The Best Athlete from Each State
Top Athlete from Each State
We all have our favorite athletes and sports teams that we remain loyal to. But did you ever stop and think where these athletes grew up? Most of the time, their team is nowhere near their hometown. A lot of times, they even come from different countries.
So I decided to take a look at every state and see which professional athletes grew up there and picked out the best of the best from each state. Narrowed down, I found the best athlete from each state, and even gave some athletes an honorable mention if I had a hard time deciding.
I discovered that some states simply don’t raise professional athletes. These may have some famous athletes but they didn’t have very many. I had to look beyond the normal most popular sports and focus on some that aren’t as common across the nation.
Then there are other states that have a plethora of famous athletes. Sure, this is probably due to the population size of the state, but either way it was hard to choose just one to be the “best” athlete from the state.
Now, I know that there are going to be disagreements about some of these because there is no such thing as a “perfect” list. Plus, not everyone knows a lot about smaller sports such as boxing or tennis. Then you have to include runners, they are some of the most active people out there.
These are some of the best athletes of all-time. Some of them played in the early 1900’s and others are still currently playing. A lot of these athletes have passed away, but either way, their name will always be significant in their home state.
Alabama: Hank Aaron
Hank Aaron is one of the best MLB players of all time. This state was debatable because Willie Mays also hails from Alabama. Aaron actually succeeded more in football during high school but denied scholarships because he enjoyed baseball more.
The one thing that put his career for the top was that he was highly criticized as a player, even after he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record; he was the victim of numerous death threats simply based off of racism. He had 25 MLB All-Star Game appearances and three Gold Glove Awards on top of his amazing batting and fielding skills.
Alaska: Curt Schilling
Not many athletes hail from Alaska but Schilling was an outstanding baseball player. He had six All-Star selections, won three World Series Championships and was even the MVP in the 2001 World Series. He was a clutch for post-season appearances. In 2001, he proved his ability to save the team, ending the season with a 1.12 ERA.
Arizona: Randall McDaniel
NFL player Randall McDaniel was born in Phoenix and attended Arizona State University for college. McDaniel was in ASU's first ever Rose Bowl appearance in 1987. He had twelve Pro Bowl selections, nine First-team All-Pro selections, and ten First-team All-NFC selections. To this day, McDaniel is the only player in the Football Hall of Fame that was born in Arizona.
Arkansas: Scottie Pippen
If it wasn’t for Michael Jordan shining in the spotlight at the time, there is a good probability that Pippen would have been in his shoes. The Chicago Bulls won six championships in eight years and Pippen was a member on the Olympic “Dream Team.” Pippen was also the first player to win an NBA Championship and Olympic medal in the same year, twice. His #33 has been retired, and Pippen was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.
California: Joe DiMaggio
Baseball seems to be hit-or-miss for some players. DiMaggio was one of those lucky ones that had a successful career. He had nine World Series Championships and thirteen All-Star game appearances. He still holds the MLB record for the longest hitting streak, 56 consecutive games. His entire 13-year career was played with the New York Yankees. DiMaggio is also well known for marrying Marilyn Monroe.
Colorado: Jack Dempsey
This Dempsey was the 20th century boxing champion. He won 83 fights in his career, 51 by knockout. Dempsey won the World Heavyweight Championship from 1919-1926, totaling only six losses and eleven draws. To this day, he is still ranked #10 on The Ring’s list of all time heavyweights. On top of that, he remains #7 on the list of “greatest punchers” of all time due to his exceptional punching power.
Connecticut: Calvin Murphy
Murphy never won a championship but he sure was a great player. He was an NBA All-Star, made the All-Rookie first team and had his number retired by the Houston Rockets. Murphy also made his name known due to his fourteen children with nine different women and allegedly abused five of his daughters. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993. He’s definitely not the best player on the list but there were very limited options from Connecticut.
Deleware: Randy White
White spent his entire NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys. He only had one Super Bowl Championship but nine Pro Bowl selections and even won the Lombardi Award in 1974. Now he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as well as the College Football Hall of Fame.
