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Hotard- 10 Best Athletes I have ever seen

As I was driving home from work, an idea popped in my head. I began thinking about the best athletes I have seen during my 24 years in this world and I decided to put together a list of the top 10.
My brainstorming came to 20 total athletes ranging from four different sports: basketball, baseball, football and soccer.
While soccer, baseball and football have always been in my wheelhouse from the time I was a young child, basketball really began to come into the mix around 2009-10. I always followed it, just not as in depth as I do now.
After much self debate and narrowing down, I finally have it. I can confidently say that performing surgery might have been easier.
Before reading ahead, please make notes that I set several ground rules for myself before coming up with the list…
-The athlete must play in a team sport. That means superstars like Michael Phelps and Tiger Woods are ineligible. Trust me, both of them would be on the list otherwise.
-You had to watch the athlete with your own two eyes and understand what you were seeing. Sorry to the people my age who will complain that my list doesn’t have the great Michael Jordan. Why you ask? Because I was 7 when he won his last title. The only recollection I have from Michael Jordan is Space Jam, which trolls may say is reason enough for him to make the list.
-The athlete may not have translated to the professional realm, but perhaps you loved watching them so much in college and it is two to four years you wish you could have back.
The parameters are set. Let’s do it!

Honorable Mention

fullycoveredsports.com

Ken Griffey Jr, Outfielder, Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox
Career Stats: .284, 630 Home Runs, 1,836 RBIs

Junior will be the only honorable mention for my list because I feel dirty leaving him off. He was THE GUY growing up in the late 1990’s. Let’s be honest, who didn’t love Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball on Nintendo 64? He was truly a transcendent star because of his “I am here to have fun” kind of attitude. He also had one of the smoothest swings I have ever seen to go along with his smooth demeanor. Unfortunately, the second half of his career was injury-plagued. I always wonder how good his numbers could have been if he stayed healthy? Either way, the Kid will always be one of the greats that I will never forget.

10- Randy Moss, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers
Career Stats: 982 rec, 15,292 yards, 156 TDs

It did not take Moss long to show his talent. The first round pick from Marshall caught 17 touchdowns in his rookie season. From 1998 to 2004, Moss only had one season where he didn’t reach double digits in touchdowns and under 1,200 yards. Everyone thought his career was dead when he joined the Oakland Raiders (Rightfully so). After two long seasons, he returned to form and set the bar for receiving touchdowns in a season with 23 when he jumped ship to the New England Patriots. How many times have you heard someone scream that a defender got “Mossed” in a pick up game? There is a reason for that. Personally, I am glad he revitalized his career when he joined the Patriots because people began to forget how good he really was because of his off the field antics and his two years in limbo.

kobe-bryant-2419- Kobe Bryant, Shooting Guard, Los Angeles Lakers
Career Stats: 25.4 points per game, 4.8 assists per game, 5.4 rebounds per game

Unfortunately, basketball was not a top priority for me when he and Shaq three-peated and tore up the league. However, the black mamba has had enough in the tank to sustain greatness for the last 18 years. The last two or three have been rough though. I started to really get into a basketball around the time of Kobe’s second run with Pau Gasol. Bryant has that “killer instinct” you always hear about. He is also one of the most gifted scorers in the history of the league. Unlike some of the elite scorers of today, like the Houston Rocket’s James Harden, Bryant gave the Lakers both ends of the floor. Because of his scoring ability, I feel like a lot of fans forget that he has accolades for his defensive prowess, like 9 time All-NBA defensive team. Much like Moss, when people shoot turn around jumpers, there’s a reason they yell “Kobe” in your local recreation leagues. He is a true transcendent star of the NBA.

ladainian_tomlinson-3638- LaDainian Tomlinson, Running Back, San Diego Chargers and New York Jets
Career Stats: 13,684 rush yards, 145 rush TDs, 4,772 rec yards, 17 TDs

Size, speed, power, the total package for a running back. LT was a blessing to watch through the early 2000’s. The three-time first team all-pro running back played in a time where the backfield fueled the offenses. He currently sits at fifth for most rushing yards and third in total touchdowns for a career. He also holds the record for touchdowns scored in a single season with 31. In 2003, he became the first and only running back to have over 1,000 yards rushing and catch 100 passes. I am just not sure there will ever be another running back who has a 9 year stretch of dominance the way LT did.

soc_g_wambacha_5767- Abby Wambach, United States Forward
Career Stats: 183 international goals, World Cup Champion, Three-time Gold Medalist

The girl has a knack for scoring goals as she holds the international record for women. Not only did she score, she scored when it mattered most. I saw it happen time and time again. The header she sailed in the net during the 122nd minute against Brazil in the 2011 World Cup quarterfinal match will always be a play I remember. It sent the game to a shootout, which the United States went on to win. I remember when Wambach first stormed onto the scene, she garnered comparisons to the great Mia Hamm. Wambach certainly lived up to all of the hype and it was amazing to see her finally get her first and only World Cup as a player.

