The Best Athlete from Every State
There are countless great athletes in American history, but not all of them are born in the United States. Of those that are, many are concentrated within a select few states with a large population and a history of producing athletically gifted residents.
It's not that any one community is inherently better at churning out Hall of Famers. It's just the odds, or—in cases like Permian High School in Odessa, Texas—a reputation snowballs into a student-athlete machine.
But that doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of standout athletes from each state in the union. In fact, if you dig a little deeper, you'll be surprised by the diversity of the nation's most outstanding physical talents. This includes individuals born or largely raised in that state.
Our cities, suburbs and rural communities—from coast to coast—all have a proud history of producing outstanding athletes who made an impact here in America...and often around the world. Here are the best athletes from every state!
Alabama: Hank Aaron
Henry Louis Aaron, best known as "Hank," was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama. One of seven children in his family, Aaron was a gifted athlete growing up who excelled at both football and baseball.
Aaron's football success in high school led to a number of scholarship offers, which he turned down in favor of pursuing a career in baseball. He was signed by the Indianapolis Clowns in 1951, but played in the Negro League for hardly a season before making his move to MLB in 1952.
The Braves purchased Aaron from the Clowns for $10,000 and he went on to play the rest of his career from the team in both Atlanta and later in Milwaukee. He was a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee in 1982.
Honorable Mention(s): Willie Mays, MLB. Bo Jackson, NFL and MLB.
Alaska: Lance Mackey
Fairbanks, Alaska, native Lance Mackey is a dog musher and dog sled racer who became the first person to win both the Iditarod and Yukon Quest races in the same year in 2007; a feat once believed impossible to achieve. And then he did it again in 2008.
Mackey was diagnosed and, ultimately beat, throat cancer in 2001. Over the next decade he went on to win the famous Iditarod and Yukon Quest races an epic eight total times—four consecutive years competing in each.
Honorable Mention(s): Curt Schilling, MLB. Carlos Boozer, NBA. Mark Schlereth, NFL. Susan Butcher, dog musher. Tommy Moe, Olympic skier. Trajan Langdon, NBA.
Arizona: Kerri Strug
American Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Kerri Strug, who was born in Tucson, nudged out the Arizona boys because of the iconic status she holds in sports history. Despite a relatively short career, Strug's legacy was written in stone after she performed her second vault at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta on a seriously injured ankle.
Strug injured her ankle on her first vault, but still performed the second and scored high enough to guarantee gold for the team. Afterwards she was carried to the medal stand by her coach in one of the greatest moments in U.S. Olympic history.
Honorable Mention(s): Curly Culp, NFL. Ty Murray, Rodeo World Champion. Dot Wilkinson, Softball. Michael Carbajal, Boxing. Randall McDaniel, NFL.
Arkansas: Scottie Pippen
Hailing from Hamburg, Arkansas, NBA legend Scottie Pippen spent the most fruitful years of his career playing alongside the even more legendary Michael Jordan in Chicago. Those Bulls went on to win six NBA Championships in eight years.
Pippen was also a member of the original Olympic "Dream Team" and became the first player to win an Olympic gold medal and an NBA Championship in the same season twice. In 2010, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Honorable Mention(s): Dizzy Dean, MLB. Brooks Robinson, MLB. Rod Smith, NFL. Lou Brock, MLB. Cliff Lee, MLB. Don Hutson, NFL. Joe Perry, NFL.
California: Tiger Woods
Routinely listed among the most hated people in sports, golf legend Tiger Woods may not be a popular pick, but he is the right pick. Things have gone downhill for the Cypress, California, native in recent years, but there's no denying that Woods was the single most dominant athlete in the world in his respective sport for over a decade.
Woods went pro in 1996 and, between then and 2009, he won 14 majors on the circuit, just four short of the 18 won by golf legend Jack Nicklaus. Despite his current Major drought, Wood, at age 36, still has a good shot at matching or surpassing Nicklaus' total.
Honorable Mention(s): Bill Russell, NBA. Joe DiMaggio, MLB. Tom Brady, NFL. Mark Spitz, Olympic Swimmer. Warren Moon, NFL. Randy Johnson, MLB. Marcus Allen, NFL. Ted Williams, MLB.
Connecticut: Brian Leetch
Dominating NHL defenseman Brian Leetch played 18 seasons in the league, all but two of them with the New York Rangers—just two hours south of where he grew up in Cheshire, Connecticut. He was the first American to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, recognized the Playoff MVP during his Stanley Cup season with the Rangers in 1994.
Leetch also captured the Norris Trophy, which honors the NHL's top defenseman, twice in his career. He was the 1989 NHL Rookie of the Year and, 20 years later, he was inducted into the Hockey Fall of Fame in Toronto. Leetch is, without question, one of the greatest defensemen in NHL history.
Honorable Mention(s): Bruce Jenner, Olympic Decathlon. Dwight Freeney, NFL. Calvin Murphy, NBA. Chris Drury, NHL.
Colorado: Jack Dempsey
The late, great Jack Dempsey was born to a poor family in Manassa, Colorado, in 1895. Despite his meager beginnings, the "Manassa Mauler," as he would later come to be called, became the World Heavyweight Champion from 1919-26.
He's one of the most beloved boxers in the history of the sport and his fights often set records in both attendance and income; he was the first to bring in $1 million at the gate and later became the first to bring in $2 million at the gate.
Dempsey made The Ring's lists of both the Top 10 All-Time Heavyweights and Top 10 Punchers in boxing history. He's been a member of the Boxing Hall of Fame since 1951 and is also a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Honorable Mention(s): Earl "Dutch" Clark, NFL. Missy Franklin, Olympic Swimmer. Goose Gossage, MLB. Matt Hasselbeck, NFL. Amy Van Dyken, Olympic Swimmer. Roy Halladay, MLB.