Florida: Emmitt Smith
A lot of athletes seem to hail from the state of Florida. However Emmitt Smith earned the top of this one. In his first full college game, he broke Florida’s single-game rushing record. This running back is also the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. He is in the Football Hall of Fame, and was featured in eight Pro Bowls, among the fact that he was the NFL’s leading rusher for four different seasons.
Georgia: Ty Cobb
Even though Cobb played back in the early 1900’s, he still holds the MLB record for most steals of home plate at 54 in his career. He played for 23 years and only batted under .320 one season. To this day, he is tied for the MLB record of most seasons batted over .400 (three). This is just a small part of Cobb’s career, he had many impressive seasons and earned the induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.
Hawaii: Duke Kahanamoku
The Duke was not only an amazing swimmer; he also helped promote the sport of surfing. He was the first Hawaiian to win a medal in the Olympic games before moving to California in order to expand the sport of surfing. Duke is now one of the most well known men from the state of Hawaii and they have his statue on the shores of Waikiki Beach.
Idaho: Harmon Killebrew
Since not many people live in the state of Idaho, there are not very many professional athletes to choose from. Killebrew was nicknamed “Hammerin’ Harmon” and remains third on the list of most career home runs in the American League (573). He only made it to the World Series once and the result was a loss to the LA Dodgers. Killebrew was a very versatile player and played left field, first and third base during his seasons with the Minnesota Twins. He got one AL MVP title and made the All-Star team thirteen times.
Illinois: Dick Butkus
Butkus is still a legend in the NFL world. He grew up on the south side of Chicago and attended the University of Illinois in Champaign for college. He then continued to maintain loyal to his home state of Illinois where he played for the Chicago Bears for eight years. Within those eight years he had eight Pro Bowl selections, six All-Pro selections and two NEA NFL Defensive Player of the Year Awards.
Indiana: Larry Bird
Bird succeeded as a player for the Boston Celtics and as a coach and team president for the Indiana Pacers. He had three NBA Championships with the Celtics and was an All-Star nine different times. Last year, he won the NBA Executive of the Year Award, which is given to the most successful general manager each season. . In 1998, he received the NBA Coach of the Year award and was also inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player.
Iowa: Dan Gable
If you’ve ever been to the state of Iowa, you know that they take wrestling very seriously. Gable had 15 National Championships, was an Olympic gold medalist, and World Championship winner. When he won gold at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, he did not give up a single point. After his athletic career was over, he went on to coach the University of Iowa Hawkeyes wrestling team, where he became a legend after leading them to nine consecutive NCAA titles.
Kansas: Barry Sanders
Barry Sanders is currently listed as the 17th best NFL player of all-time, as well as the number one running back of all time. Sanders was named to the Pro Bowl every single season that he played with the Detroit Lions.
During his 10 years with the Lions, he never gained less that 1,000 yards. To this day, Sanders still holds 10 records for Detroit's franchise. He is now a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as well as the College Football Hall of Fame.
Kentucky: Muhammad Ali
Kentucky may raise basketball players these days but Muhammad Ali is by far the best athlete to come from the state. He began boxing at the age of 12 and became an Olympic Gold medalist at the young age of 18. During his career, he had 56 wins and only 5 losses.
Since his retirement, he has devoted his life to philanthropy. He has played a huge role for the Special Olympics and Make A Wish Foundation after his diagnosis of Parkinson's disease in 1984.
Louisiana: Peyton Manning
Peyton's success as a player can be proved by his outstanding comeback this season. As a starter for the University of Tennessee Volunteers, he won 39 of 45 games, breaking an SEC record. After that, Manning was the #1 NFL Draft pick in 1998 where he began his professional career with the Indianapolis Colts. He has been selected to 12 Pro Bowls, and still holds numerous records for the Colts.
A neck injury led to his release from the Colts, and Manning sat out an entire season. The Denver Broncos made the smart decision to pick him up, where he led their team to a 13-3 record this season.
