NCAA vs. NBA: The battle for the top high school ballers

For the premier players looking to take their basketball careers to the next level, the path has always been pretty clearly defined.

Starting out shooting hoops with dad, a player would then slip into the junior ranks and play ball in local gyms and leagues. Next would come a jump to AAU and high school ball, with a player showcasing his skill set in tournaments at the regional, and even national, level to get scouted by college programs. Next would come a scholarship offer, and a player would decide to play anywhere between one and four years in college depending on skill level and ability to make a move to the NBA.

The one-and-done rule has always been a controversial one. It is a rule that some college coaches took to immediately, with John Calipari at Kentucky being the obvious example. Coach Cal deliberately goes after players who need just a single year of seasoning before entering the NBA, gambling that he can teach enough fundamentals and teamwork into what can primarily be seen as a bunch of one-year mercenaries to make Kentucky competitive every year. In fairness to Coach Cal, it works.

The threat to the college game was initially thought to be through the NBA. That is one of the reasons why this rule was adopted in the first place. We never got to see the likes of LeBron James or Kobe Bryant tear up the courts in college because they jumped ahead one level and went straight into the league.

For players of their skill, it was a beautiful thing. They were able to adapt to the game and now sit as two of the top 25 players that have ever played the game. For every LeBron and Kobe, however, countless other players made the mistake of trying to jump immediately to the NBA, only to see their careers fade out quicker than they would have with college seasoning.
College is not for everyone. This is especially true for a college athlete who has to balance studying with the demands of their sport. Top level college basketball is a grueling concept, with players traveling all over the country (and sometimes outside of it) to play in games, while still having to practice and maintain their lives.

That is why players are looking for other options. The latest player to do something a little different is Texas native RJ Hampton. Hampton is one of the premier players in the nation. He is the fifth-ranked prospect in the class of 2019, and until recently he had been expected to sign for Kansas, Memphis or Texas Tech. Instead, Hampton will spend 2019 playing for the New Zealand Breakers of the National Basketball League of Australia.
It is a fascinating decision for an 18-year-old to make. Hampton wants to follow in the steps of Luka Doncic, a player who was a professional at 14-years-old in Spain and who entered the NBA ready to compete at professional speed.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has already taken note of this trend. He wants the premier players to stay in America, and he is looking at ending the one-and-done rule by the 2022 draft to make this happen.  The big question is where does this leave the NCAA?

By opening the league up again, it is likely that we will never see the likes of a Zion Williamson, for example, playing in college. We want to see the premier players playing in college because college basketball is both a tradition and a fun sport to watch. Short of paying players, it is hard to see what the NCAA would do, but let’s hope that the game is not negatively impacted by players choosing other routes to their NBA dreams.

Article by Steve Wri

Nowitzki Success In Dallas Ends In Hall of Fame Career

Dirk Nowitzki made his mark on the NBA as one of the premier players in the game not only of his era but of all time. He is a sure-fire Hall of Famer as soon as he is eligible as he put in a 21-year shift with the Dallas Mavericks to go down as the greatest player in the history of the franchise.

Nowitzki was born in the West German town of Wurzburg in 1978. Wurzburg is not precisely a hotbed of NBA talent, but as the son of a professional basketball playing mother and an international handball playing father, the young Dirk certainly had the athletic ability in his genes.

Dirk also had height on his side from an early age, often standing a foot or more above his peers as he excelled as a handball and tennis player. His decision to join the local DJK Wurzburg team as a 15-year-old set Nowitzki on a path that would see him become one of the most recognizable athletes on both sides of the Atlantic.

What people grew to love about Dirk, his carefree and fun attitude off the court playing in stark contrast to his talent and focus on it, was apparent even at this age. It is impossible to bottle whatever combination of genes and outside factors it takes to make a player a star, but have no doubt about it, Dirk was always going to be a star.

Progressing through the ranks at his local club, this premier player had to spend a year doing compulsory military service alongside advancing his basketball career. At 6-foot-11, with unnatural quickness and ball handling for a player of that size, Nowitzki started to have his progress noted by those outside of his native Germany.

Playing in the Nike “Hoop Heroes Tour,” Nowitzki was placed in a showpiece match against NBA stars like Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley. His dunk over Barkley was the most impressive play of the entire game, and it was at that moment it became apparent his future, and his path to becoming a premier player was to be through the NBA.

A prep-to-pro player back when that was allowed, Nowitzki passed up scholarship offers across the country to declare for the NBA. Selected with the ninth overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks, the future 14-time NBA All-Star and over 31,500 points scored was traded to Dallas for a combination of Robert Traylor and Pat Garrity. This is a trade that will live long as one of the greatest draft-day steals in the history of the game.

Dirk’s list of highlights and awards is as long as they come. The 2011 NBA Champion won the Finals MVP award that year and the regular season MVP crown in 2007. Nowitzki worked his way into being one of the most versatile bigs ever to play the game, and he is known for his scoring ability, and a fadeaway jump shot so picture perfect it should be trademarked.

His place among the many legends that make up the sporting scene in Dallas, the likes of Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith, is secure. A street running by the American Airlines Center has been named Nowitzki Way, a fitting tribute for this premier player who won so many games for the Mavericks inside that building during his storied career.

Story by Steve Wright
Independent Writer

The All-Time Top 25 Premier Players of MLB Baseball

Everyone has an opinion, and here is ours when it comes to listing the all-time Top 25 players of Major League Baseball:

25 – Mel Ott
Ott was a prodigy of the game, and he was a big leaguer before he had even celebrated his 18th birthday.  In 1926, as a 17-year-old, Ott hit .383 over the course of just 60 at-bats in 1926. This was a precursor of what was to come as Ott became a dual-threat hitter capable of hitting for contact or power. At the end of his 22-year career, Ott had a 304/.414./.533 line and had crushed 511 home runs and tallied 1,860 RBI.

24 – Alex Rodriguez
One of the biggest questions in modern baseball history is if Rodriguez could have gone down as the best shortstop in the history of the game had he not unselfishly shifted to third-base after joining the Yankees in 2004.
The PED drama was there, sure, but A-Rod was a 14-time all-star, a three-time AL MVP, and he is the only player in MLB history to hit for .295, over 600 home runs, over 2,000 RBIs, score over 2,000 runs, record over 3,000 hits, and steal more than 300 bases. He could do it all.

23 – Rickey Henderson
The best leadoff hitter in the history of the game, Henderson is also one of the premier players in baseball history at any spot in the order.  He is the all-time stolen base king with 1,406 steals, something he would never be afraid to let people know, using his unreal speed to advance around the bases with ease. He is also the all-time leader in runs scored with 2,295, and he could hit for power as shown by his 297 home runs and 1,115 RBI.

