Every State’s Sports Mount Rushmore, Ranked
Which four sports figures — whether they be athletes, coaches, administrators or CEOs — best represent their respective states?
Every State’s Sports Mount Rushmore, Ranked
Washington. Jefferson. Roosevelt. Lincoln. Those are the four presidents’ heads engraved into Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. They represent the birth, growth, development and preservation, respectively, of our country, and without them, our nation wouldn’t be what it is today.
But what if we applied a sports theme to Mount Rushmore? Which four sports figures — whether they be athletes, coaches, administrators or CEOs — would represent their respective states? We went through all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., and selected the four figures to represent those regions. Each figure could only be used in one state and one state only. Also, favoritism was given to those figures who were involved in a sport that is especially popular within the state (i.e., auto racing in North Carolina or horse racing in Kentucky).
The hardest part was limiting it to just four for some states, but unless there’s a fifth president carved into Mount Rushmore any time soon, those are the rules. Here is every state’s Mount Rushmore, ranked.
51. Alaska: Kikkan Randall, Scott Gomez, Lance Mackey, Carlos Boozer
Top sports: Mushing, Hockey
Honorable mention: Mario Chalmers
Bottom line: In high school at East Anchorage High, Randall won 10 state titles in track/cross country. A coach then recommended she take up cross-country skiing to stay fit during the offseason, and that hobby would eventually become her career. She won an Olympic gold medal in the team sprint event in 2018 and has also won three World Championships.
Just over a dozen Alaskans have made it to the NHL, and Gomez was the best of them as a two-time Stanley Cup winner and the 2000 Rookie of the Year.
No state embraces mushing and the Iditarod quite like The Last Frontier, and Mackey is a four-time winner of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. He also won the Yukon Quest four times and that’s a 1,000-mile trek between Alaska and the Yukon.
Born in Germany, raised in Alaska and prepped at Duke, Carlos Boozer is well-traveled and narrowly beats out Mario Chalmers as the NBA’s best Alaskan. Booz was an NCAA Champion and two-time All-Star with the Utah Jazz.
50. Wyoming: Brett Keisel, Boyd Dowler, Rulon Gardner, Lane Frost
Top sports: Rodeo, Football
Honorable mention: James Johnson
Bottom line: Former NFL players Brett Keisel and Boyd Dowler are two of the less than two dozen Wyoming-born players to make it to the highest level of pro football. They each won two Super Bowls — Keisel with the Steelers and Dowler with the Packers — and the latter also won an additional three NFL Championships with Green Bay.
Gardner was a Greco-Roman wrestler who shocked the world at the 2000 Olympics by defeating Aleksandr Karelin who was on a 13-year undefeated streak. Gardner would win the gold medal at 130 kg and add a bronze Olympic medal four years later.
Frost was a Hall of Fame rodeo cowboy who was killed in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1989 due to injuries from a bull. He was competing at the Cheyenne Frontier Days and successfully rode a bull before it then hit him with his horn, leading to broken ribs that punctured his organs and led to his death.
49. North Dakota: Phil Jackson, Roger Maris, Darrin Erstad, Carson Wentz
Top sports: Hunting, Fishing
Honorable mention: Jim Kleinsasser
Bottom line: Phil Jackson is the unofficial Lord of the Rings in the NBA, as he owns 13 NBA championships as both a player (2) and coach (11). This came after an amateur career in North Dakota when he was a four-sport star at Williston High School and then twice made the NCAA Division II Tournament while at the University of North Dakota.
Maris was born in Minnesota but raised in North Dakota, which helped launch his professional baseball career. He is best known for breaking Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record in 1961 when Maris smacked 61 homers — a record that stood until 1998.
Erstad was born and raised in Jamestown, North Dakota, although his high school didn’t have a baseball team. Thus, he played in a local amateur league that led him to play both baseball and football at the University of Nebraska. Erstad actually won a national championship in football at Nebraska but knew his pro prospects were on the diamond. He became a three-time Gold Glove winner and two-time All-Star during his 14 MLB seasons.
Wentz was the major cog in an FCS dynasty at North Dakota State. He redshirted, so he ended up spending five years in college and the Bison won the FCS Championship all five years. He then won a Super Bowl with the Eagles during the 2017 season.
48. Delaware: Elena Delle Donne, Joe Flacco, Rich Gannon, Randy White
Top sports: Football
Honorable mention: Sadie McMahon
Bottom line: Born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, Delle Donne is one of six players in WNBA history to win multiple MVP awards. She won her first with the Chicago Sky in 2015 but missed being around her family back home in Delaware. Thus, she asked to be traded to the Washington Mystics, the closest team to her hometown. She was dealt to Washington in 2017 and won her second MVP two years later.
Flacco and Gannon were both born outside of Delaware, but their ties to the state are from playing with the Blue Hens’ football team. They were both afterthoughts when first showing up on campus, as Flacco was a transfer from Pittsburgh while Gannon’s first position was as a punter. But their time with Delaware was a springboard to NFL success with both winning MVPs — Flacco was Super Bowl XLVII MVP while Gannon was MVP of the 2002 regular season.
Hall of Famer Randy White attended high school in Wilmington before a stellar 14-year career with the Dallas Cowboys. He was a nine-time All-Pro, one-time Super Bowl champion and was named to the NFL’s 100th Anniversary Team.
47. Maine: Patrick Ricard, Duncan Robinson, Joan Benoit, Ian Crocker
Top sports: Hunting, Fishing
Honorable mention: Brian Dumoulin
Bottom line: In a league that has become extremely specialized, Patrick Ricard stands out from his NFL counterparts. After playing just defense at the University of Maine, the Baltimore Ravens converted Ricard into a two-way player. As both a defensive lineman and a fullback, he’s made two Pro Bowls.
Robinson was born in York, Maine, and his father played hoops for the Maine Black Bears. Robinson had a long and winding road to the NBA that included two different high schools and two different colleges, but he carved out a role as a sharpshooter for the Miami Heat. In just his third season, Robinson set the NBA record by becoming the fastest player to make 500 career three-pointers.
Benoit was born and raised in Maine, which is where she honed her running skills. She won an Olympic gold medal in the marathon while also setting American records for times in the Chicago Marathon and Boston Marathon.
Crocker is a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming who hails from Portland, Maine. He handed Michael Phelps one of the worst losses in his career at the 2005 FINA World Championships 100m butterfly. Crocker broke his own world record in that race and beat Phelps by more than a second.
46. Rhode Island: Nap Lajoie, Gabby Hartnett, Davey Lopes, Paul Konerko
Top sports: Hockey, Baseball
Honorable mention: Hugh Duffy
Bottom line: Rhode Island’s entire Mount Rushmore consists of MLB players led by five-time batting champion Napoleon “Nap” Lajoie. He had over 3,000 hits and led the AL with 14 home runs in 1901, which came during the dead-ball era.
Hartnett was the game’s first power-hitting catcher who clubbed 236 long balls and was the 1935 NL MVP. He was someone who got better with age, with all six of his All-Star Games came after turning 32 years old.
Speaking of getting better with age, that accurately describes Davey Lopes who didn’t make his MLB debut until he was 27. He stole 47 bases at the age of 40 years old, and his 557 career stolen bases are the fourth-most by a second baseman.