Delaware: Randy White
Hall of Fame defensive linebacker/lineman Randy White wasn't born in Delaware, but he played high school football there in the early 70's and is considered the best high school football player the state has ever seen.
That's going to have to do because there just aren't that many famous people from teeny, tiny Delaware, let alone professional athletes. White played college ball at the University of Maryland and was drafted by the Cowboys in the first round of the 1975 NFL Draft.
He played all 13 years of his career in Dallas and won one Super Bowl with the Cowboys. White was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994.
Honorable Mention(s): Delino DeShields, MLB. Michael Stewart, Boxing. Mark Eaton, NHL.
Florida: Emmitt Smith and Deion Sanders
Considering they both played for the Cowboys during their glory days in the 1990's, it just didn't seem fair to pick between these Florida natives who went on to become NFL greats. On pure athleticism alone, you'd have to go with Sanders. He was as dynamic a playmaker as the NFL has ever seen and also excelled at baseball.
In terms of records and measured production, Smith is the NFL all-time leading career rusher with 18,355 yards in his 14-year career. But they're both legends, both former Cowboys and both members of the NFL Hall of Fame. I hate ties—but exceptions can be made for the exceptionable.
Honorable Mention(s): Ray Lewis, NFL. Steve Carlton, MLB. Bob Hayes, NFL. Chris Evert, Tennis. Wade Boggs, MLB. Michael Irvin, NFL. Chipper Jones, MLB. Andre Johnson, NFL.
Georgia: Ty Cobb
Georgia's own Ty Cobb, nicknamed "The Georgia Peach" (which he probably hated), was born in the small town of Narrows in 1886. Over a century later, he still holds the highest lifetime batting average with .366 and his 3,034 games played is the fourth-highest in the history of Major League Baseball.
Cobb played most of his career for the Detroit Tigers and batted over .400 three times. He won 12 batting titles over the course of his 20-year career in the majors, but he never managed to win a World Series.
Cobb moved back to Georgia after his retirement and died in Atlanta in 1961, sparing him the trauma of the "hippie years," which would have killed him anyway.
Honorable Mention(s): Jim Brown, NFL. Mel Blount, NFL. Bobby Jones, Golfer. Jackie Robinson, MLB. Sugar Ray Robinson, Boxer. Herschel Walker, NFL/MMA.
Hawaii: Duke Paoa Kahanamoku
The legendary, if not mythical, Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, full name Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku, grew up in Waikiki, Hawaii and is credited as the man who helped popularize and spread the sport of surfing. Although, "The Duke" was a man of many talents which extended far beyond surfing.
Duke became the first native Hawaiian to medal at the Olympics for the United States when he took silver in the 4x200m freestyle and gold in the 100m freestyle at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. Eight years later in Antwerp he took gold in both events and in Paris in 1924 he took silver in the 100m freestyle.
Duke lived in Southern California for over a decade as a young man, bringing surfing to the mainland with him. He also worked as a Hollywood actor, earning small parts in a number of films over a number of years before returning home.
Duke is one of Hawaii's most beloved natives and is forever immortalized with a bronze statue centrally located on Waikiki Beach, a global tourist destination.
Honorable Mention(s): Bobo Olson, Boxer. Akebono Taro, Sumo Wrestler. Michelle Wie, Golfer. Bethany Hamilton, Surfer. Ronald Darling Jr., MLB. Ed Corney, Body Builder.
Idaho: Harmon Killebrew
The late Harmon Killebrew may have grown up in a state with less people than Manhattan, but the Hall of Famer was the kind of slugger who would have been at home under the lights of NYC. "Hammerin' Harmon" is third on the list of career home runs (573) by AL batters, behind Babe Ruth and A-Rod, and 11th all-time.
Killebrew spent all but one season of his 21 year career with the Minnesota Twins, reaching the World Series once, when the team lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games. The 13-time All-Star and 1969 AL MVP played left field, first and third base.
Honorable Mention(s): Merril Hoge, NFL. Picabo Street, Olympic Skier. Gary Stevens, Jockey. Larry Wilson, NFL. Jake Plummer, NFL. Vernon Law, MLB. Wayne Walker, NFL. Heather Moody, Olympic Water Polo.
Illinois: Dick Butkus
One of the meanest men to ever play the game, retired linebacker Dick Butkus was born and raised on the mean streets of Chicago's South Side. He attended the University of Illinois before being drafted by his hometown Bears in the first round of the 1965 NFL Draft.
Butkus was one of the few brights spots on a Bears team that was generally terrible during his eight-year career in the NFL. Unfortunately his career ended prematurely in 1973 when a number of major knee injuries forced him into retirement.
Butkus' jersey number 51 has been retired by both the Bears and the Fighting Illini. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
Honorable Mention(s): Isiah Thomas, NBA. Otto Graham, NFL. Lou Boudreau, MLB. Bonnie Blair, Olympic Speed Skater. George Connor, NFL. Paddy Driscoll, NFL. Rickey Henderson, MLB. Geore Musso, NFL. Kirby Puckett, MLB. Shannon Sharpe, NFL. Robin Roberts, MLB. Fritz Pollard, NFL. Whitey Herzog, MLB. Ray Nitschke, NFL.
Indiana: Larry Bird
Celtics legend Larry Bird was born in West Baden, Indiana, and grew up in the adjacent town of French Lick—which later inspired the nickname "the Hick from French Lick." He was a top prospect in high school and was recruited by the infamously cranky, but famously successful, Bob Knight, longtime basketball coach at Indiana University.
Knight was able to land Larry for his Hoosiers, but his success was short-lived. Bird began his freshman year at IU in 1974, but just 24 days later he decided to drop out and return home. He felt overwhelmed by the massive campus and was not warmly welcomed by the basketball team's upperclassmen.