Maine: Joan Benoit
Joan Benoit won gold at the 1974 Summer Olympics, the first year that the women's marathon was introduced. To this day, Benoit still holds the fastest time for a woman at the Chicago Marathon and the Olympic Marathon. She placed 1st in six of her 11 marathons for the USA and never finished below 6th place.
Maryland: Babe Ruth
I have to give a special shout out to Michael Phelps for the state of Maryland, but Babe Ruth will always be a baseball legend. He had 7 World Series Championships and still holds the MLB record for slugging percentage (.690). Ruth is still ranked to be one of the top 10 players to ever play in MLB.
Massachusetts: Rocky Marciano
Boxing may not be the world’s most popular sport but he definitely succeeded. At the age of 20 he was drafted into the Army, which is where he first began to learn the sport of boxing. In 1948 he began fighting professionally and he never lost a match. He defended the World Heavyweight Championship six times in a row, five being successful by knockout. To this day, he remains to be the only heavyweight to go undefeated and untied throughout his career.
Michigan: Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson will always be considered one of the best NBA players. He was the first pick in the 1979 NBA Draft, selected to the LA Lakers. He went on to win five NBA Championships, twelve All-Star appearances and three MVP Awards.
In 2002, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. During 1991, his career was cut short after announcing that he was infected with HIV Since retirement, Johnson has played a huge role in HIV prevention, targeting disadvantaged youth.
Minnesota: Kevin McHale
McHale won three NBA Championships, made the NBA All-Star Team seven times and made the NBA All-Defensive First Team three times. He had a rough start after signing with the Boston Celtics but ended his first season well and made the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team title.
Mississippi: Walter Payton
Payton is currently ranked to be the 5th best NFL player of all time. His entire professional career was played with the Chicago Bears, where he had the nickname "Sweetness." He led the Bears to win Superbowl XX and he had nine Pro Bowl selections during his career. He has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
One more Mississippi native deserves some recognition as well, Jerry Rice. His statistics are better than Payton's but Payton had a lot of success considering the Bears were not very good at the time.
Missouri: Cal Hubbard
Cal Hubbard is the only man that has been inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame and the Professional Baseball Hall of Fame. He was an offensive tackle in the NFL and made the NFL 1920’s All-Decade Team. He wasn’t inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame for his athletic ability though. Hubbard was inducted into it due to his umpiring skills and was only the 5th umpire to be given that honor.
Montana: Phil Jackson
Jackson can thank his coaching career in addition to his NBA career as a player. As a player he won the only two NBA Championships by the NY Knicks and made the NBA All-Rookie First Team. As a coach, he has eleven NBA Championships, six Eastern Conference Championships, seven Western Conference Championships and one NBA Coach of the Year Award.
Nebraska: Bob Gibson
Gibson spent 16 years with the St.Louis Cardinals and was an outstanding pitcher. He got two World Series Championships and nine Gold Glove Awards during his MLB career. Currently he still holds two MLB records: most strikeouts in a World Series (35) and most strikeouts in a World Series Game (17).
Nevada: Andre Agassi
Agassi simply dominated the world of tennis in the 1990's and 2000's. His singles career record was 870-274 and he won 60 titles by the time he retired. He has been inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame and is one of only four tennis players to achieve the "Career Grand Slam" by winning the four major championships. He is a figure that is known by everyone in the sport's world, not just the world of tennis.
New Hampshire: Bode Miller
Between 1998-2011, Miller won 33 World Cup Championships and five Olympic medals in alpine skiing. Miller is still staying strong and is now in his 15th season of skiing. I know this isn't the most common sport but the state of New Hampshire just isn't big enough to produce a plethora of professional athletes.
New Jersey: Derek Jeter
I had a hard time debating between Jeter and Shaquille O'Neal on this one. But Jeter’s career just keeps on going and Shaq has already retired. Jeter has been an MLB All-Star thirteen times, has won five World Series, five Gold Glove Awards and five Silver Slugger Awards. That’s quite the array of awards to win for a baseball player. On top of that, he holds many different records for the NY Yankees, as well as overall MLB post-season records.
