Serena Williams’ Impact On Tennis, Culture Unmatched

It is impossible to put the impact that Serena Williams has had on tennis, culture, and being a female premier player into words. There are few athletes who are icons in their own time, with most achieving that status long after retirement from their game. Serena is different. She has been an icon for years and her achievements – and her legacy – will likely never be matched.

It is hard to imagine a time in women’s tennis after Serena. Honestly, it is just as hard to remember a time in women’s tennis before her. Williams turns 41 years old this month and the news of her retirement following the US Open was both shocking yet somehow expected at the same time.

From a purely sporting standpoint, her career is basically unmatched. Her 23 Grand Slams are one behind all-time record holder Margaret Court’s 24, but even if Serena doesn’t have a fairytale ending at Flushing Meadows, the standard of competition she has faced throughout her career is something that Court just didn’t have to deal with on a Grand Slam by Grand Slam basis.

Serena won her first Grand Slam in 1999. To put that into a wider sporting context, that was the year before Tom Brady was drafted by the New England Patriots. Given that Brady is either a physical freak and/or a robot, the fact Serena was winning the biggest titles in her sport before Brady had even trundled his famous 40-yard-dash at the NFL Scouting Combine is almost unbelievable.

Along with sister Venus, Serena dominated women’s tennis for the best part of a decade, be it combating her sister in single’s finals or teaming with her to take double’s crowns. Somewhere along the way she evolved into a one-name sports star, putting her at the level of LeBron and Kobe. Her social impact, however, might be greater than either of those NBA legends.

Young black girls simply didn’t play tennis before Serena and Venus. The sport was not on their radar, yet because of her success, her status, and her celebrity, tens of thousands of young black girls picked up rackets and got into the sport. Naomi Osaka was famously inspired by Serena. So was Coco Gauff. The fact that Serena is still playing as these women before champions and Grand Slam winners says everything about both her longevity and how she inspired an entire generation of players.

Serena has a net worth (per Forbes) of around $260 million. She is to tennis what Tiger Woods was at one point to golf. She is a more marketable name, face, and personality than any of the male stars out there in global terms. Deals with the likes of Nike, Chase, and IMB were unheard of in the relative niche sport of women’s tennis before Serena. She (and her sister) have opened up so many corporate and sponsorship opportunities to her peers that just weren’t there 20 years ago.

Again, it is almost impossible to put into words what Serena Williams, the premier player in women’s tennis history, has meant to the sport.  Her power, athleticism, and grace on the court will be missed.

Article By Premier Players Steve Wright

Megatron’s NFL Career Took Him To The HOF, Yet It Says More

Ideas for player features come from all over the place. Often it is browsing the internet and reading articles. Sometimes it is falling down a YouTube hole and watching highlights of a player in their prime. This time, it was a post on Reddit that I couldn’t quite believe. The post read:

“Between Tom Brady’s 3rd Super Bowl appearance and his 10th, Calvin Johnson has been drafted, retired, and made the Hall of Fame.”

We have talked about Brady before on this site and likely will again in the future. Today’s piece is going to focus on the other side of this particular post as, despite his clear greatness, it still feels like Megatron is undervalued when it comes to looking at the all-time greats to play the wide receiver position in the NFL.

Johnson was a mismatch at the wide receiver position the likes of which we have rarely seen. The closest comparison would possibly be Randy Moss, but why Moss was all lean, athletic, sprinting muscle, Johnson combined his speed with a physique cut from the cloth of WWE more than the NFL.

At 6-foot-5 and almost 240 pounds, Johnson was built more like a tight end than a traditional receiver. It was that size combined with elite speed – Johnson ran a 4.35 40-yard-dash with those measurements – that gave Johnson the physical tools to be one of the most dominant wide receivers of all time.

Johnson was a six-time Pro Bowler as he made that game every year from 2010 to 2015. He was also a three-time First-team All-Pro, being voted as one of the best pair of receivers in the game in 2011, 2012, and 2013. He retired in 2015, but the mark he left on the league was sufficient enough that he was voted onto the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team.