Two years later he decided to give college another try, this time at Indiana State, and Bird fared much better in 1976. He was drafted in the first round the the 1978 NBA Draft by the Celtics, but decided to play his final season in college before officially signing with the team. Bird went on to win three championships in Boston and become one of the great players in NBA history.
Honorable Mention(s): Chuck Klein, MLB. Tony Stewart, NASCAR. Rod Woodson, NFL. Jeff Gordon, NASCAR. Oscar Robertson, NBA. Bob Griese, NFL. Gil Hodges, MLB.
Iowa: Dan Gable
Dan Gable was born in Waterloo, Iowa, and wrestled in his hometown Waterloo West High School before moving on to the collegiate level. Gable was a standout star during his three years wrestling for Iowa State, going 181-1, his only defeat was against the University of Washington during his final match.
After college, Gable wrestled both nationally and internationally on the freestyle circuits for nearly a decade, finishing with an overall record of 97-5. His career highlights include a gold medal at the 1971 Wrestling World Championships and a gold medal at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
Three years after his retirement from competition, Gable accepted the head wrestling coaching position at the University of Iowa in 1976. Under his leadership, the Hawkeyes became a dynasty, winning nine straight NCAA titles from 1978-86.
Gable's epic, unprecedented success at Iowa, winning 17 Big Ten Championships in his first 17 years, became the subject of an HBO documentary in 1997. In addition to his college coaching, Gable pulled double duty as the coach of the U.S. Olympic freestyle wrestling team in 1980, 1984 and 2000.
Honorable Mention(s): Bob Feller, MLB. Kurt Warner, NFL. Nile Kinnick, NCAA Football. Roger Craig, NFL. Fred "Cap" Clarke, MLB. Lolo Jones, Olympic Hurdler/Bobsledder. Raef LaFrentz, NCAA/NBA Basketball.
Kansas: Barry Sanders
Lions legend Barry Sanders was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, and played his college ball at Oklahoma State—one of only two universities two offer him a scholarship. His first two years at OSU were nothing to write home about, but that would all change in his junior season.
In 1988 Sanders averaged over 200 yards per game, rushing for over 300 yards in four games, amassed over 3,000 yards on the season, including his work on special teams, and scored 37 touchdowns. Sanders' achievements earned him Heisman Trophy honors and he decided to forgo his senior year.
Sanders was selected in the first round (No. 3 overall) by the Lions in the 1989 NFL Draft. He never gained less than 1,000 yards during his 10-year career, all of which he played in Detroit, and was named to the Pro Bowl every year of his career.
Since his retirement in 1998, Sanders has been rated the 17th best player of all-time by NFL.com as well as being named the No. 1 most elusive running back of all-time. He's the third highest rusher in NFL history and a member of the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Honorable Mention(s): Gale Sayers, NFL. Walter Johnson, MLB. John Riggins, NFL. George Brett, MLB. Judy Bell, Golfer. Jack Christiansen, NFL. Lynette Woodard, WNBA. Mildred Burke, Wrestler.
Kentucky: Muhammad Ali
Before he was boxing great Muhammad Ali, the Sportsman of the Century per Sports Illustrated and the BBC, he was Louisville, Kentucky native Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. He took up boxing at the age of 12 and won a number of amateur titles before winning a gold medal for the U.S. at the 1960 Olympics in Rome at the age of 18.
It was in 1964 that he changed his name to Muhammad Ali, after joining the Nation of Islam and later converting to Sunni Islam. The famous rope-a-dope style of boxing is associated with Ali, after he employed the technique of taking a beating by George Foreman during the 1974 Rumble in the Jungle, only to tire his opponent out and eventually win the bout.
Ali's badass boxing skills and bigass trash-talking skills made him one of the most recognized athletes of a generation. He took an outspoken position against the war in Vietnam, siding against the U.S. during the heat of the American Civil Rights Movement in 1966—just two years before the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Honorable Mention(s): Cris Collinsworth, NFL. Wes Unseld, NBA. Earl Combs, MLB. George McAfee, NFL. Frank Ramsey, NBA. Pee Wee Reese, MLB. Phil Simms, NFL. Rajon Rondo, NBA. Jim Bunning, MLB. Dave Cowens, NBA.
Louisiana: Peyton Manning
Second-generation quarterback Peyton Manning, the son of famed Saints quarterback Archie Manning, was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. Peyton eschewed Ole Miss, Archie's alma mater, in favor of playing his college ball at the University of Tennessee.
Injuries helped earn him a starting role his freshman year with the Vols and he went on to become Tennessee's all-time leading passer. Manning won 39 of his 45 games as a starter, which broke the SEC record for career wins.
He was selected No. 1 overall by the Colts in the 1998 NFL Draft. Manning played 13 seasons in Indianapolis and went to two Super Bowls, winning one of them, before a serious neck injury led the Colts to release him in 2012. Manning signed with the Broncos and, despite the odds, picked up his Hall of Fame-career in Denver right where he left off.
Honorable Mention(s): Karl "Mailman" Malone, NBA. Willie Davis, NFL. Clyde Drexler, NBA. Ted Lyons, MLB. "Pistol" Pete Maravich, NBA. Willis Reed, NBA. Jim Taylor, NFL. Steve Van Buren, NFL.
Maine: Ian Crocker
For whatever reason, The Pine Tree State isn't a hotbed of athletic achievement. But at least the fine people of Maine can lay claim to Portland native Ian Crocker, a swimmer who has won nearly two dozen medals in international competition.
Crocker won gold for the U.S. men's swimming team in the 4x100m medley at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. In Athens he also won a silver in the 100m butterfly and a broze in the 4x100m freestyle.