22 – Christy Mathewson
Mathewson was nicknamed, among other things, “The Gentleman’s Hurler,” which might be the best nickname ever given. The right-hander played for 17 seasons in MLB with the New York Giants from 1900 to 1916. Playing in an era when hits were frequent, Mathewson was one of the dominant pitchers of his time and one of the most dominant ever. He won 373 games with a 2.13 career ERA and struck out of 2,500 batters as he used his 6-foot-1 frame to overpower the smaller hitters of his era.

21 – Randy Johnson
The Big Unit was a terrifying presence on the mound when he was at the peak of his powers.  Johnson had almost a literal cannon for a left arm, and the 22-year starting pitcher dominated games when he was focused and in control of his fastball. His 303 career victories are the fifth-most by a lefty, and his 4,875 strikeouts are the second most all time. The five-time Cy Young winner was one of the tallest MLB players ever at 6-foot-10, and his pitching angle and velocity made him almost impossible to hit.

20 – Jimmie Foxx
“The Beast” played for 20 seasons in MLB with a variety of clubs from 1925 to 1945. He was the second player in MLB history to hit 500 home runs after Babe Ruth, a feat almost as impressive as Ruth’s because some thought that the Babe was the only player capable of ever getting to that mark.  Foxx picked up three MVP awards (1932, 1933, 1938) tied for second place all-time in that award category. A Triple Crown, and the fact that he mainly played just 14 full seasons worth of games, showcase Foxx as one of the best power hitters ever to play the game.

19 – Albert Pujols
The only active player on this list, Pujols continues to add value to his claim as one of the best to ever play the game by the season.  The 39-year-old Dominican Republic star may have slowed down, but the 10-time all-star has had an impressive run since debuting in 2001. Pujols is a three-time NL MVP, and at his pomp, he was considered one of the best hitters to play the game in the last 50 years due to his combination of power, contact hitting ability, and patience to find a pitch to hit. As of writing, he has 644 home runs and over 3,100 hits.

18 – Ken Griffey Jr.
A 22-year player in the bigs, Griffey Jr. was one of the premier players of the 1990s when he excelled with the Seattle Mariners. Amazingly, the Mariners never won a World Series title with three of the top 25 players of all time on the club together.  One of the most prolific home run hitters in baseball history, Griffey finished his career with 630 dingers, the seventh-most ever. He was known for the sweetness of his swing, and the 13-time all-star was also an exception defender where he used his athletic ability to win 10 Gold Gloves as the best center fielder in the game.

17 – Grover Cleveland Alexander
A 19-year player who started with the Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland Alexander was born in Nebraska during the first term of his namesake’s Presidency.  “Old Pete” was a player who played in an era where pitch counts weren’t a thing, and as a result, he rolled to complete games in 436 of his 600 starts. He missed the entire 1918 season serving in the military but came back to continue a stretch from 1915 to 1920 where he pitched under 2.00 for his ERA each season.

16 – Mickey Mantle
Mantle was the premier player of MLB during the 1950s as a modern, five-tool player who did everything required from a baseball player at an exceptional level.  His .298/.421/.557 line with 536 home runs and 1,509 RBI is impressive, but Mantle could easily have added to this numbers had he not been blighted by injuries that rendered him done as a superstar of the game by the age of 32.

15 – Joe DiMaggio
All you need to know about DiMaggio is 56. For 56 straight games, DiMaggio collected a hit on the scorecard, a number that has rarely been approached since he set the staggering target.  As good as DiMaggio’s numbers are, and they are great as he had 2,214 hits, 361 homers, and 1,537 RBI, it has to be noted that he could easily be ranked in the Top 5 on this list had he not lost his prime years from age 28-30 while serving in WWII. The three-time MVP was an all-star every season he played, racking up those numbers in just 13 MLB seasons.

14 – Rogers Hornsby
A player with an ‘S’ at the end of his first name for no obvious reason, Hornsby was one of the premier players of his era. Hornsby played for 22-years in the bigs after making his debut with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1915, picking up a pair of NL MVP awards in 1925 and 1929.  Hornsby was a World Series winner in 1926, and he finished just 70 hits shy of 3,000 while hitting 301 home runs with a batting average of .358. That batting average is the second best in the history of the game (Ty Cobb), and his .424 average in 1924 hasn’t been bettered since.

13 – Roger Clemons
Clemons is one of those pitchers that you would strongly consider selecting if you were in a must-win situation.  Pitching from 1984-2007, facing plenty of hitters that are seen as tainted by PEDs in hindsight, Clemons tossed 354 wins and racked up a record seven Cy Young awards. The “Rocket” tallied the third most strikeouts all-time with 4.672, he was a two-time World Series champion, and he made the all-star team on 11 occasions.

12 – Honus Wagner
The greatest shortstop to ever play the game, the Flying Dutchman played for 20 years between 1897 and 1917.  A player so good he pushed the Pirates to World Series, Wagner won the batting title eight times and finished with a career hitting mark of .328. Wagner was also a machine as a fielder, using his speed and reflexes to lock down the shortstop position in a way that had never been seen at that point in the game’s history.

11 – Greg Maddux
The king of command was so good at placing the baseball in the mitt of his catcher that you would swear he walked over and put it exactly where he wanted.  In his final 14 seasons in the league, Maddux walked fewer, or as many batters and games, he started eight times.  He averaged 1.80 walks per nine innings for his career, a career in which he tosses over 5,000 innings. He retired with a career ERA of 3.16; a number inflated because he was hit hard during his final five years in the way that most precision tossers do when they lose a touch of velocity. Maddux completed 13 complete-game shutouts in under 100 pitches during his career.

10 – Stan Musial
The longtime Cardinal was one of the best offensive players ever to grace the diamond. This premier player was good at just about everything baseball-related, playing for 22 years and finishing with a .221/.417/.559 line to show his contact numbers.  Musial also crushed 475 home runs and had a stunningly balanced number of RBIs (1,951) and runs scored (1,949). Perhaps Musial’s most notable achievement is that his 6,134 total bases are second on the all-time list behind only Hank Aaron.

9 – Cy Young
The all-time leader in wins is the second best pitcher on this list, and he is a man so revered for his skills that the premier pitching award in the game is named after him.  Young amassed 511 wins during his career, and he is also the all-time leader in losses (316) and complete games (a ridiculous 749). He won more than 20 games during 15 different seasons and for someone with so many pitches thrown his 1,217 walks during his career might be Young’s most impressive stat.

8 – Walter Jonson
Johnson is one of the premier players in the history of baseball that few people ever talk about. Playing before the Cy Young award was even invented, Johnson pitched for a 1.65 ERA between 1907 and 1919, going on to play for a total of 20 seasons and winning 417 games.  Johnson remains the career leader in shutouts with 110, the active leader is Clayton Kershaw with 15, and he ranks second in wins and fourth in complete games. The Washington Senator also struck out over 3,500 batters, with many being so scared of his dominant fastball that they backed up off of the plate when Johnson was on the mound.

