A city is shaped by the athletes that represent them. Whether their jersey or photo is framed inside of a local restaurant or they have a mural behind a brick building dedicated to them, their presence is felt throughout the city. This article is dedicated to establishing each cities’ Mount Rushmore. Who are the four players who represent their city much like how Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Jefferson represented their country?
5 Cities’ Mount Rushmore: Greatest Athletes
Chicago has been a part of two of the most dominant eras/runs in sports; the Monsters of the Midway and Michael Jordan‘s Chicago Bulls.
Jordan’s ruthless pursuit to be the best and get the most from his teammates made him a favorite in Chi-town. During his career, he earned countless accolades and made unbelievable highlights. He made his brand that is worth over three billion dollars today. Watch “The Last Dance” as it is simply hard to put into words his greatness.
Sweetness. Walter Payton. His production as a runner and receiver made it possible for the “catching-backs” we have today. He played 186 consecutive games which are simply unheard of at the running back position. He posted multiple MVP campaigns and won one in a league with Roger Staubach and Terry Bradshaw at quarterback. It was quite the “sweet” career.
Another successful Chicago running back was Gale Sayers. He retired at a relatively young age but compiled quite the resume during his short career. He was a savvy special teams player and explosive runner even after suffering a significant knee injury.
Mike Singletary flew across the field matching his opponent’s steps stride for stride before laying a monster hit. He finished first or second in tackling on his team in 11 straight seasons. He played a significant role in the Bears’ only Super Bowl victory against the New England Patriots. He helped hold them to only seven rushing yards and recovered two fumbles in a 46-10 win.
Honorable Mentions: Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman
Los Angeles benefits from having six professional sports teams. However, one team separates itself from the rest, the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are the top ten of the NBA’s greatest players. Bryant won five titles while emulating his idol MJ. His mamba mentality gave inspiration to those who struggled to find motivation including non-basketball players.
O’Neal was Kobe’s teammate and while he may not have had the same work ethic, he still managed to dominate defensively and in the paint. His accolades are hard to replicate. Three-time NBA finals MVP. 15-time All-Star. Three-time All-defense. A charisma that made it hard not to cheer for him.
The other electric Lakers duo was Magic and Kareem. They are also five-time champions, but they arguably played in a tougher era that had the likes of Larry Bird, Julius Erving, and Charles Barkley. Kareem’s prolific scoring has him the all-time leading scorer in NBA history along with Magic’s playmaking that has him sixth all-time in assists made them one of the greatest 1-2 punch fans have ever seen.
Honorable Mentions: Eric Dickerson, Wayne Gretzky
New York is known as the mecca for their superb basketball but it’s the New York Yankees that make them an attraction along with the greatest defensive football player of all time Lawrence Taylor.
Bill Belichick doesn’t smile often but when asked about Taylor, his eyes lit up and his grin grew larger.
“…there’s nobody that I could put in his category that I’ve coached… he’s head and shoulders above whoever the next player is,” said Belichick.
Taylor was the last defensive player to win MVP. He instilled fear in opposing quarterbacks. He out-muscled any offensive lineman in his way.
Joe DiMaggio was a hero. He was a cultural icon. Surefire Hollywood material. However, he made a name for himself in the Big Apple. He made the all-star game and was a top 20 MVP candidate every single season. Averaging a slugging percentage of .579 is simply remarkable; even today.
Someone had to replace DiMaggio who retired in 1951. That someone was Mickey Mantle. Mantle was as humble and loyal as they come. He spent his entire 18 years as a Yankee and showed toughness and perseverance battling through disease and injuries. Mantle still became a three-time MVP and seven-time champion.
New Yorkers relish the fact that they turned Boston’s trash into their treasure. That “trash” was none other than Babe Ruth. Ruth was an offensive juggernaut. While the Yankees didn’t utilize him as a pitcher, it is worth noting his versatility. You don’t have to play just one position in baseball thanks to Ruth. Maybe the Los Angeles Angels take a different approach with Shohei Ohtani if it wasn’t for Ruth’s success as a two-way player.
Honorable Mentions: Joe Namath, Patrick Ewing
While Cleveland has struggled over the last decade to find their next superstar, their history can’t go unnoticed. No Cleveland Browns quarterback has been able to duplicate the success that Otto Graham has had over his 10-year career. A seven-time all-pro, a three-time champion, and a 57-13-1 record is the reason why there is a statue of him outside of First Energy stadium southwest gate.
If you continue to walk around, you will also find a Jim Brown statue who has the 11th most rushing yards all-time while having a shorter tenure than some of his peers. He was versatile, durable, and earned 4 MVPs while making a case as one of the best running backs ever.
Hall of Famer Jim Thome spent 13 years as a first baseman and designated hitter with the Cleveland Indians. He is ranked eighth for most home runs all-time and his discipline led him to rank seventh all-time in walks. His clutch performances had his fans in awe as his 13 walk-off home runs are the most in MLB history.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were in desperate need of a savior and looked to a kid from Akron named LeBron James. His high school games were televised on ESPN as he became one of the first athletes to be exposed to the media at an early age. He lived up to the hype statistically during his first seven years, however, there was no ring to show for it. He moved to Miami and Cleveland fans began to burn and throw away jerseys. After four years and two rings with the Heat, he came back to his hometown and delivered a promise.
“…what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio,” said James in a letter to the Cleveland fans.
He did it against one of the greatest teams of all time, the 73-win Golden State Warriors while playing in four straight elimination games. That comeback cemented his legacy as a Cleveland great.
Honorable Mentions: Joe Thomas, Ozzie Newsome
Boston is home to the oldest ballpark in all of baseball, Fenway Park where left fielder Ted Williams became one of the greatest hitters in baseball. He tied sixth in all-time batting average. He was an all-star for 18 of his 19 years and was a two-time MVP. Boston is home to the Boston Celtics who are tied with the Lost Angeles Lakers for most NBA championships all-time. Bill Russell contributed to 11 of the Celtics’ 17 rings while becoming the very first player/coach toward the later part of his years.
In the same arena, the Boston Bruins have six Stanley cups and speedy defenseman Bobby Orr is responsible for a third of those victories. He became arguably the second greatest hockey player of all time.
Yet, it’s Tom Brady who put Boston on the map. Brady took the role of replacing fan-favorite Drew Bledsoe who couldn’t get the Pats over the hump. Brady never backed down and created one of the greatest football dynasties winning six rings over his time with the New England Patriots.
Honorable Mentions: Larry Bird, Pedro Martinez