Honorable Mention(s): Jack Coombs, MLB. Bob Stanley, MLB. Joey Gamache, Boxer. Bill Carrigan, MLB. Cindy Blodgett, WNBA. Seth Wescott, Snowboarder. Joan Benoit, Olympic Marathon.
Maryland: Babe Ruth
Baseball legend Babe Ruth nearly lost this spot to his fellow Baltimore native Michael Phelps, the famed swimmer who became the most decorated Olympian of all time at the 2012 Olympics in London. But the mythical nature of "the Bambino" that still surrounds him nearly a century after his 1914 MLB debut cannot be denied.
Ruth played the first five seasons of his career for the Red Sox, winning three World Series Championships in Boston, before being sold to the Yankees on December 26, 1919. Merry Christmas Boston! The Babe went on to win four more in New York, but it took the Red Sox 86 years to win another without him.
During his career, Ruth was the AL home run champion 12 times and the AL RBI champion six times. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936, the year after his retirement, and his number has been retired by the Yankees. Ruth was also named to MLB's All-Century Team and All-Time Team.
Honorable Mention(s): Michael Phelps, Olympic Swimmer. Al Kaline, MLB. Cal Ripken Jr., MLB. Jimmie Foxx, MLB. Carmelo Anthony, NBA. Lefty Grove, MLB. Dominique Dawes, Olympic Gymnast. Brian Westbrook, NFL.
Massachusetts: Rockey Marciano
Famed boxer Rocky Marciano was born in Brockton, Massachusetts, in 1923. The son of two immigrants, Marciano's first battle was against pneumonia, which nearly killed him as a baby. He was an athlete growing up and played both baseball and football in high school before dropping out.
Marciano was drafted into the U.S. Army at the age of 20, which is where he got his start in boxing. After four years of success as an amateur, and after his release from the military, Marciano began fighting professionally in 1948. And he never lost again.
Marciano was the World Heavyweight Champion from 1952-56, successfully defending his title six times; five of which were by knockout. He died in a plane crash just shy of his 46th birthday in 1969, but remains the only heavyweight title holder to go undefeated, and untied, in his career.
Honorable Mention(s): Patrick Ewing, NBA. Kevin Stevens, NHL. Mickey Cochrane, MLB. Doug Flutie, NFL. Bob Cousy, NBA. Howie Long, NFL. Wayne Miller, NFL. Alicia Sacramone, Olympic Gymnast. Victor Cruz, NFL. Mickey Ward, Boxer.
Michigan: Earvin "Magic" Johnson
Earvin "Magic" Johnson was born in Lansing, Michigan, who became a standout basketball superstar during high school and led his team to a dramatic overtime victory in the state championship game during his senior year.
Johnson was one of the nation's top prospects and was aggressively pursued by basketball powerhouses like UCLA and Indiana. Ultimately he decided to stay close to home and attend Michigan State in 1977. Johnson led the Spartans to an NCAA Championship in his second year and was drafted No. 1 overall by the Lakers in the 1979 NBA Draft.
The greatest point guard of all-time, Johnson won five championships in Los Angeles and was named the Finals MVP and the league MVP three times over his career. Magic was also a member of the original "Dream Team" that took the world by storm and won gold at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
Honorable Mention(s): Joe Louis, Boxer. George Allen, NFL. Serena Williams, Tennis. Charlie Gehringer, MLB. Hal Newhouser, MLB. Dave DeBusschere, NBA. Bill Hewitt, NFL.
Minnesota: Bronko Nagurski
Famed fullback Bronko Nagurski was actually born in Canada, but his family, who were Ukrainian immigrants, moved to International Falls, Minnesota, when he was a young child. Nagurski played both football and basketball in high school, but decided to attend the University of Minnesota on a football scholarship in 1927.
Nagurski signed with the Bears in 1930 and played seven seasons in Chicago before retiring in 1937; he was named to the NFL's 1930's All-Decade Team and the 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. Nagurski returned to play for the Bears for one season in 1943 because the NFL was short on players because of WWII.
Nagurski moonlighted as a professional wrestler throughout his career in the NFL and won his first National Wrestling Association world title in June 1939. Minus his one-year foray into coaching football for UCLA in 1944, Nagurski wrestled regularly until 1960, when he finally retired at the age of 52.
Honorable Mention(s): Kevin McHale, NBA. Chief Bender, MLB. Dave Casper, NFL. Joe Guyon, NFL. Ernie Nevers, NFL. Dave Winfield, MLB. Joe Mauer, MLB. Patty Berg, Golfer. Paul Molitor, MLB.
Mississippi: Jerry Rice
The son of a brick mason, wide receiver Jerry Rice was born and raised in Starkville, Mississippi. After four impressive years at Mississippi Valley State, Rice was drafted by the 49ers in the first round of the 1985 NFL Draft.
In San Francisco he had the benefit of playing with future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young, with whom he won three Super Bowls with. Rice was named MVP of Super Bowl XXII and was selected to 13 Pro Bowls over his 20-year career in the NFL.
He has been named to the NFL's 1980's All-Decade Team, 1990's All-Decade Team and their 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. Rice was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010 and was rated the No. 1 player of all-time by NFL.Com.
Honorable Mention(s): Walter Payton, NFL. Archie Manning, NFL. Dizzy Dean, MLB. Eli Manning NFL. Brett Favre, NFL. L.C. Greenwood, NFL. Jake Gibbs, MLB. Steve McNair, NFL.
Missouri: Cal Hubbard
Keytesville native Cal Hubbard edged out fellow Missourians like Yogi Berra, Dan Dierdof and Albert Pujols, because he is still the first and only person to be inducted into both the Football and Baseball Hall of Fame. Hubbard played two seasons of college football at Centenary College in Louisiana and one season at Geneva College in Western Pennsylvania. In 1927 he signed with the Giants; Hubbard's salary was a mere $150 per game.
