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Top 15 Underappreciated Sports Heroes of All Time

Choosing the Most Underappreciated Athletes Ever

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There are a number of athletes who fly under the radar, sitting in the back seat behind fellow star teammates or other transcendent stars on the scene at the time. Throughout the history of sports, these 15 athletes have stood out from the pack in regards to being underrated, and thus, they are the 15 most underappreciated athletes of all time.

15. Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman underappreciated sports heroes
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15. Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman underappreciated sports heroes
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Rodman's reputation has been tainted in past years, but "The Worm" was actually one of the best defensive players in NBA history. Over a 14-season career, Rodman won five NBA Titles, two Defensive Player of the Year Awards and garnered seven All-Defensive First Team selections, making it clear he was more than just a fringe player.

14. Tim Raines

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14. Tim Raines

Tim Raines underappreciated athletes
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Raines was one of the best outfielders in MLB over his 20-season career, as he appeared in seven All-Star games, won two World Series titles and was a four-time stolen base champion. Unfortunately, Raines fell under the radar because he wasn't especially flashy, although he may still end up in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

13. Curtis Martin

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13. Curtis Martin

curtis Martin underappreciated athletes
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Martin never captivated the minds of fans in the way that a Barry Sanders did, but he nevertheless racked up 14,101 career rushing yards, five Pro Bowl appearances and he was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. Despite flying under the radar, it is blatantly clear that Martin was one of the 10 greatest running backs in NFL history.

12. Paul Scholes

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12. Paul Scholes

Paul Scholes underappreciated athletes
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Scholes was perhaps the least heralded player of the Manchester United youth revolution that occurred in the early 1990s, but he may have actually been the most valuable. The 39-year-old was the backbone of United from 1993-2013, as he made 718 appearances, helped the club win 11 Premier League titles and established himself as one of the best footballers in recent memory.

11. Ryan Lochte

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11. Ryan Lochte

Ryan Lochte underappreciated athletes
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Between the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, Lochte has won five Gold medals, three Silver medals and three Bronze medals, but the average fan would never know this because of the presence of Michael Phelps. Lochte has not taken this lack of attention to heart, though, as he has a friendly rivalry with Phelps.

10. Paul Coffey

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10. Paul Coffey

paul coffey underappreciated athletes
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Coffey is considered by most to be amongst the five greatest defensemen in NHL history, but he flew under the radar while spending the majority of his career with the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings. Of course, Coffey played amongst all-time greats such as Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Jaromir Jagr, Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman, so it isn't difficult to see how the Hall of Famer could fly under the radar.

9. Tim Brown

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9. Tim Brown

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Brown ranks sixth in NFL history in receiving yards and seventh in career receiving touchdowns, but you wouldn't know it based on public perception. The man known as "Mr. Raider" was as reliable as they came, and is arguably one of the top wide receivers in NFL history.

8. Wladimir Klitschko

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8. Wladimir Klitschko

underappreciated athletes Wladimir Klitschko
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The popularity of boxing in the U.S. has steadily fallen in the last decade, so it makes that heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko does not receive the praise he should. Nevertheless, it is hard to ignore the fact that the 38-year-old has a 62-3 record, one Olympic Gold medal and he is tied with Muhammad Ali for the second-most heavyweight title fights ever.

7. Omar Vizquel

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7. Omar Vizquel

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Vizquel flew under the radar while playing shortstop in the prime of such star players as Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra, but that doesn't mean he wasn't an all-time great. Vizquel was one of the best defensive shortstops in MLB history, which was recognized with 11 Gold Glove Awards, and his total of 2,877 career hits is nothing to scoff at either.

6. Steve Largent

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6. Steve Largent

Steve Largent underappreciated athletes
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Largent was one of the first great wide receivers in NFL history, as he made seven Pro Bowl appearances, and was named to the 1980 All-Decade Team while playing with the Seattle Seahawks from 1976-1989. Largent was not nearly as flashy as the star receivers of today, but that doesn't mean he wasn't great, nor that he should not be recognized.

5. Don Mattingly

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5. Don Mattingly

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Before he was the Los Angeles Dodgers' manager, Don Mattingly was a legendary figure with the New York Yankees. While playing in the Bronx from 1982-1995, "Donnie Baseball" racked up a .307 batting average, nine Gold Glove Awards and six All-Star Game appearances, although he missed out on a Hall of Fame bid because of persistent back injuries.

4. Ron Francis

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4. Ron Francis

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Francis ranks second in NHL history in career assists, and fourth in career points, but few people consider him a true hockey legend. Of course, this is because he won two Stanley Cups while playing the third wheel on the Pittsburgh Penguins, and spent the rest of the career with the small-market Hartford Whalers and Carolina Hurricanes.

3. Garrincha

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3. Garrincha

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Garrincha was one of the best soccer players ever, but few look at him along the lines of a Maradona, Pele or Lionel Messi, which is a shame. The reason this occurs was because he played on the same Brazil teams as Pele that would win the 1958 and 1962 World Cup titles, but it is time that Garrincha gets his due praise.

2. Stan Musial

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2. Stan Musial

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Musial was one of the best players in MLB history, as he hit 475 home runs, had a career .331 batting average and racked up 3,630 career hits. Nevertheless, Musial fell behind contemporaries such as Joe Dimaggio because he played on the small-market St. Louis Cardinals, consigning him to being a star mainly to those who grew up in the Midwest.

1. Scottie Pippen

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1. Scottie Pippen

Scottie Pippen underappreciated athletes
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Some people consider Scottie Pippen to have been the best small forward in NBA history, but the fact he played second fiddle on the way to six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls meant that he largely fell under the radar. This is a shame, as Pippen was a truly great player, and deserves more critical acclaim than he will ever receive.