Right Place, Wrong Time: The 20 Best Athletes Who Played in the Wrong Era

Vinny Hardy@http://twitter.com/VinnyHardyCorrespondent IJuly 27, 2012

Right Place, Wrong Time: The 20 Best Athletes Who Played in the Wrong Era

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    We've all heard the phrases. Some players are throwbacks, some guys are ahead of their time.

    They're all here sharing the same list.  Check out some old-school guys who had enough swagger that they would be able to play today, as well as some modern players who would have been just fine in quieter days gone by.

    Style of play, personality or the lack of both are all factors here.  Check out the slides and see what you think. 

20. Connie Hawkins

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    The Hawk was one of the game's first high fliers.  

    At 6'8" and 210 pounds he brought excitement to the perimeter.  He averaged 18.7 points and 8.8 rebounds a game during his NBA and ABA career even though he wasn't allowed to play in his prime.

    In today's game, Connie Hawkins would have been something to see.

19. John Riggins

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    The Cowboys fan in me makes it hard to give Riggo props but credit has to be given where credit is due.

    Riggins was a beast.  Imagine if he played today.

    Not only did he have a colorful personality, he more than had the game to match.

18. Nate "Tiny" Archibald

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    Tiny set the standard for true little men in the NBA.

    He is the first one that comes to mind when you think of guards under six feet and he has the nickname to boot.

    He averaged 18.8 points and 7.4 assists per game for his career and paved the way for A.I., Earl Boykins, Spud Webb, and Muggsy Bogues.

    It wouldn't matter if he was scoring from the perimeter or inside among the trees, Tiny would hold his own today as well.

    Honorable mention goes to Calvin Murphy but the edge goes to Tiny.

17. John Stockton

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    No player said 'I'm a little after my time' quite like John Stockton.

    He was not very imposing physically.  His game was way below the rim.  

    The one thing that topped all that: The man's shorts screamed "I'm out of place!"

    As tight as they were they never stopped the Hall of Famer from handling his business.

16. Barry Sanders

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    How does the most dazzling running back make it onto this list?

    Because the second he touched pay dirt he became drab.

    Barry Sanders was the ultimate "act like you've been there before" guy.  

    He ended all of his 99 touchdowns by, wait for it, handing the ball to the referee.  That's as yesteryear as it gets.

15. Chris Mullin

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    The outward appearance is what fools people.  The old school buzz cut, the below the rim game.

    That's what makes Chris Mullin look like a player from the 1960's.  

    For the youngsters reading this, he was the three-time Big East Player of the Year while at St. John's. He was also the C in the Golden State Warriors vaunted "Run TMC", where he teamed up with Tim Hardaway and Mitch Richmond.

    He retired in 2001 with career averages of 18.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.  Did I mention he was also a sniper from deep on the Original Dream Team?

    And you thought he was just an analyst.

14. Hines Ward

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    The constant smile from the sheer joy of playing the game is one of the first images that come to mind when thinking of Hines Ward.

    Below that was a toughness and an intense physicality that is rarely seen at the wide receiver position which would have suited him well in the old knock-down-drag-out NFL.

    He's been described as one of the best offensive linemen to ever play the wide receiver position. Opposing defenders of all shapes and sizes had to keep their heads on a swivel when No. 86 was on the field.

    Oh, and he's also a member of the 1,000 reception club.

13. Chipper Jones

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    The face of the Braves for the past fifteen years also happens to be one of the greatest switch hitters ever.  He has hit over 400 home runs and recently eclipsed 1,600 RBI.

    Chipper's favorite player as a kid was Mickey Mantle and it's easy to visualize him playing in that era.  

    At 40, the 1999 N.L. MVP is still getting it done.  In this, his final season, he's batting .313 with 9 home runs and 41 RBI.

12. Jerome Bettis

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    The run in this clip alone is enough to guarantee that The Bus would be a lock to make this list.  It also cost Brian Urlacher a chance at making it.  Maybe one play shouldn't carry so much weight, but this play is impossible to forget.

