Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sport lists

I don't spend a lot of time on sports in this blog because sports has not been a big part of my adult life. But, once in a while, why not? Here are some top ten lists.  I can allow people a little argument, but after a week or so I am going to make these lists official and binding on everyone in the world unless you can change my mind. The opinions are mine, but the stats, of course, I had to look up.

Top twenty NFL Quarterbacks

I'm considering retired players only to avoid dealing with Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers (who I sometimes call Aaron Brown. I know, I know) and Drew Brees, all who would fit in her somewhere. My opinion here is not based on Super Bowls, though winning championships is worth something, but who was the most talented and accomplished in my opinion.

Historic (Started watching football in the mid-60s and Unitas and Starr are the first QBs I remember).

1. Steve Young - I know this will be controversial so I'll defend it a bit. First, he spent the first seven years of his career when he would have the most energy and be most uninjured wasting it in the USFL, playing in Tampa and then sitting behind Joe Montana, also one of the greatest quarterbacks ever. They should have traded one of them. If so, they might have would have won even more championships because both couldn't play at the same time and they could have gotten some great talent with a trade. I would have traded Montana and there would be no disputing my putting Young first at all. Even when he got a rare chance to step in and play in SF he could be awesome. I still remember in his first year when he came in for an injured Montana and threw 4 touchdowns like he had been starting for years. But, in the seven years that it was his show (when he was healthy) he won the Super Bowl, won the passing title 4 times (only a few others have done that), set the standard for being the highest rated quarterback - is still the highest rated of all retired QB's and still remains no. 3 overall despite the fact that it is so much easier now that no one is even allowed to frown or think mean thoughts about the QB when they tackle him.  He is also, and I think this is sometimes overlooked about him, the no. 3 rushing QB of all time (and the two ahead of him, Vick and Cunningham, cannot begin to compete with him overall). He also rushed for more TDs than any other QB. Many other records but that is for Wikipedia. He did all this despite being injured over and over including multiple concussions.  For what it is worth, though I don't factor it in, I also always thought he had a great attitude, being competitive, but keeping it in perspective.

2. Dan Marino - Just nicked by Young. He is probably even a better passer, although he could not run to save his life. His arm was incredibly quick, powerful and accurate.

3. Dan Fouts  - And if Marino wasn't the greatest passer, then it might have been Fouts. I wonder what would have happened if he played on a really good team.

4. Sonny Jurgenson - A personal favorite. He could pass, run, everything. But, passing was his forte and still at age 40, even splitting time, he won the passing title.  

5. Joe Montana - He was a great QB and I need say nothing more about him, such is his fame. I know many people think he was the best and I'm not knocking him at all by placing him 5th. I just think the other four were better.

6. Johnny Unitas - He was the greatest for many years and some would put him at the top given the rigor of the game then and his great consistency.

7. Bart Starr - Unitas' competition. He was the NFL's Russell to Unitas' Chamberlain.

8. John Elway - Some surveys rank him first. He had an amazing ability to come back and went to the Super Bowl, not always with the best team, repeatedly.

9. Brett Favre - Probably as good as Elway and maybe better. You have to make choices and I just like Elway better. But there are those who think he is the best ever.

10. Len Dawson - Take away Namath's fame because he won the first Super Bowl for the AFL and Dawson is the greater of the two. But, Dawson won the big one the next year, in the last game for the AFL. His accuracy was incredible.

11. Roger Staubach - In his time, maybe the best for a few years.

12. Jim Kelly - If he could have won just once it would have been justice.

13. Fran Tarkenton  - My favorite scrambler and yet a great passer. Reminds me of Jurgenson a lot.

14. Kurt Warner - A great story, coming out of arena football. It's possible I might have him way too low.

15. Terry Bradshaw  - Not as talented as many others here, particularly as a passer, but much better than most. His clutch play, toughness and many rings earn his entry here.