New Mexico: Ronnie Lott
New Mexico doesn’t exactly have the wide array of athletes. However Ronnie Lott had quite the success in the NFL. To this day, he is ranked to be the 11th best NFL player of all-time. He had ten Pro Bowl Selections, eight First Team All-Pro selections and a surprising four Super Bowl Championships.
He was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 2000. To this day, he is still tied for the title of most interceptions returned for touchdowns in a rookie season at three.
New York: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem holds the title of the all-time leading scorer in the NBA. During his college days at UCLA, he won three back-to-back NCAA Championships. This led him to be the #1 pick in the 1969 NBA Draft, selected by the Milwaukee Bucks. He won one NBA Championship with the Bucks then went on to win five more with the LA Lakers.
During his career, he had 19 All-Star appearances and six MVP Awards among many other achievements. His number has been retired by the Bucks, Lakers and UCLA. Last year, he was selected as a U.S. Cultural Ambassador due to his worldwide recognition.
North Carolina: Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan was actually born in New York but most of younger years were spent in North Carolina for high school and college. By the end of his NBA career he accomplished five MVP Awards, ten All-NBA First Team titles and fourteen NBA All-Star Game appearances among many other achievements. He is still considered by many to be the best player of all-time, although it seems like LeBron James may pass him up on that title at some point.
North Dakota: Roger Maris
Maris was actually born in Minnesota but his family moved to North Dakota when he was very young. He was originally recruited by the University of Oklahoma to play football but dropped out during his first year and signed a minor league baseball contract with the Cleveland Indians.
Then he spent four years in the minors before hitting the big leagues. By the end of his career, Maris had three World Series Championships and seven All-Star titles. He has not yet been inducted into the Hall of Fame but there is speculation that he may be in the future.
Ohio: Jack Nicklaus
There are debates that this title should be given to LeBron James however if you’re a fan of golf, you know that Jack Nicklaus has achieved a lot more than one title. Over the span of 18 years, Nicklaus won 18 professional major championships. He won the “Career Grand Slam” of golf by winning all four professional major championships; only four other men have claimed this title.
This is just the start of his achievements, there are many more that could be listed but let’s just say that information alone is enough to pass up James for the best athlete from Ohio.
Oklahoma: Jim Thorpe
Thorpe is one of the most versatile athletes of all-time. He was inducted into the Professional and College Football Halls of Fame and was an Olympic athlete. He won gold medals in the 1912 Olympics for the pentathlon and decathlon. However, he lost those titles for violating the "amateurism" rules because he was being paid to play two seasons of semi-professional baseball before the Olympics. 30 years after his death, the IOC restored his Olympic Medals
Oregon: Danny Ainge
Ainge played basketball, baseball and football during high school. He started all four seasons that he played basketball for at BYU. While in college, he was selected for the amateur baseball draft and made it onto the Toronto Blue Jays while he was still in school. He went on to play four years in the major leagues and then got drafted into the NBA.
From there, he went on to win two NBA Championships and one All-Star title. After he retired, Ainge went on to coach for the Phoenix Suns and now is on management for the Boston Celtics.
Pennsylvania: Joe Montana
I'm not sure why or how, but Pennsylvania seems to grow some pretty impressive athletes. I'll go ahead and mention that Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlin and Dan Marino were in the runnings for this one. However, Joe Montana wins the title.
He won four Super Bowls, and had eight Pro Bowl selections during his NFL career. The Associated Press named him Male Athlete of the Year in 1989 and 1990. Montana is currently ranked the #4 best NFL player of all-time. He was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 2000, which was his first year of eligibility.
Rhode Island: Nap Lajoie
Let's just say that if you want your kid to be a professional athlete, I wouldn't move to Rhode Island. This was the hardest state to find successful athletes for. Lajoie acheieved the AL Triple Crown in 1901 and led the AL in batting average for five different seasons. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937.
