Detroit Sports: The Most Popular Athlete In Motown Today

Ryan CampbellContributor IIISeptember 14, 2011

Detroit Sports: The Most Popular Athlete In Motown Today

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    When you hear "Detroit sports," who do you think of? 

    The obvious answers are probably Barry Sanders, Isiah Thomas, maybe Steve Yzerman.  But what about today's athletes? 

    Don't sell Motown short, the city has its fair share of superstars (OK, maybe budding superstars) after years of mediocrity when it came to having rosters full of household names.

Ndamukong Suh

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    Unless you are an NFL quarterback (or running back, or offensive linemen, or offensive coordinator) there's not much to dislike about Suh. 

    He plays with a nasty streak on the field, is well-spoken off of it and has more commercial appearances than any current Detroit athlete.  Is he the most endearing Motown athlete to you?

Calvin Johnson

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    Calvin Johnson is a physical freak. 

    He might be the most talented wide receiver in the game today; but despite making the Pro Bowl last year, many fans feel he is yet to live up to his potential (it's worth noting he's never played a full season with an elite QB, or an above-average one for that matter). 

    Johnson doesn't have many national spot commercials—only Acura comes to mind—but you have to appreciate his non-diva demeanor at the wideout position.

Matthew Stafford

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    Admittedly, if Stafford stays upright all season long, this conversation might be closed for discussion.  Everyone that is a Lions fan wants to believe in love potion No. 9. 

    If he becomes an elite quarterback, the national commercial spots will likely surpass Suh's television success.  For now, he only has the Axe sponsorship (that I know of), but if he throws for 30-plus touchdowns and fewer than 12 interceptions this year?  Gisele might ditch that pretty boy Tom Brady to run her hands through Stafford's hair with Axe shampoo. 

    OK, maybe not. 

    For the time being, where does Stafford rank as your favorite Detroit athlete?

Justin Verlander

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    He's won 23 games this year, has a 2.36 ERA, 238 strikeouts, and the past eleven times he's taken the mound, the Tigers have been victorious. 

    If Verlander is not the definition of Most Valuable Player I don't know what is. Sadly, he might have to settle for only taking the Cy Young.  You can't have a conversation about the most popular player in Detroit today and not include Justin Verlander

Nicklas Lidstrom

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    If Verlander epitomizes what an MVP is, then Lidstrom is the model of consistency. 

    Honestly, do any of you realize how surreal it is going to be when No. 5 finally retires?  Seven career Norris trophies—seven?!  He was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team  in 1992. Lidstrom has been an First Team All-Star nine times—nine! 

    One could make the argument that Pavel Datsyuk is more popular among Red Wings fans, but I don't think so.  We probably don't truly appreciate how gifted Datsyuk even is, admittedly he's more of an athlete than Lidstrom.  More talented?  Maybe (a medium-sized maybe).  More beloved?  I doubt it.

Ben Wallace

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    Let's face it, there's not much to love about any of the current Detroit Pistons.  Their own mothers likely can't stand to look at their faces after that childish 2010-11 campaign. 

    I suppose Greg Monroe has the potential to be a fan favorite, but not quite yet.  So, if you had to pick one Piston who is still of relevance when it comes to popularity, you'd have to say it's Ben Wallace. 

    We all loved the days when the roster was "Goin' To Work" with Big Ben, 'Sheed, Chauncey, Rip, and Tay.  Billups got dealt away to Denver, 'Sheed left us for Boston (ouch), Rip showed his true colors, and Prince —though a valuable role player—never developed into the player he seemed like he could (and will probably leave via free agency). 

    Yes, Wallace followed the dollar signs to Chicago, but he realized his mistake and he came back to the D.  Pay no attention to the valid point that no one else really wanted him. 

     Once back in a Detroit uniform, Ben's numbers improved from his Chicago/Cleveland days as his effort and hustle seemed to only reach full throttle as a Piston. 

    Was he a Defensive MVP candidate again?  Of course not, opposing teams no longer feared the 'fro, but it was almost as if the improved effort on Ben's part was his apology to the city of Detroit and its fans.

Will Any of the Aforementioned Athletes Replace Barry Sanders?

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    No one holds a special place in our hearts the way Barry Sanders does.  Seriously, can you even fathom how awful it would've been being a Lions fans during the 90s if it wasn't for Barry?  I don't even want to think about it.

    Do any of the current Detroit athletes hold a candle to Sanders in your opinion?  In terms of popularity, of course, not numbers.