The big city didn't suit the small town boy and in 1929 he requested a trade, which was granted, to play for the Packers in Green Bay. Hubbard served as a minor league baseball umpire during his career in the NFL and after retiring from football in 1936, he graduated to officiate in the American League. His officiating style has been described as "dedicated and authoritative," largely in part to his imposing size for the time.
Hubbard also possessed 20-10 vision, which surely didn't hurt matters. Hubbard was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1962 and the Football Hall of Fame's very first class in 1963. He became just the fifth umpire to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976. Hubbard died just one year later in 1977 at the age of 76.
Honorable Mention(s): Yogi Berra, MLB. Bill Bradley, NBA. Dan Dierdorf, NFL. Carl Edwards, NASCAR. Stan Musial, MLB. Jamie McMurray, NASCAR. Albert Pujols, MLB. Mack Wheat, MLB.
Montana: Phil Jackson
Phil Jackson became is an NBA legend thanks to his illustrious coaching career, winning 11 championships (in just 21 years) as coach of the Bulls and and later the Lakers. But Jackson, who was born in (the remote as hell sounding) Deer Lodge, Montana, was a player before he was a coach.
He played high school basketball in North Dakota and was recruited to play at the collegiate level for the University of North Dakota in 1964. Jackson was chosen by Knicks in the second round (No. 17 overall) of the 1967 NBA Draft.
He didn't amass awards as a player, but Jackson was a member of the 1970 and 1973 NBA Champion Knicks teams—the only two championship teams in Knicks history. Coincidence? Jackson was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach in 2007.
Honorable Mention(s): Pat Donovan, NFL. Levi Leipheimer, Cyclist. Dave McNally, MLB. Bill Linderman, Rodeo Cowboy. Jerry Kramer, NFL.
Nebraska: Bob Gibson
Bob Gibson was the last of seven children born to his parents in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1935. He was named after his father, Pack Robert Gibson, who died of tuberculosis just three months before he was born.
Gibson played basketball, baseball and ran track in high school and eventually attended Creighton University on a full basketball scholarship; although he continued to play baseball.Upon graduation Gibson signed a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, but put off his start with the team for a year to play basketball with the famed Harlem Globetrotters.
He began his major league pitching career for the Cards in 1959 and he won two World Series Championships, nine Gold glove Awards, two NL Cy Young Awards and was named an All-Star nine times before retiring as a Cardinal in 1975.
Gibson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981 and his number has since been retired by the Cardinals.
Honorable Mention(s): Wade Boggs, MLB. Grover Cleveland Alexander, MLB. Ahman Green, NFL. Joba Chamberlain, MLB. Rulon Gardner, Olympic Wrestler. Max Baer, Boxer. Geroge Wagner, Wrestler.
Nevada: Andre Agassi
It’s fitting that retired U.S. tennis star Andre Agassi was born in Las Vegas, the “Entertainment Capital of the World.” The flamboyant player stoked a rebellious, rock star image, askew of the generally buttoned-up culture of pro tennis in the 90’s.
He wasn’t just a long-haired, Brook Shields-marrying celebrity who happened to play tennis—Agassi was dominant in his prime and No. 1 ranked player in the world. Over his career, he won nine Grand Slam titles and an Olympic Gold.
Honorable Mention(s): Steven Jackson, NFL. Kurt Busch, NASCAR. Kyle Busch, NASCAR. Julia Mancuso, Olympic Skier. Bryce Harper, MLB. Gina Carano, MMA.
New Hampshire: Bode Miller
New Hampshire’s own, U.S. skier Bode Miller, has been in the news in recent years more often for his ill-advised statements to the media—and questionable behavior—than for his achievements as a skier. However, for much of the last decade Miller was one of the top mens skiers in the U.S. and world.
From 1998-2011, Miller claimed 33 World Cup Championships along with five Olympic medals, including a gold in the Super Combined at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
Honorable Mention(s): Brian Wilson, MLB. Mike Flanagan, MLB. Stan Williams, MLB. Sam Fuld, MLB.
New Jersey: Derek Jeter
The legendarily likable Derek Jeter was a military brat born in Pequannock Township, New Jersey, before he and his parents moved to Michigan when he was just four years old. He played baseball in high school and was eventually offered a full scholarship to the University of Michigan.
Jeter's high school performance attracted the attention of a number of pro scouts prior to 1992, most notably was Hal Newhouser of the Astros. Newhouser was steadfast on his assessment of Jeter's abilities and actually quit his job when the team decided to pass in favor of Phil Nevin, out of Cal-State Fullerton, who they believed would be cheaper.
Four other teams passed on Jeter in 1992 before the Yankees stepped up to the plate and snagged the scrawny teenager. Jeter joined Yanks' prospects Jorge Posada and Andy Petitte, playing for the Greensboro Hornets until making his major league debut in 1995.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Honorable Mention(s): Carl Lewis, Olympic Sprinter. Shaquille O'Neal, NBA. Franco Harris, NFL. Rick Barry, NBA. "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler, Boxer. Dennis Rodman, NBA. Dwight Muhammad Qaqi, Boxer.
New Mexico: Ronnie Lott
New Mexico native Ronnie Lott was one of the most feared defensive backs in the NFL from the moment it stepped on the field as a rookie in 1981 until his retirement in 1995. He was the leader of the often-overlooked defense of the San Francisco 49ers during the team’s four Super Bowl championship dynasty from 1982-1990.
The 10-time Pro Bowler and Hall of Fame safety had 8.5 sacks, 63 interceptions (5 returned for touchdowns) and 17 fumble recoveries in his career, and was named to the NFL’s 1980s and 1990s All-Decade teams.
Honorable Mention(s): Ralph Kiner, MLB. Nany Lopez, Golfer. Tommy McDonald, NFL. Mike E. Smith, Jockey.