16. Troy Aikman - He seems forgotten now in the era of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, but he was in their league.

17. Daryle Lamonica - Lamonica was probably my favorite quarterback, along with Dawson, back in the 60s, and not just because of the Heidi game (if you don't know what that means, look it up, as it somewhat changed television programming). He certainly had great receivers, but someone had to put the ball in their hands and great quarterbacks tend to have great receivers. He was very clutch. I always thought Oakland had a chance to win if he could get the ball.

18. Joe Theisman - Best known for what Lawrence Taylor did to his leg, but I thought a great player.

19. Joe Namath - I never liked Namath's game all that much, but you can't deny that he helped change football forever. He did not have great career stats, but did have a few outrageous years. Still, he helped make the NFL what is by winning that first Super Bowl for the AFL in 69, famously guaranteeing it before the game. I am also influenced by Bill Walsh's and Don Shula's high opinion of him because if I could have anyone advise me on drafting a QB, they'd be up there (I know Walsh is dead - leave me alone).

20. Bob Griese - The Dolphins were arguably the two greatest pro team of the 1970s and Griese was their guy except when injured.  He was there for their two great Super Bowl years, though I suppose you could argue Mrs. Griese could have successfully quarterbacked them those years.

Sorry Warren Moon.  I'm sure others. Everyone can't be on the list.

Prehistoric times

1. Otto Graham

2. Y.A. Tittle

3. Norm Van Brocklin

4. Sammy Baugh

5. Sid Luckman

Top ten NBA centers to date

This includes active players, but only one makes the list.

1. Wilt Chamberlain - I know Russell won all those championships and Chamberlain just one.  Certainly being part of a championship team, and more so, many championships, means something.  I just find it a ridiculous contention though to suggest that it is the main factor though I hear that even from renowned commentators. However, it is a factor that is randomly applied only to some players. For example, after Russell, the player who won the most championships in the NBA is Sam Jones, who won 10. Certainly he was a very good player. I don't know if you would say he was great.  I don't think that anyone would say though that he was even remotely as good as Oscar Robertson, who won only one. Some other players who won multiple championships: Robert Horry, a very good, but certainly not a great player, won 7. John Salley, also a good player, won 4. Winning championships means that someone was on the best team, and perhaps was a big part of it, but it does not necessarily mean he was better than the next guy. You can wiki Chamberlain's stats. Arguably, he was the greatest player, relative to other players at the same position and at the same time, in the history of major pro sports. No one else has approached his personal dominance. His 100 points and his 55 rebounds in games just show how far ahead of others he was.  Other than his free throw shooting problems, he could do anything. He even once just decided to lead the league in assists, unheard of for a center, and just did it.

2. Bill Russell - All that being said about winning championships being overused, Russell is number 2 because it does mean something and winning 11 can't be ignored. Though he cannot compare with Chamberlain stats, he is arguably the second greatest rebounder in history and perhaps the greatest shot blocker - they didn't keep stats for it when he played. He certainly was the first great shot blocker and I can see him in my mind's eye coming across the lane to block a shot with incredibly grace and timing. He was not a great shooter by any stretch (his career free throw percentage is barely better than Chamberlain's and his field goal percentage nowhere near as good)  and that is the great difference between him and number 1.

3. Akeen Olajuwon -  Now it gets interesting. You know Russell and Chamberlain are at the top of the list. Who is next? I'd say that Olajuwon was. Physically, he was a phenomenon.  It seemed like he could jump twice in the time it took most other centers to jump once. He had no serious weaknesses.  Like many centers he was not a great free throw shooter, he could hit more than 7 in 10, so unlike with Russell, Chamberlain and many other great centers, it could not be automatic to foul him at the end of the game. Even a great big man cannot dominate these days to the degree Chamberlain or Russell did because so many other players are near their size or bigger now, if not as talented. So, his stats don't look like theirs, but for his time, his speed, jumping ability and all around play was remarkable. For some reason he was always listed as 7'0", but commentators regularly pointed out and he acknowledged that he was actually two inches shorter and not that big for a center. It didn't stop him from being a dominant rebounder and among the greatest shot blockers ever.  He is one of 4 players ever to have a quadruple double (4 stats in double figures).  He was clutch and it always seemed to me that he won the duels between the other big men when they matched up.