Konerko was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and became one of the best sluggers of the 2000s. He averaged 30 HR and 93 RBI from 1999-2012 and is the all-time leader in total bases for the White Sox.
45. Montana: Jerry Kramer, Pat Donovan, Tommy Moe, Dave McNally
Top sports: Hunting, Fishing
Honorable mention: Lones Wigger
Bottom line: Two offensive linemen from two NFL dynasties comprise half of Montana’s list. Jerry Kramer created rushing lanes for Lombardi’s Packers during the 1960s, as he won five NFL Championships and was a five-time All-Pro selection. Pat Donovan was a stalwart at left tackle for Tom Landry’s Cowboys during the 1970s and ’80s, as he protected Roger Staubach’s blindside and created holes for Tony Dorsett. Donovan, born and raised in Helena, made four Pro Bowls and was a Super Bowl champion.
Tommy Moe is a champion alpine skier who learned his chops in Missoula, Montana. He earned two Olympic medals in 1994 and won a World Cup in the super-G. Moe was inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame in 2003.
Dave McNally was part of the Baltimore Orioles’ dynasty during the 1960s and ’70s. He was a three-time All-Star as a starting pitcher and won two World Series. In 1971, McNally was one of four Orioles starters to win at least 20 games, making that team the last to accomplish that feat.
44. Hawaii: Shane Victorino, Olin Kreutz, Akebono Taro, Duke Kahanamoku
Top sports: Surfing
Honorable mention: Red Rocha
Bottom line: Nicknamed the Flyin’ Hawaiian, Victorino was from Wailuku and was one of the Phillies’ core players for their last World Series championship. He signed a letter of intent to play baseball at the University of Hawaii, while also getting a football scholarship from them, but he bypassed both to become a professional out of high school.
Kreutz was one of the best centers of his era and made the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade team. He also made six Pro Bowls and was a four-time recipient of the Brian Piccolo Award, which is given to a Chicago Bears player who best exemplifies courage, loyalty and teammate.
Taro was born in Waimanalo, Hawaii, and became the first non-Japanese-born sumo wrestler to reach the rank of Yokozuna, which is the highest ranking. He won 11 tournament championships and then later had stints in kickboxing, MMA and pro wrestling.
Kahanamoku, aka “The Big Kahuna,” helped popularize the sport of surfing outside of Hawaii. He would put on exhibitions all over the world and taught the nuances of the sport. He was also a world-class swimmer who won five Olympic medals from 1912-1924.
43. Idaho: Harmon Killebrew, Larry Jackson, Larry Wilson, Picabo Street
Top sports: Skiing
Honorable mention: Wally Walker
Bottom line: Killebrew and Jackson were MLB contemporaries of each other, and they combined for 18 of the 25 All-Star Game appearances for Idaho-born players. Killebrew was one of the greatest sluggers of all time and led the AL in home runs six different times before finishing his career with 573 dingers. Jackson was the Cardinals’ ace before Bob Gibson took over, and then he joined the rival Cubs and became their best pitcher. He won an NL-leading 24 games in 1964 and finished as the Cy Young runner-up.
Wilson is the only Pro Football Hall of Famer from Idaho, and he’s credited as being the first safety to blitz the quarterback. He was pretty good playing center field as well and picked off 52 passes, returning five back for touchdowns. He made the 1960 and ’70s All-Decade Teams despite retiring after the 1972 season.
Street was born in Triumph, Idaho, and was the first American woman to win a World Cup downhill season title. She won two Olympic medals in alpine skiing and is in two Hall of Fames: The National Ski Hall and the unofficial Name Hall of Fame.
42. Vermont: Steve Wisniewski, Carlton Fisk, Tim Thomas, Andrea Mead Lawrence
Top sports: Snowboarding, Skiing
Honorable mention: John LeClair
Bottom line: Born in Rutland, Vermont, Wisniewski earned a reputation as one of the dirtiest players in the NFL during his day, so it’s fitting he spent his entire 13-year career with the Raiders. He made eight Pro Bowls as an offensive lineman and was a member of the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team.
Fisk was raised on the Vermont-New Hampshire border, but he was born in Bellows Falls, Vermont. He identifies as being more of a New Hampshirite but played in both states while growing up. He spent an astounding 24 years behind home plate and was an 11-time All-Star catcher for the Red Sox and White Sox.
Thomas played four years of college hockey at the University of Vermont before a nine-year NHL career that included a Stanley Cup win with the Bruins. He is one of four American-born players to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Mead Lawrence was a skiing prodigy who was born into an alpine skiing family that owned and operated the Pico Peak ski area in Killington, Vermont. She made the U.S. Olympic skiing team as a 15-year-old in 1948, and four years later, she won two gold medals — one in slalom and one in giant slalom.
41. New Hampshire: Chip Kelly, Matt Bonner, Chris Carpenter, Bode Miller
Top sports: Skiing
Honorable mention: Red Rolfe
Bottom line: Chip Kelly, the former Oregon/Eagles/49ers coach and current UCLA head coach, was born in New Hampshire and also played his college ball at UNH. But he made his mark as the innovative offensive coordinator at UNH during the early 2000s, which then led to his stint with the Ducks.
Matt Bonner owns the distinction as being the only player in NBA history born in New Hampshire. The Red Mamba is from Concord, and he spent 12 years in the NBA with a decade coming with the Spurs. Bonner won two NBA championships in San Antonio and ranks among the top five in franchise history in made 3-pointers.
Chris Carpenter was drafted in the first round out of Trinity High School in Manchester, New Hampshire. The pitcher spent 15 years in MLB where he won the 2005 NL Cy Young award while with the Cardinals. His 10 postseason wins are the fifth-most in NL history.
Bode Miller is an alpine skier who grew up near New Hampshire’s White Mountains. He is one of five men to win a World Cup in all five disciplines, and his six Olympic medals are the most for any American skier.
40. South Dakota: Mike Miller, Becky Hammon, Adam Vinatieri, Brock Lesnar
Top sports: Fishing, Hunting, Rodeo
Honorable mention: Duane Putnam
Bottom line: Miller is just one of five players in NBA history to be born in South Dakota, and he is, by far, the best. A winner of the Rookie of the Year award and Sixth Man award, Miller won two championships with the Miami Heat. One of those rings came against the San Antonio Spurs, which would later employ Becky Hammon who became the NBA’s first full-time female assistant coach. Hammon won a title with the Spurs, which followed a distinguished WNBA career where she was named one of the top 15 players of all time.
Vinatieri was a five-sport high school star in Rapid City, South Dakota, before embarking on a Hall of Fame pro career as a kicker. He is the all-time points leader in NFL history and has played in more regular seasons and postseason games than anyone else.
Lesnar was born and raised in South Dakota before getting involved in many different sports. He’s best known for being an eight-time WWE World Champion and UFC Heavyweight Champion. But he also was the NCAA Wrestling Champion, a JUCO Wrestling Champion and briefly played for the Minnesota Vikings.
