We breakdown the best pitches in baseball history and the pitchers that threw them best. There have been many variations of pitch types and the way those pitches are gripped. However we tried to focus our study on 16 individual pitches.
Curveball - Sandy Kofax One of the oldest known pitches in baseball, the curveball has been around since 1860. While great men have tried to achieve the perfect curve, only a few can really make a case for that claim. Sandy Kofax curve seem to strike more fear in his opponents hearts than anyone. Kofax truly puzzled his opponents with his massive breaking ball. His curve was a classic 12-6 curve with the classic wrist snap and the magic forward rotation all culminating in a great curve. The Kofax signature pitch dropped vertically 12 to 24 inches due to his exaggerated arm motion. Kofax also tipped his curve ball and it didn't seem to help hitters out at all. The lefty’s strange elongated alien fingers were his greatest weapon. The extra long fingers allowed Kofax to throw the curveball with extra spin that wasn't often seem from anyone. Pittsburgh Pirates great Willie Stargell once commented that hitting off of Kofax was like “trying to drink coffee with a fork.” Mr. Cub, shortstop Ernie Banks once described it, “Sandy’s curve had a lot more spin than anyone else’s. It spun like a fastball coming out of his hand. It jumped at the end.” Reliever Rob Neyer called it “the best curve of all time”. One slugger most pitchers were forbidden to throw a curveball to was Mickey Mantle. The “Mick” was so strong that even if he was fooled on a curve, he could keep his hands back and drive the ball out of the park. During Mantle’s second at bat of the 1963 World Series (Mantle struck out his first time up). Ball comes in high, just before reaching the plate it dives, crossing the plate by Mantle’s knees. Mantle never moves the bat, umpire calls strike three. Mantle stands there, then turns to the catcher and says, “How the fuck is anybody supposed to hit that shit?”. The best Kofax story came over 15 years after he retried. When coaching briefly for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he would sometimes throw batting practice. On this day, the batter asked Kofax to throw his famous deuce. So Kofax indulged his request, and begins to throw his hook. First curve comes, swing and miss. Another comes, same result. Then several more big Kofax hooks go by untouched. By this time the entire Dodgers roster was in hysterics. The hitter eventually gives up and others want a piece of the action. The 45 year old Kofax proceeds to embarrass the entire LA lineup (Dodger line-up with Sax, Garvey, Baker and Cey), not one of them touched his curve. Eventually the great Tommy Lasorda walked out to the mound and asked him to stop. He told Kofax that he didn't want his hitters mentally destroyed just before a post seasons series, because they can’t hit a one-pitch man in his 40’s. Big league scout Tim Dempsey once commuted “Koufax’s curve may have been the very toughest curve to hit ever, because of its steep north-south drop, offering less time in the strike zone.” The sharp breaking ball took a tremendous toll on the arm of Sandy. Over time the blood began draining from his left index finger, leaving it numb. Although Sandy dominated for only 5 seasons, no one can argue with his curveball when it was on. Runner Up: Barry Zito
Knuckleball - Hoyt Willhelm Perhaps the Godfather of the modern knuckleball, Hoyt Willhelm’s knuckleballs were so wicked catchers were forced to use larger gloves when catching him. Although their have been many great knuckles, none have been thrown with more movement. He played for nine different teams during his career, racking up 228 saves to go with a 2.52 ERA. The reliever was able to play in 8 All-Star games and pitched till the age of 49. He was the first pitcher to reach 200 saves, and the first to appear in 1,000 games. Most of those accomplishments are compliments of the knuckleball. Throwing the pitch required several different procedure steps to ensure its delivery. He carefully aligned his fingers not to touch the laces and then guided the ball out with his fingertips. Willhelm always had to make sure his fingernails were trimmed to a t, as he was often seen with nail clippers throughout his career. Many think that Phil Niekro was a better knuckleball pitcher, of course Wilhelm was the one that taught Nieko the knuckleball. Former teammate Moose Skowron commented on Wilhelm's key pitch, saying, "He threw the best knuckleball I ever saw. You never knew what Hoyt's pitch would do. I don't think he did either.” Executive Roland Hemond agreed, saying, "Wilhelm's knuckleball did more than anyone else’s”. "He had the best knuckleball you'd ever want to see," said Brooks Robinson. "He knew where it was going when he threw it, but when he got two strikes on you, he'd break out one that even he didn't know where it was going.” In a funny way a passed balls that get by the catcher are a bags of honor for a knuckleballer, specially at the major league level. These catchers are top of the line and some of them have serious trouble catching the pitch. During one of Wilhelm's appearances that season, catcher Ray Katt committed four passed balls in one inning to set the major league record. Orioles catchers had difficulty catching Wilhelm again in 1959 and they set an MLB record with 49 passed balls. Runner Up: Phil Neikro
Fastball - Nolan Ryan Throwing a baseball 100 mph is a rare physical feat that 1 and every million person could achieve. In a world of special grips and breaking pitches, the fastball has always stayed true. Some believe the pitch is the ultimate symbol of essence and truth in sports. Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan always had a fastball that was a cut above the rest. Mr. October Reggie Jackson probably summed the pitcher up best "Ryan is the only guy who puts fear in me. Not because he can get you out but because he can kill you." A legendary Ryan story goes like this, Bo Jackson hit a line drive back at the mound that struck Nolan Ryan in the face. Blood shot out of his lip and splattered on his uniform. Ryan found the ball on the ground and calmly picked it up for the out at first. When Bo came up to bat again no one was left sitting in their seats. We were pumped and cheered because everyone in Arlington Stadium knew what was coming. Four pitches were thrown, all fastballs, and they were the fastest pitches I'll ever see. Bo nicked one of them, but couldn't catch up to the other three.” Major league baseball decided it would start measuring the speed of the pitch right out of the pitchers hand in 1997. When Ryan was recorded, they measured the velocity of the pitches 10 feet from the plate. It means Ryan’s fastball would probably clock someone around 105 mph, much different than the 100 mph accounted to him by the Guinness Book of World Records. Not to mention his first measurement was made in the 9th inning of a start. Aroldis Chapman’s pitch at 105.1mph is the fastest in the record books but probably wasn’t truly faster than Ryan’s record setting pitch. That’s because when the two pitches crossed the plate, Chapman’s pitch was moving at an estimated 96.5mph while Nolan Ryan’s was still moving at a staggering 99.1mph. He was 46, when he tore his ulnar collateral ligament on September 22nd, 1993. He threw one last pitch in order to test his arm before coming out of the game. That pitch was clocked at 98mph, outstanding considering that he didn’t have a functioning elbow. Some feats of longevity are simply more impressive than others. Ryan’s fastball stayed true until his upper 30’s and even 40s. Spanning 3 different decades Ryan dominated for 27 major league seasons. The most impressive Ryan stat might stand forever, he struck out 5,714 batters, next highest is Randy Johnson with 4,875 strikeouts. The un-hittable than Hall of Famer set the all-time records for strikeouts (5,714), hits per nine innings (6.6) and no-hitters (seven). Ryan holds the single-season record for strikeouts (383 in 1973), topped 300 six times, and led his league in strikeouts 11 times (4 from 1987-1990, when he was 40-43). Runner-up Aroldis Chapman
Slider - Randy Johnson The hard breaking ball that tails down and away through the hitters zone. The speed thrown on a slider is often harder than a curveball. It includes a downwards pull on the ball as it is released, its released off the index finger. Movement is thought to be created from a mixture of fingertip pressure and grip. The pitcher with the nastiest slider was California native Randy Johnson. One of the most intimidating pitchers in the history of baseball. The 6-10 lefty threw a mostly sidearm delivery, usually resulted in very high velocities. His great size gave him a release point that few batters had ever seen before. His slider dipped about 15 inches and was thrown at 90 mph. The pitch was notorious for running on the hands of right handed batters and running away from lefties. His slider results in many more ground balls compared to other pitchers' sliders and produced a extremely high number of swings & misses. The combination of Johnson's size, his release point and his velocity has made him almost every hitter's least favorite pitcher. Jack Wilson of the Pirates commented “I think it's the greatest strikeout pitch ever, right up there with Nolan Ryan's fastball. Randy's slider might be the best slider in the history of the game." Checkout this clip of Johnson's slider via the catcher cam. Johnson’s slider gave some of the best hitters alive serious problems. Fittingly, the player with the most career at-bats against Johnson got embarrassed. Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson went 7-for-59 with zero RBIs and 30 strikeouts. Hall of Famer Tony Gwyenn said, "The slider is unhittable for a left-handed hitter. I'd bet the farm it's coming, and I still can't hit it. I got a hit off it once, and I wanted to keep the ball.” The most fitting tribute to the greatness of Randy Johnson came in the playoffs when Baltimore Orioles manager Davey Johnson benched his three best left-handed hitters, Rafael Palmeiro, B.J. Surhoff and Roberto Alomar (a switch-hitter, but an injury prevented him from batting right-handed) in the first and fourth games of the American League Division Series against the Seattle Mariners. "Raffy told me that he'd like to play against Randy," Johnson said before Game 1 of his first baseman, who had hit 38 homers and driven in 110 runs that season. "But he told me that Randy could mess him up for two weeks. That was all I needed to hear.” Ex-slugger Chipper Jones had his ups and downs against the Big Unit. “I've also seen him make a ton of mistakes, but his stuff is so good, he gets away with them. If he's on, and your swing is off even a little, he's going to get you, and he's going to make you look really bad. I don't know how left-handed hitters hit him. I thank God every day that my dad made me a switch-hitter.” Runner Up: Steve Carlton
Change-Up - Pedro Martinez Many pitchers have dominated the game via the off speed pitch. Mastering the off speed pitch is really more about changing your speeds to make the hitters uncomfortable. The real master of the pitch is Pedro Martinez. Sure, pedro had the 98 mph fastball but it made the change-up even more deadly. Martinez displayed pinpoint control that was uncanny. The pitch helped him to 3 Cy Young awards, 8x all-star appearances and the 1999 Triple Crown award. The best change ups are thrown with a similar arm slot and speed, but "fall" at the end, while being anywhere from 7 to 15 MPH slower than a typical fastball. His changeup made the best power hitters look like they were trying out for the ballet. They would be so far out in front of the ball they could swing twice and still not make contact. Early in his career when his velocity was in the upper 90s he was nearly flawless. Batters would expect the speedy fastball and nearly always be burned with the changeup. Pedro used the circle grip for his change up, his long fingers also allowed his for extra spin when the ball was released. Because of his natural motion the pitch would appear to tail away from left handed hitters. The late break caused hitters enormous frustration and is probably the reason Pedro’s change up is the best. You just can’t account for natural movement. Martinez was careful to throw his changeup with the same arm speed as his fastball to deceive the hitter. His footwork was impeccable, giving him the needed momentum off the rubber. Like any pitcher, Martinez would make mistakes. But he was able to correct himself within the inning. One stat that illustrated the dominance of the change up was opponents swing and missed at an average of 25 percent of the time during the 2006 season. The league average for change-up swings and misses that year was only 15 percent. He threw the changeup a great deal and had more success with it than anyone. Several heroic pitching performances could be attributed to games when his changeup was on. The batters were helpless in the box against Pedro, in 1999 when he struck out 17 Yankees in a single game. Runner up: Trevor Hoffman
Cutter - Mariano Rivera Mariano Rivera’s cutter was a problem for virtually everyone he ever faced. He’s owned the patent on the pitch no one can duplicate. Batters hated him and wood bat companies worshiped him. Widely regarded as the best closer of all time, Mariano Rivera had a tremendous career filled with accolades. One evaluator commented "Mariano's cutter is the single most devastating pitch in MLB history. Probably the only pitch that was equally predictable and devastating.” Rivera's cutter has been recorded as moving 8.2 inches before reaching home plate. The next closest ever measured was the Phillies Cliff Lee at 7 inches. Anytime Rivera found himself in a tight squeeze there was little question of the pitch he would go with. The cutter made hitters look down right ridiculous, watch this at-bat where he broke the hitters bat 3 times. Everyone knew the cutter was coming, and they still couldn't hit it. Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated confirmed that the future Hall of Famer discovered his cutter during a 1997 road series against the Detroit Tigers. According to Rivera on that June 23rd "A gift from God, was born”. “The catcher was upset at me because the ball was moving and he thought I was making the ball move," Rivera says. "From that moment, I told the pitching coach, I have no control over this. The ball is moving, and I have no control.” "Didn't matter how I grabbed the ball," Rivera recalls. "It was still moving. I told Mel that I won't be throwing no more balls in the bullpen because I need to be ready for the game. We worked a lot and this thing is still the same and let's leave it like that.” The pitch’s genius is in its simplicity: there are no tricks or gimmicks in the delivery or execution. Instead, Rivera follows this simple routine, throw the cutter, make it break too late to detect and feather it over a corner. His pitch is somewhere between a slider and a fastball, as it is usually thrown faster than a slider but with more motion than a typical fastball. The tremendous spin-rate on the cutter, requires a wrist that’s so loose and fingers that are so long they’re able to touch his wrist. His cutter spin so furiously, the rotation delivers the ball in a straight line practically to the front edge of the plate. Only then, after a hitter has begun his swing, does the cutter reveal its lateral movement. That’s what creates the illusion of a fastball until the very last moment. Since that june 23rd, his regular-season opponents have a .208 batting average. When wielding the cutter in the playoffs, lineups have combined for an microscopic .172 batting average. Among the 178 individuals with at least 1,000 innings pitched since the '97 season, Rivera owns the lowest batting average on balls in play (.260 BABIP). “It’s like a buzz-saw,” is what Chipper Jones once said. “It just eats you up, especially if you’re a left-handed hitter. You know it’s coming, but that doesn’t really help you much.” David Ortiz described, “The pitch that you swing at is a fastball. The one you make contact with is the cutter. It’s unbelievable.” Runner Up: Cliff Lee