7 – Ty Cobb
Cobb was not a player who easily made friends on the bases. That, though, shouldn’t overshadow just how dominant he was as the best hitter of the dead-ball era.  Cobb finished his career with an astonishing 4,189 hits, batting for over .400 three times and compiling a .366 batting average when he retired. The 12-time batting champion also hit 724 doubles and stole 897 bases as he used his natural athleticism to carve out a niche as one of the best offensive players in the history of the game.

6 – Lou Gehrig
The Iron Horse was a dominant player throughout a career that was tragically cut short by the illness that now bears his name. Gehrig may be best known for his emotional retirement speech where he called himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” but his career was much more than that one moment.  Gehrig rocked a .340 batting average for his career, even taking into about his disease hampered last season, and crushed 493 home runs and 1,995 RBIs. He was a seven-time all-star and a six-time World Series Champion with the New York Yankees.

5 – Barry Bonds
If you remove a player like Bonds because of his PED scandal, then it feels like you would also have to remove any player from the segregation era because they had their form of political help. Bonds may have had some help getting to the point where he was an enormous slugger capable of crushing 73 home runs as he did in 2001, but he was an elite player even before putting on the bulk. He is the all-time home run leader, and he is the only player in history to have 500 home runs and 500 steals during his career.

4 – Hank Aaron
Aaron was a truly outstanding baseball player, but more than that he was a man who overcame hate mail and death threats to be crowned the home run king.  The player with the most RBIs in history set a new home run mark of 755, passing Babe Ruth and shaking off the ghost of the great Yankee slugger in the process. Aaron is one of the premier players of any era, a player who should be praised for his consistency and longevity as he never actually surpassed 47 home runs in a single season as he chased down the Babe.

3 – Ted Williams
The greatest pure hitter that ever lived, Williams achieved his high school goal of being the very best ever at swinging a bat and putting the ball in play.  Williams was an on-base machine, leading his league in OBP on 12 occasions along with having nine seasons where he was the top slugger. Winning six batting titles, Williams was a career .344 hitter who hit .316 as a 41-year-old when most players have already left the game. His career batting average is the highest of any player in the live-ball era, and he is the last player to have finished a season with a batting average of over .400.

2 – Willie Mays
Mays is a comfortable No. 2 on this list because he is simply the best all-around player the game has ever produced.  A wizard with the bat and the glove, Mays was a five-tool player who would have been off of the charts in terms of today’s scouting metrics. He could hit for power, he ranks fifth all-time with 660 home runs, and for contact where he was a .302 career hitter. Mays was an elite player from 1954-1967, and he finished his career just eight games shy of 3,000 appearances.

1 – Babe Ruth
There is a reason why Ruth is an almost mythical figure in the annals of baseball. Ruth was simply the premier player ever to play the game because he was so dominant at his peak. Ruth hit 29 home runs in 1919 to set a new record for the most dingers in a season. The next year, he belted 54 in a year where no one else passed the mark of 20.  In the time it took Ruth to hit 602 runs for his career, no other player crossed the 300 mark. His power numbers are mindblowing. It is the equivalent of one player hitting over 100 homers a season for 12 years in the current baseball world. Consider that and it is obvious why Ruth is ranked #1.

Article by Steve Wright
Independent writer

Federer Wins On & Off The Court With His Passion To Help Others

Swiss tennis player Roger Federer recently won his 100th career title when he won the 2019 Dubai Open. Federer becomes just the second male player in the history of the sport to reach triple-digit title wins, joining Jimmy Connors who retired with 109 crowns to his name.

That Federer has been able to win so many titles in such a competitive sport speaks to his ability as one of the premier players at any sport in the world over the last two decades.

Federer is an interesting case study because of his dedication to his craft. Tennis is simply an exhausting sport to play at the professional level, with mental and physical demands unlike anything else. The ATP tour lasts for the better part of a year, with just a six week offseason between the ATP Tour Finals and the start of the next season in Australia.

During the 10 month season, a player has to cope with brutal heat in many of the tournaments, the US Open is a great example of this, with matches that can last for hours in a grueling mental tete-a-tete. Doing this, and winning 100 titles, during a down time for the sport would be hard enough, but Federer has had to fight and compete during a “Big Four” era, where he, Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray have all had their time at the top.

Federer though has, more often than not, come out on top.

He created his spot as the premier player in his sport because of his versatility and ability to play on all the different surfaces. Federer has been able to switch between hard, clay, and grass courts, winning on them all. He is an outstanding shot maker, his YouTube highlight shots are insane, and he has such good footwork that Federer gives the impression he would have excelled at whichever sport he chose.

Perhaps most importantly, Federer has shown to be a beacon of class and sportsmanship throughout his career that has seen him act as a vital mentor for young players around the world. He has received the ATP Tour Sportsmanship Award 13 times, was named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year a record five times, and the British based BBC Overseas Sports personality of the Year Award of four occasions.

Federer has won north of 120 million in prize money over the course of his 20-year career. That doesn’t even take into account the money that this premier player has made through sponsorships. It is sad that men’s tennis in America has fallen to the point that there has been no real rival to the Swiss superstar from the US, because then his epic career would have had more play in this country.

The Rodger Federer Foundation, started and chaired by the star, supports education throughout southern Africa and Switzerland. Federer is a star that loves to give back and the foundation has helped over 1 million children at this point. He has donated over $50 million of his own money to charity during his career, leaving a legacy of success and greatness both on the court and on the world as a whole.

Article by Steve Wright
Independent Writer

 

All Eyes On Tagovailoa As The Premier College QB

Tua Tagovailoa has already etched his name in football history.  He will not turn 22-years-old until March of 2020, but Tagovailoa has already packed more into his young life, specifically on the sporting stage, than many will do in a lifetime.

He is one of the premier players of college football right now, and in April of 2020, he will be drafted into the NFL as one of the top picks in the 2020 NFL Draft.  He may be the very first pick off of the board if he decides to join the league after his redshirt sophomore season with the Alabama Crimson Tide.

The Heisman frontrunner for most of the 2018 season, Tagovailoa was run down at the last minute in the voting for that particular trophy by the 2018 Premier Player of College Football, 2019 NFL Draft No. 1 overall pick, and new Arizona Cardinal QB, Kyler Murray.  It was not, however, a case of Tagovailoa imploding and losing the trophy. The Hawaii native threw for almost 4,000 yards on the season, completing 43 touchdown passes and rushing for another five on the ground.  Instead, it was a case of Murray picking it up down the stretch to win the award.