Johnson was a career Detroit Lion. Like a lot of career Lions – most notably Barry Sanders – this meant he had little to no success in the playoffs. The entire history of Detroit in the postseason can actually be explained by their Wild Card loss in 2011 at the hands of the New Orleans Saints. Johnson – the player the Saints knew they had to stop – totaled 12 receptions for 211 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It was an epic display by the best receiver in the league, and the Lions lost by 17 points. That was one of just two playoff games in which Johnson ever played.

In the regular season, however, Johnson was a monster. Cooper Kupp (in 17 games) challenged Johnson’s record in 2021, but Megatron still holds the NFL single-season receiving yards record from his work in 2012. That year he and quarterback Matt Stafford combined for Johnson to finish with 122 catches for an unreal 1,964 yards. Yes, Johnson averaged over 100 yards receiving per game despite being Detroit’s only viable offensive threat.

The year before, Johnson scored 16 receiving touchdowns. In 2013, he added another 12. He was a fantasy machine during that three-year stretch and when he sparingly retired at the end of the 2015 season he had totaled over 11,600 yards receiving and 83 touchdown catches.

The other thing that is common among Detroit superstars is that they retire while still producing. In his last year in the league, Johnson had 88 catches for 1,214 yards and nine touchdowns. Other records he still holds include the most consecutive games with over 100 receiving (8), most receiving yards in a single game in regulation (329), and most games with at least 200 receiving yards (5).

If Johnson had played for a better team – or even one with more national exposure – he would be held in the same esteem as the very greatest the game has ever seen. That is how good he was at his peak and we shouldn’t forget it.

Article by Premier Players Steve Wright

Russell Leaves A Legacy That May Never Be Matched In The NBA

Is it possible to be seen as a Top 5 player in NBA history and still be underrated?

If the answer is yes, then Bill Russell is your man.

Russell – who sadly passed away at the age of 88 on Sunday – has a legacy in terms of NBA titles that no one can touch. Russell’s Boston Celtics won 11 NBA championships over the course of his 13 seasons in the league. That 11-ring haul is matched in North American Big Four sports by just one player, Henri Richard of the Montreal Canadiens.

For some perspective, Richard played for 20 years in the NHL or a title in 50% of his seasons. Russell’s end-of-season championship winning percentage is an absurd 84.62%. Unless there is a fundamental shift in how American sports work, Russell’s 11 titles over 13 seasons will never be bettered.

The crazy part about Russell’s legacy is that the 11 NBA titles don’t even paint the whole picture. This premier player was just as dominant as a college player where he led the San Francisco Dons to their only two NCAA titles in 1955 and 1956. He was also the captain of the US Olympic team as they powered to a gold medal at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. This included a 101-38 point win in the semi-final over an Uruguay team that won the bronze medal. Be it college, international, or pro, no opposition team had any idea how to deal with Russell.

It was Russell’s defense that led him to greatness. The 6-foot-10, 215-pounder was never a particularly great scorer. At a time when the best big men were generally unstoppable around the basket, Russell never averaged 20 points per game for a season. It is quite something then that he is even in the conversation when it comes to the Top 5 (or higher) players of all time, but the other side of this premier player’s game was so completely dominant that it offset any supposed offensive limitations that he had.

Russell was a 12-time All-Star and won the NBA MVP award on five different occasions. He was blessed with a wingspan that measured out at 7-foot-4, giving him a presence around the rim that was up there with Wilt Chamberlain as the most dominant premier player in basketball history.

Russell had 1,000 or more rebounds in 12 consecutive seasons, he sits second in NBA history in rebounds per game, and – perhaps most astonishingly – is one of just two players (along with Wilt) to ever have more than 50 rebounds in a single NBA contest. Russell and Wilt were such dominant rebounders that 23 of the 24 highest single-game rebound figures belong to one of the pair.

Russell was not just an NBA legend, he was also a pioneer. He was the league’s first black superstar and paved a trail that thousands of other black players have walked over the 50+ years since his retirement. He was also the first black coach in the history of the league – he coached the Celtics for the last three years of his playing career – and this also led him to become the first black coach to win a championship.

Russell was known throughout his career as having that insatiable drive to win that sets elite athletes apart. Post-playing days, he was seen as an intelligent, dignified man, one who confronted the prejudice of his time. Those traits – plus his on-court dominance – saw Russell awarded the ultimate honor when he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

Russell has a timeless legacy, even if his place at the very top of the basketball mountain will always be debated.

Article by Premier Players writer Steve Wright