Split-Finger Fastball - Roger Clemens The split-finger has always had more movement than its brother pitches. A split-finger fastball or splitter is a pitch in baseball derived from the forkball. It is named after the technique of putting the index and middle finger on different sides of the ball, or "splitting" them. When thrown hard, it appears to be a fastball to the batter, but appears to suddenly "drop off the table" towards home plate. Although its labeled as a fastball, the pitch actually functions as an off speed pitch. According to Mike Scioscia, the splitter was "the pitch of the ‘80s.” Six time Cy young award winner, Roger Clemens used the splitter to dominate hitters for his entire career. His splitter was known as one of the nastiest strike out pitches in baseball. The pitch would regularly dive into the dirt a good 10-15 inches before reaching home plate. The splitter helped transform Clemens from a great pitcher to the greatest living pitcher. It also helped Clemens to become the oldest starting pitcher in an all-star game and helped him to more than 3,000 strikeouts. Clemens threw the splitter early in his career he truly mastered the splitter at the age of 34. Many think it was the the chief reason the 11-time All-Star was able to pitch for another decade. Clemens learned the pitch from a well known split-finger master. "Mike Scott showed it to me at a charity golf event in Houston (in 1986). He'd had some great games with it. I honed it to my own hand because mine is different than his. We grip it the same but apply pressure to it differently. The pitch has been widely successful the excessive force on the arm has caused a lot of ball players to rethink throwing the pitch. While the spitter may have been the pitch of the 80’s few players are throwing it today. In 2011, only 15 starting pitchers used it as part of their regular repertoire. The pitch has been known to cause injury by the stress the split fingers puts on the elbow. Although several pitchers have thrown it only a few have truly thrown the pitch with longevity. Even though Clemens considers his fastball his signature pitch even he admits "If you see highlights from a 10 strikeout game, you'll see it five or six times for a strikeout.” Runner-Up: Mike Scott
Sinker - Orel Hershiser Sinkers are a pitch that behave just like they sound, with downward and horizontal movement. The sinker drops 3 to 6 inches more than a typical two-seam fastball which causes batters to hit ground balls more often than other fastballs, mostly due to the tilted sidespin on the ball. While a hard choice, Orel Hershiser was the most effective sinker ball pitcher of all time. A sinker ball pitcher often times has injury problems, but Hershiser played over a decade with Los Angeles. The fact that he he had a dog named sinker didn’t hurt his cause. Well let Hershiser tell it “I have a sinking fastball to either side of the plate, a cutter (which changes the direction of my fastball so it breaks instead of sinking), to either side of the plate, a curveball I throw at three speeds and three angles, a straight change—using the same arm speed and position as a fastball but with a grip and a release that slows it dramatically, and changeups to different locations that I throw off my sinker which look like batting practice fastballs. Different locations, different speeds, and slightly different arm angles on all those pitches give me a wide palette of choices.” "Orel showed me a foolproof way to grip the sinker, so that I didn't ever leave it up," Leary said. "One of the rules we had was: don't miss high. Make your mistakes below the knees. Orel went through his whole streak without ever making a mistake above the knees.” Hershiser threw seven shutouts in his last 11 starts in 1988. He tied a long time standing record for consecutive scoreless innings previously held by pitcher Don Drysdale. On the night of Sept. 28, Hershiser faced the Padres in San Diego needing nine shutout innings to tie Drysdale's record. "It was the best I've ever seen him pitch," says Tony Gwynn of the Padres, the best hitter in the National League and the hitter Hershiser respects the most. "Oh for four. I grounded to second base each time, each time on a sinker, although he set me up differently each time. He sure as heck knew what he was doing out there.” They worked at closing the angle a little, and Hershiser's sinker started diving more dramatically and his curveball became sharper. And that's just about when his streak began. "In a way, I am the extension of Koufax and Wallace on the mound," Hershiser says. Runner-Up: Roy Halladay
Screwball - Fernando Valenzuela The legend from the south, Fernando was an instant sensation in the MLB. His talents overtook Los Angles from the second he took the mound. One pitch truly amazed fans and hitters alike, his famous “El Turo” pitch which of course was the screwball. The pitch might have taken away from the longevity of Valezuelas career, but the pitch was as good to watch as any. A screwball itself moves bizarrely, when thrown by a right-handed pitcher, it breaks from left to right from the point of view of the pitcher; the pitch therefore moves down and in on a right-handed batter and down and away from a left-handed batter. If thrown correctly, the screwball breaks in the opposite direction of a curve ball. It’s thrown by turning the wrist and elbow to the outside, away from the body. If thrown right, the ball breaks away from right-handed hitters. Now, a screwball is like a unicorn, seldom have seen it and few believe it exists. The screwball has seen a sharp decline in recent years. Currently their isn't one guy in the majors who throws the pitch. Which all adds to the intrigue of the unusual pitch. The reasons and ideas behind it are being questioned, check out this article on the screwball’s extinction from the New York Times. When Valenzuela, then a 20-year-old rookie, faced the Expos in the deciding game of the National League Championship Series. “I’m going to throw mostly screwballs tomorrow,” Valenzuela told the coach Manny Mota over dinner. “Just watch.” Of course he would dominate that game 7 allowing no runs. Valenzuela learned the pitch two years earlier from Bobby Castillo, a mediocre reliever. “It took me a while,” Valenzuela said. “But it ended up being my best pitch.” The argument goes that throwing a screwball, Valenzuela's most reliable pitch, has put an unusual strain on his elbow and lower arm. "If you analyze it, your arm finishes in a more natural position than a curveball or something," Fernando said. "Whether it puts more strain on the arm, i'm not sure." Runner Up: Christy Mathewson
Forkball - Dave Stewart The forkball differs from the split-fingered fastball, because the ball is jammed harder between the first two fingers. The forkball is thrown with the same arm motion and velocity as a fastball. At the release point the wrist is snapped downward, creating a spin off the middle or index finger allowing for extra movement. Although generally thrown much slower than fast balls the movement is closer to the action of a tradition curveball break. When Dave Stewart had his forkball going, his was the best. After coming to Oakland in 1986, Stewart would use the forkball to win 20 games or more games in each of the next four seasons. He established himself as one of baseball's most dominant pitchers. He would finish his career with 168 wins and 1,741 strikeouts. "I always had an idea how to pitch," Stewart said. "I've just never had all the tools. The forkball made me successful." Stewart and the Death Stare put together four consecutive 20-victory seasons. The removal of the only wrinkle in his repertory, the 71-mile-an-hour forkball, essentially reduced Stewart to a very predictable pitcher. There's very little difference between his 90-m.p.h. fastball and his 88-m.p.h. curve-slider. The forkball simply stopped having its movement or effect. Thus Stewart had a tough time getting hitters out. The whole thing truly illustrated how reliant he was upon his favorite pitch. Runner-Up: Hideo Nomo
Slurve - Kerry Wood Although it has been around for a while, not much is known about the slurve. Cy young was the earliest practitioner of the slurve, having first used it in 1890. The slurve is exactly what it sounds like, combination of curveball and slider. It is thrown like a slider with the hand grip of a curveball. People think its a sloppy pitch because of its wide break. The slurve is thrown with a greater velocity than a curveball and is thrown with more downward break than a slider. They think the slurve accounts for more walks and home run balls than a late breaking slider. For this reason, fans seldom see the pitch being thrown. However when thrown correctly the slurve can be a very effective weapon for pitchers. Ex-Chicago pitching phenomenon Kerry Wood knows all about the slurve. Wood paired his upper 90’s fastball with one of baseball’s nastiest breaking balls. The slurve could be tough to throw for a strike when a pitcher is in a funk. Wood’s slurve was remarkably accurate, as it broke anywhere from 6-14 inches over the plate. In 1998 the 20 year old Kerry Wood set the baseball world on fire by striking out 20 batters. His career was derailed of injury that most blamed on the use of his slurve. But few could deny the brilliance of his beautiful breaking ball. Although Wood had a short career his slurve ball remains in baseball immortality. Check out some of his best slurve pitches ever thrown. Runner-Up: Goose Gossage
Spitball - Gaylord Perry The pitch, just as it sounds was made effective by altering the ball with spit to affect how the air interacted with the ball as it headed to the plate. There was no telling how the pitch would react once thrown. Most good spitballs have a nasty late break. The spitball was banned following the 1920 season. Since then, the pitch has resulted in a number of ejections and suspensions. The greatest spitball pitcher was easily identified as Gaylord Perry, after he authored a book titled “Me and the Spitter”. So what was so special about Perry’s spitball? Perry played a particular mental game with his hitters. His pre windup routine featured a bevy of weird motions and touches of his mouth, arms, hat, jersey, and finally the glove (seen here). His philosophy was simple, get the hitters to think about the mysterious use of his spitball so much it would completely take them off their game. This isn't to say the man never let a wet one go. He threw plenty of spit balls in his career, they just weren't as regularly used as people like to think. The mental advantage was the real edge. Focusing on catching someone cheating is a sure fire way to distract their concentration. But his gamesmanship didn't end there, "When we played the Reds, I'd roll a soaked ball to Sparky (Anderson), and he'd laugh. We had fun with it."I'd shake Johnny Bench's hand. And (Pete) Rose's and (Joe) Morgan's hand," Perry said. "And my hand would be full of Vaseline. "I'd say, 'Look forward to pitching against you tomorrow.' And I go them thinking about it all that night and all day the next day.” "The easiest guy to get into the head of was Reggie (Jackson). I could throw him a forkball, and he'd swear it was something else. One time in Texas, he hit one off me. When he got back to the dugout, I just tipped my hat at him. We became great friends after that." Part of his brilliance was he was nearly impossible to catch actually throwing the pitch. Yet he never was ejected from a game for using a substance on the ball until a decade after his career had began. Take a look at the Pittsburgh Pirates absolutely loosing their minds over his pre routine. Perry would put vaseline on his zipper because umpires would never check there. He had a thousand different tricks and hiding places. He used the spitball and mental games to win 314 games and strike out 3,534 batters during his Hall of Fame career. Runner Up: Burleigh Grimes
Gyroball “Backup Slider” - Tetsuro Kawajiri Literally dreamed up in the labs of Japan. The pitch was invented by a Japanese scientist, who used computer simulations to create a new style of delivery made to decrease stress on a pitcher’s arm. The pitch is primarily used by players in Japan, we think. The gyroball is one of the most mysterious sought after pitches in baseball history. When thrown correctly the pitch supposedly has a horizontal circular spin to it, resulting in bizarre breaks away from right handed hitters. The pitch has also been known to mysteriously drop off the table. The spin results in the baseball having no magnus force on it, as it arrives at homeplate. According to its inventor the pitch has nothing to do with the hand and all depends on the use of a pitchers arm. Another magical characteristic of the gyro is the ball leaves the pitchers hand at a fastball speed, but the spin actually causes the ball to loose velocity as it reaches the plate. At the point of release, the pitchers arm doesn’t move inwards towards the body like a typical pitch. Instead the arms is rotated so that it moves away from his body, and then toward third base. While their has been video of supped gyro balls, the existence of the pitch is still in question. Ii the pitch real? or just media hype? When westerners first heard of the pitch it was described as everything from a double breaking ball to pure magic. Writers and analysis let their imagination run wild thus claiming the existence of the gyroball the best thing since sliced bread. Reporters Jeff Passan and lee Jenkins approached Bonds and watched a short video of supposed gyroballs. Bonds eventually admitted the pitch just looked like a slider. When one questions the rotation of the baseball, one would have to think it would behave closer to a chest pass in basketball or a perfect spiral in football. The flight of the ball should be straight and true, specially if the air pressure is the same around the ball. The gyro ball is purely theoretical, born on a computer and thought up by non-baseball players. The chances of a pitcher throwing a ball with perfect perpendicular spin is little to none. Sure gyro balls have been thrown but that is usually not intentionally. Upon further investigation, the “gyro ball" is actually an old pitch, known under another name “The Backup Slider”. The idea behind the backup slider was that a hitter will expected an inside pitch to come across the plate like a slider but instead it will stay inside jamming the batter. The backup slider was usually known as a horribly risky pitch that routinely got bombed. Bob Gibson commented saying the backup slider was his greatest pitch but he didn't try to throw it because he usually couldn't make it do what he wanted. Runner-Up: Daisuke Matsuzaka
Rip Sewell's Eephus Pitch The ultimate low speed lob pitch, the eephus is designed to catch the hitter off guard. The eephus pitch features a high, lob-like arc and typically comes in at no more than 50-60 MPH. The pitch offers hitters two big obstacles, first they have to produce all the power themselves because the pitch is thrown at very low speeds. Second, the hitter needs to be patient and keep his hands back before he can drive the ball. The inventor of the pitch was its finest practitioner, Rip Sewell was a great pitcher that played in the majors for 13 seasons and was named to 4 all-star teams. Rip Sewell was hardly a strikeout pitcher, he only averaged more than three strikeouts per nine innings four times in his career. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of Sewell’s eephus pitch was the fact that the only one player homered off the pitch, that player was Ted Williams in an all-star game. "Eephus" might mean nothing, but against the long ball, it certainly was something. The name eephus was coined by Pittsburgh outfielder Maurice Van Robays who said “Eephus ain’t nothing and that’s what that ball is.” Although we don’t agree that it is a nothing pitch, a few things made Sewell’s eephus stand out. First it had a ridiculous amount of height on it. Many of his eephus pitches were marked at a height of 25 feet. He learned the pitch when is career came into jeopardy when a hunting companion accidentally fired 14 pellets of buckshot into him. The damage done to his right foot required him to learn a new delivery and a new pitch to make up for his diminished fastball and curve. Sewell threw his first eephus pitch on April 17, 1941, striking out Cubs center fielder Dom Dallessandro and stranding two runners. The startled hitter pointed his bat at Sewell, saying, "If this was a rifle, I'd shoot you right between the eyes. The Cubs argued that the eephus was illegal, but Bill Klem, the National League's supervisor of umpires, declared it legal, which was the final word on the matter. Before they realized how effective the eephus could be, many batters regarded the pitch as the ultimate sign of disrespect. St. Louis third baseman Whitey Kurowski made a point of spitting tobacco juice at the ball as it floated past him. Reds shortstop Eddie Miller caught an eephus and fired it back at Sewell. Though that particular eephus never reached the catcher's mitt, the umpire called it a strike. Many baseball pundits balk at the usual moon ball pitch. That could be attributed to a particularly ugly piece of history that coincides with the eephus pitch. Bill Lee threw an eephus pitch in the game 7 of the 1975 World Series, at the time the Red Sox led the game 3-0. Lee threw the pitch with a 1-0 count, to slugger Tony Perez with a man on first. The pitch resulted in a towering two-run shot over the Green Monster, the Red Sox went on to loose the game 4-3 costing them a shot at their first world title since 1918.
