The 10 Best Professional Athletes Born in Indiana

Ricky FrechCorrespondent IOctober 4, 2011

The 10 Best Professional Athletes Born in Indiana

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    Indiana isn't the most loaded state you'll see during this series, but it boasts some of the best professional athletes in all of the major sports.

    The stars are pretty evenly spread out amongst football, baseball and basketball, but Indiana can also claim a soccer star and wrestling world champion.

    The smaller state isn't a hotbed for athletes, but it can hold its own amongst the big boys like Florida and Georgia.

    Which all-time greats call Indiana home? Read on to find out.

Honorable Mentions

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    First, those who did not quite make the list:

    Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears

    Mick Foley, Wrestler

    Eric Gordon, G, Los Angeles Clippers

    Don Larsen, former Major League pitcher

    Zach Randolph, F, Memphis Grizzlies

10) DaMarcus Beasley

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    Born: Fort Wayne

    Sport: Soccer

    Position: Left Winger

    Notable Achievements: 45 career goals, 17 international goals

    DaMarcus Beasley isn't the biggest name in American soccer, but he may have had the most success as an offensive player in the highest level of European competition. Beasley currently holds the record for most goals scored by an American in the UEFA Champions League.   

    Beasley doesn't get the big-time media coverage of Landon Donovan, and rightfully so since he hasn't produced as well in World Cup play, but his success in the Champions League shows that Americans can play at a high level with Europe's best players. For that, he gets a spot on this list.

9) Scott Rolen

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    Born: Evansville

    Sport: Baseball

    Position: Third Baseman

    Notable Achievements: 2006 World Series champion, seven-time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glove winner

    This former NL Rookie of the Year has made a career out of being one of the best defensive third basemen in the MLB. He's also not bad in the batter's box either, with over 2,000 hits and 308 home runs. 

    Rolen is one of the game's elite defensive players, which seemed to be more of a rarity during his peak years in the Steroid Era. His wizardry with the mitt is what gets him on this list and might give him a shot at the Hall of Fame some day. 

8) Don Mattingly

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    Born: Evansville

    Sport: Baseball

    Position: First Baseman

    Notable Achievements: six-time All-Star, nine-time Gold Glove winner, three-time Silver Slugger, 1985 AL MVP

    Much like Scott Rolen, Don Mattingly was a superb defensive player and was even asked, early in his career, to play second and third base as a left-handed thrower.

    During the prime of his career, the Gold Glove was basically his, as he won it 9 out of 10 years from 1985 to 1994. Not only was he an excellent defender, but he developed a bit of a power-hitting game during the mid-80s before a back injury severely diminished his statistics.

    Mattingly has yet to be inducted to the Hall of Fame and his chances seem to get slimmer and slimmer, but we have seen guys get in before after years of lobbying.

    Either way, he's made Indiana proud, and for that he gets a spot on this list.

7) Kenny Lofton

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    Born: East Chicago

    Sport: Baseball

    Position: Center Fielder

    Notable Achievements: six-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner, one of two men to play in a Final Four and a World Series

    Kenny Lofton was a terror on the basepaths all through out his career, even establishing the AL rookie record for steals in 1992. Lofton's 622 career steals are good enough for fifteenth all time. Add to that his 2,428 hits and you have a perfect specimen for an all-time great leadoff hitter.

    He also used his great speed to make amazing plays look routine and won four Gold Gloves.

    Lofton was one of the most easily likeable guys to play in the MLB. He was traded multiple times, but no matter where he went the fans always seemed to love him.

    When you put that together with a great playing career, you can't help but put him on the list.

6) Shawn Kemp

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    Born: Elkhart

    Sport: Basketball

    Position: Power Forward

    Notable Achievements: six-time All-Star, three-time All-NBA

    Shawn Kemp is the definition of wasted talent. After getting upset because Seattle SuperSonics management wouldn't give him a raise, his body and mind went down the drain.

    It's amazing that, even after ballooning to 275 pounds, he continually put up solid numbers in Cleveland. Once his time there was over, he ability was a mere shell of it's former self.