39. Connecticut: Geno Auriemma, Diana Taurasi, Ron Francis, Vince McMahon
Top sports: Basketball, Pro Wrestling
Honorable mention: Jim Calhoun
Bottom line: The UConn women’s basketball program had never even made the postseason before Geno Auriemma took them in 1985. They’ve since won 11 national championships, giving Auriemma the most titles in college basketball history, men’s or women’s. His prize pupil was Diana Taurasi who won three of Auriemma’s championships while in Storrs, Connecticut, while also being named the 2003 AP College Player of the Year.
Ron Francis was the best player on the NHL’s Hartford Whalers, which was the only major pro sports team in the state that existed for more than two seasons. He was a three-time All-Star with the Whalers who relocated and became the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997.
Vince McMahon took over the WWF/WWE from his father, moved it from New York to Connecticut in 1982 and took the company to heights McMahon’s father never envisioned. The younger McMahon fully embraced being a part of sports entertainment and changed the face of pro wrestling, making it what it is today.
38. South Carolina: Shoeless Joe Jackson, Dabo Swinney, Joe Frazier, Zion Williamson
Top sports: Football
Honorable mention: Dustin Johnson
Bottom line: With a .356 batting average, Jackson has the third-highest average in MLB history. But he’s also known for being associated with the Black Sox Scandal, and that still has him sitting outside the Hall of Fame.
Swinney has guided Clemson Football to unprecedented heights and made the school in tiny Clemson, South Carolina, among the most coveted destinations for top prospects. He’s won two National Championships and has a 10-year streak of winning 10-plus games.
One of the greatest boxers of all time, and a former undisputed heavyweight champion, Frazier hailed from Beaufort, South Carolina, where he first caught the boxing bug. He was named Fighter of the Year three times and infamously beat Muhammad Ali in the Fight of the Century in 1971.
Williamson was born in North Carolina but was raised in South Carolina where he became a social media star for his dunking exploits while at Spartanburg Day School. He was South Carolina’s Mr. Basketball and a McDonald’s All-American before taking off on a highlight-filled career at Duke and in the NBA.
37. Iowa: Kurt Warner, Dan Gable, Cap Anson, Bob Feller
Top sports: Football, Amateur Wrestling
Honorable mention: Marshal Yanda
Bottom line: Born and raised in Iowa, Warner infamously got his pro career kickstarted with the Iowa Barnstormers of the AFL. He parlayed that into an opportunity with the St. Louis Rams where he won two MVPs, one Super Bowl and became one of the greatest success stories in sports history.
Gable was a two-time NCAA wrestling champion at Iowa State before becoming an Olympic gold medalist in 1972. But he’s best known for his coaching career with the University of Iowa where the Hawkeyes won 15 NCAA Championships. Gable also coached three Olympic wrestling teams and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2020.
Anson was from Marshalltown, Iowa, and was nicknamed the “Marshalltown Infant” because he was only 19 when he made his MLB debut. He collected over 3,400 hits in his record 27-year career and led the NL in RBI eight times.
Feller earned his own hometown nickname, as the Van Meter, Iowa-born pitcher was called the “Heater from Van Meter.” Despite losing almost four years of his prime due to military service, Feller led the AL in wins six times, in strikeouts seven times and accumulated 266 wins.
36. Mississippi: Jerry Rice, Lance Alworth, Archie Manning, Johnny Vaught
Top sports: Football
Honorable mention: Jackie Slater
Bottom line: Just two receivers in NFL history have made at least six All-Pro first teams, and both hail from Mississippi. Jerry Rice is the G.O.A.T., and as one NFL writer once said, if you cut Rice’s career in half, you would have two separate Hall of Famers. He holds every meaningful receiving record, and no other player is within 5,000 yards of his all-time receiving mark.
The other receiver with six All-Pro selections is Lance Alworth who was nicknamed Bambi for his agility and grace on the field. He led the league in receptions three times, receiving yards three times and receiving touchdowns three times while also winning both an AFL Championship and a Super Bowl.
The rest of the Magnolia State’s Mount Rushmore comes via Ole Miss football, with star quarterback Archie Manning and longtime Rebels coach Johnny Vaught. Manning was a two-time Heisman finalist and then became a two-time Pro Bowler in the NFL. He also spawned two NFL quarterbacks who won a combined four Super Bowls. Vaught was Manning’s coach at Ole Miss and spent 25 years leading the football program. He accumulated 190 wins with the program, which is more than the next four winningest coaches in Ole Miss history combined.
35. Arkansas: Brooks Robinson, Scottie Pippen, Sidney Moncrief, Don Hutson
Top sports: Football, Basketball
Honorable mention: Sonny Liston
Bottom line: Robinson was born and raised in Little Rock before becoming the heart and soul of the Baltimore Orioles for 23 seasons. His 16 Gold Gloves are the most ever for a position player, and the third baseman also claimed the 1964 AL MVP.
Pippen is considered, perhaps, the greatest wingman in NBA history and is a six-time champion by way of Hamburg, Arkansas. He started his college career at the University of Central Arkansas as an equipment manager before progressing into one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.
Moncrief was one of the premier defenders of his era, making five All-Defensive teams and being a two-time winner of the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019.
Hutson was nicknamed the “Alabama Antelope” because of his prowess with the Crimson Tide, but he was raised in Arkansas. He was considered the greatest receiver in NFL history until Jerry Rice came along, as Hutson led the league in receiving touchdowns a record nine times in 11 seasons.
34. Louisiana: Drew Brees, Sean Payton, Pete Maravich, Joe Burrow
Top sports: Football
Honorable mention: Skip Bertman
Bottom line: While all championships are weighted equally, you have to believe the Super Bowl that Brees, Payton and the Saints won means a little more to Louisiana than most others. It came just a few years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the state, and it marked a complete 180 from where the Saints were before Brees and Payton came onboard. Brees later became the NFL’s passing king with the Saints while Payton has won nine of the 10 postseason games in franchise history.
Maravich was born in Pennsylvania and raised in the Carolinas, but he made his name, and fame, at LSU. He was one of a kind and set numerous NCAA records, including the all-time scoring record, which he did in three years and without a three-point line. What Wilt Chamberlain was to the NBA, Pistol Pete Maravich was to the NCAA.
Burrow’s legendary 2019 season with LSU Football earned him a spot on this list, as that season is considered by many to be the best in college football history. He won the Heisman, led LSU to a 15-0 record and brought the program its fourth national championship.
33. Arizona: Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Nash, Randy Johnson, Pat Tillman
Top sports: Football, Baseball
Honorable mention: Kevin Johnson
Bottom line: These first three athletes were arguably the best at their respective positions for a stretch and performed well into their 30s. Fitzgerald led the NFL in receptions with a career-high of 107 as a 33-year-old while Nash won back-to-back NBA MVPs at 31 and 32 years old. Johnson had the best run of his baseball career with the Diamondbacks from 1999-2002 when he won four straight MVPs in his mid-to-late 30s.
There may have been better players than Tillman, but there were no more impactful humans. He was an adopted Arizonian as he went to Arizona State and then spent his entire pro football career with the Cardinals. After the 9/11 attacks, Tillman turned down a $3.6 million contract offer from the Cardinals to enlist in the U.S. Army. He served in Afghanistan before being killed by friendly fire in 2004.