Runner-Up: Satchel Paige
Greg Maddux - Shuuto Pitch The shuuto itself was born in Japan sometime during the 1970s. Many claim the shuuto is just a term the Japanese use to refer to a number of pitches. It can describe any pitch that tails to the pitcher's arm side, including the two-seam fastball, the circle change-up, the screwball, and the split-finger fastball. Think of a good 2-seam fastball with downward movement then add a knifing motion. Known as “The Professor” Greg Maddux had a excellent array of pitches. His best might have been his signature shuuto Pitch. A pitch which many experts feel that Maddux throws better than anyone else ever. Similar to a sinker but with a knifing action, the shuuto is some kind of mystery. Although he threw it as a simple 2 seam fastball the pitch came out as a shuuto pitch. As Maddux threw the pitch it first appears as a fastball, but loses speed and rolls toward the batter. It is effective when thrown outside a batter, as it will drift back and catch the outside of the plate for a strike. It is essentially the opposite of a slider, which breaks away from the batter. The shuuto has lots of variations; Greg Maddux used his on the corner of the plate against left-handed batters. Runner-Up: Masaji Hiramatsu
Satchel Paige's Hesitation Pitch A true throwback, Satchel Paige was one of the greatest pitchers of his era. He had a unique delivery for one of his pitches, perhaps the pitch that he was most famous for throwing. When Paige pitched the move was very much legal, now it would probably be seen as a balk. While corks and weird movements often go unseen during a pitchers delivery, it can’t be ignored. The "hesitation pitch" was a quirk in his delivery where he would intentionally pause after his left foot hit the ground before releasing the ball. He would hold the ball in the air and pause for an extra second. The small hesitation caused batters to struggle with their weight distribution thus throwing their timing off. Paige paired his hesitation pitch with his high powered fastball and tremendous breaking ball to form one of the greatest pitch varieties in baseball history. Not much has ever been said about the invention of this pitch.
For more than 30 years, the death penalty has robbed the University of San Francisco of Basketball excellence. Religious universities have long had a tradition of paying for players, this tradition was not wasted at San Francisco. The history of USF basketball is littered with achievement and tradition. A program that broke social ground and developed one of the greatest basketball players of all time. The list of alumni that went on to the pros, features Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Bill Cartwright, Phil Smith, Erwin Mueller, Kevin Restani and Quintin Dailey. Before Bill Russell stared for the Boston Celtics, he was a two time National Champion at the University of San Francisco. Up until 1982, USF was one of the most high profile basketball programs on the West coast. Perennially ranked in the top 20, the team had the distinction of being a major program in a mid major conference (think Gonzaga today). Currently, the schools basketball program has been in a free fall.
The glory days started with the 1946 hire of Roundball legend Pete Newell. The head coach brought instant success and winning culture to the program. During the 1949 season he led the Dons to a NIT championship (at a time in which the NIT was comparable to the NCAA tournament).
Phil Woolpert was hired as Newell’s successor in 1950, he was ultimately very successful with an all time record of 153-73. The coach developed a reputation for recruiting mostly bay area players. Woolpert’s most important move, came in the recruitment of a largely unknown center out of McClymonds High School in Oakland. USF was the only major university to offer Bill Russell a scholarship. Although his skills and fundamentals were raw, he showed tremendous promise on defense. During the 1954 season, Woolpert became the first major college basketball coach to start three African American players. The coach was far beyond his time in terms of race relationship and social acceptance.
Bill Russell and KC Jones are easily the best defensive college duo of all time. The two were selected to multiple All-American teams and led the Dons to back to back titles. During their championship runs in 1955 and 1956 the Don’s won their 9 tournament games by a total of 135 points (only one team got within 10 points). The team was all world defensively and would routinely hold teams below 40 points. UCLA legend John Wooden commented that Russell was the “Greatest defensive man I’ve ever seen”. During his career at USF the center averaged 20.7 points and 20.3 rebounds per game. While K.C. Jones averaged 10 points and 5 boards. Both were named All-Americans in 1956, before leading the NBA’s Boston Celtics to 11 championships in 13 seasons.
The Don’s tradition and excellence served as a pillar in the community. Perhaps nothing symbolized their importance to the community more than a bizarre trip to the notorious jail Alcatraz after the 1956 season. On the day of the visit, the starting five, Russell, Jones, Hal Perry, Mike Farmer and Carl Boldt received a tour of the entire prison. They even visited some of the worst prisoners housed in Alcatraz, guys like Al “Scareface” Capone, Meyer “Mickey” Cohen and James “Whitey” Bulger.
The outlaw collection of murders, crime bosses, bank robbers and sexual offenders greeted the players with a warmth seldom seen by prisoners. In fact, many of the prisoners listened to the Don’s championship run on the radio. Most of the inmates acted like nervous teenage girls meeting their long time fantasy crush. The Don’s forward Carl Boldt added “The convicts looked at Russell and they were just in awe. They were treated like gods during their visit”. Boldt also added “They all cheered and clapped their hands. They said to Russell, ‘That’s the way to go there, big black brother!’ “They cheered us and they were very happy to have us there.” Convicts fired away with basketball questions and comments.
Civilians were never allowed beyond the visiting room and were only permitted to communicate by phone. The players not only walked through the entire prison, they even ate alongside them. All five starters also ate with one of the most famous Alcatraz prisoners of all time Robert Stroud “The Birdman of Alcatraz”. A diagnosed psychopath with an uncanny knowledge of birds, serving a death sentence for murder.
Mike Farmer was the star returner in 1957, as Jones and Russell went on to the NBA. The forward had an outstanding year on his way to being named West Coast conference player of the year, he led the Dons to their third straight Final 4. In 1958, Farmer improved his individual play and was named a first team All American.
From 58 to 1961 the program was marred in mediocrity. But a glimmer of hope appeared with the hiring of Peter Peletta in 1961. They regained basketball relevancy with stars like Ollie Johnson, Erwin Mueller and Joe Lewis. Johnson was a dominant big that averaged more than 20 points and 16 rebounds for his career. They again reached glory in the 1965 and 1966 season reaching back to back Elite 8s. From 1966 to 1970, USF struggled heavily under head coach Phil Vukicevich compiling a 51 and 51 record.
Phil Smith was one of the most important players in the history of the Dons. The Berkley native was an unknown prospect with no scholarship offers. After graduating from high school a semester early, Smith enrolled in night classes at USF. He was recruited by coach Bob Gaillard, after watching him play pick up games on campus. From 1971 to 1974 the 6-4 Smith continued the tradition of USF developing unknown players and helping them flourish. The great all around guard lead the Dons to consecutive elite eight appearances. Averaging 18 PPG, Smith was named all-West Coast Conference selection all three years of his career. During his senior season he was named an NCAA All-American.
The Dons Century club was made up of elite alumni from the University, they boasted a top notch pay roll. Hookers, booze, drugs, cars, accommodations, free meals and money were all in the mix for the Dons Century Club. The “nonprofit” committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to illegal recruitment of players, paying off family members, and paying for travel. Other alumni within the Century Club were giving players thousands of dollars, paying them for no-show jobs, providing lavish gifts, as well as picking up pricy restaurant and entertainment tabs. The alumni club began heavily involved in the recruitment of basketball talent sometime in the mid 70’s.
The century club was not the only party to blame. The school did their fair share to provide illegal gifts and bonuses to the players. The team continued to receive special academic treatment; many of the players were marginal students at best. There were several incidents of a player threatening another student, only for the complaint to be dismissed by school officials.Tutors also went above and beyond their duty, often completing assignments and tests for the athletes.
When Phil Smith graduated in 1974, USF gained a major commitment in Sacramento native Bill Cartwright. In 1977, led by the 3 time All-American center, the Dons went 29–0 and were regarded as the #1 team in the nation for 6 weeks of the season. Sports Illustrated highlighted the 1977 team with a cover story titled "The Dandy Dons.” Cartwright was the West Coast Conference’s only 3 time winner of the player of the year award. Future pros, Winford Boynes and James Hardy helped Cartwright dominant the opposition from 1975 to 1978.
The NCAA placed the Dons on probation two times in the late 1970s for booster interference and recruiting violations by coaches. In 1979 the NCAA put USF on probation, promising stricter penalties in the future. The NCAA investigation eventually led to the dismissal of a San Francisco head coach, leading San Francisco Chronicle sportswriter Glenn Dickey to call the program "totally out of control.
School president Rev. John Lo Schiavo, let it be known after the second NCAA case was resolved in 1980, that he would shut down the high-profile program if there was any further incident. Besides firing the coach, Schiavo took no steps to prevent the incident from reoccurring.
One of the greatest players in the history of the University, ended up to be its death. Trouble started when Quentin Daily committed to USF during the early 80’s. The dynamic scoring guard from Baltimore was a high profile recruit when he made the surprise commitment to San Francisco. The Don’s won the conference championship all three seasons while Daily was in school. He averaged 22 points as a sophomore while shooting 57 percent. Good enough to be named Player of the Year in the Conference. The next season he put up 25 points per game to go along with 54 percent shooting. Daily was named to an All-American team for his efforts, and again Conference player of the year.
It all climaxed in December 1981, when All-American Dailey was accused of assaulting a female student. During the investigation, Dailey admitted taking a no-show job for $1,000 a month at a business owned by a prominent USF Dons Club booster, while another booster had also paid Dailey $5,000 a month since 1980.
Lo Schiavo claimed, he didn't know that Dailey was suspected of committing rape until a month after the incident occurred. It all seemed very unlikely, due to the fact that the dormitory was right across from his office. Schiavo is ultimately to blame for not being diligent and keeping up with players who he deemed were such a threat to the fabric of the university. The school saw an easy way out and dissolved all responsible from themselves and pointed the finger at the Don’s Booster Club and their student Quintin Daily.
On the cloudy day of July 29, 1982, the hammer dropped. The administration lived up to their promise of strict penalties. The school announced a self imposed Death Penalty, allowing all of its active players to transfer elsewhere. The decision left a one time basketball powerhouse on its knees. Administration decided when they did reinstate the basketball program, it would be done under much stricter academic guidelines.
Oddly enough, the 1982 season also marked the cancellation of the Don’s football program. While it was a division II program, it had a rich history dating back to the 1951 team. The 1951 team was called the greatest team “you've never heard of” producing three future NFL hall of famers. The 1951 team was also the last division 1 football team they put out.
Schiavo was the schools administrator with the end say. The catholic persist was a prep basketball star for Lowell in the 1960s. Schiavo decision and judgement regarding players talking pay seemed to be bias, when that decision was being made by someone who made over 275,000 a year. Upon her visit to San Francisco, Queen Elizabeth II pulled Lo Schiavo aside to ask when he would reinstate the basketball program. Critics have cited that several members of the coaching community backed the decision by Schiavo to kill the program. The two main supporters of the decision by Schiavo were Bobby Knight and Joe Paterno, ill let you do the math.
One has to wonder, if ethics were the top priority, if the University really wanted to put their focus on academics? Changing the school to a division 2 or division 3 affiliation would have been admirable, but the school decided to continue competing in division 1.
Schiavo failed, he failed the community, he failed the players and he failed the students. His seemingly lackadaisical attitude and lack of institutional controlled allowed outside forces to corrupt his university. His biggest failure was to control the influence of the Don’s Century Club, rumors of Schiavo being paid by the Century Club cannot be ignored.
The Athletic director Bill Fusco at the time offered his thoughts "The basketball program hasn't been as strong, but now they can say they run their program with integrity,". Fusco also added "At the time, I didn't agree with the decision. I felt it was really drastic. I still have mixed feelings about it 30 years later”.
The statement by athletic director Bill Fusco, about integrity should be taken with a grain of salt. From 2007 to 2008 notorious rule breaker Eddie Sutton was hired as coach for the Don’s. Although he lasted less than a season his hire should be met with serious speculation.
Since its death penalty in 1982 the Dons have only made one NCAA tournament (1998). The onetime powerful program was brought to its knees by its own administration. The school, students and community all lost dearly in this respect. Things will never be the same. Would the school make the same decision if they knew the schools basketball team would never truly be able to regain its form. No telling how successful the program would be today if the death penalty was never instituted. Does five years of rule breaking constitute a universities sports team to loose the ability to compete?
During the 1997 All-Star break in Cleveland, the NBA decided to honor the 50 greatest players of all time. A luncheon was scheduled as part of the event, which featured players from the past and present. At the time of the luncheon Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain had never crossed paths.