New York: Michael Jordan
There are few cities that seem big enough for a legacy like Michael Jordan’s, so it seems natural that he was born in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Universally regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time, “His Airness” transformed the NBA into a marketing machine defined by superstars.
Jordan almost effortlessly dominated the league as a member of the Chicago Bulls, turning them into a perennial contender that won six NBA championships and made the playoffs every single season he was on the team.
The Hall of Famer is the most decorated player in pro basketball history, including being named NBA MVP five times, 14 All-Star appearances, ten league scoring championships and six NBA Finals MVPs.
Honorable Mention(s): Carl Yastrzemski, MLB. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NBA. Lou Gehrig, MLB. Sandy Koufax, MLB. Julius Erving, NBA. Hank Greenberg, MLB. Whitey Ford, MLB. Sid Luckman, NFL. Al "Bummy" Davis, Boxer. Jon "Bones" Jones, MMA.
North Carolina: Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Dale Earnhardt Sr. was a second generation race car driver born to driver Ralph Earnhardt in Kannapolis, North Carolina, in 1951. Earnhardt decided to follow in his father's footsteps at an early age, eventually dropping out of school to pursue his high-speed dreams.
It didn't take long for Dale to surpass his dad's achievements in the racing world. He made his professional debut in 1975 at the Winston Cup and in his rookie season he had 11 top five finishes, 17 top 10 finishes and was named the Rookie of the Year after finishing seventh overall in the standings.
Earnhardt Sr. was just getting started; he went on to earn 22 poles, 76 wins and 428 top 10 finishes in his 26-year career. Earnhardt was involved in a devastating crash at the Daytona 500 in 2001 during the final lap of the race; his death was announced hours later. He was just 49.
Honorable Mention(s): Sugar Ray Leonard, Boxer. Rick Ferrell, MLB. Catfish Hunter, MLB. Bob McAdoo, NBA. Sonny Jurgensen, NFL. Buck Leonard, MLB. Gaylord Perry, MLB. Kristi Yamaguchi, Olympic Figure Skater. David Thompson, NBA. Enos Slaughter, MLB. Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR. Hoyt Wilhelm, MLB.
North Dakota: Roger Maris
Roger Maris wasn't born in North Dakota, but rather Hibbing, Minnesota, in 1934. The Maris family moved to Fargo, North Dakota, when Roger was just a kid, where he went on to excel in both baseball and football as a high school student.
Maris was recruited to play football for at the University of Oklahoma, but dropped out during his first semester in favor of a minor league contract to play for the Cleveland Indians organization. After kicking around in the minors for four years, Maris graduated to the big leagues in 1957. He was quickly traded to the Kansas City Athletics in 1958 and just as quickly to the Yankees in 1959.
Maris won two World Series Championships with the Yankees and rivaled teammate Mickey Mantle in the race to beat Babe Ruth's 60 home run record in 1961. An injury sidelined Mantle in September, but Maris went on to top Ruth record with 61 homers on the season. Ultimately, Maris ended up winning three World Series, the last was with the Cardinals in 1967.
He retired a year later and his number has since been retired by the Yankees, although he has yet to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Honorable Mention(s): Jim Kleinsasser, NFL. Rick Helling, MLB. Travis Hafner, MLB. Chris Coste, MLB.
Ohio: LeBron James
LeBron James was dubbed "The Akron Hammer" by former ESPN host Michelle Beadle because…duh…he was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. He was a standout high school athlete, in both football and basketball, and decided to forgo college in favor of the NBA Draft.
James appeared on the covers of both Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine his senior year and was chosen No. 1 overall by the Cavaliers in the 2003 NBA Draft. A 19-year-old James helped elevate the Cavs from a 17-65 record in 2002-03 to a 35-47 record in his rookie season. A season later they finished above .500 at 42-40 and in 2004-05 they made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade in 2005-06 with a record of 50-32.
The Cavs continued their uphill climb until James hit the free agent market in 2010 and decided to sign with the Heat for a reduced price. The Heat's "Big Three" failed to deliver a championship to Miami in 2011, but James and company delivered in 2012.
In 2012 King James was also named the NBA MVP for the third time in his career, the MVP of the NBA Finals for the first time and won the third (second consecutive gold) Olympic medal of his career. James was also named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year in 2012.
Honorable Mention(s): Jack Lambert, NFL. Jack Nicklaus, Golfer. Cris Carter, NFL. Cy Young, MLB. Pete Rose, MLB. Jack Lambert, NFL. Charles Woodson, NFL. Kevin Youkilis, MLB. Ben Roethlisberger, NFL.
Oklahoma: Mickey Mantel
Yankees legend Mickey Mantle was born and bred in Spavinaw, Oklahoma, he later played baseball, football and basketball in high school. In fact, a football injury nearly cost him his leg after a kick to the shin resulted in a devastated infection that was only cured thanks to the newly invented drug known as penicillin.
Mantle was offered a football scholarship by the University of Oklahoma, but he decided to stick with baseball and played in the minors for just two years before making his way to the Yankees in 1951. He was assigned the No. 6 on his uniform, a clear indication that Mantle was to follow in the footsteps of Yankees greats Joe DiMaggio (No. 5), Lou Gehrig (No. 4) and Babe Ruth (No. 3).
Mantle went on to play 17 years in MLB, all of them with the Yanks, and win seven World Series Championships while in New York.
Honorable Mention(s): Jim Thorpe, NFL. Willie Stargell, MLB. Shannon Miller, Olympic Gymnast. Johnny Bench, MLB. Tommy Morrison, Boxer. Blake Griffin, NBA. Bullet Rogan, MLB. Matt Kemp, MLB.
Oregon: Danny Ainge
Danny Ainge is one of those people born a great athlete—a stand out star of football, basketball and baseball at North Eugene High School in Eugene, Oregon, the 1977 Parade All-American he went on to become a four-year starter at BYU.