South Carolina: Kevin Garnett
I had a tough time deciding between Garnett and boxer Joe Frazier for this one but Garnett has had some pretty good statistics. He has only had one NBA Championship but has been selected as an All-Star 15 times now.
When he was drafted into the NBA, he was the first player to be drafted directly out of high school in 20 years. He is with the Boston Celtics now but still holds many franchise records from his 12 seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
South Dakota: Dallas Clark
Dallas Clark is one of the very few athletes that came to mind when thinking about South Dakota. Clark played football at the University of Iowa and was then drafted to the Indianapolis Colts in 2003. He has had one Superbowl Championship and one Pro-Bowl selection. He found himself released by the Colts in 2012 due to injury and joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Tennessee: Reggie White
Reggie White was born and raised in Chattanooga then went on to play football at the University of Tennessee. He is currently ranked the #7 best NFL player of all time even though he only has one Super Bowl Championship. White is in the College and Professional Football Halls of Fame, as well as the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. He made 13 Pro Bowls and was named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 80's and 90's.
Texas: Joe Greene
Greene was commonly referred to as "Mean Joe" Greene. He spent 12 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and is ranked the #13 NFL player of all-time. After being a first round draft pick in 1969, Greene went on to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Greene had four Super Bowl Championships and 10 Pro Bowl selections while he was with the Steelers.
Utah: Steve Young
Young is a descendent of Brigham Young so it only made sense that he would attend college at BYU. Out of college, he entered the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft of USFL & CFL players. However, his first two seasons started out horrible with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then he got traded to San Francisco 49ers where his career picked up the pace. He got three Super Bowl Championships, seven Pro Bowl selections and was the NFL Offensive Player of the Year for two seasons.
Vermont: Carlton Fisk
Fisk hasn't exactly kept himself out of trouble with the law but he really was a great baseball player. He never won a championship but was an All Star for 11 seasons and won the Gold Glove Award in 1972. Nicknamed "Pudge," he played with the Red Sox for 12 seasons and the White Sox for 12 seasons. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000. Currently, Fisk holds the record for most seasons as a catcher, 24.
Virginia: Lawrence Taylor
Lawrence Taylor also found himself in the spotlight after being accused of sexual misconduct with a 16-year old girl . He spent 12 years with the New York Giants where he won two Super Bowls. Taylor was invited to ten Pro Bowls and received numerous Defensive Player of the Year Awards. Now he is said to be one of the top 3 players of all-time.
Washington: John Elway
Elway may be loyal to the Denver Broncos but he is a Washington native. He played all 15 seasons with the Broncos and won two Super Bowl Championships. Elway was invited to nine Pro Bowls and his team won the AFC Championship five times during his career. The Football Hall of Fame inducted him in 2004; Elway now is the Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the Broncos. He is said to be the one responsible for bringing Peyton Manning to Denver this year.
West Virginia: Randy Moss
Moss was drafted to the Minnesota Vikings in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft after playing for Marshall University in his home state of West Virginia. He went to seven Pro Bowls and has a ton of records that he broke. Moss didn't exactly stay with one team in the last ten years but he sure has helped some bad teams out. Even though he hasn't won a Super Bowl yet, he will have his chance this year with the San Francisco 49ers.
Wisconsin: Eric Heiden
Heiden is another one that participated in a unique sport but dominated at it, speed skating. In 1980, he won five gold medals at the Olympics in Lake Placid. On top of that, he has won seven World Championships and broke six records over the span of his career.
Wyoming: Rulon Gardner
Last but not least, Wyoming. Gardner was an Olympic wrestler (Greco-Roman Wrestling) for the United States in Athens and Sydney. During the 2000 Summer Olympics, he defeated Alexander Karelin. At the time, Karelin had been undefeated for 13 years. In Sydney, he won gold and in Athens he won bronze.
In 2001, he also won gold at the World Championships. One more claim to fame for Gardner is that he was a contestant on the 11th season of " The Biggest Loser."