The debate over the greatest basketball player of all time usually produces only a handful of arguments. Michael Jordan is widely regarded as the best player of all time, but Wilt Chamberlain also holds a place in the debate. Their dominance has been contrasted and compared at great lengths. Those critical of Chamberlain point to the fact he was putting up stats in a league full of weak competition. They also scoff at the fact that Wilt was only able to win 2 championships. Critics of Jordan also cite the weak competition for the duration of the 90’s and quitting to play baseball. Chamberlain is largely regarded as a stat monster, averaging 50 points and 25 rebounds during the 62 season. He was also able to showcase his versatile skills in the 1967 season, averaging 24 points 24 rebounds and 8 assists. Jordan won a bevy of scoring titles to go along with defensive player of the year awards. Mike was also seen as the greatest winner in basketball since Bill Russell.
So how close is the debate between Chamberlain and Jordan? Depends on the age of the person you ask. However the luncheon at the 1997 All Star game shed some light on the debate, at least from Wilt’s perspective.
The luncheon was held on saturday and many of the old time players attended the event. Among them were Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton and more. In the deep corner of the brunch, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain sat having an intense discussion. The topic of conversation was predictable, who was the greatest? The two traded jabs the entire brunch until it was time to go. Still, the pair continued to argue. Soon Commissioner David Stern tried to intervene, reminding them they were set to leave 15 minutes earlier. Still jabbering, the pair got up from the table to join everyone else in line. Just before they were about to leave, Chamberlain spoke up. The room grew silent in anticipation of Wilt’s words, “Just remember Michael, when I played they changed the rules to make the game harder for me and when you played they changed the rules to make the game easier for you”. It was the only known time the two had crossed paths.
Intimidation is defined as intentional behavior that "would cause a person of ordinary sensibilities" fear of injury or harm. These teams took it a step further, displaying behavior that even their peers would deem troubling. Whether it’s fighting, drug-use, appearance, unpredictability, dominance, aggression or a potential injury, these teams caused their opponents a healthy level of fear. All of these teams pushed the envelope, having an effect on the rules in their respective sports. Did I mention, no one is intimidated by a loosing team?
Detroit Bad Boys 1989 Who?Isiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, Chuck Dailey Why?Strong Language, Violence, Gore, Grisly Images, Torture, Aggression, Psychological Games, Trash Talk, Jordan Rules, Injury Potential
Have you ever heard the expression “pick on someone your own size”? This concept was mastered by the 1989 Detroit Pistons, who loved a good brawl. They played the game of basketball like escaped convicts imploring physical and mental intimidation. The Bad Boys were the most violent team, in the history of basketball. Renown for their cheap shots and no layups allowed attitude. Led by Dr. Jekyll himself, Isiah Thomas smiled in your face and stabbed you in the back. Rick Mahorn, Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer formed a nasty front court, that could get into the heads of even the best front court players. Bill Laimbeer was a renown cheap shot artist, perhaps his finest moments came in the 1990 NBA Finals, when he frustrated Portland's big men to the point of tears. Chuck Daily also known as “Daddy Rich," kept the pack relatively under control, as the head coach. Detroit held a rare trait, the best players in the world were terrified of playing them. While their physical play was highly publicized, the mental games they played with opponents had devastating effects. There no layup rule often left stars like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Dominique Wilkins, Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson bloodied on the floor. Each of these star players saw their field goal percentage drop significantly when playing Detroit. When these stars played Detroit in the playoffs their FG% dropped even further. Of course their was no shortage of fights on court. Among their best fights could have been the numerous assaults on Boston’s McHale and Bird. The two teams had bench clearing brawls more than 8 times. Perhaps their most famous battle was that with Michael Jordan. The “Jordan Rules” was a strategy employed by the Pistons that called for 3 players to rush the paint anytime Michael took a dribble. They're reasoning was simple “Michael didn’t trust his teammates and we knew that” said longtime Piston Bill Laimbeer. The strategy worked as Detroit beat Chicago in three straight playoff series. For a longer list of their most famous fights and plays check out the video here. Technical fouls were not called nearly as much as they are now. With that being said, the Pistons still had their fair share of technical fouls. In fact from 1986-1990 the Pistons ranked first in average technical fouls per game. A recent article has even suggested that The Bad Boys had the largest number of technicals, relative to the league average in NBA history. The most intimidating part of it all was the back to back championship banners they hung in 1989 and 1990. The 89 season saw Detroit finish the regular season with a 63-19 record. They had the second best playoff record of all time, loosing only two games in the playoffs. While it was great to watch the physical style employed, it also led to the cotton candy style of play that dominates today.
Oakland Raiders 1976 Who?Jack Tatum, John Madden, Otis Sistrunk, Ken Stabler, Willie Brown, Skip Thomas, Dave Casper, Phil Villapiano, Ted Hendricks, Fred Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch Why?Cocaine Use, Substance Abuse, Steroid Use, Strong Language, Violence, Gore, Grisly Images, Gang Affiliated, Torture, Illegal Equipment, Some Nudity, Aggression, Psychological Games, Injury Potential, Frightening Appearance
“I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault.” These words spoken by Safety Jack Tatum summarized the 1977 Raiders. True bullies on the defensive end of the field. Their revolutionary press style and blind side hits were innovating. Opposing rival coach Chuck Knoll once commented that “They were the criminal element of the league”. Rumors of drug use on and off the field were more than speculation. Perhaps their biggest accomplishment was their ability to bend the rules. The 1977s Raiders featured some of the most feared defensive backs in NFL history. Nicknamed “The Soul Patrol”, they featured Jack “The Assassin” Tatum, Skip “Dr Death” Thomas, Willie Brown, and George Atkinson. Tatum was known around the league as the most devastating hitter, having knocked out over 30 players throughout his pro career. Several Tatum stories have become NFL legend. He and Earl Campbell collided head on, both were knocked out on impact. Famously his hit paralyzed wide receiver Darryl Stingley and he separated Vikings receiver Sammy White from his uniform. The rest of the defense backs were plenty intimidating. In 1976 defensive back George Atkinson knocked out receiver Lynn Swann with a forearm to the back of the head. Skip Thomas earned his Dr. Death nickname with his aggressive play. Mad men like Ted Hendricks, Phil Vilapiano and Otis Sistrunk rounded out the 11 angry men. On the opposite side of the ball, the offense showed they were for real. Art Shell and Gene Upshaw formed the greatest lineman combo in NFL history. Kenny Stabler was amongst the best quarterbacks in the league and might have been the toughest. Cliff Branch brought a deep threat that was unmatched by others in the time period. Dave Casper gave Stabler a big physical tight end that could both block and catch. Mr. Stick-em Fred Belitnoff was acted as the intermediate threat. Casper & Branch were both named first team all-pro. The Raiders intangibles were absolutely off the charts. What do I mean by intangibles? They were the first to employ themes like “Rule 1, Cheating in encouraged, rule 2, see rule number one. Another piece of the Raiders bad boy image, were the ridiculous pads and accessories they used to their advantage. Full casts were hardened and applied, so the players could use them as club-like weapons on the field. Illegal spike cleats, extra layers of padding, stick-em, anything they thought would give them an edge was used. Several after hours stories about this bunch have been told throughout the years. Notably Anthony Kiedis Autobiography Under the Bridge, Kiedis claimed to have sold a good amount of cocaine to more than 5 members of the 1977 Raiders team. Did I mention Kiedis was 12 and he sold it to them the night before the Superbowl? Their has been additional stories linking team members to the Hells Angels Biker gang. Aside from their off the field shenanigans, the Raiders were truly a dominant team. They posted a regular season record of 13-1, first in the AFC west. They went on to beat New England in the divisional round of the playoffs, before beating their rival Pittsburgh Steelers 24-7 in the Conference championship. In Super Bowl XI they dominated Minnesota to the tune of 32-14. During their playoff run, they outscored opponents 80 to 42.
New York Mets 1986 Who? Doc Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Lenny Dykstra, Bobby Ojeda, Wally Backman, Joe Carter, Kevin Mitchell, Ron Darling Why?Cocaine Use, Substance Abuse, Strong Language, Violence, Gore, Grisly Images, Some Nudity, Aggression, Psychological Games
The cocaine circus on wheels, that was the 1986 world champion New York Mets. As pitcher Bobby Ojeda said in his book, The Bad Guys Won, “We were a bunch of vile fuckers.” With guys like Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and Keith Hernandez the 86 squad could be seen as the “kings of nose candy”. Guys like Lenny Dysktra, Bobby Ojeda, Wally Backman, Kevin Mitchell, Joe Carter and Ron Darling all contributed to the madness. The turning point of the season for the Mets, came on May 27 when third baseman Ray Knight brawled with Dodgers' pitcher Tom Niedenfuer. Summed up the Mets were a gang of drunks, pill-poppers, barroom brawlers, degenerate gamblers, cocaine enthusiasts, womanizers, and all-world egos that won the hearts of New Yorkers. After clinching the league championship with a 15 inning game in Houston, the Mets boarded a flight back to New York. Most of the players felt the same way, lets get on this plane and absolutely tear it apart. This included players hovering fat rails of cocaine in the bathroom, harassing the flight attendants, and racking up $7,500 in damages to the plane. Backup catcher Ed Hearn recalls “Soon steaks were flying like Frisbees. It was the epic carnivore free-for-all. ‘By the time we reached the airport, guys were eating the steaks raw,’ says Hearn. ‘Taking bites out and breathing hard and hitting each other. It was that psycho mentality.’” The most dominant and out of control player on the team was 21 year old ace Dwight “Doc” Gooden. After winning the Cy Young the previous year Gooden continued to pitch well to the tune of a 17-6 record and a 2.84 ERA. The only problem was Gooden was massively addicted to cocaine, so much so, he missed his teams championship parade. Gooden himself said “I end up leaving the party with the team, going to these projects, of all places in Long Island.” I got time.’ And the clocks, I mean the rooms are spinning. I said, ‘OK, I’ll leave in another hour.’ Then the next thing you know the parade’s on and I’m watching the parade on TV. With 5 All-Stars, their collection of pitching was the best in major league baseball. Dwight Gooden, Bobby Ojeda and Ron Darling formed a starting rotation that was second to none. Between the trio, they won 50 games with a 2.73 ERA. Their Bulletin might have been better featuring Jesse Orosco, Randy Myers and Randy Niemann. Daryl Strawberry was a phenomenal 24 year old prospect, batting .257 to go with a team leading 27 home runs and 93 RBIs. The night before the now-famous 1986 Game 6, Strawberry lost control. He nailed his wife in the face, breaking her nose. The bloody image of Strawberry’s domestic dispute would define him for the next decade. After the 1986 championship things started to spin out of control, he was charged with beating his fiancé in 1990 and his girlfriend in 1993. Keith Hernandez and Lenny Dykstra were both big contributors offensively. Hernandez hit .310 with 83 RBIs and an on base percentage of .413. Dykstra hit .295 with a team leading 31 stolen bases. Both players were named All-Star’s during the 86 campaign. Unfortunately both players were stained, after being named in the Pittsburgh Drug Trials in 1985. Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth ruled that Hernandez was among 7 players who had used cocaine and been involved with distribution. Both Hernandez and Dystra were able to have tremendous seasons in 1986 after rebounding from their season long suspensions in 1985. They finished the season with 103 wins most in the national league. During the world series everything turned around in game 6 when a ground ball went through Redsox first basemen's Bill Buckner’s legs. After that the Mets were able to rally for a game 6 win and then easily won game 7. Doc Gooden best summed up the win “But in the early craziness of the locker room, two thoughts were crowding all the others out of my head: I gotta call my dealer. And I gotta call my dad.”
Pittsburgh Steelers 1978 Who?Mel Blount, Jack Lambeer, Jack Ham, Mean Joe Green, Lc Greenwood, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, Mike Webster Why?Substance Abuse, Strong Language, Violence, Grisly Images, Aggression, Psychological Games, Injury Potential, Frightening Appearance
The famed “steel curtain” dominated the NFL in the 1970s, winning 4 Superbowl's. Loaded with 7 defensive hall of famers, players like Jack Lambert, Mean Joe Green, LC Greenwood, Jack Ham and Mel Blount. They lost 2 games by a grand total of 10 points all year (both teams would reach the championship game in their respected conference). The 1978 season would mark their third championship in the 1970s. To understand the measure of respect Pittsburgh demanded at the time, the Steelers had 12 players named as All Pros at their respective positions. Some ague that the Pittsburgh teams of the early 1970s were a better defense, but this team was by far the most well rounded. The Steelers teams of the 1970s were stacked with intimidating defenders like “Mean” Joe Green, Lc Greenwood, Mel Blount, Jack Ham and Jack Lambert. Eight of the defense’s starting 11 players were elected to the Hall of Fame. No team will have a defense with more hall of famers at one time. The 78 team was able to finish the season with the second most forced turnovers in the league. Mel Blount was among the most intimidating defense backs of all time. In fact because of Blount’s legendary press converge the NFL was forced to change their rules, in turn the 5 yard contact rule is also known as the Mel Blount Rule. Joe Green was a devastation force that ranked among the most dominant lineman of his time. He was a perennial contender for the defensive player of the year award. Jack Ham and Jack Lambert were the rugged hitting linebackers that anchorched the defensive unit. The offense was led by Terry Bradshaw, Len Swann, John Stallworth, Franco Harris and Mike Webster. Nothing scares a defense quite long the long pass, the Steelers tormented secondaries with their air attack. Bradshaw put together the best year of his career to that point, becoming only the second Steeler to win the NFL MVP award. Bradshaw posted career highs (to date) in completions (207), attempts (368), passing yards (2,915), touchdowns (28) and quarterback rating (84.7). Len Swann both had a career year catching 11 touchdowns to go with 880 yards receiving. Deep threat John Stallworth caught 9 touchdowns to go with 800 yards receiving. The playoff run began with a domination of the Denver Broncos 33-10. In the AFC championship game, they embarrassed the Houston Oilers to a tune of 34-5, with Pittsburgh forcing 9 turnovers. The Steelers then finished off their storybook season with a win over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII. In what is still considered one of the greatest Super Bowls ever played. Terry Bradshaw took home MVP honors in Miami, as he threw for over 300 yards and four TDs.