His senior year, Ainge received the JR Wooden Award, given to the best player in the nation. Drafted in 1979 by the Toronto Blue Jays and in 1981 by the Boston Celtics, Ainge’s initial foray into the MLB fizzled and he ultimately (after much contractual wrangling) chose pro basketball…and the Celtics.
It’s a problem most of us would consider a blessing. Ainge went on to win two NBA championships and became the second NBA player to score 900 three-point shots.
Honorable Mention(s): Steve Prefontaine, Olympic Marathon. Dale Murphy, MLB. Kim Peyton, Olympic Swimming. Ndamukong Suh, NFL.
Pennsylvania: Dan Marino
Perhaps a controversial choice over fellow Western Pennsylvania quarterback Joe Montana, legendary quarterback Dan Marino played all 16 years of his NFL career for the Dolphins never winning a Super Bowl Championship in Miami.
Marino was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and played both football and baseball for Central Catholic High School. He was drafted by the Royals in the fourth round of the 1979 MLB Draft, but decided to attend the University of Pittsburgh on a football scholarship instead.
Marino was drafted by the Dolphins in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft (No. 27 overall) and went on to stun the league; breaking countless records in his first two years in the league. Retiring in 1999, Marino's number has subsequently been retired by the Dolphins and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Honorable Mention(s): Wilt Chamberlain, NBA. Ken Griffey Jr., MLB., Kobe Bryant, NBA. Joe Montana, NFL. Joe Namath, NFL. Johnny Unitas, NFL. Jim Kelly, NFL. Tony Dorsett, NFL. Reggie Jackson, MLB. Honus Wagner, MLB. Arnold Palmer, Golfer.
Rhode Island: Nap Lajoie
In the athletically-impaired state of Rhode Island (sorry, folks), Hall of Fame baseball player Nap Lajoie stands head and shoulders above the rest of The Ocean State's population in terms of achievement in sports.
Lajoie was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, to French Canadian immigrants in 1874 and he dropped out of high school to work at a local textile mill. He played baseball in the minors as a hobby while working other odd jobs before his rights were purchased by the Phillies in 1896.
Lajoie spent 13 years in the major playing for various teams, mostly in Philadelphia, and was named the AL batting champion five times and the RBI champion twice. He also won the AL Triple Crown in 1901. Lajoie retired from the game in 1916 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1937.
Honorable Mention(s): Bill Osmanski, NCAA Football. Vinny Paz, Boxer.
South Carolina: Joe Frazier
Born in Beaufort, SC, the late Joe Frazier not only went on to become one of the greatest U.S. heavyweight boxers, but also fought in two of the greatest title fights in pro boxing history: The “Fight of the Century” and “Thrilla in Manilla.”
“Smokin’ Joe” Frazier was known for his crushing left-hook and outstanding conditioning, which helped him defeat Muhammad Ali in their first match and compile a pro career record of 37-4-1.
Frazier made is name when he won Olympic Gold in 1964 when he replaced the injured heavyweight contender Buster Mathis at the Tokyo Summer Games. A member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Frazier’s only losses before retiring in 1976 came to Ali and George Foreman.
Honorable Mention(s): Kevin Garnett, NBA. "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, MLB. Althea Gibson, Tennis. Harry Carson, NFL. Roddy White, NFL.
South Dakota: Dallas Clark
Dallas Clark was born in Sioux City Falls, South Dakota, but later moved with his family to Iowa. He has been one of the most quietly dependable and durable players in the league since being drafted out of Iowa by the Colts in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft.
He may not have the flash of some of the newcomers at his position, like the Patriots superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski, but Clark was one of Peyton Manning's favorite targets in 2007 and 2009—which just so happen to be the two seasons the Colts found themselves in the Super Bowl.
With Manning out due to injury in Indianapolis in 2011, Clark's production dropped sharply in a season which he found himself mired by injury. He and Manning were both released in 2012 and Clark signed with the Buccaneers for the 2012 season.
Honorable Mention(s): Sparky Anderson, MLB. Adam Vinatieri, NFL. Brock Lesnar, MMA. Becky Hammond, WNBA. Terry Francona, MLB.
Tennessee: Reggie White
The late, great Reggie White was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and went on to play college ball for the University of Tennessee. White was a standout superstar for the Vols and was selected in the first round of NFL's Supplemental Draft in 1985 by the Eagles after it became clear that the USFL would go belly-up.
When he became a free agent in 1993, he signed with the Packers and helped lead them to a comfortable victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI just four years later. White was inducted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2006 and his No. 92 jersey has been retired by the Vols, Eagles and the Packers.
Honorable Mention(s): Lynn Swann, NFL. Doug Atkins, NFL. Pat Summit, Basketball. Jason Witten, NFL. Doug Atkins, NFL. Ed "Too Tall" Jones, NFL.
Texas: "Mean" Joe Green
Legendary Steelers defensive Tackle "Mean Joe" Greene was born in Temple, Texas, and played his college ball at the University of North Texas. He was drafted by Pittsburgh in the first round of the 1969 NFL Draft and went on to named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the year.
Mean Joe would become a member of the Steelers' famously brutal, shut down defense in the 1970's known as the "Steel Curtain" that won four Super Bowls in six seasons. Mean Joe was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987 and more recently was rated the 13th greatest player of all-time by NFL.com.
Honorable Mention(s): Gregg Maddux, MLB. Ernie Banks, MLB. Rogers Hornsby, MLB. Nolan Ryan, MLB. Sammy Baugh, NFL. Chris Bosh, NBA. LaDainian Tomlinson, NFL. Grant Hill, NBA. Adrian Peterson, NFL. Gene Upshaw, NFL. Earl Campbell, NFL. Forrest Gregg, NFL. Dick "Night Train" Lane, NFL.