    Bettis is completely vulnerable, literally begging Urlacher to blow him up.  He's in the process of breaking a tackle just as Urlacher is getting ready to launch.  Urlacher has him squared up and still gets trucked.

    It would be easy to see Bettis playing in the past.  Visions of Marion Motley come to mind.

11. Fred "The Hammer" Williamson

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    The Hammer just oozed swagger.

    He used to hammer opposing wide receivers and go upside their heads with his forearm. 

    Next thing you know, the nickname sticks and he's promoting it and marketing himself.

    That's as modern era as it gets.

10. Willie Lanier

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    Willie Lanier's game speaks for itself.  That said, sometimes it seems as though the eight-time all-pro and six-time pro bowler still doesn't get the credit he deserves.

    Add in the historical perspective, Lanier was the first black middle linebacker to play in the league, and he's a lock to be on this list.

    He paved the way for guys like Mike Singletary, the late great Junior Seau, and Ray Lewis.  

    Lanier played at 6'1" and 245 pounds, which was the exact same size as Lewis. He would be an impact player for the Chiefs right now.

9. Brett Favre

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    Yes Brett Favre is on the list.  "Country Time", as Deion Sanders used to call him could have played in the old days and been a good gunslinger back then too.

    If he had played back then all the annoying things everyone knows about him now wouldn't have been all over the news like it is today.

    There wasn't as much money to play for as there is now either.  So once 'ol Brett retired, he probably would've stayed retired...maybe.

8. John Mackey

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    What's the award for college football's best tight end?  The Mackey Award.  

    Enough said.

    With the way the tight end position has become so prominent in offenses today, Mackey would have had a field day.

    Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, the list goes on and on.  

    All of them have to be thankful for John Mackey.

    Honorable mentions go to Mike Ditka and Kellen Winslow Sr.

7. Reggie Jackson

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    On October 18, 1977 Reggie Jackson blasted three home runs in one World Series game against the Dodgers.

    I wasn't born yet, am not and never will be a Yankees fan, yet I know all about it.

    That's when you know you transcend eras.

    The self proclaimed "straw that stirs the drink", Mr. October had enough swagger for any era.

6. Gale Sayers

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    I love Gale Sayers.  

    This isn't the first time I've raved about him.

    Can you imagine the highlight reels if he had played today.

     If "The Kansas Comet" lined up in the backfield in some of today's high powered offenses, it would be borderline illegal.  

    His game just screams from the rooftops that he was ahead of his time.

5. Elgin Baylor

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    This clip isn't even a minute in and we hear "unprecedented aerial artistry".

    Connie Hawkins checked in at No. 20 on this list.  

    Elgin Baylor was Connie before Connie.  He was the true original.  

    Baylor was a force to be reckoned with in any era and blazed the trail for all of today's high fliers.

4. Pistol Pete Maravich

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    Pistol Pete. We know what he did at LSU without a three-point line.  

    Like Elgin Baylor, it would have been nice to see his creativity on display in today's game.

    He wasn't afraid to try anything, and watching him experiment would have been fun.

3. Joe Namath

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    When images of games played prior to your birth are so fresh in your mind that you think you watched the game yourself, then you know it transcends eras.

    Broadway Joe called his shot and then famously went and backed it up.  There was no way his Jets were supposed to beat Don Shula's Colts.  

    No one did that back then. We see it all the time now whether guys back it up or not.

2. Jim Brown

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    Show up for the season ready to play, ready to dominate, and win the rushing title. Repeat.

    Jim Brown repeated this process in eight of the nine seasons he played in the league.  Then he proceeds to leave the game in his prime at age 29 and go make movies with Raquel Welch and others.

    Transfer his career as it happened then into today's era.  It would be insane.  

    Movie buffs: What flick would Brown be best suited for today?

1. Muhammad Ali

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    Ali invented and defined swagger.  Talking the talk is great if that's what you want to do.

    Countless athletes talk the talk.  Ali walked that walk and he did it with charisma all the while.  Look at all of the media members around him at the start of this clip.

    Transfer his career into today's era just like we did with Jim Brown previously.  It would be unbelievable, and so much fun to watch.

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