Oakland A’s 1989 Who?Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Dave Stewart, Dennis Eckersley, Tony La Russa Why?Cocaine Use, Substance Abuse, Steroid Use, Strong Language, Violence, Cheating, Aggression, Power, Frightening Appearance
The 89 Athletics were the George Washington of Steroids, leading the way for future generations. “The Juice Crew” were the bros of your nightmares, fueled by steroids and success. This team was an all time great power hitting lineup, most of which powered by steroids. Rumors swirled of drug use and fights in the Oakland clubhouse, mainly between the young regime and the old veterans. The crew also had a signature handshake that featured forearm bumps instead of fists bumps. Oakland boasted some of the best power hitters in the game like Mark McGwire, Dave Henderson, Dave Parker and Jose Canseco. They didn’t just hit regular home runs, these were moon shots. Blasts like Canseco's and McGwire's famous home runs to the third deck of Toronto's Skydome (both blasts went over 520 feet). They also featured the speedy leadoff man Ricky Henderson. Add Dennis Eckersley to the bunch, one of the most feared closers of all time. The bay area native posted a 1.56 ERA and led the league in saves with 33. The collection of ego’s and personalities might be enough to intimidate any team. Throw in passive aggressive steroid behavior and you have a frightening team. Canseco suffered a wrist injury before the season and didn’t return until after the All-Star break. Dave Parker filled some of the power void and hit 22 home runs and finished with 97 RBI. And when Canseco did come back, he hit 17 home runs in less than a half-season of play. The sensational Mark McGwire hit 33 home runs to lead the team. Oakland was able to finish the season first in their division, with 99 wins. They defeated the Toronto Blue Jays in five games in the ALCS. Then swept their cross-Bay rivals, the San Francisco Giants, in an earthquake-marred World Series. They only lost one game in postseason play putting them near the top of all time dominating post seasons. When Jose Canseco’s book Juiced was published in 2005, many of the A’s stories would come to limelight. Canseco claims that he introduced Mark McGwire to steroids in 1988 and that he often injected McGwire while they were teammates. He also admits that he envisions himself as the godfather of steroids to the entire MLB. While they haven't played together for more than 25 years, a reunion seems unspeakable. Former teammate Carney Lansford was quoted as saying if Canseco were coming to the reunion, "I don't believe there's a guy on the '89 team who'd show up. Not after his book and all the lives he ruined. It's selfishness, basically. I hate to say that, really. I played with him and thought he was a nice guy, but I don't know how you can do that to people."
Chicago Bears 1985 Who?Mike Ditka, Mike Singletary, Otis Wilson, Buddy Ryan, Walter Payton, Jim McMahon, Dan Hampton, Richard Dent, Buddy Ryan Why?Substance Abuse, Strong Language, Violence, Gore, Grisly Images, Some Nudity, Aggression, Psychological Games, Injury Potential, Frightening Appearance
The Monsters of the Midway could make an argument for the greatest overall team of all time. This team didn’t need sideshows or gimmicks to intimidate their opponents, they flat dominated them. Probably the only team on the list that didn’t feature the most menacing player, a group of fighters, or even the biggest group of partiers. This collection of talent was most imposing during the actual game. They embarrassed almost every pro offense they faced and as a result the defensive side of the ball was never the same. NFL network named them the best defensive unit of all time. They went 15-1 during the regular season, their lone loss came at the hands of Dan Marino’s Miami dolphins. In the playoffs they laughed teams off the field, outscoring opponents 91 to 10. During the entire season Chicago was only involved in three games decided by 7 or less. The 85 defense was simply the greatest defense of all time. Imploring the physical strategy of the 4-6 defense, Chicago was the most feared defense of their time. They had a bevy of tremendous players like Mike Singletary, The Fridge, Otis Wilson, Mongo McMichael, Dan Hampton and Richard Dent. The master mind of it all was of course an intimidator himself, Buddy Ryan. The Bears' iconic 46 defense (Named after former Bears' safety, Doug Plank), led by Defensive genius Buddy Ryan, was an "attack from all angles" scheme that resulted in many injured quarterbacks. With future Hall of Famer Mike Singletary alongside the supremely athletic Wilber Marshall and Otis Wilson, the linebacking unit ranked in at #5 of the greatest linebacking corps in NFL history in NFL Top 10. The secondary was anchored by safeties Gary Fencik and Dave Duerson. Their defensive line included future Hall of Famers Richard Dent and Dan "Danimal" Hampton , along with breakout media superstar rookie, William "The Refrigerator" Perry. The Bears were infamous for getting to the quarterback often and completely disrupting their timing. They hold a bevy of bone crushing defensive highlights, complete with multiple quarterback knockouts. The offense was no slouch led by Walter “Sweetness” Payton (perhaps the best running back in the game at the time), wild man Jim McMahon and the intimidating coach Mike Ditka. Their offense ranked 2nd in the league in points scored. The real strength of their offensive, was their offensive line. Led by tackle Jimbo Covert and center Jay Hilgenberg, they were able to open huge running holes for Walter Payton. At the end of the season Payton, McMahon, Covert and Hilgenberg were all named to the pro bowl. In their two playoff games against the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams, the Bears outscored their opponents 45–0 and became the first team to record back-to-back playoff shutouts. Then, in Super Bowl XX against the New England Patriots, the Bears set several records. Their 36-point margin of victory topped the Raiders 29 points margin put up in Super Bowl XVIII and stood as a record until the 49ers won Super Bowl XXIV. It was the Bears' first NFL World Championship title since 1963. The 1985 bears changed the game with their hard hitting aggressive 4-6 defense. The 4-6 allowed for their defense to get serious hits on quarterbacks and skill players. The only question is, Why did they only win 1?
They revolutionized the physical style of hockey popular today. Their players refused to wear helmets and led the league in penalty minutes. Their defense specialized in cheap shots and they instigated as many brawls as possible. Opposing teams preparing to play the Flyers knew they were in for a beating. The Broadstreet bullies were as dominant as they were mean, winning back to back Stanley Cup champions in 1974 and 1975. The Flyers were the last Stanley Cup champion to be composed entirely of Canadian-born players. Early in the 70’s Philadelphia was defeated by the St Louis Blues who employed a more physical style of play than the Flyers. As a result the Flyers brought in bigger and tougher players (also known as bullies). The new additions to the team resulted in a jail house team that routinely broke rules and used fighting to intimidate opponents. This blood thirsty, ragtag collection of asylum escapees included Bobby Clarke, Serge Bernier, Jim Johnson, Bernie Parent (who wore a menacing Jason mask) and Andre Lacriox. The leader of the asylum was Dave “The Hammer” Schultz. “The Hammer” set the NHL record for penalty minutes in back to back seasons during their Stanley Cup runs. He was best known for his blood filled mustache that often dripped relentlessly. Of course Dave Schultz's 348 penalty minutes led the NFL in 1974. The 1974 team posted a record of 50-16-12, they won the West by seven points. The outstanding goalie Bernie Parent established an NFL record by winning 47 games, a record which stood for more than 30 years. The Flyers were represented in the All Star Game by Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, Ed Van Impe and Joe Watson. The team was led offensively by Bobby Clarke, who led the team in goals with 35, assists with 52 and points with 87. He finished fifth among scoring leader in points. Clarke was named a 2nd Team All Stars along with defenseman Barry Ashbee. Clarke was followed by Bill Barber in goals (34), and by Rick MacLeish both in assists (45) and in points (77). Like any intimidating team the Flyers style of play eventually forced the NHL to change its rules. An exhibition game against the Russian team, illustrated the brutality and physicality the Flyers played with. In most peoples eyes this exhibition game forced the NHL to institute new rules to clean up the game.
Pittsburgh Pirates 1979 Who?Willie Stargell, Dave parker, Omar Moreno, Bill Robinson, Bill Madlock, Dock Ellis Why?Cocaine Use, Substance Abuse, Strong Language, Violence, Illegal Equipment, Aggression, Frightening Appearance, Sledgehammer
They became known as the “We Are Family” team, the Pirates powered their way to the 1979 crown. The Pirates became one of six teams in the 20th century to have won a World Series after trailing three games to one. They beat the Baltimore Orioles in a seven game world series, Willie Stargell took home the MVP. The curricular activities of the Pirates was surely over shadowed by their accomplishments on the field. The world series title was Pittsburgh’s last playoff series victory to date. However many think the Pittsburgh Cocaine trails might have diminished their accomplishments. The leaders of the team were Willie Stargell and Dave “Cobra” Parker. Both carried heavy reputations as intimidating hitters, as both were amongst the best players in baseball. Parker was the 1978 NL MVP and Stargell took home the award in 1979. Bill Madlock and Bill Robinson both provided instant offensive at the plate. Willie Stargell got a brilliant idea for their hitters to warm up with sledgehammers. The move intimidated opposing pictures and helped the Pirates confidence. Late in the 1978 season “Cobra” fractured his jaw in a home plate collision. He then wore a hockey-style mask straight from Friday the 13th, to protect his broken cheek bone. The mask was described by some opposing pitchers as terrifying. While the corrective mask was only worn for a short period of time, it made its mark. The Pittsburgh drug trials shined more light on this collection of talent. Drug use ran rampant throughout the team’s clubhouse. Cocaine was done in record amounts and greenies were popped like skittles in the clubhouse. More than 5 players on the team would eventually be named specifically in the drug trials. Theres no question their drug use contributed to they're intimidating ways.
New York Knicks 1992 Who?Anthony Mason, Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley and Xavier McDaniel, John Starks Why?Strong Language, Violence, Gore, Grisly Images, Torture, Aggression, Psychological Games, Frightening Appearance, Trash-talk, Injury Potential
The 1992 New York Knicks loved to mix it up on the court. Prior to the season New York hired Pat Riley, signed Anthony Mason and traded for Xavier McDaniel. These additions insured little physical opposition from their opponents. The only team on our list that failed to win the title. New York seemed destined to win a title under the guidance of Pat Riley, who had won five titles in Los Angeles. The core of New York’s intimidating lineup was formed by their front line. They featured Patrick Ewing, Anthony Mason, Xavier McDaniel and Charles Oakley. A front line which rivaled the Detroit's Bad Boys in terms of physical play and sheer terror. It was unusual for more than 3 games to go by without the Knicks having some sort of fight. Patrick Ewing was widely thought of as the most intimidating player in the NBA. Charles Oakley was a world renown fighter who fought the likes of Charles Barkley, Dennis Rodman, Alonzo Mourning, and Pj Brown among many others. Xavier McDaniel aka “X-Man” was known around the league as a serious fighter. McDaniel would fight you at the drop of a hat, or strangle you if he deemed fit (see Wes Matthews and Juwan Howard). Very few opposing teams chose to challenge prowess of the front line’s fighting ability. Greg Anthony and Mark Jackson were both among the toughest guards in the league. Jackson had a no-nonsense city game and Anthony once played with a broken jaw for more than a month. The ever unpredictable John Starks also had reputation for being a loose cannon, apparent by the head butt he delivered to Reggie Miller in the 1993 Playoffs. The team finished second in the Atlantic Division with a 51–31 record. In the first round of the playoffs New York would square off with the 92 version of the Bad Boys Pistons. In a series that closely resembled a cage match, it was the most physical series of all time. During game 1, McDaniel delivered a vicious elbow to Lambieers head resulting in a flagrant foul and a scuffle. In game 2, McDaniel drew a flagrant foul against Laimbeer, before Charles Oakley closed lined Dennis Rodman, both wind up with technicals. In the next game four technical fouls were called in the first three minutes. Rodman then punched McDaniel, resulting in the two tangling up. During the fourth quarter, Darrell Walker earned a flagrant foul for bashing McDaniel, who screamed threats at Walker. All this in the first three games. The Knicks would end up beating Detroit in 5 games. Next round, the Knicks faced off against the defending champion Chicago Bulls for the second straight year. Bill Laimbeer of the vanquished Detroit Pistons thought the Knicks would strongly compete if they were allowed to play this way, but doubted "the league" would let them. To the contrary, Phil Jackson said of the NBA, "I think they like this style." Several players including, Michael Jordan, Xavier McDaniel, Scottie Pippen and Greg Anthony got into physical altercations. New York was able to frustrate Michael Jordan with their physical play, but ultimately lost to Chicago in 7 games. During the offseason McDaniel left for Boston, New York never took Chicago to seven games again. Many observers think it was the closest any team got to stopping Chicago’s run of 6 championships in the 90’s.