Tagovailoa has two Alabama seasons under his belt.  In the first of those years, he won a national championship by sparking an unlikely, and some would even argue seemingly impossible, comeback against Georgia.  In the second, he broke records after records at a school that has been doing this football thing at a very high level for a long, long time.

It all begs the question as to what is next for him on the college stage?

Alabama fans will only be happy if Tagovailoa, as one of the premier players in the game along with fellow quarterback Trevor Lawrence at Clemson, combines his two seasons to make Alabama in 2019 almost untouchable. There is no reason to think that Tagovailoa will not again get close to (or even surpass) the 4,000-yard mark and, given the talent around him, 50+ touchdown passes should not be out of the realm of possibility.

Tagovailoa’s biggest strength as a quarterback, and why he is a premier player, is not a trait that can be defined in any physical test.  While he has outstanding anticipation of a route and touch on a pass, not to mention enough athleticism to keep plays alive, it is his mental acuity for the game that sets him apart.

At the NFL level, it simply does not matter how strong your arm is if you cannot break down a defense mentally, making the correct reads before the snap and the perfect decisions, in a split-second, when the ball is in play.

Tagovailoa is a player everyone should try to watch and learn from both on and off the field.  From his outstanding work ethic, to his commitment to his faith and school, he is someone we can all get behind as one of the premier players in the game to continue his success to the next level.

Story by Steve Wright, Independent Sports Writer

All-Time Top 25 Premier Players of The NBA

There is always talk about The G.O.A.T.  In this article, we list our All-Time, Top 25 Players of The NBA:

25 – Dirk Nowitzki
The best European import in league history and one of the premier players of his era, Nowitzki was a 7-foot tall scoring machine for the Dallas Mavericks after they selected him with the ninth pick of the 1998 NBA Draft.  A player who could hit any shot at any time, his one-legged fade-away jumper will become the stuff of legend.  Nowitzki led the Mavs to 15 playoff appearances in his 21-year run with the franchise. An NBA champion (and NBA Finals MVP) in 2011, the only thing that stops the 14-time all-star and four-time All-NBA First Team selection from appearing higher on this list is his lack of rings.

24 – David Robinson
The Admiral was a defensive force throughout his entire 14-year run in the NBA.  Robinson ranks sixth in NBA history with 2,954 blocks, using every inch of his 7-foot-1 frame to dominate the paint defensively. Along with Tim Duncan, Robinson formed ‘The Twin Towers’ frontcourt for the San Antonio Spurs, giving opponents little chance of making an impact around the rim. The two-time NBA champion and 10-time all-star was an absolute double-double machine over the course of his first decade in the league.

23 – Scottie Pippen
Would Michael Jordan be where he is on this list without the power of Scottie Pippen?  Pippen is often seen as the Robin to Jordan’s Batman, but that is undervaluing the skillset of the Hall of Famer who was also a seven-time all-star as the Bulls dominated the league in the 90s. While Jordan could take over a game, Pippen was a consistent force on both sides of the ball. He averaged 16.1 points per game while shooting almost 50% from the field for his career. The ability of Pippen to run like a guard, rebound like a power forward, and hit buckets like a shooting guard should never be overlooked.

22 – Charles Barkley
A Hall of Fame power forward, Barkley is best remembered for his ability to rebound the basketball. He was a machine on the glass, averaging 11.7 rebounds per game throughout his career in Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Houston. He was also a member of the USA Olympic basketball “Dream Team” where he won gold medals in 1992 and 1996. A player who could have adapted to the playing style in any era, Barkley never won a ring but he was an 11-time NBA All-Star, and he was named the league’s MVP in 1993.

21 – John Havlicek
Havlicek won eight NBA titles as part of the Boston Celtics team that owned the NBA in the 1960s and 70s.  A 13-time all-star, Havlicek was defined by his relentless hustle on the court and his commitment to being a team player in a sport where self-promotion has become the norm over the years. The seventh pick of the 1962 NBA Draft out of Ohio State, Havlicek was a defensive leader who is still the Celtic’s leader in games played and total points scored (26,395).

20 – Kevin Garnett
Garnett may have spent too much of his career playing for a non-competitive team in Minnesota, but the 21-year veteran plied his trade into becoming an all-time great. Widely considered one of the best power forwards of all time, Garnett is one of just four players to win both the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards. Known for his intensity and his lockdown defensive ability, Garnett was a 15-time All-Star and is the only player in league history to average 20 points, 10 boards, and five assists for six straight seasons.

19 – John Stockton
One of the premier point guards in the history of the game, Stockton spent his entire 19-year career with the Utah Jazz after being selected 16th overall in the 1984 NBA Draft.  His guard-forward combination with Karl Malone saw Stockton rack up the most assists in NBA history with over 15,800 dimes. Stockton is also the all-time steals leader with 3,265 over the course of his career. A 10-time all-star, Stockton averaged a double-double in points (13.1) and assists (10.5), and he was known for his nearing fanatical work ethic that saw him miss just 22 games over 19 seasons in the league.

18 – Elvin Hayes
Hayes was a Jack of all trades player who just happened to be very good at everything on a basketball court.  He ranks tenth all-time in scoring, 24th all-time in blocks, and fourth all-time in rebounds. The amazing aspect of this is that Hayes was playing in the league before blocks were counted as a statistic, so he sits that high on the all-time block list despite playing for five seasons when none of his shot rejections were counted. Hayes averaged 21 points and 12.5 rebounds per game for his career as one of the premier players in the NBA.

17 – Julius Erving
Dr. J was one of the first NBA exponents of playing the game above the rim with his athleticism and ability to dunk the ball while taking off from the free throw line.  Playing for five years in the ABA for the Virginia Squires and the New York Nets, Erving is the greatest 76er of all-time thanks to his success with the Philadelphia franchise in an 11-year stint in the NBA. The two-time ABA champion was an 11-time NBA all-star, and he won the NBA Title in 1983. Dr. J is also the eighth-leading scorer of all time if ABA and NBA scoring records are combined.

16 – Moses Malone
A double-double career player with 20.6 points and 12.2 rebounds per game, Moses Malone showed that a player could be a successful NBA player without a college career. The 12-time all-star and three-time league MVP was named to eight All-NBA teams, and he finally won a league title in 1983. A first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2001, Malone began his career with teams like the Utah Stars and Spirits of St. Louis in the ABA before joining the NBA in 1976. A player that tends to be overlooked as one of the premier players in basketball history, Malone was a physical presence with an endless motor which did everything well.

15 – Karl Malone
Known as The Mailman because he always delivered, Karl Malone formed a formidable guard-forward combination with John Stockton as members of the Utah Jazz. Unlucky to be playing in the same timeframe as one Michael Jordan, Malone was never able to get his hands on an NBA championship, but he was able to achieve everything else in the game. The recipient of 11 straight All-NBA First Team nods, Malone remains second all-time in scoring with 36,928 points.

