Recently, thanks to LeBron James, there has been a lot of talk about the Mount Rushmore of sports. Mount Rushmore of sports meaning the 4 best players of a particular sport. LeBron was referring to the NBA obviously but watching sports television, they have carried the conversation to other sports. This is of course right up my alley so I felt obliged to weigh in with my Mount Rushmore of sports for the four major US sports.
I want to mention a few caveats and notes to people who don’t know me personally or the extent of my sports history knowledge. First, I have a photographic memory for stats, dates and other useless facts. I am 35 years old and watch all sports religiously. Obviously I didn’t see older generations of players play in person but I have a great idea of their historical significance and place in that sports’ history.
I also want to acknowledge that I have not taken into account steroids, and don’t hold lack of championships against a player. I have picked the best players in my view of all time in that sport based on their play on the field/court/ice. So here we go in no particular order.
Babe Ruth is a no brainer, no argument, and automatic inclusion in the Mount Rushmore of baseball. He is unquestionably, by all metrics, the greatest baseball player of all time. His numbers, stats, personality and even his pitching made him the icon that he still is today.
Willie Mays is not a no brainer but he’s pretty close. He is generally considered the greatest center fielder of all time and believe me there’s some pretty good competition at that position. His 660 home runs after missing a few years for the war are legendary and his athleticism is perhaps the best of all time. The ‘Say Hey Kid’ gets a spot on the Mount Rushmore of baseball.
Barry Bonds is the greatest hitter that most of us have ever seen. Believe me, I am well aware of the steroid issues plaguing him but for the purposes of this article, he gets on Mount Rushmore because his best seasons and his career stack up ahead of or right behind Babe Ruth. Barry Bonds was an unbelievable hitter, the best I’ve ever seen.
Walter Johnson is the best pitcher of all time. While there are many baseball players that could warrant inclusion, a pitcher had to be selected, and there has never been a better one than the Big Train. 417 wins, a 2.17 era and 110 shutouts are unreal stats. I put him just ahead of Roger Clemens, Warren Spahn, Tom Seaver and others but Johnson is on Mount Rushmore.
Jerry Rice is the only 100% no doubt, there can be no argument choice in football. He was and still is the best player to ever play in the NFL and his records may never be approached. The all-time touchdown and receiving leader, former Superbowl MVP and 3-time champion is the George Washington of the NFL Mount Rushmore.
Lawrence Taylor is the greatest defensive player of all time in my mind. He changed the position of linebacker and led the New York Giants to two Superbowl championships. LT was the most feared defensive player I ever saw and barely edges out Dick Butkus, Reggie White, Deion Sanders and Ray Lewis as the top defensive player ever. LT gets a spot on Mount Rushmore and I don’t think it’s very debatable.
Barry Sanders, in my view, is the greatest running back of all time. He did more with less than anyone ever. His teams were always bad and were only half as good as they were because of him. Sanders was must see TV and I would watch a meaning Detroit Lions game just to watch him play. This pick is debatable of course as Barry never won a Superbowl or even played in one. Notable challengers to this spot on Mount Rushmore are Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton but to me; Sanders gets the spot.
Peyton Manning is the greatest Quarterback of all time. When all is said and done, he will own every passing record there is. He has won a Superbowl, even though he’s lost two but he has also won 5 MVP’s and arguably could’ve won 2 others. Peyton is the most debatable member of the football Mount Rushmore as you could easily argue Joe Montana, John Elway, Tom Brady, Brett Favre and a few others. For me, Manning gets the spot on the mountain.
Michael Jordan is the start and end of this conversation and cannot be argued. Even the most hardened Jordan hater would still include him on the NBA Mount Rushmore; he was that good and honestly could’ve done a lot more if he didn’t retire a few times!
Wilt Chamberlain has stats that dwarf anyone else in the history of basketball. He once averaged 50+ points over a whole season! He scored 100 points in an NBA game and was the most physically dominating player in history; possibly in any sport. Wilt the Stilt won 2 championships and has his number retired by three teams. Wilt is on the mountain.
Magic Johnson was the best point guard I ever saw. He won 5 NBA championships and 3 MVP’s. He beat Larry Bird head to head in the finals twice and he led the Showtime Lakers. Magic lost time because of his HIV diagnosis and could’ve done even more. He was a fierce competitor and a great leader. To me, Magic is on the mountain although it is not 100%.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has to be on the Mount Rushmore of basketball. He is the all-time leading scorer; won 6 championships and had an indefensible shot that couldn’t be stopped. While he is by no means a slam-dunk choice here and Bill Russell people are going to go nuts, to me he has to be on the mountain. Apologies to Russell, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and LeBron James.
Wayne Gretzky is the greatest hockey player of all time and holds pretty much every scoring record there is. He was the most dominant player of any sport-ever. His goals and assist records will never be approached. He won 4 Stanley Cups and is unquestionably the best player ever and cannot be argued.
Gordie Howe played in every decade from the 40’s to the 80’s; he won 6 MVP’s and was the best players in the league for decades. Gordie had over 800 goals and even played for the Hartford Whalers. Howe is generally considered the second best ever player and warrants inclusion on the Mount Rushmore of hockey.
Mario Lemieux was a beast. He was talented, tough and a great leader. His Pittsburgh Penguin teams won 2 Stanley Cups and he was an MVP 3 times and even ended Gretzky’s run of 8 straight. Lemieux made everyone else better and he was the second best player I ever saw.
Bobby Orr was the greatest defenseman to ever play hockey. He won 3 MVP’s for the Boston Bruins and had perhaps the greatest photo ever taken in hockey where he was parallel to the ground scoring a goal. I include Orr because of his position but I think either way he edges out Mark Messier, Maurice Richard, Bobby Clarke, Phil Esposito, Bobby or Brett Hull. Orr is on the mountain.