New York Yankees 1927 Who?Babe Ruth, Lou Geriehg, Earle Combs, Tony Lazzeri, Herb Pennock, Waite Hoyt, Miller Huggins Why?Drinking, Strong Language, Violence, Aggression, Psychological Games
Murder’s Row was the Beatles more than 25 years before the Beatles. They featured seven hall of famers on their roster. The first truly intimidating team in sports, opposing pictures and sports writers were so obsessed with the team, they were nicknamed the Murders Row for the core of they're hitting lineup. Following a 21-1 July victory against the Washington Senators, first basemen Joe Judge said “Those fellows not only beat you but they tear your heart out. I wish the season was over.” Murders Row existed in a time where super teams were more than 50 years away. The 1927 Yankees batted .307, slugged .489, scored 975 runs, and outscored their opponents by a record 376 runs. Did I mention they had the two most feared hitters in the game? The nickname describes the first six hitters in the 1927 team lineup: Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, and Tony Lazzeri. Center fielder Earle Combs had a career year, batting .356 with 231 hits, left fielder Bob Meusel batted .337 with 103 RBIs, and second baseman Tony Lazzeri drove in 102 runs. Gehrig batted .373, with 218 hits, 47 home runs, a then record 175 RBIs and was voted A.L. MVP. Ruth amassed a .356 batting average, 164 RBIs, 158 runs scored, walked 137 times, and slugged .772. Most notably, he set the single season home run record with 60. The two most intimidating hitters in baseball, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, were bitter rivals in the same clubhouse. Their differences in personality created a rift between the superstars. Ruth was an undisciplined man in every facet of his life, except hitting. While Gehrig, was never one for empty boasting. Another factor in their rift was differences in salary between the two. Babe made $80,000 during the height of the Great Depression, Gehrig less than half that amount. The two rivals would duel off in a season long home run contest. Early in the season, the New York World-Telegram anointed Gehrig the favorite. But Ruth caught Gehrig and then had a remarkable last two months of the season, hitting 17 home runs in September. After his 60th, Ruth was exultant, shouting after the game, "Sixty, count 'em, sixty! Let's see some son-of-a-b**** match that!" They finished the year 110–44 winning the A.L. pennant by 19 games. New York swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1927 World Series. Only four teams have won more regular season games to this date. Unquestionably one of the greatest teams in MLB history.
Hope you enjoyed the list, leave a comment below and tell us what we missed!
How Jerry West used cigarette smoking to eventually land Kobe Bryant.
This story starts in the 1989 draft with international prospect Vlade Divac. The big man was projected to go anywhere between 12-20 in the NBA draft. The Lakers had the 25th pick in the draft, meaning that Divac was supposed to be gone by the time they picked. Jerry West (the Lakers GM) began to strategize about drafting Divac.
His solution was genius, West simply asked Divac to smoke as many cigarettes as possible. Teams would be scared away by his constant smoking. Vlade was seen lighting up a cigarette just as he got off the plane for the first time in America. When draft night came, Divac could once again be seen as the constant stream of nicotine backstage in the greenroom. The ploy worked as the big man fell to 26th, right into the laps of the Lakers. TNT's Craig Sager knows West played a part in Divac's green room smoking and his slipping to L.A. at 26. Sager commented "Rumor was that Vlade was smoking when he got off the plane," Sager told USA Today, "and Jerry told him to keep smoking."
Fast forward to the 1996 draft. The Lakers held the 24th pick in the draft that year. High school prodigy Kobe Bryant worked out for the Lakers and Jerry West saw something phenomenal. West got together with Bryant’s people and told them that he would surely take the 17 year old in the draft. The only problem, Bryant was supposed to go anywhere from 9-15 in the draft. The Lakers Jerry West dealt his starting center Vlade Divac to Charlotte for the 13th pick (which would become Kobe Bryant).
In honor of the summertime, we bring you the 10 greatest playground legends of all time. These players were never able to realize their dream of playing in the NBA. Most of these guys share many parallels such as drug abuse, academic trouble and attitude problems. Streetball players built reputations largely on word of mouth. And they will forever be immortalized in their cities basketball history.
10. Ed “Booger” Smith - The subject of the famous documentary “Soul in the Hole”, The documentary follows a Brooklyn team called Kenny's Kings, as it competes in the summer tournament at the Hole in Bedford-Stuy. He was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated Magazine the same year as “Soul in the Hole” came out. The documentary and article both emphasized Booger’s unpredictable and street like mentality. His famous quote “If I don't make the NBA, ill be a drug dealer” shook the media establishment. Those who saw Booger in his prime claim he was an NBA level playmaker. At 5’8 148 pounds Booger’s frame was slight but the got to the basket against any defender. The Brooklyn native had unparalleled ball handling and passing ability. Booger played JUCO ball for only half a season, where he dominated averaging 21 points and 12 assists. He grew up playing against top NBA point guards like Rod Strickland, Rafter Alston and Kenny Anderson. Booger dominated at a variety of tournaments throughout the years, including EBC and Dyckman. In the mid 90s Booger would attract massive crowds wherever he showed up to play. The closest Booger came to playing pro ball came in 2001, when he relocated to Chicago to flee drug charges. Booger made his way to super trainer Tim Grover’s gym where he played in a pick up game with Michael Jordan. Grover was overly impressed with Booger and invited him to a pro tryout camp. When he arrived at the camp to register the next day, he was told he would not be allowed to participate. Eventually he went back to New York where he would be incarcerated from 2004 to 2008. You can check out his ball handling and passing exploits here.
9. Curtis Jones - CJ was a 5'10" passing point guard out of Detroit. Many people swear he could take the ball the length of the court in only three dribbles. A great floor general, many believe he was the best passer they've ever seen play. Eye popping triple doubles or games of 2 points & 25 assists were regular for Curtis in high school. He attended Detroit Powerhouse Northwestern High School, where he led his team in points and assists his senior year. In 1967, he hit a game winner over 6'9, future NBA great Spencer Haywood to win the city championship, the opposing team also featured future pro Ralph Simpson. With an IQ of 73, CJ didn't stand a chance of making it to a major college. He attended North Idaho junior college and excelled on the basketball court. In his final season classmates and teacher began to notice that Jones was illiterate. Faced with massive embarrassment Jones returned home to Detroit. Jones was a fixture at legendary saint Cecilia’s dominating the courts for over 15 years. NBA Hall-of-Famer George Gervin, said this of CJ in an interview: “The best player I’ve ever seen was Curtis Jones.” Detroit natives Derrick Coleman, Jalen Rose and Dave Bing have all given tremendous praise to CJ’s game.
8. Brian “Sad Eye” Watson - Sad Eye is not your typical streetball player. His bite overshadows his bark, something not found very often. The forward dominated opponents on the offensive end, displaying a complete scoring arsenal. He had handle, a post up game, multitude of 1-on-1 moves, pure jump shot and athleticism. “He’s just a 6-5, do everything type of dude,” offers Philly native ex-pro Alvin Williams. “He could shoot, penetrate, jump, just everything. He owned all the playgrounds down here. He’s definitely one of the top, if not the top playground legend out here.” By the time Sad Eye was 14, he was the best player in the city, as he helped his junior high school (Strawberry Mansion) beat the undefeated varsity at Ben Franklin HS. Watson went on to star at Ben Franklin averaging over 20 points and 14 rebounds as a junior. The beginning of Sad’s senior season UNLV was in heavy pursuit of the forward. Then a few months into the season, Watson quit the team. Looking back, he says “I just was bored with it,” He admits he had no interest in playing at school, no dreams of the NBA. Ex-pro Cuttino Mobley used to invite “Sad Eye” to fly out to Houston and play pickup with the Rockets players in the early 2000’s. 90% of the time Watson turned down the invitation. “I’m just anti-social,” says Sad Eye,Watson quit playing because he lost interest and the game wasn’t fun. He never thought of himself as a good defender, for that reason he refuses to take credit for his talents. If you still don't believe he's that good heres a clip from Watson in the 35 and over league.
7. Curt “Trouble” Smith - Trouble was a standout high school star that averaged over 25 points and 8 assists at Coolidge high as a senior. He was chosen to play in the 1989 Capital Classic All-American game with players like Kenny Anderson. The 5-9 Smith matched up head-to-head with Kenny Anderson, outplaying Anderson it was Smith who took home the MVP trophy. Initially he committed to Temple but he failed to qualify academically for a division one school. He ended up on the west coast at Compton community college where he dominated opponents for two years. He spent his final two seasons at Division 1 Drake University, where he was named Missouri Valley conference player of the year as a junior (92-93). During that season the guard averaged 21 points, 5 assists and 3 steals. Once his college career was over Smith played in a bevy of professional leagues including France, Italy, Israel,Finland, the IBA, the IBL and the USB. In 1997–98, Smith was named the Most Valuable Player of the USBL. Aside from his accomplishments in organized basketball Smith has been a legend on the DMV playground circuit. In 2003 Steve Francis brought a team full of pros down to Goodman league to take on Curt Smith’s team. Trouble came out on top putting up 62 points to Francis 59 and winning the game 121-120. A no nonsense player who always played to win, he never lost a game in Annapolis’ summer league. He would electrify the crowds with his variety of moves and long jumpers raining out of the sky. By far the most dominating playground scorer to ever come out of the nation’s capital. could shoot from anywhere and was unstoppable in the post, he was smart and was as tough as they come. Heres a clip of him destroying the And1 team.
6. Richard “Pee Wee” Kirkland - He is something of NYC drug and basketball Legend. Days were spent embarrassing foes on the hardwood and nights were spent wheeling & dealing in his Bentley. Kirkland was called by Sports Illustrated "the fastest man in college basketball”. He grew up as rivals with future All-NBA performer Nate “Tiny” Archibald, their rivalry continued well into their 30’s. Kirkland was the constant point guard while on the floor. He was said to be a typical New York guard with flashy handle, vision and the ability to score around the basket. Some Harlem natives compared his playing style to that of Walt “Clyde” Frazier. He attended Charles Evans Hughes High School in Manhattan, and was an All-City guard. Next he attended Kittrell community college in North Carolina, and averaged 41 points per game. After community college he attended Norfolk State University and played with future NBA star Bob Dandridge. Norfolk’s coach would later admit that John Wooden was sending scouts to Norfolk to try and get Kirkland to transfer to UCLA. In 1969 he was drafted by the Chicago Bulls with the fourth pick in the thirteenth round. The Bulls offered Pee Wee 40k for a one year contract to which Pee-Wee replied “Thanks, but no thanks. I had over 200k in my apartment what was I going to do with the Bulls 40k?”. He received a telegram after his 28th birthday from Knicks coach Red Holzman pleading for him to tryout.
5. Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell - Mitchell was the biggest playground legend the bay area has ever produced. At 5’9 with pogo stick legs, Hook Mitchell ran the bay area for well over a decade. His game has often been compared to that of Steve Francis or Nate Robinson. Known for his insane speed and jumping ability, he had an all around game that included deep range on his shot. Mitchell first teamed up with Antonio Davis to star at McClymonds high in Oakland. The tandem had great success as Davis signed a scholarship at UTEP. The two battled Skyline High where future NBA players Gary Payton and Greg Foster teamed up. Hook showcased his talent at the JUCO level but the classroom kept him out of division one ball. Urban legend has it “Hook” could dunk at the age of 13 when he was a mere 5’2. Mitchell is the first man to make jumping over cars a realistic idea. Crowds would gather at parks like Mosswood or Bushrod to watch Hook’s air show. Often people would challenge him to do dunks they didn’t think humanly possible, betting for serious cash in the process. He was notorious for winning amateur dunk contests around California. Just before the 2000 ASG Hook was arrested for robbery and spent the better part of a decade behind bars. Jason Kidd and Gary Payton both agreed that he was the best player to come out of Oakland. Drew Gooden claims he saw Hook jump over a car with a 10 speed bike on top, yes you read that right. Check out a few of his high flying dunks.
4. Billy “The Kid” Harris - Standing at only 6’2 Harris was a prolific long range shooter. An all city selection in high school at Dunbar, he played college ball at Northern Illinois. At NIU he averaged over 24 points as a senior including a 38 point game in Madison Square Garden. Billy was drafted and cut by the Chicago Bulls. He played on year for San Diego of the ABA averaging 8 points per game. But his game was never made for organized ball. Scoop Jackson of the magazine SLAM later dubbed him the best playground basketball player ever. "No one has ever claimed to have seen, heard about or witnessed Billy having a bad game. Not one story, not one game," wrote Jackson. Harris was a star on Chicago’s playground typically holding court for an entire day. Grew up playing with Jabari Parkers dad Sonny on the Chicago playgrounds. A regular at Chicago Summer tournaments his team won the summer league tournament 7 years in a row. At the age of 35 he challenged Michael Jordan to a game of one-on-one, to which Jordan replied “no thanks”. A Great passer he was also blessed with good speed and bounce. His best skill was his shooting as many have called him the best shooter Chicago has ever produced. Teammates and contemporaries swear he had range on his jump shot out to 40 feet.
3. Joe “The Destroyer” Hammond - Legend has it he scored 50 points in one half against Julius Erving at the Rucker. In 1977 he returned to the Rucker Tournament after a four year absence to set a league record with 73 points in a game. The 6’2 guard was a thin and athletic wing who possessed big time shooting ability. Virtually unguardable one-on-one, Hammond gave pros like Tiny Archibald, Julius Erving, Ron Boone a serious run for their money. The Destroyer had his chances to play in the NBA. His reputation was so great, the Lakers team traveled to Harlem to watch him play in the summer. The Lakers took him in the fifth round of the 1971 Draft because Wilt Chamberlain wanted him. They offered him a contract, but he turned it down because there wasn't a no-cut-clause. Other reports say he was too busy making money in the drug game. A couple years later, a pro scout came to see Joe play. Instead of showcasing his ability he chose to ride his hot streak in dice instead. Eventually, Hammond turned to drugs, and ended up serving time in a prison in New York City. The Destroyer set a variety of Rucker scoring records including single game record 82 points in a game. "Pound-for-pound, Joe Hammond was the greatest player ever to come out of Harlem." Says Don Adams, Taft High School coach.
2. Earl “The Goat” Magnigut - Kareem Abdul Jabbar was asked on the day of his retirement, who was the greatest player he had ever played against? Kareem answered, "It would have to be Goat, Earl 'the Goat' Manigault." The Goat played during the basketball revolution of New York City in the 1960s. “The Goat” had a tough time with drugs starting with his expulsion from high school for smoking marijuana. He finished high school at Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina, averaging 31 points and 13 rebounds per game. Magnigut received recruiting letters from North Carolina, Duke, Indiana and hundreds of other college basketball programs. He ended up choosing a historically black college where he only lasted one semester. At 6’1 Magnigut had ridiculous leaping ability, he dunked on some of the NBA’s best shot blockers including Jabbar, Connie Hawkins and Willis Reed. “He reminded me a lot of David Thompson,” says Jabbar. He could really explode above the rim.” Of course he had a signature dunk, the double dunk. He allegedly would dunk the ball, catch it with his left hand, switch it to the right hand, and jam it back through. He showcased his leaping ability by pulling dollar bills off the top of the backboard to win bets around New York. Devoted much of his jumping ability to the fact that he wore ankle weights for much of his youth. Manigault started the Goat Tournament, a summer tourney that would feature NBA stars such as Bernard King and Mario Elie. Eventually he developed a herion addiction and faced jail time. He died in 1998 in his hometown of New York City.
