By Illya Harrell on August 23, 2014
Derek Jeter still has a bit more than a month to go before he hits this list. Thinking about The Captain brings to mind a slew of athletes we wish could still suit up and take the field, court, pitch, ring or ice. Whether it be age or injury, all athletes must call it quits at some point. But that will never keep fans from dreaming.
How in the world could Pedro Martinez, a 5-foot-10 skinny guy, throw such wicked stuff? His WHIP is the lowest in recorded history, and his K/9 and K/BB rank third best in the history of baseball.
The pre-mature death of Len Bias will always leave the anti-Jordan crowd wondering what could have been. Would he have taken some of the limelight off Jordan? Would he have been better? Those are legitimate questions for anyone who watched Maryland college basketball in the late-80s.
At age 15, Mia Hamm was part of the first U.S. male or female team to win a World Cup. She also owns two Gold Medals. Other accolades include two FIFA World Player of the Year awards, third most appearances (275) in international matches and most national team assists with 144. Hamm held the record, male or female, with 158 goals until last year.
Mark Messier, a 15-time NHL All-Star and Hockey Hall of Famer, is considered one of the greatest to ever take the ice. In his 25-year career he won five Stanley Cups. Messier and Wayne Gretzky led the late-80s NHL dynasty, Edmonton Oilers to three titles. After Gretzky was traded to Los Angeles, he captained the team to a 1990 championship. With the New York Rangers, he led the team to his fifth Stanley Cup, breaking a 54-year Rangers drought.
One of only three men to win the FIFA World Player of the Year three times, Ronaldo is considered one of the greatest strikers in soccer history. A part of Brazil's 1994 FIFA World Cup championship, Ronaldo finished his World Cup career scoring an amazing 15 goals in 19 games.
Those who saw a young Randy Moss watched the most graceful, fastest, soft-handed wide receiver ever. Those privileged enough to witness his two seasons with Marshall University were left slack-jawed as he made mince-meat of opposing secondaries. Later in his career he set the all-time single season touchdown reception record with the Patriots with 23. His 156 career TD catches ranks second all-time.
All undersized high school basketball players who saw John Stockton thought to themselves, "Hey, I can play in the NBA." Unfortunately, all but a miniscule amount of those guys are now working 9-to-5 jobs. Stockton played his entire career with the Utah Jazz, and is the all-time NBA leader in both assists and steals. He missed only 23 games in his 20-year career.
If a female were writing this, it's highly unlikely Anna Kournikova would have cracked this list. As a male, speaking for most every every guy in the world, we miss seeing her on the tennis court.
Ray Lewis is the greatest linebacker in football history. A solid argument can be made that he is the best player ever to play on the opposite side of the ball. Lewis was flat-out scary, and fans who saw his bone-busting hits sat in front of their sets screamed a collective "ouch." His entire career was spent with the Baltimore Ravens.
Old-time boxing fans always say Mike Tyson wasn't as good as Muhhamad Ali. After seeing footage of the dancing, rope-a-dope Ali, there is no way he could have handled Tyson's brute power. His early bouts ended before boxing fans could finish their first slice of pizza.
You could break Rickey Henderson in half and both sides would be MLB Hall of Famers. He played until age 44 and finished his career with a .401 OBP, largely due to his dime-sized batting stance. He holds the record for runs scored, stolen bases and is second to Barry Bonds in career walks. Henderson's 2190 free passes lead by over 500 as a right-handed batter. He finished his career three home runs shy of 300.
Talk about tough, Mario Lemieux's face should be beside the dictionary definition. The career Pittsburgh Penguins center suffered through spinal disc herniation, Hodgkin's Lymphoma, hip-flexor problems and chronic back pain so severe that teammates tied his skates. The dude was so good the NHL waived the normal three-year waiting period and elected him to the NHL Hall of Fame after his first retirement in 1997.
In modern professional sports even marginal players talk trash. So it was refreshing to see a superstar with the natural gifts of Barry Sanders simply hand the football to the end-zone ref after breaking an 80-yard TD run. Had Sanders played for a team other than the Detroit Lions, any team with even a mediocre offensive line, he would have run 2000 yard seasons with consistency.
Johnson, a 6-foot-9 point guard, finished his 14-year Los Angeles Lakers career three NBA Most Valuable Player awards, played nine NBA finals and 12 All-Star Game appearances. His career 11.2 assists per game is a NBA career record.
Sorry Michael Jordan, Bo gets the No. 1 nod on this list. If Jackson could have stayed healthy, he would have had his choice of hall of fames, Cooperstown or Canton -- maybe both. A beast at running back with the Raiders, there has never been a man of his size with such blazing speed. His speed led to his career ending injury. On a routine leg tackle from behind, the top of his femur popped out of his hip socket. Oh, what could have been.
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