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The Top 15 Detroit Sports Heroes of All Time

The Top 15 Detroit Sports Heroes of All Time

Barry Sanders Lions
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Detroit sports has seen its fair share of ups and downs over the years. From the Detroit Lions' 0-16 2008 season to the Detroit Pistons' Bad Boys days in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the city has seen a little bit of everything. As one of the few cities in America that has four professional sports teams, the city has seen plenty of sports legends. These 15 athletes rose above the rest and are the biggest sports heroes in Detroit history.

15. Calvin Johnson

Calvin Johnson Lions
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15. Calvin Johnson

Calvin Johnson Lions
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The No. 2 overall pick in 2007, Calvin Johnson has been one of the best players in Lions history even after just seven seasons in the NFL. Johnson has led the NFL in receiving yards twice, including his record-breaking 1,964-yard season in 2012, and led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in 2008 as the Lions went 0-16.

14. Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander Tigers
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14. Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander Tigers
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Drafted in 2004 by the Tigers, Justin Verlander has become one of the best pitchers in all of MLB in the past decade. Some of Verlander's accolades include six All-Star games, the AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner in 2011 and pitching two no-hitters.

13. Dave Bing

Dave Bing Pistons
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13. Dave Bing

Dave Bing Pistons
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Dave Bing has had quite the run in Detroit. As a player, the point guard was named NBA Rookie of the Year for the Pistons in 1966 then led the league in scoring the following season. He made seven All-Star teams from 1968-1976. After his playing career he has remained active in Detroit, becoming a successful business owner in the city and was elected mayor of the city in 2009.

12. Joe Schmidt

Joe Schmidt Lions
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12. Joe Schmidt

Joe Schmidt Lions
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As both a player and coach, Schmidt is an important figure in Detroit football history. As a rookie in 1953 he started at linebacker for the Lions when they won their second straight NFL title. The Lions once again were champs in 1957, and he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973. Schmidt was also successful as Detroit's head coach, posting a winning record in his six seasons. Schmidt's No. 56 has been officially retired by the team.

11. Joe Dumars

Joe Dumars Pistons
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11. Joe Dumars

Joe Dumars Pistons
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Joe Dumars was drafted out of McNeese State by the Pistons in 1985 and was been one of the longest tenured players in Pistons history. Dumars spent 14 seasons in Detroit as a player, most of them as shooting guard alongside fellow Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas. He was named NBA Finals MVP when the Pistons won their first title in 1989. During his 14 years as President of Basketball Operations, Dumars constructed Detroit's 2004 championship team.

10. Ted Lindsay

Ted Lindsay Red Wings
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10. Ted Lindsay

Ted Lindsay Red Wings
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Ted Lindsay won four Stanley Cup titles as a member of the Detroit Red Wings in the 1950s playing left wing alongside Gordie Howe. Lindsay was a 11-time All-Star, a three-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.

9. Alan Trammell

Alan Trammell Tigers
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9. Alan Trammell

Alan Trammell Tigers
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Only Al Kaline and Ty Cobb played more seasons for the Detroit Tigers than Alan Trammell did. The shortstop was one of the best all-around players in the game during the 1980s as he helped the Tigers win the 1984 World Series (where he was named World Series MVP). Trammell also was the Tigers manager from 2003-05.

8. Isiah Thomas

Isiah Thomas Pistons
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8. Isiah Thomas

Isiah Thomas Pistons
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Without Isiah Thomas, the Detroit Pistons would not have been the Bad Boys and they certainly would not have won consecutive NBA titles in 1989 and 1990. One of the greatest point guards in league history, Isiah was the heart and soul of the Pistons during his tenure, turning them from also-rans into a dynasty. Thomas is one of the NBA's 50 greatest players and was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2000.

7. Nicklas Lidstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom Red Wings
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7. Nicklas Lidstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom Red Wings
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Lidstrom replaced the great Steve Yzerman as captain of the Red Wings and was one of the greatest defensemen in NHL history. Lidstrom spent his entire career with Detroit, winning seven Norris Trophies as the NHL’s best defenseman. With the Red Wings, he won four Stanley Cup titles and his number has been retired by the team.

6. Al Kaline

Al Kaline Tigers
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6. Al Kaline

Al Kaline Tigers
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In regards to continuity, only Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio and Steve Yzerman played more seasons as a professional in Detroit than Kaline. He was steady for his 22 years as a Tiger, earning a batting title in 1955 and winning a World Series title in 1968. Kaline was an 18-time All-Star, a 10-time Gold Glove award winner and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980 in his first year of eligibility.

5. Ty Cobb

Ty Cobb Tigers
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5. Ty Cobb

Ty Cobb Tigers
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Cobb put baseball on the map in Detroit as he was the team's first true superstar. He won 12 batting titles, was a four-time AL RBI champion and a six-time AL stolen base champion, all with the Tigers. Cobb never won a title in Detroit, though he won three pennants with the Tigers.

4. Steve Yzerman

Steve Yzerman Red Wings
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4. Steve Yzerman

Steve Yzerman Red Wings
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When Yzerman joined the Detroit Red Wings in 1983, the team not only became competitive again, they went on to win multiple championships. After many years of coming so close, Yzerman won back-to-back titles in 1997 and 1998 and another in 2002. For more than 1,300 games, Yzerman dressed as captain of the Red Wings, leading some of the most potent offensive teams in league history.

3. Barry Sanders

Barry Sanders Lions
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3. Barry Sanders

Barry Sanders Lions
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Barry Sanders is easily one of the five greatest running backs in the history of the NFL. As the greatest player in Lions history, Sanders rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his 10 NFL seasons and became just the third player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season as he collected 2,053 in 1997. Sanders retired after the 1998 season, citing that the Lions were not building a championship-caliber team.

2. Joe Louis

Joe Louis Boxing
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2. Joe Louis

Joe Louis Boxing
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One of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time, Joe Louis moved to Detroit in 1926 after being subjected to racism in Alabama. In the ring, Louis inspired a generation of Americans and helped transform boxing into a prominent sport. In the ring, Louis successfully defended his heavyweight title 25 times. Louis was the champ from 1937-1949, and in 1938, he defeated Germany's Max Schmeling in two minutes and four seconds.

1. Gordie Howe

Gordie Howe Red Wings
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1. Gordie Howe

Gordie Howe Red Wings
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As “Mr. Hockey” in Hockeytown, Gordie Howe was one of the greatest goal scorers of his generation while also being one of the toughest players in NHL history. Howe won four Stanley Cups with the Red Wings in the 1950s and went to the finals seven more times with Detroit in his 25 years with the organization. At 44, he scored 100 points and played professionally in five decades. Howe is the obvious choice at No. 1.

Brian Kalchik is a Detroit Lions writer for RantSports.com. He also adds to the site’s NBANCAA Football, Fantasy and NFL content. Follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google+.

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