32. Virginia: Arthur Ashe, Ralph Sampson, Tony Bennett, Bruce Smith
Top sports: Football, Basketball
Honorable mention: Moses Malone
Bottom line: The most populous state without a major sports team, Virginia’s Mount Rushmore consists of either individual athletes or figures who dominated the college ranks. Arthur Ashe was introduced to the game of tennis while growing up in Richmond, Virginia, even though he was often precluded from competing against white players in the segregated city. He would go on to become the first black man to win singles titles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open.
Sampson and Bennett both represent the Virginia Cavaliers basketball program as the greatest player and coach, respectively, in program history. Sampson was a 7-foot-4 athletic marvel who was the second person ever to win three National Player of the Year awards. Bennett brought the Cavs program its first national championship in 2019 and is a two-time National Coach of the Year.
Bruce Smith is the greatest football player from the state and the greatest sack artist in NFL history with a record 200. He was born and raised in Norfolk, Virginia, then was an All-American at Virginia Tech. Smith won two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards and was one of four players to make the 1980s All-Decade Team and 1990s All-Decade Team.
31. Utah: Karl Malone, John Stockton, Jerry Sloan, Merlin Olsen
Top sports: Basketball, Skiing
Honorable mention: Steve Young
Bottom line: With the Jazz being the only show in town, it’s fitting that Utah’s Mount Rushmore is populated with their three all-time greats. Malone and Stockton are one of the greatest duos in sports history, and both players made indelible marks in the NBA. Malone ranks second all-time in points and first in made free throws while Stockton is the all-time leader in both assists and steals. Their long-time coach, Jerry Sloan, ranks fourth all-time in coaching wins and games coached. All three were inducted into the Hall of Fame from 2009-10.
Merlin Olsen edges out Steve Young as the greatest Utahn in NFL history. He was born and raised in Logan, Utah, and attended Utah State University. He was a part of the Fearsome Foursome defensive line with the Rams and made 14 straight Pro Bowls, which is tied for the longest streak in history.
30. Colorado: John Elway, Todd Helton, Alex English, Lindsey Vonn
Top sports: Football, Skiing
Honorable mention: Joe Sakic
Bottom line: Elway was one of the defining players of his era and went to five Super Bowls with the Broncos, winning two of them. He made nine Pro Bowls and was the 1987 NFL MVP before having another 10-year run as a Broncos executive, winning another Super Bowl.
Helton may be the greatest benefactor from Coors Field in MLB history, but he was an excellent hitter no matter the ballpark. He had over 2,500 hits, 369 home runs, a lifetime .316 batting average and won three Gold Gloves.
Alex English was almost the basketball version of Helton, but instead of his stats being boosted by his ballpark, they were instead boosted by the fast-pace offense he played in. No player — not Kareem, not Bird, not Moses — no one scored more points during the 1980s than English did in a Nuggets uniform.
Lindsey Vonn is the most recognizable athlete in her sport and moved to Vail, Colorado, in her teenage years. She was the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in downhill skiing and won 82 World Cup races in her career, an all-time record.
29. Nebraska: Tom Osborne, Johnny Rodgers, Bob Gibson, Pete Alexander
Top sports: Football
Honorable mention: Mick Tingelhoff
Bottom line: Tom Osborne is so popular in Nebraska that he was elected to the House of Representatives despite no previous political experience. But he did have decades of experience with the Nebraska Cornhuskers where he spent 25 years as the football team’s head coach. Osborne won three National Championships, 13 conference championships and had 53 players selected as All-Americans.
Johnny Rodgers played at Nebraska when Osborne was an assistant coach, and the running back was the program’s first Heisman winner. Rodgers, who was born in Omaha, was the high school athlete of the year before establishing the NCAA’s all-purpose yardage record while with the Cornhuskers. He was voted the school’s Player of the Century in 2000 by Sports Illustrated.
Bob Gibson, also of Omaha, stayed in the Midwest, as he spent his entire 17-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals. He may very well be the greatest baseball player to play the pitcher position. He won two Cy Young awards, won nine Gold Gloves and hit 24 home runs during his career, which is seventh-most by a pitcher.
Born and raised in Wahoo, Nebraska, Crawford spent 19 years in the majors where he finished just shy of 3,000 career hits. While Pete Rose is the Hit King and Barry Bonds is the Home Run King, Crawford is the Triple King as his 309 three-baggers rank first all-time.
28. Nevada: Floyd Mayweather Jr., Bryce Harper, Jerry Tarkanian, Dana White
Top sports: Boxing, Mixed Martial Arts
Honorable mention: Oscar De La Hoya
Bottom line: The Las Vegas metro has become the capital of combat sports, led by boxing title fights and UFC matches. Over half of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s 50 professional fights have taken place in Nevada, including all of his bouts since 2006. Manny Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya, Conor McGregor and Canelo Alvarez are just a few of the combatants who’ve fallen to Mayweather, who also makes his offseason home in Vegas.
UFC started out in smaller markets across the country but secured sanctioning in Nevada in 2001, and that’s been its home ever since. It’s headquartered in Las Vegas and has held over 150 events in 12 facilities in the state. UFC President Dana White is the one who spearheaded this move to in and around Vegas, and having UFC there adds to the city’s billing as “The Entertainment Capital of the World.”
Jerry Tarkanian, aka “Tark the Shark,” spent 19 years as UNLV’s basketball coach and had a .829 winning percentage. He won the program’s only national championship in 1990 and made four Final Fours. His 509 wins are more than the next six winningest UNLV coaches combined.
Bryce Harper was born in Las Vegas and became a celebrity while still in high school when Sports Illustrated put the 16-year-old on the cover and dubbed him “baseball’s LeBron James.” He dropped out of Las Vegas High School to pursue his GED early, which then allowed him to pursue an MLB career earlier than expected as well. Everything worked out in the end, as Harper is a former MVP and is one of the faces of the sport.
27. New Mexico: Ronnie Lott, Brian Urlacher, Ralph Kiner, Jon Jones
Top sports: Football, Baseball
Honorable mention: Bill Bridges
Bottom line: Lott didn’t live in New Mexico long, but the NFL Hall of Fame defensive back was born in Albuquerque before moving to Southern California. Lott is considered by many to be the greatest DB in NFL history, and he made first-team All-Pro at three different positions: cornerback, free safety and strong safety.
Urlacher was raised in Lovington, New Mexico, before attending the University of New Mexico where he played linebacker, safety, wide receiver and returned punts. His athleticism translated into him sticking at middle linebacker in the NFL, and he was one of the best of all time, continuing the tradition of great inside linebackers for the Chicago Bears.
Not Babe Ruth. Not Barry Bonds. Not Hank Aaron. Not any player in MLB history won more consecutive home run titles than the New Mexico-born Ralph Kiner. He led the NL in home runs in each of the first seven seasons of his career. Yet, he never even had a top-three MVP finish in any of those seasons because he played for the lowly Pirates. Kiner hit 369 home runs in a shortened career, which ended at 32 due to a back injury.
Jon Jones was neither born nor raised in New Mexico, nor has he ever fought in the state. But the pound-for-pound king lives and trains in Albuquerque. The city is nearly 7,000 feet above sea level in some areas, and training in the thin air makes fighting in the octagon at normal sea level that much easier. Jones is the youngest champion in UFC history (23) and has never been stopped or outscored in a pro fight.