1. Raymond Lewis - Jerry Tarkanian once remarked "Raymond Lewis was the greatest basketball player I ever saw”. Considered the best high school guard in Southern California over the past 40 years. The 6’1 guard had a superb handle for his time and was an intense competitor. He was an elite shooter and could finish amongst the trees around the basket. Lewis won three consecutive California State titles in 1969, 1970 and 1971. During that time he led the Verbum Dei Eagles to an 84-4 record and was named CIF Player of the Year in '70 and ’71. He famously torched a group of LA Lakers for 52 points in a summer league game while still in high school. Lewis chose to attended Cal-State LA, where he scored 73 points against UC Santa Barbara as a college freshman. Lewis left Cal-St. LA after his sophomore season and was drafted in the first round (18th overall). He went to summer league and then training camp with the Philadelphia Sixers. Then a legendary scrimmage in Philadelphia saw Lewis drop 60 points on number one pick Doug Collins. After the scrimmage Lewis demanded a bigger contract to which the Sixers replied he needed to mature for another year. Lewis became a fixture in summer and street ball leagues across southern California. In the 1983 summer pro league he faced off with NBA defensive player of the year Michael Cooper, Lewis gave him 56. Raymond Lewis was one of the greatest players I've ever seen ... nobody can change my mind about that," said basketball pioneer Sonny Vaccaro. For more on Lewis check out this short video.
Honorable Mention: Marques Haynes, "Jumpin" Jackie Jackson, Herman "Helicopter" Knowings, James "Fly" williams, Jack "Black Jack" Ryan, Larry "Bone collector" Williams, Freeway Williams, Raymond "Circus" King, John Staggers, Tyrone "Alimoe" Evans, Malloy "The Future" Nesmith, Sam Worthen, Antoine Joubert, Arthur Sivels, Dwayne "Legend" Rogers, God Shammgod
Wade Boggs is the best beer drinker of all time. The hall of fame baseball player is better known for his drinking habits than the 3,000 hits he racked up or his 5 batting titles. Tales of Boggs have been a large part of sports pop culture for a number of years. Boggs obsession with Chicken, his horse ride after his World Series victory or the mere 46 times he swing and missed in the 1985 season. His most famous story, is his 1994 flight in which Boggs reportedly drank 64 beers starting in Cleveland and ending in Boston.
The legend started to build in 2003 when former Yankee and Mariner reliever Jeff Nelson was on KJR radio in Seattle. He said Boggs could easily drink 50-60 beers on a trip from New York to Seattle. Later in the interview, Nelson called former teammate Paul Sorrento on the air. Sorrento confirmed Nelson’s story and estimated that Boggs could actually drink 70 beers on a cross-country trip.
Jeff Nelson offered a simple look into the daily travel of Boggs. “Wade was always the first one at the club house, he would bring a six pack with him. He’d be there drinking a beer when someone showed up, and as we were all packing our stuff up out of our lockers and getting our bags ready for the trip, Wade would sit there and drink that whole six pack.We were flying out of New Jersey, so it was a drive from Yankee stadium to the airport in New Jersey. Wade would drink another couple of beers on the bus to the airport. At the time, we were flying this older airplane, it couldn’t make it across the country without refueling, so we would stop in North Dakota or something. Wade would drink about a half rack between New Jersey and North Dakota. During they half hour they refueled in North Dakota, Wade would have a few more beers. Back up in the air, Wade would drink another 10, 11, 12 beers on the way out to the west coast. The whole flight from coast to coast usually took us well over 7 hours. We’d touch down, hop on the bus headed to the Kingdome, and Wade would have another beer or two on the bus. Then, all of us would get to the Kingdome and unpack our bags and sit around and BS with each other, and Wade would have a beer in his hand the entire time. He was always one of the last people to leave the club house too.”
After the radio interview, a fan on College Game Day held a sign that read “Did you know Wade Boggs once drank 64 beers on a cross country flight”. This led Tony Kornheiser on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption to ask Boggs about the story. Boggs responded by saying “No it's not true, it wasn't 64, but a lot of people have fun with that and its nothing to brag about. You get board on a cross country flight from Boston to LA, you gotta do something. No, I wont answer the number but put it this way I had a few Miller Lites".
An interview featuring major leaguer Brian Rose exposed more of Boggs habit. In 2001 Rose was claimed off waiver by the Devil Rays while Wade Boggs was a coach there. Rose goes on to describe a flight in which he sat next to Boggs “I was sitting next to him on a plane and a flight attendant came by and gave him a case of beer,” said Rose. “He slid it under the seat and I was like, ‘What’s up with that? We only have an hour flight.’ He said, ‘That’s mine.’ Rose continued “The whole flight, we were just shooting the shit, and he went one beer after the other. I said to him, ‘I’m impressed with the way you hit, but I’m more impressed right now.’ He goes, ‘Yeah, beer doesn’t affect me. I don’t get drunk unless I’ve had at least a case and a half.’ I don’t think he even went to the bathroom.”
In 2015 the story was reexamined, Always Sunny In Philadelphia ran an episode honoring Boggs 64 beers on a flight. Wade plays a ghost of himself in the episode. Behind the scenes Boggs told the shows creator Charlie Day that he once drank 107 beers in a day.
So how exactly is this possible? The skeptics point to the fact that Boggs blood alcohol level would be too high to possibly drink that many beers. Those same skeptics forget to factor in alcohol tolerance into the equation. Maxim magazine called the statement “bullshit” in a recent article. Boggs’ weight was 197 pounds, cans of Miller Lite are 12 ounces and contain 4.2% alcohol. He drank 64 cans of Miller Lite over a 4 hour flight. Taking into consideration his large tolerance level for alcohol you can’t make a realistic estimate on his blood alcohol level. Critics say that much alcohol would kill anyone, however on their scale 40 beers would kill someone. In a recent interview with TMZ, the Chicken-Man finally admitted to drinking more than 100 beers in a day. His choice of beer? Miller Lite of course.
1. Jim Thorpe Thorpe was once considered the greatest athlete in the world. He lived in a time where sports records were an after thought among the mainstream. Jim excelled in football, ballroom dancing, baseball, basketball and track & field. Born an Indian American, Thorpe was relegated to his reservation until he was able to play for the Carlisle School (which competed in NCAA events). He led Carlisle to back to back National Championships in Football. In a game verses number one ranked Harvard, Thorpe scored all of his teams points leading them to a 18-15 upset of Harvard. Thorpe was also able to win the 1912 intercollegiate ballroom dancing championship. He won the 1928 Gold Metal in the Olympic games for Pentathlon and Decathlon. After his career with Carlisle he would play both professional football and professional baseball for over 15 seasons. He finished his baseball career with 91 runs scores, 82 RBIs and a lifetime .252 average in the 289 games in the majors. Thorpe was largely relegated to the minor leagues in his baseball career. His NFL career was much better as he was named to the first ALL-NFL team. Thorpe was also the first president of what would become the NFL.
2. Bo Jackson A rare athlete that could throw a football 60 years, run a 4.2 40 yard dash and bench press over 400 pounds. In 1982, Bo set state school records for indoor high-jump (6'9") and triple-jump (48’8") in high school. He excelled at football and baseball enough to earn a scholarship from Auburn. An immense football talent, he made an immediate impact as a freshman. Jackson was named the Heisman trophy winner his senior. He continued to excel in baseball although he didn’t receive the same kind of hype that he produced on the football field. Following his senior season he was drafted 1st overall in the NFL draft. Because of a dispute with Tampa bay Buccaneers Jackson chose to play pro baseball instead of joining the NFL. He was drafted by the Royals and joined there starting lineup in the big leagues only months later. Eventually Tampa bay traded Jackon’s rights to the Los Angeles Raiders. In his rookie year with the Raiders he was able to beat out hall of fame running back Marcus Allen for the starting spot. Bo spent four years with the Raiders his best year came in 1989 when he rushed for 950 yards, 4 touchdowns to go along with a 5.5 rushing average. Jackson had a career batting average of .250, hit 141 home runs and had 415 RBIs, with a slugging average of .474. On the diamond he didn’t hit for great average but he did display immense power and baseball potential. Jackson displayed his gun like arm strength and terrific speed in the outfield. His best year was 1989, with his effort earning him All-Star status. The power hitter ranked fourth in the league in both home runs, with 32, and RBIs with 105. Bo’s promising career was cut short in an hip injury. The only player to ever be named to the NFL Pro Bowl and MLB All-Star game in the same season.
3. Deion Sanders An absolute freak of nature the 6’2 Sanders was off the charts athletically. Some consider him the fastest player to ever play in the NFL. Out of high school Sanders was drafted in the 6th round by the Kansas City Royals, instead he chose to enroll at Florida State. “Primetime” first entered the National media exposure at Florida State University where he competed in football, baseball and track & field. He was an exceptional defensive back and return man for the Seminoles winning the Jim Thorpe award in 1988. Once in college, Sanders played the first game of a double header, ran a leg of the 4x100 relay, then return to play the second of the double header. Ran an impressive 4.17 in his pro day 40 at Florida State. His baseball career was good enough to drafted by the Yankees in the 30th round of the 1988 draft. Sanders came in with the Yankees, and played with Atlanta, Cincinnati, and San Francisco. In 1992 Sanders hit .304 with 8 HRs, 28 RBIs, 26 SBs and a league leading 14 triples. Many consider Sanders to be the greatest defensive back of all time. Primetime was a feared all pro for many of his seasons with Atlanta, San Francisco and Dallas. He is the NFL career leader in interceptions returned for touchdowns with 9. 53 career interceptions, 9 defensive touchdowns, 19 fumbled recovered, 6 career put returns for TDs and 3 kick returns for TDs. Sanders was named the 1994 defensive player of the year, 9 time pro bowler, 6 time all pro. Primetime was able to win two Superbowl’s won with the 49ers in 94 and another with the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX. Sanders holds the unique distinction of being the only man to hit a home run in the MLB and score a touchdown in the NFL in the same week.
4. Jim Brown One of only a few athletes to make the hall of fame in two different sports. Jim played everything in high school averaging 38 points on the basketball team, dominating on the gridiron, running track and held the distinction of the best lacrosse player in the nation. Jim Brown is arguably the greatest running back of all time but, many sports historians consider him to be the best of all time in Lacrosse. He had a storied career at Syracuse where he was named to the All-American team in football and was also named the Lacrosse player of the year. In his senior season he set school records for highest season rush average (6.2) and most rushing touchdowns in a single game (6). He ran for 986 yards which was good for third most in the country. He also contributed 14 touchdowns as a senior. As a sophomore, he was the second leading scorer for the basketball team (15 ppg), and earned a letter on the track team. His junior year, he averaged 11.3 points in basketball, and was named a second-team All-American in lacrosse. His senior year, he was named a first-team All-American in lacrosse (43 goals in 10 games to rank second in scoring nationally). Brown was taken in the first round of the 1957 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns, the sixth overall selection.After only nine years in the NFL, he departed as the NFL record holder for both single-season (1,863 in 1963) and career rushing (12,312 yards), as well as the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (106), total touchdowns (126), and all-purpose yards (15,549). Every season he played, Brown was voted into the Pro Bowl. At the time he retired many considered him to be the best running back of all time.
5. Charlie Ward Not often is the Heisman Trophy winner playing football as his second sport, such is the case with Charlie Ward. Ward stared in early 90’s for both the Florida State basketball team and football team. He was truly special on the gridiron winning the Heisman Trophy by the largest margin of votes ever. A threat to both run and throw, Ward racked up 3,032 passing yards, 27 touchdowns (only 4 interceptions), 339 rushing yards and 4 running scores. Ward guided the Seminoles to an 18-16 victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, giving FSU and head coach Bobby Bowden its first-ever national title. Former teammates included future NBA players Bob Sura, Doug Edwards and Sam Cassell. As a senior he averaged 10 points and 5 assists leadings the seminoles to the sweet 16. Believed to be a superior football talent Ward promised he would only play in the NFL if he went in the first round. As a result he ended up a first round pick of the New York Knicks in 1994 but was not picked in the NFL draft. He played a workman like 10 year career in the NBA where he appeared in the 1999 NBA Finals. He averaged 6 points and 4 assist on 41 percent shooting for his career. In 1993, Charlie Ward won the James E. Sullivan Award from the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) as the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States.Though Ward did not play baseball in college, he was drafted in the 18th round by the New York Yankees in 1994. An avid tennis player, Ward also shone in the Arthur Ashe Amateur Tennis Tournament in 1994. 6. Jackie Robinson Not only was Jackie Robinson the first African American to play major league baseball, he was a dynamic multi sport athlete. In high school Robinson played shortstop and catcher on the baseball team, quarterback on the football team, and guard on the basketball team. With the track and field squad, he dominated broad jump. During high school he was also a member of the tennis team. In 1936, Robinson won the boys singles championship in the annual Pacific Coast Negro Tennis Tournament. After a short stint in junior college, Robinson chose to attend UCLA, where he became the school's first athlete to play four varsity sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track. In track Robinson won the 1940 NCAA Men's Track and Field Championships in the long jump, jumping over 24 feet. Oddly enough his future career, baseball was Robinson's worst sport at UCLA, he hit .097 in his only season. Robinson bounced around playing football semi professionally in Hawaii and Los Angeles before serving in the War after the Pearl Harbor attacks. After discharge from the Army in 1944 Robinson joined the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro leagues. The shortstop played in 47 games hitting .387 with 5 home runs and 13 stolen bases, good enough to make the 1945 negro league all star game. The Kansas City took notice of his play and signed him on November 1, 1945. He spent one year in the minor leagues before breaking the major league color barrier in 1947. During his 10 major league seasons, Robinson excelled staring in 6 All-Star games and winning the 1949 NL MVP award. The speedy second baseman twice led the league in stolen bases and lead the league in batting average at .342 in 1949.