    All that said, Kemp makes this list because of what he could do when he was actually healthy and motivated in Seattle. There has never been anyone more athletic and powerful than the Reign Main was during his peak years as a Supersonic.

    If he could have stayed playing at a high level throughout his career, he might be higher up on this list. 

5) Chuck Klein

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    Born: Indianapolis

    Sport: Baseball

    Position: Right Fielder

    Notable Achievements: two-time All-Star, 1932 MVP, 1933 Triple Crown

    Chuck Klein was one of the most powerful hitters of the 1920s and 1930s and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980. His amazing ability to hit the long ball was never on more display than on July 10, 1936. On that day Klein became one of only 15 men to hit four home runs in a single game.

    He wasn't just a big bat though, as his 44 outfield assists in the 1930 season still stand as the MLB record. He could also run the base paths: in 1932 he became the last person to lead the league in home runs and steals.

    Klein only hit 300 career home runs, but in his first two years in the league he hammered more homers than anyone else has in that time span. Add to that his amazing all-around ability to do just about everything well, and you get a man more than worthy of a spot on this list. 

4) Bob Griese

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    Born: Evansville

    Sport: Football

    Position: Quarterback

    Notable Achievements: eight-time Pro Bowler and All-Star, two-time Super Bowl champion

    Bob Griese's biggest claim to fame is that he quarterbacked the only unbeaten, untied team in NFL history, the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Along with that amazing accomplishment, he added two more Super Bowl appearances, winning one.

    His career stats aren't too impressive because the Dolphins were a running, ball-control team. However,  he was great when they needed him to be, as his 25,092 career yards and 192 touchdowns attest. 

    Griese might not get as much love as other quarterbacks whose teams let them throw the ball a lot to win, but he was a great player and a great winner. His exceptional talent on the football field led him to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990 and got him this spot on the list.

3) Ray Ewry

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    Born: Lafayette

    Sport: Olympic Jumping

    Notable Achievements: eight Olympic gold medals

    For a kid who contracted polio, was forced into a wheel chair, and left doctors doubting his ability to ever walk, Ray Ewry did pretty well for himself.

    In three separate Olympics, Ewry dominated the standing high jump, long jump, and triple jump, accumulating eight gold medals. That mark is second to only Michael Phelps in individual medals.

    Ewry is one of the most successful Olympic athletes ever, and to think he did it all after being told as a child that he might never walk is remarkable. His complete dominance in the various standing jump events made him one of the best Olympians ever and earned him a spot on this list. 

2) Rod Woodson

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    Born: Fort Wayne

    Sport: Football

    Position: Defensive Back

    Notable Achievements: 11-time Pro Bowler, eight-time All-Pro, Super Bowl champion, 1993 Defensive Player of the Year

    Rod Woodson's excellent defensive play got him inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009, his first year of eligibility. The Hall really had no choice with a player of his caliber.

    Woodson ranks third all-time in career interceptions, first in interception return yards, first in interceptions returned for touchdowns, and first in fumble recoveries. The man is the very definition of a playmaker.

    It's difficult to get much better than Rod Woodson in the secondary. He will easily go down as one of the best to ever play in the NFL and is more than deserving of this spot on the list.

1) Larry Bird

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    Born: West Baden

    Sport: Basketball

    Position: Forward

    Notable Achievements: three-time NBA champion, three-time MVP, 12-time All-Star, 10-time All-NBA

    When you think about Indiana sports, the first person you think of is "The Hick from French Lick," also known as Larry Bird.

    To some, Bird is the greatest basketball player to ever live, and it's near impossible to not at least have him in the top five. He was an amazing scorer and could seemingly light it up from anywhere on the court.

    He was also a great rebounder and holds a averaged 10.0 rebounds per game. Larry Legend was also a giving man, and his career assists per game mark stands at 6.3. Plus, he was one of the greatest trash talkers in the NBA. Don't believe me? Check his Wikipedia page.

    There really shouldn't have been a question as to who was going to be No. 1 from Indiana. Larry Bird is the most prominent athlete to ever come from Indiana, and it's not really close. 

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