26. Tennessee: Steve McNair, Eddie George, Marc Gasol, Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler
Top sports: Football, Basketball
Honorable mention: Reggie White
Bottom line: Both McNair and George starter their careers in Houston with the Oilers, but they made their names with the Tennessee Titans. McNair was a three-time Pro Bowler and won an MVP with the Titans while George was a four-time Pro Bowler who had six 1,000-yard seasons. They remain the all-time leaders in passing yards (McNair) and rushing yards (George) in the Titans chapter of the franchise.
Gasol gets the edge over longtime teammate Mike Conley due to the fact that “Big Spain” actually attended high school in Memphis. The entire Gasol family moved to the state when Pau Gasol was drafted by the franchise, so Gasol spent his 11 years with the Grizzlies just mere miles from where he played high school hoops.
Speaking of Memphis, Lawler is the king of Memphis Wrestling with a career that spans over 50 years. He had an iconic feud with comedian Andy Kaufman and won over 100 championships in his career.
25. West Virginia: Jerry West, Randy Moss, Sam Huff, Sam Snead
Top sports: Football, Hiking
Honorable mention: Hal Greer
Bottom line: “The Logo” Jerry West and “The Freak” Randy Moss are two of the greatest athletes ever in their respective sports. Both were born and raised in The Mountain State, including playing college ball at universities in West Virginia. West went on to win nine NBA championships as a player and executive while Moss retired second all-time in NFL receiving touchdowns.
Huff was a six-time NFL All-Pro in the 1950s and ’60s and had the 4-3 defense created specifically for his skill set. His 30 career interceptions are still seventh-most all-time by a linebacker.
Snead was born in Virginia and died in Virginia but spent most of the time in between in West Virginia. In fact, the golfer was nicknamed “The Long Ball Hitter from West Virginia,” and he dominated the local tournament. And we do mean dominated, as he won the West Virginia Open 17 times, which is the most any golfer has ever won any tournament. And those were merely a part of the record 82 PGA Tour events Snead won in his career.
24. Georgia: Dominique Wilkins, Chipper Jones, Herschel Walker, Bobby Jones
Top sports: Football, Baseball
Honorable mention: John Smoltz
Bottom line: Wilkins was raised in North Carolina, but he infamously shunned the ACC schools to play for Georgia and later, the Atlanta Hawks. Bob Pettit may be the greatest Hawk ever, but he spent his entire career playing for the St. Louis Hawks, so the Human Highlight Film gets the nod.
Chipper Jones is definitely not the greatest Brave ever, but Hank Aaron spent most of his career with the Milwaukee Braves. Thus, Chipper’s commitment to the Atlanta Braves gives him the edge over the pitching trio of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. He was the 1999 NL MVP and is one of two switch-hitters in MLB history to hit .300 from both sides of the plate.
Herschel Walker may be the greatest athlete the Peach State has ever produced, and he was All-World at Georgia. He won a national championship, a Heisman trophy and was a three-time consensus All-American. He then became the USFL MVP, was a two-time NFL Pro Bowler, competed in the Olympics in bobsledding, was undefeated in his MMA career and had a black belt in tae kwon do … not too bad.
Bobby Jones may not be one of the first athletes from Georgia you think of, but in addition to being a phenomenal golfer, his creative mind helped create the most prestigious tournament in golf. Jones won 13 major championships as a player, and then he co-founded The Masters Tournament in 1934.
23. Indiana: Peyton Manning, Reggie Miller, Bobby Knight, Jeff Gordon
Top sports: Basketball, Football, Auto Racing
Honorable mention: John Wooden
Bottom line: Peyton Manning rewrote the NFL record book while with the Colts and is considered the greatest regular season QB in NFL history. That’s not a slight, as it points to how masterful he was in a week-to-week preparation in helping get the Colts’ offense ready to play. Four of his five MVP awards were in Indianapolis, while he and Marvin Harrison hold the NFL records for completions, yards and touchdowns by a QB-WR duo.
Reggie Miller took his best skill of shooting and made a Hall of Fame career out of it. He is a member of the 50-40-90 club, led the NBA in free-throw percentage five times and was the all-time leader in made 3-pointers at his retirement.
For 29 years, Knight was the face of Indiana Basketball — and over two decades after his dismissal, he’s probably still the face. He won three National Championships in Hoosier red and coached the last undefeated team in men’s college basketball: the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers.
Gordon was born in California but moved to Indiana as a teen to pursue his auto racing dream. It proved to be the right decision, as Gordon became the face of NASCAR in the late 1990s. He is a four-time Cup Series champion and won the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway a record five times.
22. Kansas: James Naismith, Phog Allen, Wilt Chamberlain, Gale Sayers
Top sports: Basketball
Honorable mention: Jim Ryun
Bottom line: The inventor of the game of basketball, Dr. James Naismith was Canadian, but he founded the Kansas Jayhawks basketball program. He was the school’s first coach and the only one with a losing record, but as the father of basketball, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is named in his honor.
Phog Allen was one of Naismith’s players and became his successor as Kansas’ head coach. He also coached the football and baseball teams at Kansas while grooming future coaches such as Dean Smith and Adolph Rupp. Allen’s prize Kansas recruit was a lanky 7-footer from Philadelphia named Wilt Chamberlain who became a two-time All-American for the Jayhawks. Chamberlain owns hundreds of NBA records, including most points in a game (100), highest season scoring average (50.4) and most career rebounds (23,924).
Sayers was nicknamed the Kansas Comet, as he was born in Wichita, Kansas, and attended the University of Kansas. He led the Big Eight Conference in all three of his seasons with the team and was a two-time consensus All-American.
21. Oregon: Clyde Drexler, Damian Lillard, Dale Murphy, Steve Prefontaine
Top sports: Basketball, Running
Honorable mention: Dan Fouts
Bottom line: The Blazers are the only major pro team in town, and their two legendary guards make up half of the state’s Mount Rushmore. Drexler was often overshadowed from being a two-guard in Michael Jordan’s era, but his all-around brilliance led Portland to two NBA Finals appearances. Likewise, Lillard gets overshadowed from being a contemporary of Steph Curry, but he consistently leads an undermanned Blazers team to the postseason, which is the sign of a true superstar.
MLB’s Murphy hit the second-most home runs during the 1980s, and he also won back-to-back NL MVP awards. The Portland-born Murphy was known as one of the nicest athletes around ,and he also won five Gold Glove awards for the Braves.
Prefontaine was a long-distance runner from Eugene who helped usher in the 1970s running boom across the United States. He held every American record from 2,000m to 10,000m at the time of his death at 24 years old from a car accident.
20. Kentucky: Muhammad Ali, Adolph Rupp, John Calipari, Bob Baffert
Top sports: Basketball, Horse Racing
Honorable mention: Dave Cowens
Bottom line: The Greatest, Muhammad Ali, was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, He attended Central High School, which also produced two other boxing heavyweight champions in Greg Page and Jimmy Ellis. His first professional fight was in Louisville’s Freedom Hall, and Ali had a perfect 5-0 record in his home state. He also won six Kentucky Golden Glove titles and was named the state’s athlete of the century by the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame.