14 – Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem ‘The Dream’ Olajuwon was a 7-foot center out of Lagos, Nigeria who dominated the paint for the Houston Rockets (and then the Toronto Raptors for a year) for 18-years in the league.  A skilled played on both ends of the court, Olajuwon had a unique combination of size and speed that allowed him to be effortless defending at whatever position was needed. The center was an insane shot blocker, but his hand speed also made him a threat to steal the ball. He is the only 200/200 player in NBA history after compiling 200 blocks and steals in a single season. The Dream averaged 21.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.

13 – Jerry West
The most surprising aspect of Jerry West’s career is that he won just one NBA Title during his playing career with the L.A. Lakers. That title in 1972 says as much about the Boston Celtics dominant run as it does about the Lakers, but West was a constant force throughout his NBA career. A 14-time all-star and 10-time All-NBA First Team selection West was known as Mr. Clutch due to his ability to make big shots when big shots were needed. The guard once recorded 46.3 points scoring averaged over the course of an entire playoff series, an NBA record, and you have to be considered one of the premier players ever to have your silhouette incorporated into the NBA logo.

12 – Kevin Durant
A sure-fire Hall of Famer whenever he hangs up his sneakers, the 30-year old Durant already has a resume that makes him one of the best players of all-time. The second pick of the 2007 draft, Durant was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 2008, and the accolades have only continued to build from there. Durant is already a double-digit All-Star and, as of writing, he is a two-time NBA Champion and was named Finals MVP in both of those victories with the Golden State Warriors. Durant is an outstanding shooter and scorer in general, and he averaged over 27 points per game for his career.

11 – Shaquille O’Neal
When he was in his best shape, and when he cared enough to be dominant, then there was no stopping Shaq as he became the most dominant physical force in the league since Wilt Chamberlain. The top overall pick of the Orlando Magic out of LSU, Shaq was a 15-time all-star with a larger than life personality that sometimes hid his basketball greatness. Playing for six teams over 19-years, Shaq was a four-time NBA champion, a three-time NBA Finals MVP, and an eight-time All-NBA First Team selection. His power also broke backboard supports twice during his first year, leading the NBA to increase brace strength for the 1993-94 season.

10 – Kobe Bryant
Love him or hate him and his style of play, Bryant will go down as one of the greatest scorers in the history of the league. Sitting at No. 3 on the all-time list with 33,643 points, Bryant averaged 25 points over his career, and he was an 18-time all-star with five NBA titles to his name. The 20-year Laker was also a 12-time member of the All-Defensive team, and his fall-away jump shot was compared to that of Michael Jordan when Kobe was in his prime.

9 – Oscar Robertson
The Big O was a 6-foot-5, 205-pound point guard when players of that size were unheard of at the position. The 12-time all-star and winner of the MVP award in 1964 became the first player to average a triple-double over the course of a season in 1962. Robinson took the league by storm when he averaged over 30 points per game as a rookie, and his triple-double number of 181 over his career is one that has never been approached since. Robertson is also credited with inventing the head fake and the fade-away shot.

8 – Tim Duncan
A 19-year NBA player, Duncan was the rock which the San Antonio Spurs built a five-time NBA championship team from the turn of the century until well into the next decade. A player with a double-double career average in points and rebounds, Duncan was a beacon of consistency who would have won more titles if not for the Lakers and LeBron. Duncan, unlike some on this list, continued to be dominant until the end of his career, a fitting legacy for the man known as “The Big Fundamental” thanks to his simple and effective playing style.

7 – Bill Russell
The case for Russell as the greatest in NBA history begins and ends with the number 11. As in 11 NBA Titles, the number that Russell won during his career as one of the premier players in the game. An exceptional defender, Russell was not a heavy scorer, but he was able to set his team on fast break opportunities because of his presence in the paint. Russell played in the NBA for 13 years, and in those 13 years, he won more championship rings than you can wear across both hands. The 6-foot-10 center was a five-time MVP and a 12-time all-star, showing what value he had as part of a dynasty the likes of which we are unlikely to see in the sport ever again.

6 – Larry Bird
Larry Legend might not be the most decorated Boston Celtic of all-time, but he is the one that is regarded as the greatest player in the sweeping history of the franchise.  A three-time NBA Champion, and two-time Finals MVP, Bird may not have looked like an NBA player, but he had a skill set that set him apart. Bird averaged over 20 points in all but two of his NBA seasons, and he was named to the All-NBA First Team nine separate times. Three consecutive league MVP awards and an average of 24.3 points over his career, while also excelling as a passer and defender, earn Bird this spot on the list.

5 – Magic Johnson
An assist machine that could also score, Magic epitomized the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s. His battles with Larry Bird are the stuff of legends, with magic averaging double figures in assists for nine of his 13 seasons in the league. It was not just that Magic could pass the ball; it was the no-looks and behind the back passes that led to scores that set him apart as one of the greatest ever. At 6-foot-9 Magic was not created to be a point guard but five NBA titles in 13 seasons show his impact on the game.

4 – Wilt Chamberlain
If Bill Russell did not exist, then Wilt Chamberlain would be No. 1 on this list with double-digit championships to go along with every other insane statistic he produced.  Chamberlain had to settle for just two rings, but the four-time league MVP and 13-time all-star was a freak of nature who forced the NBA to widen the lane in order to stop him from terrorizing smaller players. His 100 point performance against the New York Knicks will never be broken, nor will the 55 rebounds he amassed in one game against the Celtics. Wilt also led the league in assists in 1968, showing there was nothing he could not do while playing basketball.

3 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The man that saw slam dunks banned in college so that other teams could compete with UCLA slots in at No. 3 on this list for his sheer dominance on the court.  Somewhat ironically it was that dunk ban that saw Kareem learn the sky-hook, a shot he would use to obliterate teams with over his 20-year career. The accolades are staggering as Kareem was a 19-time All-Star, a 15-time All-NBA selection, and an 11-time NBA All-Defensive Team player. He won six NBA championships and six MVP awards as he finished first all-time on the scoring list with over 38,300 points (at a clip of 24.6 points per game) for his career.

2 – LeBron James
The 2018-19 season may not have been his best, but LeBron hits this list at No. 2 as one of the premier players in NBA history.  The only player close to passing Jordan, LeBron has already climbed to No. 4 on the all-time scoring list and will likely pass Kobe early in the 2019-20 season. He is a four-time NBA MVP, a three-time NBA champion and he won the Finals MVP in each of those victories.  The 15-time all-star has won a slew of individual awards, and his ability to play all five positions on the court makes him almost unguardable when he is at his best.

