

Honorable Mention #1

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    MOVIE: "Jerry Maguire"

    ACTOR: Cuba Gooding, Jr

    Rod Tidwell gave us one of the most iconic lines of any sports movie.  "Show me the money!" was the Tidwell family motto and the words his agent Jerry Maguire had to yell into the phone in order to keep him as a client. 

    Tidwell was an undersized wide receiver with an over-sized ego and attitude to match.  He played the role of the prima donna NFL wide receiver perfectly and was highly entertaining in every scene he appeared. 

Honorable Mention #2

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    MOVIE: "Youngblood"

    ACTOR: Patrick Swayze

    Derek Sutton was the grizzled veteran and team leader of the Hamilton Mustangs.  He took young superstar Dean Youngblood under his wing and showed him how to survive in the Canadian minor league. 

    Sutton had a list of enemies in the league from his years of hard nosed play and success at lighting the lamp.  He inspired his team and Youngblood after getting knocked from his skates and slamming his head against the ice to beat their hated rivals for the league championship.

Honorable Mention #3

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    MOVIE: "Any Given Sunday"

    ACTOR: Jamie Foxx

    He went from being the third string quarterback to the toast of the league.  "Steamin" Willie Beamen ignited the Miami Sharks' offense and refused to run the conservative plays his head coach Tony D'Amato insisted on calling. 

    Beamen was incredibly gifted as an athlete but had to learn how to play quarterback and be a team leader.  He became obsessed with his success and the endorsement deals he was offered.  He made a video called "My Name is Willie" and even had the stones to ask out the owner of the team.

    Willie Beamen matured throughout the season, stopped throwing up in the huddle and learned that his invisible juice didn't work if his teammates didn't want to play for him.