10 Best Professional Athletes Born in Hawaii

Ricky FrechCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2011

10 Best Professional Athletes Born in Hawaii

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    Hawaii is chock full of some of the best professional surfers to ever live, which really shouldn't surprise anyone considering we're dealing with the beautiful island state.

    However, there are a few other athletes that were able to break onto the list.

    Which athletes are they? And can this smaller, more secluded state keep up with the big boys? Read to find out.

10) Ron Darling

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    Born: Honolulu 

    Sport: Baseball

    Position: Pitcher

    Notable Achievements: 1985 All-Star, 1986 World Series Champ, 1989 Gold Glove Winner

     

    While Ron Darling isn't quite the cream of the crop we've gotten used to seeing in these lists after going through states like Georgia and Florida, he is one of the better mainstream Hawaiian athletes. A World Series Champ and a one time All-Star (a game in which he didn't participate), Darling was a solid pitcher who gave up a few too many walks to be as good as he might've been.

    Darling is still a solid player and, while he wouldn't make the Georgia list, he's good enough to make this list. 

9) Sid Fernandez

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    Born: Honolulu

    Sport: Baseball

    Position: Pitcher

    Notable Achievements: 2 time All-Star, 1986 World Series Champion

    As the first ever Hawaiian to play in an All-Star game, it was a lock that Fernandez would make this list. Plus, he had tons of state pride, wearing the number 50 to commemorate Hawaii being the 50th state to join the United States. To further show his love of his home state he had Hawaii Five-O's theme song play before his starts.

    Much like Darling, Fernandez isn't the biggest star we've seen on this list, but he does have some All-Star appearances and a World Series ring to his name. Not too many people can say they're as accomplished as he is and that puts him on the list.

8) Michelle Wie

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    Born: Honolulu

    Sport: Golf

    Notable Achievements: Youngest player to qualify for an LPGA Tour event.

    When Michelle Wie turned 16 she was already a professional golfer. The amount of hype surrounding this young lady was astronomical early on in her career. At age 10 she'd already qualified for the UGSA Amateur Championship and she continued her scorching play throughout her amateur career.

    She hasn't been quite the dominating force some thought she would be, but she does have two professional wins to her name and has many years to improve those numbers.

    When her career is over she might be able to move further up this list, but right now she's sitting at the eighth spot.

7) Brian Ching

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    Born: Hale'iwa

    Sport: Soccer

    Position: Striker

    Notable Achievements: 2004 Golden Boot winner, 2004 Comeback Player of the Year, 3 time MLS Cup Champ.

    During his long MLS career, Brian Ching has been one of the best strikers in the league, as his 96 career goals show.

    In 2001 he was made the first ever Hawaiian to be drafted by the MLS, but it wasn't until he went to San Jose in 2003 that his career really took off. While there, he was able to lead the team to the MLS Cup while scoring 25 goals in 56 games. He continued that pace when San Jose moved to Houston and helped lead the team to two more championship wins.

    His international career hasn't been quite as good as his MLS career, but, with 11 goals in 45 games, he's played pretty well. This MLS superstar is more than good enough for the seventh spot on this list.

6) B.J. Penn

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    Born: Kailua

    Sport: MMA

    Notable Achievements: 2nd UFC fighter to win a belt in two divisions (lightweight and welterweight).

    B.J. Penn began his fighting life by training under Ralph Gracie in the art of Jiu-Jitsu. In 2000, he became the first non-Brazilian to win the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships.

    He then made his way to the UFC to begin his storied career. As the second man to ever win a belt in two weight divisions, Penn is one of the best and most fearless fighters in the world. He also holds the record for most Lightweight wins and title defenses in a career.

    Penn is one of the more accomplished guys in UFC and, at 32 years old, he still has a chance to get better. Only time will tell if that happens though, so for now he's going to barely stay out of Hawaii's top five. 

5) Mosi Tatupu

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    Born: Honolulu

    Sport: Football

    Position: Special Teams

    Notable Achievements: 1986 Pro Bowler and All-Pro.

    Mosi Tatupu is one of the better special teams aces to ever play. Making a 15 year career out of mainly doing kickoff coverage is a pretty remarkable thing. He even has an NCAA record named after him for being able to do just that. He was able to run the ball quite well also, gaining 2,412 yards and 18 touchdowns over his career.

    Tatupu may not be as well known as some of the people ranked lower than him on the list, but as one of the best special teams players ever he deserves this spot on the list.

4) Olin Kreutz

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    Born: Honolulu

    Sport: Football

    Position: Center

    Notable Achievements: 6 time Pro-Bowler, 4 time All-Pro

    Olin Kreutz is by far the most decorated athlete we've seen so far. During the early to mid 2000s there wasn't a better center in the NFL and, even though he's lost a bit in his old age, he's still a solid center that helps keep Drew Brees upright.

    As one of the better centers to play in the NFL, Kreutz would make most states list. However, he's full of Hawaii pride to be highly ranked on this list.

3) Chad Rowan

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    Born: Waimanlo

    Sport: Sumo

    Notable Achievements: First Foreign Born Sumo to reach Yokozuna (highest level of Sumo), 11 Sumo tournament championships.

    I've got to say that I'm not exactly an expert on Sumo wrestling, but from what I've read Chad Rowan is one of the best foreign-born Sumo wrestlers to ever live.

    He's won 11 tournaments and was a runner up in 13 more. His Sumo career is very impressive and after he retired he tried getting into kickboxing and MMA. Sadly, he wasn't nearly as good at those two, but he did see modest success as a pro wrestler.

    Even if his sport isn't exactly the most mainstream here in the States, it's still impressive to be as good as Rowan was in any sport. His impressive career gains him the third spot on this list.

2) Rabbit Kekai

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    Born: Honolulu

    Sport: Surfing

    Notable Achievements: Many various international championships.

    It was difficult to find the exact number and which championships Rabbit Kekai won during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, but suffice to say the number is high for this surfing master. While not the father of modern surfing (he'll come later), Kekai is one the sports biggest innovators. 

    The details on accomplishments were hard to nail down on Kekai, but his spot on this list is given because of how much he helped bring along the sport of surfing.He's actually still alive and kicking, passing down his immense knowledge to the young surfers of Hawaii. 

1) Duke Kahanamoku

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    Born: Honolulu

    Sport: Surfing, Swimming 

    Notable Achievements: 5 time Olympic Medal winner

    Duke Kahanamoku originally gained widespread fame as an Olympic swimmer. During his illustrious career he won three gold medals and two silver medals. That alone would put him on top of the list, but his popularity as a swimmer allowed him to travel around the world to compete in various events. Through this he brought widespread popularity to the sport of surfing, which, prior to Kahanamoku, was something only known to Hawaiian natives.

    You don't get much better than a gold medal winner, but when you add in the fact that this man brought modern surfing to the world as a whole, you get the best pro athlete from Hawaii.