7. Danny Ainge The only person in the history of the United States to be named a high school All-American in three sports. Ainge excelled in football, basketball and baseball at North Eugene High in Oregon. He led his team to back to back state championships in basketball. As a junior Quarterback Ainge was named to the Parade magazine all american football team. Many thought his best sport was baseball where he was drafted by the Toronto Bluejays straight out of high school. Ainge chose to attend BYU on a basketball scholarship, but before he did that he signed with the Toronto Bluejays. Which meant that Danny would play for the Bluejays and attend BYU at the same time. During his sophomore season Ainge would be called up to the majors by the Bluejays. He hit his first home run at 20 years and 77 days old a franchise record. At BYU Ainge dominated on the basketball court posting at least 18 points, 4 assist and 4 rebounds during each of his four seasons. Ainge concluded his senior year by winning the John R. Wooden Award awarded to the best college player in the nation. During his career at BYU, Ainge was an All-American, the WAC Player of the Year and a four-time All-WAC selection. He concluded his college career having scored in double-figures in 112 consecutive games, an NCAA record at that time. After his third season with the Bluejays, Ainge decided to give up baseball to focus on basketball (he could never hit the curve). The guard was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1981. Ainge would help to contribute to 2 Boston championships in 1984 and 1986. His best season came during 1988 when he averaged 15 points, 6 assists and 3 rebounds good enough to be selected as an all-star. Over a fourteen year NBA career, Ainge finished with 11,964 points and 4,199 assists.
8. John Elway A two sport star at Stanford University many thought that Elway was the best pro quarterback prospect to ever come out of college. After his high school baseball career was over he was drafted by the Royals. Instead he attended Stanford as he hit .361 with nine home runs and 50 RBIs in 49 games as a sophomore. After his sophomore season he was picked in the first round by the Yankees. He hit .314 with a club-high 24 homers with the Yankees' single-A farm club. Elway started for three seasons on the gridiron for Stanford. He finished his football career with 9,349 passing yards, 77 passing touchdowns to only 39 interceptions. Elway was taken first in the 1983 NFL draft by Baltimore but was then traded to Denver. Many thought he did have a chance to have a great career in the MLB including George Steinbrenner. A story surfaced of George Steinbrenner laying out the 1984 New York Yankee Lineup in which Elway was featured at RF and batted fifth in the order. Elway went on to a stored NFL career where he finished his legacy with two Superbowl victories his final two seasons. He finished his career with over 50,000 passing yards, 300 passing touchdowns and was selected to the pro bowl 9 times. He was also named the MVP in 1987 and the Superbowl MVP in 1999.
9. Keith Erickson John Wooden once remarked that the best athlete he had ever coached was Erickson. The socal native came into UCLA with a scholarship for both basketball and baseball. The multi skilled forward was part of UCLA first basketball championship as a junior, he started on the undefeated team averaging 10 points and 9 rebounds. After winning the 1964 NCAA basketball title, he played on the 1964 Us Men’s Olympic Volleyball team (the 1st US Olympic volleyball team). During his senior season he helped the basketball team to repeat as national championships finishing 28-2. The forward was named 3rd team All-American in 1965 averaging 13 point and 8 rebounds. After his impressive college career he was drafted in the third round of the NBA draft by the San Francisco Warriors. He won a championship on the legendary 1972 Lakers team that featured Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain. His best season came in 1974 with the Suns where he averaged 14 points and 6 rebounds. Erickson went on to play 12 seasons in the NBA with the Warriors, Bulls, Lakers and Suns. He finished his career with 7,251 points and 3,4449 rebounds.
10. Dave Debusschere Known as a hall of fame basketball player, DeBusschere dominated in both basketball and baseball at the University of Detroit. He averaged 24 points a game in basketball, helping Detroit reach the National Invitation Tournament twice and the NCAA tournament once. He also pitched the Titans to three NCAA baseball tournament berths as the star pitcher. DeBusschere pitched for the Detroit Tigers for only one season. However he excelled during that one season with a 2.90 era in 14 relief appearances. Debusschere eventually decided to just stick to basketball where he would help lead the Knicks to two championships in the early 1970s. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983 after a 12-year career in which he averaged 16.1 points and 11 rebounds while being named to eight NBA All-Star teams. Part of the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. Traded to the New York Knicks in 1968, he played for championship teams in 1970 and 1973.
Honorable Mention : Joe Mauer, Dave Winfield, Scott Burrell, Todd Helton, Tony Gwynn, Jeff Samardzija, Bob Gibson, Kenny Lofton, Carl Crawford, Randy Moss, Russell Wilson, Matt Barnes, Julius Peppers, Dick Groat, Gene Conley, Chuck Connors, Kirk Gibson, Brian Jordan, Willie Gault, Antonio Gates, Jimmy Grahm, Ed Jones, Wilt Chamberlain
Years before Steph Curry ruled the Bay Area there was another star that ruled the bay area basketball landscape. During his era he was one of the best scorers to ever touch hardwood, the enigmatic Rick Barry. His off court behavior effected people’s opinion of his game more than anyone in basketball history. A number of players did not find the experience of playing with him pleasant. “You’ll never find a bunch of players sitting around talking about the good old days with Rick. His teammates and opponents generally and thoroughly detested him.”—former Warriors executive Ken Macker
People simply ignore Barry’s basketball pedigree because he's perceived to be an asshole. Take a look at Tony Kornheiser's famous sports illustrated article titled A Voice Crying in the Wilderness. Bill Simmon’s assessment of Barry’s career in his Book of Basketball is not much better, ranking him behind John Havlicheck in his list of all time players. Barry got into fights with family, friends, coaches, teammates, media members, owners, commissioners and fans. Among his biggest blunders could be the racial remark he made to Bill Russell on live tv. Or it could be the time he told the people of Virginia he didn’t want his kids growing up sounding like hillbillies with a Virginia accent. Who could forget the horrible toupee for an entire season. In his book titled Confessions of a Basketball Gypsy, he even admitted to once punching a nun. And then of course there was the 1976 playoffs in which Barry was accused of refusing to shoot because his teammates didn’t back him in a fight.
Rick was an unbelievable scorer during his day, in fact he lead the NCAA, ABA and NBA in scoring (the only player to do that). The smooth forward was known for his underrated athletic ability, great offensive IQ and quick feet (check his full reel of highlights here). The small forward was a legendary free-throw shooter employing an outdated underhand “granny shot”. Barry was born the son of a basketball coach. He attended Rosselle Park High School in Elizabeth, New Jersey and quickly displayed his basketball talent. He was good enough for the University of Miami to offer him a full basketball scholarship. Under future father in law Bruce Hale, Barry led division 1 in scoring at 37.4 ppg.
In his first NBA season Barry dominated to average 25.7 ppg, he was named Rookie of the year and was named to the All-NBA team. His second season Barry averaged 35.6 ppt and led the league in scoring. Only Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and Elgin Baylor have averaged more points. He took home All-Star MVP honors in front of his home crowd with 38 points in the game. That season Rick led them all the way to the NBA finals where the warriors faced Wilt Chamberlains Philadelphia 76ers. The series was pushed to six games with Philadelphia celebrating a title on their home floor. During the series Barry averaged an NBA finals record 40.8 ppt during the series. Which included a 55 point game and games of 43,44 respectively. Barry's points per game during an NBA finals was only passed by Michael Jordan in 1993.
After 2 seasons in the NBA Barry decided to jump ship and play for the newly formed ABA. He signed with the Oakland Oaks and his father in law Bruce Hale. The ABA came after Barry aggressively, they offered him ownership and a bigger contract. He was the first NBA star to sign with the renegade ABA. Barry was court ordered to sit out his first year for the Oats before returning to action in 1969. He played in the ABA for 5 seasons, although is talent largely went unnoticed playing in what most thought was a lesser league than the NBA. Only a handful of people were able to see Barry play in his prime as the ABA went without a national television deal. His league-jumping was perceived by fans as money driven, even though other players were taking advantage of the financial opportunities provided by the ABA.
The swingman made an immediate impact in the ABA, leading the Oaks to the ABA Crown in 1969. After scoring 34 points per game he finished second to Indiana’s Mel Daniels for league MVP. After 1969 Barry found himself in court after he tried to jump back to the NBA. He went on to play three more seasons in the ABA with the New York Nets and Washington Capitols. Barry admitted “If I had to do it over again, i’d wait for some other fool to do it.”
Barry was back with the NBA and the Golden State Warriors for the 1972-1973 season. Playing with lesser talent in the ABA forced him to improve other areas of his game. His defensive effort and technique improved. As did his ball handling abilities and passing skills .
During the 1972-73 season, he scored 22.3 points per game and earned the first of six NBA free-throw titles. He teamed with hall of fame center Nate Thurmond to beat Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s Milwaukee Bucks in six games of the first round. However they were eliminated in the conference finals by the Lakers in 5 games. Barry improved his scoring average to 25.1 points per game in 1973-74. He had his greatest scoring night on March 26, 1974, against the Portland Trail Blazers. The small forward had a legendary game putting up 64 points, 45 of which he scored in the second half. Rick continued to show the development in his game, finishing among the NBA top 10 in assist with 6.1 per game.
Barry arguably had the finest year of his career in 1974-75. He led the Warriors to the NBA title, averaged 30.6 points (second to the Buffalo Braves' Bob McAdoo), and led the league in free-throw percentage (.904) and steals (2.9 per game). He ranked sixth in the NBA in assists with 6.2 per game, the only front court player in the top 10. Golden State's 1974-75 roster included NBA Rookie of the Year Keith Wilkes (known later as Jamaal Wilkes), a smooth, athletic, defensive minded small forward. Wilkes was the second leading scorer with 14.2 points per game. The rest of the squad was a collection of hardworking role players. Barry led the team to a 48-34 regular-season record. The Warriors led the league in scoring, with 108.5 points per game average.
In the 1975 NBA Finals, the Warriors shocked the world by sweeping the favored Washington Bullets in four games. How big of an upset was it? Nobody had expected the Warriors to go deep into the playoffs, the arena in Oakland had been booked for another event. The NBA Finals were played at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Barry was named NBA Finals MVP with averages of 29.5 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists (heres the tape). The only member of an NBA championship team to have posted a higher regular season scoring average at the time was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who poured in 31.7 points per game for the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971. It is often said that players do not win championships unless there are other great players on the team (they mean All-Stars). The 1975 is one of only a few teams to win a championship with just one All-Star on the roster (the others being the 1978 Bullets, 1994 Rockets, 2003 Spurs, 2004 Pistons and 2011 Mavericks).
In the 1975-76 campaign Barry shouldered less of the scoring burden, averaging 21 points while distributing 496 assists. He recorded 19 assists in one game in a game in 1976, then a record for a forward. The Warriors won 59 games, good for first overall seed. However things turned sour in the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns. In game 7 rookie Ricky Sobers tried to fight Barry, few of his teammates helped. The Warriors were up at halftime as Barry led the team with 14 points. However in the second half he scored only six points falling to Phoenix 94-86 at home. Many critics pointed to Barry, accusing him of intentionally throwing the game because of the lack of support he received from his teammates during the fight. The Suns’ Dick Van Arsdale said afterward that “Rick seemed disenchanted,”. Barry has his own account of what happened. “Anybody who knows me knows that there's no way in the world I'd intentionally do something that would jeopardize an opportunity to win a ball game, especially when we had a chance to win a championship. There's no way in the world I'd do that. I didn't pout. I didn't try to prove a point. It means too much to me to win."
In 1976-77, Barry averaged 21.8 points, as the Warriors fell to 46-36 and lost in the conference semifinals. In his last season with Golden State they failed to make the playoffs as he averaged 23.1 points, 5.4 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game. When his contract was up in 1978, he signed with the Houston Rockets. Rick played along side Moses Malone, Calvin Murphy and Rudy Tomjanovich in Houston. He dished out a career-high 502 assists (6.3 apg), while his scoring average fell from 23.1 to 13.5 points per game. In his last season Barry’s averaged dropped to 12 ppg.
During 14 seasons of professional basketball, he averaged 23.2 points in the NBA and 30.5 points in his 4 ABA seasons. Barry totaled 25,279 points, which ranks him among the top scorers in basketball history. The swingman was also efficient shooting over 45% for his career. He averaged more than 30 points per game four different times. He was named to 12 All-Star teams, 4 All-NBA First Teams, and 5 All-ABA First Teams. At the time of his retirement, Barry's .900 career free-throw percentage was the best in NBA history. In one season, 1978-79, he missed only 9 free-throw attempts. In the playoffs he was even more prolific, scoring 24.8 points per game in his NBA postseason career and 33.5 points per game in the ABA.
The best explanation of Rick Barry came from his former Golden State teammate Al Attles "Rick goes his own way. Superstars always do. They all think differently. If Rick has a drawback it's that he is not very patient. He can't understand why a guy can't play the game the way he does. That is a fault of all superstars. You may say of these people that they aren't regular guys. Well...they aren’t." . All of his exploits have gone well documented and perhaps he is an asshole. But don’t let his exploits blind you of his basketball genius. His basketball ability is underrated and overlooked in the history of basketball.