Rupp and Calipari combined for over 1,200 wins with the Kentucky Wildcats basketball program. But they used different styles to attain their success, as Rupp focused on recruiting locally while Calipari focuses on national recruits. Rupp won four national titles at the University of Kentucky while Calipari has one and has provided the blueprint for the one-and-done rule.
Bob Baffert is the legendary racehorse trainer who has won a record seven Kentucky Derbies. He’s also won seven Preakness Stakes, three Belmont Stakes and has achieved two Triple Crowns.
19. New Jersey: Martin Brodeur, Mike Trout, Shaquille O’Neal, Carl Lewis
Top sports: Basketball, Football
Honorable mention: Jason Kidd
Bottom line: The list of athletes from New Jersey is better than the list of athletes who have played for New Jersey pro sports teams, but Martin Brodeur is the exception. The Quebec, Canada-born goaltender is the winningest player at his position in NHL history, and he ranks first all-time in wins, saves, shutouts and minutes played. He was voted the top goalie four times and won three Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils.
Trout was known as the Millville Meteor while in the minors, as he was raised in Millville, New Jersey. He’s already one of the all-time greats and is quickly rising up the all-time WAR leaderboard. Trout, who turned 30 during the 2021 season, has already passed Derek Jeter, Frank Thomas and Reggie Jackson in wins above replacement on the way to three MVP awards and four more runner-up finishes.
Shaq grew up in a military family, so he lived all over the world, but The Big Aristotle was born in New Jersey. He credits the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in Newark for keeping him off the streets as a kid, which allowed him to focus on basketball. Few players in the history of the game were as dominant as O’Neal who led the NBA in PER five straight years, won four NBA titles, three Finals MVPs, two scoring titles and was one of the best NBA rappers of all time.
Carl Lewis grew up in a Philadelphia suburb that’s located in New Jersey. While at Willingboro High School, he broke the high school long jump record, and that would be the first of many track and field accomplishments for Lewis. He went on to win nine Olympic gold medals and is one of just three Olympians to win a gold medal in the same event in four consecutive Olympics.
18. Minnesota: Kevin Garnett, Alan Page, Joe Mauer, Bronko Nagurski
Top sports: Football, Fishing
Honorable mention: Kirby Puckett
Bottom line: Garnett was the model of loyalty for the first 12 seasons of his basketball career, as he did everything he could for an inept franchise. He is the Timberwolves’ all-time leader in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks and even returned to the team at the end of his career to help mentor young players.
Page was every bit the equal of Mean Joe Greene in the 1970s but didn’t get the same acclaim because the Vikings weren’t winning Super Bowls. He was the first defensive player to win the MVP award and made nine All-Pro teams during his playing career. His post-playing days are even more impressive, as he got his J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School and served as an associate justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court for 22 years.
MLB’s Mauer gets the edge over Puckett because he was born and raised in Minnesota before becoming the face of the Twins. He won three batting titles, and his .306 career average is the second-highest by a catcher since World War II.
Nagurski was born in Canada but raised in International Falls, Minnesota, and later attended the University of Minnesota. He was ahead of his time as a bruising two-way player who was no match for defenders when he ran the ball. He won three NFL Championships, was named to the league’s 75th Anniversary Team and even dabbled in pro wrestling, winning the NWA World Championship.
17. North Carolina: Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith, Cam Newton, Dale Earnhardt
Top sports: Basketball, Auto Racing
Honorable mention: Roy Williams
Bottom line: Coach K and Dean Smith go hand-in-hand as they crafted two of the blue bloods in college basketball, Duke and the University of North Carolina, respectively. Krzyzewski has the most wins in Division I history, has won five national championships and coached the U.S. Olympic Team to three gold medals. Smith retired as the all-time leader in Division I wins, won two national championships and appeared in 11 Final Fours, third-most all-time.
Newton was the face of the Carolina Panthers for nearly a decade and became the franchise’s first MVP in 2015. He also set the NFL’s all-time mark for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a Panthers uniform.
The Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt, was born in the Charlotte area and made his NASCAR Winston Cup Series debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He won seven Winston Cup championships, which is tied for the most all-time, and won 76 races during his Cup Series career.
16. Missouri: Patrick Mahomes, George Brett, Stan Musial, Albert Pujols
Top sports: Baseball, Football
Honorable mention: Bob Pettit
Bottom line:Mahomes has already proven himself as an otherworldly talent who is the current face of the NFL. He’s the fastest player to both 10,000 passing yards and 100 passing touchdowns, is the youngest QB to be Super Bowl MVP, and he bought a minority stake of the Kansas City Royals to further endear himself to Missouri. The scary part about Mahomes is that most quarterbacks don’t reach their peak until their late 20s/early 30s, so we may not have even seen his best just yet.
Stan Musial and George Brett played a combined 43 years in Missouri with the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals, respectively. They are two of the four players in MLB history with 3,000 hits, 300 home runs and a lifetime .300 average, with the others being Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Musial won three World Series championships, three MVP awards and was a seven-time batting champion. Brett won a World Series, was a one-time MVP and is the only person to win a batting title in three different decades.
Pujols matched Musial’s three MVPs with the Redbirds and also brought two World Series championships to St. Louis. He had arguably the greatest 10-year start to an MLB career in history, and he trails only Musial in home runs, RBI and total bases in franchise history.
15. Michigan: Gordie Howe, Isiah Thomas, Ty Cobb, Barry Sanders
Top sports: Football, Basketball, Hockey
Honorable mention: Bo Schembechler
Bottom line: Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, spent a quarter-century with the Detroit Red Wings where he rewrote the NHL record book. He led the league in scoring five times, was a six-time MVP and made 22 of his 23 All-Star Games with the Red Wings.
Isiah Thomas was the head of the snake with the Bad Boy Pistons, as his leadership was able to win over the Detroit faithful despite Thomas being from Chicago. He morphed from being a stat-stuffing point guard to being a team-first guy, which enabled the Pistons to win back-to-back NBA championships in 1989 and 1990.
Ty Cobb spent 22 of his 24 seasons with baseball’s Detroit Tigers where he racked up 3,900 hits and over 800 stolen bases. He retired as the all-time leader in both stats, and his .366 career average still ranks first all-time.
Michigan fans would have liked to see a couple more years of Barry Sanders running the football, but the dynamic back was exhilarating during his decade in Motown. He made an All-Pro team all 10 years, rushed for 1,300 or more yards nine years and was the 1997 MVP thanks to a 2,000-yard rushing season. He’s one of a handful of running backs to average 5.0 yards per carry for a career, and his 99.8 rushing yards per game ranks second all-time.
14. Washington: Gary Payton, Russell Wilson, Ken Griffey Jr., Sue Bird
Top sports: Basketball, Football
Honorable mention: Steve Largent
Bottom line: The Evergreen State has seen some iconic athletes although the residents are still ticked off about the SuperSonics. Gary Payton was the greatest Sonic of them all as a two-way force for 13 years. He is the only point guard to be the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year and was a nine-time All-NBA selection in the Sonics green.
Russell Wilson is currently the most popular athlete in the state and has become one of the faces of the NFL. He is a Super Bowl champion, a seven-time All-Star and, somehow, has never received an MVP vote in his nine-year career.
Griffey Jr. may be the most popular Washington athlete ever and was definitely the most popular MLB player of the 1990s. He brought a coolness factor to the game that was certainly needed at the time and was a five-tool player while patrolling center field at the Kingdome.