15556320-mmmain6. Derek Jeter, Shortstop, New York Yankees
Career Stats: .310, 3,465 hits, 260 Home Runs, 1,311 RBIs

Loyalty. Honor. Respect. Jeter epitomizes the type of athlete you want your favorite organization to have. Spending his entire career with the New York Yankees, he helped them claim five World Series Titles. He was probably the most consistent athlete I have seen in my lifetime thus far. I mean, how many times did we see him poke a ball into right field for a base hit? His last at bat EVER was a freaking walk-off hit through the gap between first and second base. I have only seen one Major League Baseball game, which was in Tampa for Jeter’s last season. The second he announced 2014 would be his last year, I knew I had to go see the captain play. In that game, he made the same game winning RBI single he had made his entire career.

FBL-ESP-CUP-BARCELONA-GETAFE5- Lionel Messi, Forward, Barcelona and Argentina
Career Stats: 286 Club Goals, 46 International Goals, Four-Time Footballer of the Year

Messi is the biggest football/soccer star in the world right now. Messi is a god with a soccer ball. How is he so fast, yet so effective in keeping the ball attached to his feet? I have gone on Youtube binges in awe of his highlights. He knows how to slice defenders like butter and then finish at the goal. Despite the Argentine not winning a World Cup, he still receives recognition for arguably being the greatest of all time. He certainly is the best player that I have ever seen.

cnbc_sports_defectors_bonds24- Barry Bonds, Outfield, Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants
Career Stats: .298, 762 Home Runs, 1,996 RBIs, 514 Stolen Bases

To all the baseball purists who would scoff that I have Bonds on this list, stop. He was great before he started taking PEDs and he was great after. Baseball was infested with doping and I am tired of the argument so save it. Although I think Bonds is an arrogant jerk, good God he was talented. People forget that before his head and body swelled like a balloon from all the steroids, he was a 30 home run and 30 steal kind of player. On top of the that, he was a phenomenal defender. In 2001, he finished the season with 156 hits, 73 were Home Runs. People can try to erase what he did in his career, but my eyes and mind will always have vivid memories of Bonds crushing the crap out of the ball at the most pitcher-friendly ball park in the MLB.

bloody-tebow3- Tim Tebow, Quarterback ,Florida Gators
Career Stats: 8,927 passing yards, 83 TDs/16 Ints, 2,947 rushing yards, 57 Rush TDs, Heisman Trophy Winner, Three-time Heisman finalist, Two-time National Champion

He is the greatest college football player that I have ever seen, period. Look above to the accolades and it is fairly easy to see why I believe that. His NFL career may not have panned out, but you can’t take away what he did at the college level. Urban Meyer knew he had a special talent in Tebow, which is why he used his QB as his main running back as well. At 6’3 and 240 plus pounds, Tebow is a monster and tough to bring down. If you stacked the box, he had weapons such as Riley Cooper, Percy Harvin and Aaron Hernandez to throw to. Tebow made it damn near impossible to stop Florida’s offense. I always loved his spirit and competitive nature. There will always be a spot in my memory bank for number 15.

peyton-manning2- Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos
Career Stats: 69,691 Passing Yards, 530 TDs/234 INTs, Five-time NFL MVP, Super Bowl Champion

Peyton Manning was the face of the NFL growing up. You could find him on every other commercial on NFL Sundays. There is a good reason for it, he helped change the game into what the quarterback position is now. Quarterbacks now need a greater understanding for the position before a snap is even taken. They now have to control the line of scrimmage and make pre-snap reads and audible if need be. Still to this day, I don’t believe there is a quarterback in the league who is nearly as good at the line of scrimmage. Towards the end of the season, Manning underperforms due to his age. If the latter for him is 35+ touchdowns and 4,600+ yards, most guys can’t do that in their best season. That’s not too shabby.

AP_lebron3_ml_140711_16x9_9921- LeBron James, Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat
Career Stats: 27.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 6.9 apg, Four-time NBA MVP, Two-time NBA Champion

Since being drafted in 2003, he has been the most decorated player since Michael Jordan. He has also been the most criticized athlete I have ever seen. He has reached the finals five straight years, which is incredible. It is mesmerizing watching him play every year. There isn’t a single athlete who I have enjoyed more than LeBron. At 6’8 and 260+ pounds, he is a mammoth of a man. The fact he can dribble and pass the basketball like a point guard is amazing. There is no weakness in his overall game. He can score, rebound, pass and defend. He can literally do it all. Because of his size, speed and overall athleticism, he can defend a team’s best player regardless of position. That is sick. Even though Cleveland lost this past year’s NBA finals, watching LeBron do what he did during that run is something I don’t think we will ever see again. For all those who hate on him because you worship Michael Jordan, stop and enjoy the show. Put your fists away for a minute and enjoy the talent. There will never be a greater specimen than LeBron James.