1 – Michael Jordan
Even with the strong push that LeBron has made for the No. 1 spot over the last decade, there is still no touching Michael Jordan. The ultimate competitor, Jordan was a player who refused to give up. Few could match the Bulls great when it came to intensity, while no one could match him for sheer skill on the hardwood. He might be the most clutch player in the history of the league, and he is a player who was every bit as good as the stories surrounding his legacy.  Jordan averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game on his way to five MVP awards and six NBA championships along with six Finals MVP honors.

Article by Steve Writer
Independent Sports Writer

NFL Draft Becomes The Place To Be For Sports Fans

The NFL draft has, somewhat inexplicably, become one of the premier sports events on the American calendar.

Despite it being little more than a group of talking heads projecting the careers of players who are selected by teams on slips of paper, the sports-loving public in this country has fallen in love with the NFL draft to the point that it is now a destination event for fans.

This means that the draft is one of those sports events that cities actually compete to gain the rights to host. This competition is a relatively recent development, with the draft having been held in New York City from the date of the first draft in 1965 through to the 50th-anniversary edition in 2015.

Since then, the NFL has held the draft in cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and Dallas, with the 2019 NFL Draft emanating from Nashville, Tennessee.

There are several reasons why the NFL draft has become one of the most significant sports events of the spring.  First, the event is perfectly positioned at the point where we start to miss football and crave it back in our sporting lives.  Sure, the NBA and NHL playoffs are in full swing, but the MLB season is still 100 games away from being over and, importantly, college basketball just wrapped up with the fantastic sports event that is March Madness.

Football, however, has been over for a couple of months by the middle of April. While new leagues seem to come and disappear in the spring every couple of years, millions of people across the globe still miss the NFL. That is why an event such as this has grown from a bunch of team executives in a musical hall picking in private to a full-on production that is watched worldwide.

The other main reason that the NFL draft has become one of the most significant sports events is that it manages to hit right down the middle of the football fan demographic. While the divide between college fans and pro fans is not what it once was, there are still large sections of the country, especially in college football heartlands such as the south, where the NFL game is barely followed, but where college football is almost its own religion.

The NFL draft ignites both sets of fans, with college football guys getting to see how high their favorite player is drafted (ideally ahead of the first player taken from the rival school) while NFL fans get to find out about and research a new crop of talent coming in from the college ranks.  The NBA draft (at two rounds) is too short. The MLB draft (at 40 rounds) is way, way too long. The NHL draft simply features too many players that you have to be an absolute hockey diehard to have ever heard about most of them.

The NFL draft, however, hits the sweet spot and that is why it is the only draft that is truly event viewing.

Article by Steve Wright

LA Chargers Make The Premier Fashion Statement

The premier fashion statement in the NFL will be making a long-awaited comeback later this year as the Los Angeles Chargers have announced they will be switching to their powder blue jerseys as their home uniform of choice for the 2019 season.

The iconic jerseys are not only the premier fashion choice in the NFL, but they also represent one of the best uniform color combinations in sports, period. The Chargers will be making the look even more striking as the team will be wearing the equally iconic gold facemask whatever uniform is being worn for their game.

The uniform dates all the way back to the team’s opening season in Los Angeles back in 1960. Since moving away from the powder blue in 1974, the uniform has made sporadic appearances after fans were treated to seeing the color again on the gridiron in 1994 for the 75th anniversary season of the league.

This decision automatically makes the LA Chargers the premier fashion team in the league.  Here are the best of the rest in the NFL when it comes to uniform color schemes:

Oakland Raiders
The silver and black color scheme of the Raiders was the best in the league until the Chargers stole their spot. Instantly recognizable, the Raiders scheme is unlike anything else we see in sports with the bold use of silver and black and the fact that they haven’t changed a single thing about them since the 1960s adds to the mystique.  This is a premier fashion choice in the NFL as much because of what the colors represent, the violence and the intimidation factor, as anything else.

Buffalo Bills
This is not a team that would have featured on this list until recently.
The Bills made a bold choice in blending aspects of their 1970s uniforms with a modern style, and the risk has paid off in as much as now they are one of the best looking teams in the entire league. While other franchises have tried to merge styles like this and failed, the Bills have a look that their fans now need to see mirrored by their play on the field.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Maybe it is just something about the black on a uniform that makes it one of the premier fashion statements in the league.  The Steelers, like the Raiders, make the most of the black in their scheme to create an intimidating and dominating look. While some of their throwback choices, specifically the bumble-bees, have been less than impressive, this timeless look of black and gold needs nothing in the way of changes.

Green Bay Packers
The green and gold of the Packers always look iconic, but it is at its very best when Lambeau Field is frozen over, and a playoff game is on the line.
Simplicity is the key here. The helmet logo that was first adopted in 1961 somehow always manages to stay in style. In an ever-changing world, there is something very timeless about the whole ethos of the Packers franchise. That is why these uniforms will always be one of the top five styles in the NFL.

Top 25 Premier Players of The National Football League

The Premier Players of College Football will be called onto one of the biggest stages in sports when teams select their picks for the 2019 NFL Draft.  At a minimum, all of them are hoping for picks that will immediately have an impact on team performance.  At best, each team wants an athlete that can impact the game like our Top-25 players to ever play in the National Football League:

25 – Rod Woodson
Woodson is the NFL leader in interception returns for touchdowns. He is a player who seemed to have a sixth sense of where and when to cut when on an interception return, proving to be a spark for the Pittsburgh Steelers every time he got his hands on the football.  An 11-time Pro Bowl player and six-time All-Pro, Woodson scored on 12 interception returns and sits third overall in terms of total interceptions. Woodson is a player quarterbacks never felt comfortable throwing against as he was able to use his physicality to get to the ball before the receiver on countless occasions.

24 – Deion Sanders
As loud and brash as he was supremely talented, Deion Sanders is the best cover corner in the history of the NFL and one of the premier players of all time.  The two-time Super Bowl winner was an eight-time Pro Bowler, and he won the award for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1994. Sanders retired second all-time in both career interception return yards and career interceptions returned for touchdowns. Ironically, Sanders had the talent to lead in both the categories, but he was so good at his job of locking down a receiver that quarterbacks barely threw the ball in his direction for fear of the interception.

23 – Otto Graham
Graham was the best player football had ever seen before the NFL existed.
Graham took the Browns to league championship games every year between 1946 and 1955 and won seven of those contests. With Graham under center, the Browns posted an almost unbelievable record of 114-20-4, including going 9-3 in the playoffs. Perhaps most astonishing, Graham still holds records for the most average yards per pass attempt (8.98) and the record for career winning percentage by a starting quarterback at almost 83-percent.