Bird is the winningest athlete of these four as a four-time WNBA champion. She holds a number of league records, including most All-Star appearances (11), most WNBA assists (2,888) and most games played (519).
13. Wisconsin: Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, Curly Lambeau, Vince Lombardi
Top sports: Football
Honorable mention: Bart Starr
Bottom line: Wisconsin is the only state on this list that has its entire Mount Rushmore coming from one franchise: the Green Bay Packers. The founder of the team, Curly Lambeau, also has one of the most famous stadiums in the world that bears his name while one of his predecessors, Vince Lombardi, topped Lambeau by getting his name on the Super Bowl trophy.
Then there are the three transcendent quarterbacks in Packers history in Starr, Favre and Rodgers. Starr has more rings than the latter two combined, but Favre and Rodgers were superior players and each won three MVPs.
If Giannis Antetokounmpo can win a couple of championships to go with his pair of MVPs, then one of the Packers legends may have to move over.
12. Oklahoma: Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Mickey Mantle, Jim Thorpe
Top sports: Football, Amateur Wrestling
Honorable mention: Bud Wilkinson
Bottom line: Westbrook and Harden may have to be sculpted on opposite ends of Mount Rushmore to stop them from bickering, but both former Thunder players are deserving of the honor. They put the OKC franchise on the map after the controversial relocation of the Sonics from Seattle, and the two combined for two MVP awards and six scoring titles with the franchise.
Mantle was raised in Commerce, Oklahoma, and his MLB success earned him the nickname of The Commerce Comet. A 20-time All-Star, seven-time World Series champion and three-time MVP, he remains the most productive hitter in World Series history. No MLB player has more World Series home runs, RBI or runs scored than Mantle.
Jim Thorpe may very well be the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century. He won two Olympic gold medals in track and field, was a Hall of Fame football player and spent six years playing in MLB. He did all of this while being a victim of racism due to his Native American ancestry, as not all Native Americans were granted U.S. citizenship until the end of Thorpe’s athletic career.
11. Pennsylvania: Roberto Clemente, Mike Schmidt, Mario Lemieux, Allen Iverson
Top sports: Football, Baseball, Hockey
Honorable mention: Julius Erving
Bottom line: It seems odd that a state with the Eagles and Steelers would fail to produce a football player in their Mount Rushmore, but can you think of any players from those franchises who were head and shoulders above the rest? We get that with the two MLB teams, as Clemente and Schmidt are both on the shortlists for the greatest defenders at their respective positions. They weren’t too shabby at the plate either, as Clemente had exactly 3,000 hits and was a lifetime .317 hitter while Schmidt smacked 548 home runs on the way to three MVP awards.
Sidney Crosby made a good run at Mario Lemieux, but the latter was in another class in terms of production. His hockey career numbers would have been even better had he not dealt with injuries, illness and retirement.
Iverson may not be the greatest Sixer ever, but he’s the most iconic and inspired an entire generation of basketball players. He defined being “Philly Tough” and excelled in the league of giants, despite being built more like an NFL kicker than an NBA player.
10. Texas: Roger Staubach, Emmitt Smith, Earl Campbell, Nolan Ryan
Top sports: Football
Honorable mention: J.J. Watt
Bottom line: Only a state that loves football as much as Texas does could conceivably leave off the greatest power forward (Tim Duncan), greatest foreign player (Hakeem Olajuwon) and greatest European player (Dirk Nowitzki) in NBA history. But Staubach, Smith and Campbell were iconic players on iconic teams. Staubach and Smith were the most popular players of America’s football team, the Dallas Cowboys. Meanwhile, Campbell was the Player of the Year at Tyler High School in Tyler, Texas, a Heisman winner at UT in Austin, Texas, and an MVP with the Oilers of Houston, Texas.
Ryan’s deep, deep ties to Texas enabled him to sneak onto this list, as he spent the last half of his baseball career with the Astros and Rangers. He also worked in the front office of both clubs, has a Triple-A team in the state named after him and even has a school in his honor: Nolan Ryan Junior High School in Pearland, Texas.
9. Washington, DC: Walter Johnson, Joe Gibbs, John Thompson Jr., Alex Ovechkin
Top sports: Football, Basketball
Honorable mention: Wes Unseld
Bottom line: The Big Train, Walter Johnson, was perhaps the best pitcher of the first half of the 20th century. He won 417 games, was a two-time MVP and has the second-most WAR in the history of baseball, trailing only Babe Ruth.
Gibbs and Thompson coached the Washington Football team and Georgetown basketball, respectively. Gibbs won three Super Bowls over a 10-year span while Thompson sent players such as Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and Allen Iverson to the NBA. He also won Georgetown’s lone NCAA Championship in 1984.
Ovechkin is the greatest player in Capitals history and a goal-scoring machine. He’s led the NHL in scoring a record nine times and is a three-time MVP.
8. Florida: Dan Marino, Dwyane Wade, Tim Tebow, Tiger Woods
Top sports: Football, Golf
Honorable mention: Don Shula
Bottom line: Despite the numerous pro sports teams in the Sunshine State, Florida sports fans are known to be fair-weathered, as evident by the many half-empty arenas and stadiums. Thus, only two pro team athletes make the list, and both are very deserving. Dan Marino is on the shortlist for greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and held virtually every passing mark at the time of his retirement. He was the face of South Florida sports until basketball’s Dwyane Wade came along and not only piled up stats but added championships as well. He won three NBA championships and was a 13-time All-Star for the Miami Heat.
Tim Tebow is considered by many to be the greatest college football player of all time. He was a Heisman winner, a two-time BCS champion and held the SEC’s all-time passing efficiency mark after his four years in Gainesville.
Tiger Woods has called Florida home since 2004 — and while he’s had a fair share of negative things happen there — he’s also won seven majors since moving to Jupiter, Florida. He also has 16 career PGA wins in Florida, his most in any state.
7. Alabama: Willie Mays, Bo Jackson, Bear Bryant, Hank Aaron
Top sports: Football
Honorable mention: Nick Saban
Bottom line: If we created just one MLB Mount Rushmore, half of it may come from Alabama with Aaron and Mays. They combined for an astonishing 49 All-Star games in addition to 1,415 home runs and 7,054 hits. They became cultural icons both during and after their playing days and remain legends both in their home state and where they played professionally.
Bo Jackson is arguably the greatest athlete of all time and grew up in Bessemer, Alabama, which is just 7 miles from where Mays grew up. Jackson won a Heisman, is in the College Football Hall of Fame and is the only person to be an All-Star in both the NFL and MLB.
It was tough to leave Nick Saban off this list, but Bear Bryant laid the foundation for Alabama Football that Saban is still building off of today. Bryant coached in Tuscaloosa for a quarter of a century and won six national championships with the Tide.
6. Ohio: LeBron James, Paul Brown, Jim Brown, Pete Rose
Top sports: Football, Baseball
Honorable mention: Woody Hayes
Bottom line: If we created just one Mount Rushmore of basketball players, the kid from Akron, Ohio — LeBron James — would surely be one of the four faces engraved. He is the NBA’s all-time leader in postseason points and will likely be the all-time leader in regular-season points by the end of his career. He’s won four NBA championships, but the one that stands out the most is winning with the Cavs in 2016. That ended Cleveland’s 52-year sports championship drought, and the Cavs did it in grand fashion by upsetting the 73-win Golden State Warriors.