BONUS…

While a lot of thought went into my top 10, I started thinking about the top 5 athletes of tomorrow. I will give you a short list of five young stars who I think could make their way onto this top 10 by the time their career is finished.

neymar-may-not-score-as-many-goals-for-barcelona-as-messi-but-he-might-end-up-a-better-international-star-than-even-pele5- Neymar, 23, Forward, Brazil and Barcelona
Career Stats: 44 International Goals, 31 Club Goals

He is one of the brightest young stars in soccer at just 23. Neymar helped lead Brazil all the way to the 2014 Fifa World Cup Finals where they were demolished by Germany in his absence. The fact he is playing alongside Messi on Barcelona will only help him long term.

MLB: NLDS-San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals4- Bryce Harper, 22, Outfield, Washington Nationals
Career: .284, 82 Home Runs, 211 RBIs

I have been following Harper since he was in high school. Hype always surrounded him because of his ability to hit the long ball. So far, he has not been a disappointment. Harper is having a magnificent season in 2015 with a .330 average, 27 home runs and 64 RBIs.

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks3- Russell Wilson, 26, Quarterback Seattle Seahawks
Career Stats: 9.950 Pass yards, 72 TDs/26 INTs, 1,877 Rush yds, 11 rush TDs, Super Bowl Champion

Since coming to Seattle in 2012, he has been to two Super Bowls. I understand he has a great running back in Marshawn Lynch and one of the best defenses of all-time. I seem to remember a young guy by the name of Patriots Tom Brady having a similar set up early in his career, so let’s not use that as a write off to how good Wilson is. The 5’11 quarterback knows how to manipulate the pocket and make plays on the run. I see it about four or five times a game where makes a throw 25-30 yards downfield placing it in a perfect spot to where only the receiver can get to it. I am excited to see what he does with a legitimate go-to guy in Jimmy Graham.

anthony-davis-nba-boston-celtics-new-orleans-pelicans-850x5602- Anthony Davis, 22, Forward, New Orleans Pelicans
Career: 19.7 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 2.5 bpg

Davis is coming off of a fantastic 2015 campaign where he finished with 24 ppg, 10 rpg and nearly 3 bpg. With new head coach, Alvin Gentry, Davis is about to be milked into an even bigger star now that a high octane offense is coming to the Big Easy and I can’t wait to watch.

Andrew-Luck_crop_north1- Andrew Luck, 25, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
Career Stats: 12,957 Pass yards, 86 TDs/43 INTs

When Luck was drafted three years ago, I believed all the hype that he was destined to be a Hall of Fame QB and maybe the greatest to ever play. He took a 3-13 Colts team and made them a playoff contender. In his first three seasons, the Colts have yet to miss the playoffs and he has improved each year working with limited weapons and an abysmal offensive line. No signal caller has been pressured or hit more since Luck has entered the league. Luck has been knocked down or sacked 352 times in three years. Yet, he has not missed the playoffs and also managed to throw 40 touchdowns last season. Yep, I am still believing he could be the greatest of all time 10 years from now.

Leave your thoughts and comments below.

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Time for the NBA to make a change

It is about time that the National Basketball Association does something about player eligibility.

It is clear that undergraduates do not want to be apart of a dynasty and play all four years in college. Instead, they would rather play one year and then turn pro as the current eligibility rules require them to do.

Why can’t players just turn pro after graduating from high school? The athletes would have the opportunity to sink or swim at the professional level, while the players who actually want to play college basketball and get an education will be able to play at a more prestigious school in a better conference and in front of more people.

There have been success stories for players who opted to go pro.

Players that skipped college

Year Drafted Player Career Stats
1974 (ABA) Moses Malone 20 PPG; 12 RPG
1995 Kevin Garnett 18 PPG; 6 RPG
1996 Kobe Bryant 25 PPG; 5 RPG; 5 APG
2003 LeBron James 27 PPG; 7 RPG; 7 APG

There have also been some disasters. Though some of the flops played many seasons in the NBA, they never quite prospered like they were supposed to.

Players that flopped

Year Drafted Player Career Stats
2000 Darius Miles 8 Seasons; 10 PPG
2001 Kwame Brown 13 Seasons; 6 PPG; 5 RPG
2004 Robert Swift 4 Seasons; 10 PPG; 4 RPG
2004 Sebastian Telfair 12 Seasons; 7 PPG; 3 APG

*Stats courtesy Basketball-Reference.com 

If players decide to play for the NCAA, they should be required to play for at least three years like in the NFL.

If the NBA did this all parties involved would benefit from the change.