22 – Randy Moss
Moss may have been the most uncoverable receiver in the history of the NFL. While other players used their route running and cunning to get open, Moss used his freakish speed and 6-foot-4 inch frame (with a 51 inch vertical) to merely be better than any defensive back trying to cover him.
Moss caught 17 touchdown passes as a rookie as the Minnesota Vikings went 15-1. He then bookended his career with a 23 touchdown season, breaking a Jerry Rice record no less, as the Patriots completed the first ever 16-game undefeated regular season. Moss finished his career with over 15,000 yards receiving and 156 touchdowns in the premier league in the sport.

21 – Marshall Faulk
Faulk was the first true hybrid running back/wide receiver who played the running back position. Without his powerful ability on the ground and out of the backfield the Greatest Show on Turf would never have been so successful.  While he never led the league in rushing, Faulk had the hands of a wide receiver. He finished his career with 6,875 yards catching the ball and had more than 19,000 total yards from scrimmage to his name. A seven-time Pro Bowl player and a three-time All-Pro, Faulk won the MVP in 2000 when he had 2,189 yards from scrimmage and 26 touchdowns.

20 – Dick Butkus
The greatest middle linebacker in the history of the game, Dick Butkus had a name that basically meant his only career choice was to be an NFL defensive star and one of the premier players of all time.  Playing nine seasons in the NFL when middle linebacker was a brutal and dangerous position to play, Butkus struck fear in the hearts of both quarterbacks and wide receivers as he was known for his punishing hits. He was named to the Pro Bowl every year from 1965 to 1972, and he showed his versatility as a player by finishing his career with 22 interceptions and 27 fumble recoveries.

19 – Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers is a player who has always had to fight through some level of adversity. After going the JuCo route and only getting a scholarship to Cal when the head coach was watching another player, the nation had to suffer on draft day as Rodgers sat in the green room until the24th pick of the 2005 draft.  Rodgers landed in Green Bay and was able to learn from the great for three seasons before taking over the team. He is a two time NFL MVP, a one-time Super Bowl Champion and Super Bowl MVP, and a seven-time Pro Bowl choice at the quarterback position. At 35 years old and with a new head coach to invigorate his career, Rodgers has plenty of time to climb this list.

18 – Gale Sayers
Sayers is an anomaly on this list of players with long, storied careers in the NFL.  The Kansas Comet played just 68 career games in the premier league of football, playing in only six seasons from 1965 to 1971. What we did see of Sayers though was enough to list him this high on a list of the greatest players of all-time.  During his rookie season, Sayers scored 22 touchdowns in 14 games. In one game on a rainy afternoon against the San Francisco 49ers, Sayers scored six touchdowns as he outclassed everyone else on the field.  A gliding, smooth, and burning runner, Sayers is an NFL Hall of Famer even with his short career arc.

17 – Bruce Smith
The only player in the history of the league with 200 career sacks, Bruce Smith, was an absolute force to be reckoned with from the defensive end position.  His 200 sacks is a record that may stand forever, with no current player within range and few feeling the need to play for the extended amount of time at the NFL level that would be required to break the mark. Smith played for 19 seasons in the NFL, recording 10 or more sacks in 13 of those years. An 11-time Pro Bowler, Smith was savvy, quick, and powerful at the point of attack.

16 – Deacon Jones
Jones is the player that invented the whole concept of sacking a quarterback. Before Jones, a quarterback tackle was recorded as simply that, a tackle.  To get a feel for Jones’ place in the pantheon of NFL defensive ends people have had to rewatch old game footage to come up with his totals. Jones has been credited with 173.5 sacks during his career, enough for third on the all-time list and a number that would have put him top of the pile when he retired. The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder, was a physical freak in the 19060s, perhaps showing how he was able to record 21.5 and 22 sack seasons in just 14 games each in 1967 and 1968.

15 – Emmitt Smith
Smith is sometimes overlooked on this type of list because he wasn’t the flashiest back in the league even when at his pomp.  Smith may not have been as naturally gifted athletically as some on this list, but his toughness and physicality as a runner made him stand out. He always got stronger as the game wore on, using his incredible endurance to work through games and pound the rock in the fourth quarter. He retired with 18,355 yards and 164 touchdowns, both the most of any back in NFL history.

14 – Brett Favre
Favre may have become something of a comedic figure because of how the end of his career played out, but at his peak, he was the most feared quarterback in the game.  Taken with the 33rd overall pick of the 1991 NFL Draft, Favre was soon traded up to Green Bay where he embarked on a Hall of Fame career. Favre was at his best in the mid-90s, when he led the Packers to a pair of Super Bowls, winning in 1996, and when he was named the NFL MVP for three consecutive years between 1995 and 1997. His tough as nails reputation and gunslinger attitude made Favre a legend in his own time.

13 – Johnny Unitas
Unitas was one of the first star quarterbacks the NFL had ever seen, and he is undoubtedly one of the premier players of all time.  Playing from 1956-73, Unitas retired as a quarterback legend. The 10-time Pro Bowler and seven-time All-Pro just seemed to have a feel for the game and how offensive systems worked that no one before him had managed. One of only four players to win three NFL MVP awards, Unitas led his Baltimore Colts to an NFL Championship game win in 1958 that is widely considered as the game that created interest in professional football.

12 – Joe Greene
“Mean” Joe Greene is on the shortlist for the title of best defensive lineman in the history of professional football.  Greene was the best player on the Steelers “Steel Curtain” defense that basically ruled the NFL for six years in the 1970s. That team won four Super Bowl rings in those six years, with the 6-foot-4, 280 pound Greene simply proving too powerful to offensive linemen to contain on a play by play basis. The 10-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro was also named Defensive Player of the Year on two occasions.

11 – Drew Brees
Drew Brees is the forgotten man of the current era of quarterbacking.
Overlooked in favor of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers, the former Purdue Boilermaker has done nothing other than excel in the Bayou. A 12-time Pro Bowl player, Brees began his career in San Diego before almost joining the Miami Dolphins when hitting free agency. Instead, he signed with the Saints, and the match has been perfect. Brees is the fastest quarterback in history to hit the 60,000 and 70,000-yard plateaus, and he has shown no signs of decline as he chases several Peyton Manning records.

10 – John Elway
Elway took an interesting path to the NFL. A two-sport star at Stanford, he spent a year in the New York Yankees system before becoming the No. 1 pick of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts entering the premier league of football.  Elway, though, never played a down for the Colts. He was instead traded to Denver, a city he would make his own as he played for 16 seasons with the Broncos. Elway led the Broncos to five Super Bowls, winning two, including being named the MVP of the final game of his career in Super Bowl XXXIII. The nine-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro was an athletic player who could beat defenses with his scrambling or his laser of an arm.