Paul Brown had affiliations with the three most popular football teams in Ohio: Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and Ohio State Buckeyes. He coached at Ohio State in the early 1940s before becoming the co-founder of the Browns, who were named after him. He then helped found the Bengals, so both NFL Ohio teams came from the mind of Paul Brown. His best player in Cleveland was Jim Brown who is arguably the best player in NFL history. He led the league in rushing eight times in his nine-year career and his 5.2 yards per carry ranks third amongst running backs.
Pete Rose isn’t just the Hit King and the heart and soul of those Big Red Machine teams with the Cincinnati Reds. He was also born and raised in Cincinnati, so he was a local hero. His 3,562 MLB games played is also an all-time record.
5. Maryland: Michael Phelps, Cal Ripken Jr., Johnny Unitas, Ray Lewis
Top sports: Baseball, Football, Lacrosse
Honorable mention: Sugar Ray Leonard
Bottom line: Nicknamed the Baltimore Bullet, Phelps is the most successful and decorated Olympian of all time. He has more gold medals (23) alone than anyone else has total Olympic medals and he set 39 world records during his career, four of which still stand.
Ripken Jr. is, of course, associated with the Baltimore Orioles, but many people don’t realize that he was born and raised in Maryland as well. Ripken was MLB’s Iron Man, as his 2,632 consecutive games are on that list of “sports records that will never be broken.” Besides the streak, Ripken was a hell of a player with over 3,000 hits, over 400 home runs and by being a two-time AL MVP.
Unitas and Lewis couldn’t be more different, as they played different positions in different eras for different franchises. But they were both the unquestioned best at their positions when they competed. Unitas played for the Baltimore Colts for 17 years where he won three NFL Championships and three MVP awards. Lewis played for the Baltimore Ravens, also for 17 years, and he won two Super Bowls and two Defensive Player of the Year awards.
4. Illinois: Michael Jordan, Walter Payton, George Halas, Ernie Banks
Top sports: Football, Basketball, Baseball
Honorable mention: Cap Anson
Bottom line: For all of the great athletes that Chicago, and Illinois in general, has bred, they are no comparison to the athletes who played for Chicago pro sports teams. The greatest basketball player of all time and, arguably, the greatest all-around football player of all time crossed paths in The Windy City in the 1980s. Michael Jordan won six titles, five MVPs, 10 scoring titles and revolutionized the sport of basketball with the Bulls. But the Bears are Illinois’ favorite team, and Payton, its favorite player. He was a five-time first-team All-Pro, the 1977 MVP and helped bring the city its only Super Bowl championship in 1985.
Halas was the Bears owner who drafted Payton while also spending 40 years (in four 10-year stints) as the team’s head coach. He introduced concepts such as film study, radio broadcasts and club newspapers to the NFL and won eight titles as a coach or owner.
Ernie Banks is possibly the most popular baseball player to compete in the state and was nicknamed Mr. Cub. A two-time MVP, he was the first power-hitting shortstop in MLB and topped 500 homers for his career.
3. New York: Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Lawrence Taylor, Patrick Ewing
Top sports: Basketball, Football, Baseball
Honorable mention: Derek Jeter
Bottom line: Babe Ruth was a good pitcher and emerging hitter with the Red Sox. But he became the greatest slugger of all time and an American hero with the New York Yankees. He rewrote the MLB record book, and many of his records, such as all-time slugging percentage and OPS, are still standing nearly 100 years after his final game. Oh, and he also collected seven World Series rings along the way.
Robinson was, of course, associated with the Dodgers but not the Los Angeles Dodgers. He never suited up for the team, as he broke MLB’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. What’s lost in Robinson making history by being MLB’s first black player is that he was elite on the diamond as well. He was the 1949 MVP and made six All-Star teams despite not making his debut until 28 years old.
The greatness of Lawrence Taylor can be summed up by the fact that entirely new positions on offense were created to combat LT’s destruction. Joe Gibbs and Washington created the H-back position specifically to neutralize Taylor from wreaking havoc in the backfield. It wasn’t much of a deterrent, as Taylor racked up 132.5 sacks in his career and is one of two defensive players in NFL history to win the MVP award.
Patrick Ewing’s selection is likely controversial, as there are a number of Yankee greats who were arguably better at their sport than Ewing was at basketball. But with how much hoops mean to New York, we had to include the greatest Knick of all time. Ewing gave his heart, soul and sweat to MSG for 15 years and is the Knicks’ all-time leader in points, rebounds, steals and blocks.
2. Massachusetts: Tom Brady, Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Ted Williams
Top sports: Baseball, Basketball, Football
Honorable mention: Bobby Orr
Bottom line: No token selections in this group, led by the G.O.A.T., Tom Brady. He won six Super Bowls with the Patriots, as he went from a scrawny sixth-round backup to Mr. GQ and a worldwide celebrity. You could split Brady’s 20 years with the Patriots into two halves, and you’d have two Hall of Fame careers.
Only three players in NBA history have won three straight MVP awards. Wilt Chamberlain is one while Russell and Bird are the other two. The two combined for 24 All-Star selections and 21 All-NBA selections with Russell dominating in the 1950s and ’60s while Bird did his work in the ’80s. The Finals MVP award didn’t exist when Russell played, but he would probably have at least 10 of those for his 11 championships. Bird won three rings and two Finals MVP awards, which is conveniently now named the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award.
Ted Williams, the self-proclaimed “Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived,” has the resume to back up that claim. He won six batting titles, is the all-time leader in on-base percentage and is the last man to hit .400 in a season. The only thing missing from Williams’ resume, besides a World Series ring, is 3,000 career hits, but he would have easily eclipsed that mark had he not lost nearly five years of his career to military service.
1. California: Joe Montana, Barry Bonds, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant
Top sports: Basketball, Football, Baseball
Honorable mention: Magic Johnson
Bottom line: Arguably the most difficult state to pick just four athletes for, the athletes that didn’t make California’s Mount Rushmore are likely better than the Mount Rushmores for 90 percent of the states on this list. You needed something special to separate yourself from the others, and they checked that box.
Montana is arguably the best clutch QB in NFL history, and his passer rating in four Super Bowls of 127.8 remains unchallenged. He played his best when it mattered the most and threw 11 touchdowns compared to 0 interceptions in Super Bowls.
Bonds spent 15 years with the San Francisco Giants where he became MLB’s Home Run King and set the single-season home run record along the way. One of the many mind-boggling stats of Bonds’ career was when he was intentionally walked 120 times in the 2004 season. That season total is the most in MLB history and is more than Alex Rodriguez had in his entire 22-year career. Bonds is hated in most places, but he’s still adored in The Bay.
The Lakers are the most popular sports team in the state, and two of their greats earned spots on this list, which unfortunately meant Magic Johnson was left off. But Johnson named Kobe as the greatest Laker ever, so there’s no way he wasn’t making it. And Kareem gets the slight nod over his longtime teammate as, in addition to his play with the Lakers, he is also arguably the greatest college basketball player of all time, thanks to his career with UCLA.