  • The NBA would be able to draft franchise players at a much younger age if players come out of HS.
  • Players that go to college will get a chance to learn from another quality coach before going to the pros.
  • The NCAA would be able to exploit players for more than one season.
  • The men’s college game would become even more competitive thus creating a better product.

Respected college head coaches opinions:

“College is not for everybody. So if a kid doesn’t want to go to college, let him go to the pros. Let him go into the [D-League]. And if someone does want to go to college, let them go. We’re still going to have great basketball teams,” Rick Pitino said.

“Major League Baseball has the best idea of all. Three years before they’ll take a kid out of college, then they have a minor league system that they put the kids in. I’m sure that if the NBA followed the same thing, there would be a lot of kids in a minor league system that still were not good enough to play in the major NBA,” Bobby Knight.

Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed seeing Kentucky season. I believe that John Calipari is a creative virtuoso in the field of recruiting. You deserve to go to the Final Four every year whenever you can build a new program with that high of a turnover. Conversely, wasn’t college basketball better with group of recognizable players? You will never forget the Fab Five or Phi Slama Jama.

There are arguments for both side of this issue, but any system has to better than the one they are currently operating under.

Photo: Getty Images

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All in the Family

All in the Family was a hit 1970's show.
All in the Family was a hit 1970’s show.

As we end a great sports weekend, our staff has noticed that the sports that were featured this weekend resemble the hit 1970’s show, All in the Family. WHAT! You are comparing a comedy to various sports. Yes, we are, just because it is necessary. It was a show that had complex roles and a lot of comedy. It is easy to laugh at these sports.

Archie Bunker was set in his ways. Archie made mistakes and never admitted them. College football is the exact same way. Should college football players be paid to play. Yes, they should at least get a percentage. If the school is selling a jersey that has a number of a famous football player then give the kid his/her money. The players sign an agreement that the NCAA can use a likeness of the player and another that said that a player couldn’t collect any money on their name. None of this make sense. If II can’t make a dollar off of my name, why can you?

The only reason Texas A&M is relevant is because of a certain player we promised to never mention. The same brat that has a big mouth and who will not be as good as he says he is. He did put Nicholls State University on the map this summer by having a huge meltdown. Anyways, it is understandable if Texas A&M pimps him, but when the NCAA sells the jersey #12, it is clear they are trying to make money.

The National Football League plays Edith Bunker. It may be more commonly known as the No Fun League. Edith was a person that was honest and she did her best to never make someone around her sad. However, Edith was not the brightest crayon in the box, nor did her elevator go to the top floor. This weekend the NFL has made a “dingbat” decision.

Teams will now be flagged if a player uses any type of obscenity. Are you kidding me? Football is a sport that is played by emotion and what group of words yields those emotions better than obscenities. Lamar Odom will have more hits than the NFL censor button.

Gloria Stivic was a young person who was charismatic and optimistic. Gloria reminds us of the Women’s National Basketball Association. The WNBA has great talent but it is overshadowed by all of the popular sports going on around it. The NBA is a great big brother to the women’s league, however fans do not come out to support the female talent. The league only has twelve teams, but they are not all in major markets. It does not help that the end of the WNBA season ends as the football season begins, and as baseball ends. Really, why would we look at a league that has no stars whenever we could be watching our fantasy football scores pour in. Brittany Greiner is a person with a lot of talent and she is the future of the league, but they are not taking advantage of it. Like Gloria, the WNBA is not the most popular, but with a little more personality it can become greater.

For the role of Mike Stivic we have a tie. Huh, someone has to win the role. It does not happen in all cases. Full House had two Michelle Tanner’s. If they can do it, we can too. Major League Baseball and boxing have been a cornerstone in American sports for a long time, thus why they are the most stubborn. This also makes them the best roles for “Meathead”. They both know it all.

Baseball has opted to use an extended replay system at the start of the 2014 season. The teams will be voting on the decision at the winter baseball meetings later this year. However, the sport does not want to challenge balls and strikes. Only reviewable plays can be reviewed, however, non-reviewable calls can still be argued with the home plate umpire or the crew chief. Baseball is so rich in history, but why have all of this technology and not use it. The purpose of human error is what again.? It is an error. It’s like Americans listening to South Korean music. Yeah, we like it, but it gets old quick. It get old very quick.

Boxing makes a strong case to being named “Meathead”. Boxing had a huge weekend. Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. defeated Canelo Alvarez by majority decision. Okay what is next though. The sport that gave us Ali, Holmes, Tyson, Marciano, Frazier, Foreman, and Dempsey is dying before us. The last time boxing had a hit Chris hit Rhianna. Take a deep breathe. Now name five more relevant boxers who are still fighting in the squared circle. The UFC and MMA have taken over the entire demographic. The fight that would have included Mayweather and Pacquiao will never happen.

All in the Family was a great show and it lasted many of seasons, but these sports have got to get their acts together. Please save the drama for the next season of a NBC drama. God knows they need one.