9 – Walter Payton
The Chicago Bears picked a franchise changing running back with the No. 4 overall pick in the 1975 NFL Draft when claiming the rights to Walter “Sweetness” Payton.  Payton was a stunning runner with a bruising style that belied his ability to quickly change direction when needed. He was a back who would never run out of bounds on his own accord, instead lowering his helmet to initiate contact with whichever defender was in his way. Playing all but one game of his 13 year NFL career, Payton rushed for 16,726 yards and 110 touchdowns.

8 – Barry Sanders
Barry Sanders was must-see TV throughout the 1990s. After tearing the college game apart as a member of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Sanders was drafted into the league by the Detriot Lions and was a star from day one.
Sanders was the most elusive, difficult to tackle, and flat our electric player in the history of the NFL. He was a powerful back, one blessed with a jump cut that didn’t even look human, and he consistently ran for 1,000-yard seasons despite playing behind what would graciously be called a poor offensive line. Sanders became the first back in the history of the NFL to produce five 1,500 seasons.

7 – Lawrence Taylor
Taylor had a presence about his play that was terrifying. The linebacker won most battles with opposition quarterbacks before he even stepped on the field, such was the fear that he projected thanks to his pass rushing skill.
Taylor was one of the first defensive players that coaches had to scheme their offenses around. Joe Gibbs of the division rival Washington Redskins would employ a two running back formation against the New York Giants just to give his quarterback an extra blocker and hopefully have time to deliver the ball.

6 – Reggie White
Reggie White was the ultimate example of a player who could flip that switch on game day and became an absolute wrecking ball on the field.
The “Minster of Defense” was a deeply devout and religious man, but come Sunday he would morph into the greatest defensive end the league has ever seen. The 13-time Pro Bowl selection, 13-time All-Pro choice, and two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, White ranks second on the NFL sack list win 198 quarterback takedowns in 232 career games.

5 – Joe Montana
A player who went a perfect 4-0 in his Super Bowl appearances, Montana first flashed signs of greatness while leading Notre Dame to a college football national championship.  After falling to the third round of the 1979 NFL Draft, Joe Cool was selected with the 82nd pick by the San Francisco 49ers. Montana is a playoff legend, with three Super Bowl MVPs and the highest all-time Super Bowl QB rating (cumulative) of 127.8. The five-time All-Pro was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 200.

4 – Jim Brown
Watching old highlight footage of Jim Brown is like watching a grown man playing against high school players.  Brown was a 6-foot-2, 230-pound running back playing in the late 50s and early 60s. This meant that not only was he bigger than all the other skill position players, but that he was often bigger than the offensive linemen blocking and the defensive linemen trying to tackle him. Brown was a freak, too fast for the defensive front seven and too strong for the defensive backfield. He won the rushing title in eight out of his nine NFL seasons and owned every rushing record that mattered when he ended his career.

3 – Peyton Manning
Manning holds a plethora of NFL records after a long career that saw him win two Super Bowl rings and cement his name as one of the premier players to ever lace up a pair of cleats.  His 71,940 passing yards, 539 touchdown passes, and 186 regular season wins are all NFL records. A five-time NFL MVP, Manning is the only starting quarterback to lead two different franchises (Indianapolis Colts & Denver Broncos) to Super Bowl wins. A 14 time Pro Bowler, Manning had legendary battles through the years with arch nemesis Tom Brady and his career numbers would have been even better had he played in an ear without a second dominant quarterback.

2 – Jerry Rice
An unheralded draft pick out of Mississippi Valley State in 1985, Rice fell to the middle of the first round because of a perceived lack of speed despite starring for the Delta Devils.  The rest of the NFL’s loss was the San Francisco 49ers gain as Rice forged incredible partnerships with quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young. Rice was the king of the West Coast offense, with his sure hands and game speed allowing him to pick up yards after the catch at a rate never seen before. Rice finished his 20-year career with three Super Bowl rings, 197 touchdowns, and a mark of 22,985 yards receiving that will never be matched.

1 – Tom Brady
Brady may have made it to No. 1 on this list without his record sixth Super Bowl win last February. That sixth ring, though, seals the deal and makes Brady the best player in the history of the league before he has even retired.
A four-time Super Bowl MVP, Brady is always at his best in the biggest games. The 199th overall pick of the 2000 NFL Draft was the seventh quarterback off of the board behind names such as Tee Martin and Spergon Wynn. Brady is a 14 time Pro Bowler, a three-time league MVP, and has set a postseason record with 30 wins. He also is showing few signs of slowing down as he continues to play in the NFL into his 40s.

Gronk Leaves The NFL As One of The Best Ever TE

When Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement late last month, he did so as one of the premier players at his position in the history of the NFL.  When talking about the best tight ends of all time, Gronk has to be in the conversation.  At worst, he is in the top five to ever play the position. While at best, he makes a great argument to be the single most uncoverable tight end that has ever put on pads.

The pros for Gronkowski being one of the premier players at the tight end position start with his ability to perform in the clutch.  While Gronk may not have always put up the receiving numbers expected, especially later in his career, if Tom Brady needed a player to make a big play and break open a game he would invariably look for his giant tight end.

That ability to be clutch links into Gronkowski’s second greatest trait. Gronk, more so than perhaps any player ever, could be open even when he was covered (and sometimes double covered).  His combination of size, speed, and strength, didn’t so much make him a matchup nightmare as a complete matchup impossibility.  You would struggle to find a single game during his entire NFL career when Gronkowski wasn’t a threat to take over with a big play on any snap, no matter who was tasked with keeping him quiet.

Other premier players in their time period are worth comparing with Gronkowski.  Tony Gonzalez caught way more passes, mainly for the Kansas City Chiefs, but he played (and was at his peak) for a much longer period of time.  Kellen Winslow brought the tight end position out of the dark ages, turning it from a purely blocking position into a dual-threat to block or pass.

One of the Gronkowski’s most significant accomplishments is that at his peak he was just as good at blocking as passing.  Gonzalez was more of a pure pass catcher (the Chiefs employed Jason Dunn as a tight end for years for running downs), and Winslow is another who caught passes better than he blocked. Gronk, as athletically gifted as any player in the league, could do everything at a high level when healthy.

Health is about the only negative on Gronkowski’s record. Gronkowski, though always seemed to be able to push through the pain barrier in the biggest games, especially when the Patriots needed his skill the most.

It will be interesting to see what Gronkowski does in retirement.  As one of the premier players in the game, there are many routes open which he could choose.  In his first public appearance since retirement, Gronkowski was part of a team that made dreams come true for four Make-A-Wish kids, showing a side to him we didn’t often see as a player.  Gronk has an ideal personality for events like this, and it would be cool to see what he could do in terms of charitable and volunteer work to add another string to his bow after a remarkable professional football career.