Utah: Steve Young
Steve Young was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and went on to play college ball at Brigham Young University. No surprise, considering Young is a direct descendant of Brigham Young himself, the notable Mormon from which the university got its name.
After two very bad seasons as quarterback for the Buccaneers, Young was shipped off to San Francisco to hold the clipboard for 49ers legend Joe Montana, after Tampa Bay drafted Vinny Testaverde first overall in 1987.
Young showed promise filling in for the aging Montana but didn't become the official starter until his eighth season in the NFL; in 1993 Montana was traded to the Chiefs, putting an end to six years of discontent on both sides.
During his career with the 49ers Young won an epic six passing titles and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Honorable Mention(s): Byron Scott, NBA. Brett Keisel, NFL. Chris Cooley, NFL.
Vermont: Carlton Fisk
Carlton "Pudge" Fisk was born in Bellows Falls, Vermont, but spent his formative years in the neighboring town of Charlestown. He played over two decades in MLB; the first 12 years with the Boston Red Sox, the second 12 years with the Chicago White Sox.
I guess he just couldn't quit the Sox, so he just switched colors.
In 1972 Pudge became the first rookie to win the American League Rookie of the Year award by a unanimous vote. Over his career he set a number of records, many of which have been surpassed, but his 24 seasons playing catcher remains unbeaten.
Pudge was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000 and his number has been retired by both the Red and White Sox.
Honorable Mention(s): John LeClair, NHL. Birdie Tebbetts, MLB. Patty Sheehan, Golfer. Hannah Teeter, Olympic Snowboarder.
Virginia: Lawrence Taylor
Born in Williamsburg, Virginia, legendary and feared Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor was a beast on the field and an enigma off of it. He redefined the role of outside linebacker and became the model of the modern, attacking pass rusher which still influences schemes on both sides of the ball.
Drafted second overall by the Giants in 1981, Taylor helped the team win two Super Bowls over his 12-year career. With 132.5 career sacks, 10-time Pro Bowler Taylor is ninth on the list of all-time leaders and the highly decorated player was named to the third greatest player in league history in the NFL’s Top 100 series.
Honorable Mention(s): Allen Iverson, NBA. Fran Tarkenton, NFL. Arthur Ashe, Tennis. Moses Malone, NBA. Michael Vick, NFL. Alonzo Mourning, NBA. Plaxico Burress, NFL.
West Virginia: Randy Moss
Veteran NFL wide receiver Randy Moss was born and raised in Rand, West Virginia, and eventually attended Marshall University in his home state. Although Division 1-A ball wasn't exactly what Moss has planned on as one of the hottest high school prospects in the country.
The future Hall of Fame wideout is also a hall of fame pain in the ass and his involvement in a violent altercation at his high school led Notre Dame to deny his admission. Moss then committed to Florida State, but was dismissed during his freshman season after a positive drug test.
It was only then that he decided Marshall probably had less stringent academic and behavior requirements.
Honorable Mention(s): Jerry West, NBA. Deron Williams, NBA. George Brett, MLB. Hal Greer, NBA. Mary Lou Retton, Olympic Gymnast. Jesse Burkett, MLB. Mike D'Antoni, NBA. Lew Burdette, MLB.
Washington: John Elway
Legendary Broncos quarterback John Elway was born and raised in Port Angeles, Washington, before heading south to Stanford to play college ball. He played all 15 seasons of his career in Denver and won two Super Bowls.
Elway is considered one of the best quarterbacks of all time, if not the very best, which is why he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2004. He is currently the VP of Football Operations for the Broncos and was responsible for bringing Peyton Manning to the Mile High City.
Honorable Mention(s): Apollo Anton Ohno, Olympic Speedskater. John Stockton, NBA. Earl Averill, MLB. Red Badgro, NFL. Turk Edwards, NFL. Mel Hein, NFL. Steve Largent, NFL. Ryne Sandberg, MLB. Ron Santo, MLB. Brian Urlacher, NFL.
Washington, DC: Elgin Baylor
Washington, DC’s own Elgin Baylor was a record breaking area player as a member of the Springarn High School basketball team before graduating in 1954.
Before being taken first overall in the 1958 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Laker, Elgin helped Seattle University reach the NCAA Championship; losing to the Kentucky Wildcats.
Taken first overall, the Hall of Famer was a force as a small forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, taking Rookie of the Year honors as well as being named an All-Star 11 times.
Honorable Mention(s): Kevin Durant, NBA. Vernon Davis, NFL. Joshua Cribbs, NFL. Adrian Dantley, NBA.
Wisconsin: Eric Heiden
Madison, Wisconsin, native Eric Heiden is considered by many to be one of the greatest speed skater in the sport’s history. When he took home five individual gold medals at the 1980 Olympic Games in Lake Placid, it was an Olympic record—for both the Winter and Summer Games.
Today, Heiden is 9th all-time in individual medals in an Olympic Games and over his career broken six world records and won seven world championships.
Honorable Mention(s): Ernie Nevers, NFL. Alan Ameche, NFL. Mark Johnson, NHL. Pat Richter, NCAA Sports & NFL.
Wyoming: Boyd Dowler
Green Bay Packers great Boyd Dowler probably felt comfortable playing on the “frozen tundra” after growing up in the wild, rugged state of Wyoming.
A member of the five-time champion (including Super Bowls I and II) Packers squad in the 1960s, the wide receiver had 474 catches for 7,270 yards and 40 touchdowns over his 12 year career. Dowler is a member of the Packers Hall of Fame and was named to the NFL's 1960's All-Decade Team.
Honorable Mention(s): Chris Cooley, NFL. Rulon Gardner, Olympic Wrestler. John Godina, Olympic Shot Putter.