4. Kareem Abdul Jabbar - No doubt that many would say that Jabbar belongs in the top three and some would even argue no. 1 or 2, so awe inspiring are his stats. I put him just below it. He played a long time and in some categories he is the all-time career leader.  Other than the usual free throw shooting problem, he had no weaknesses. But, I do not think he was as great a leader, as great a rebounder or as great a shot blocker as he could have been.  But, he was one of the greatest scorers. The sky hook made him the last and probably greatest hook shot artist in pro basketball and when he was on, it was unstoppable.

5. Nate Thurmond - You may not have heard of him, as his career ended in the 70s and he is not really celebrated outside of San Francisco.  But, famous or not, putting him 5th is not really a tough call. The NBA recognized it in celebrating its 50th anniversary, named him as one of the 50 greatest players ever. Chamberlain and Jabbar recognized it, both saying he was the toughest defender they ever faced - which is saying a lot.  He was considered, after Russell, the greatest shot blocker of the 60s and 70s and though you can't measure it, many thought he set the best picks in NBA history. He played much of his career against Russell and Chamberlain, the two greatest centers ever and held his own better than anyone else.  He was the first man ever to make the quadruple double, including blocked shots, and he did it late in his career.  I like this story he tells about when Chamberlain and he played together in San Francisco and then Chamberlain was traded. Chamberlain took him aside and said that Thurmond shouldn't think Chamberlain was being traded because Thurmond was the better player. It was, Chamberlain said, because he was making $75,000 and Thurmond only $20,000. But, he was wrong, says Thurmond. He was only making $14,000.

6. Shaquille O'Neal - Another center who could not shoot fouls. But so what. He was so dominant in his time because of his physical size and prowess that with even a decent team he was close to unstoppable in the paint. No one could handle him there. Though 325 pounds he could also run and play the fast break. He's famous enough and recent enough that I will stop there. 

7. David Robinson - Robinson is not as famous as many of these other guys but he deserves to be here. He accomplished what he did despite missing what should have been his first two years while he served in the Navy. He is the third center with Thurmond and Olajuwan to achieve a quadruple double (though it is possible, maybe even likely that Chamberlain or Russell did it before they counted blocked shots). He is one of 5 players to score more than 70 points in a game. He is the only player other player than Jabbar to lead the league in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots (again, perhaps Chamberlain and Russell could have done it if they counted blocked shots and Olajuwon just missed doing it, finishing second in scoring once). Other than Jordan, he is the only player to win MVP, defensive player of the year and rookie of the year (again, Olajuwon just misses, as he was a rookie the same year Jordan was but got the next most votes) and was the only player ever to be in the top 5 in rebounding, blocks and steals in a year (guess who just missed?). And though no threat to be the league leader in free throw percentage, he was better than any other center on this list other than Moses Malone, making nearly 3/4s of his shots.

Tie 8 & 9. Moses Malone - Moses (who started in ABA) was not dramatic. But, he was dominantly effective. He was one of the greatest rebounders, third all time after Russell and Chamberlain, though they had far less competition. He was by far the greatest offensive rebounder in NBA history since they started counting.  He was the seventh highest scorer of all time, just missing the exclusive 30,000 point club by probably a quarter of a season, and averaged over 20 points a game over 20 years. He was a very tough defensive player, stealing by far more balls than any center other than Olajuwon, and at the same time, almost never fouled out, going over 1200 games straight at one point without doing so.

9. Elvin Hayes - I couldn't choose between Malone and Hayes. It is actually eerie how close some of their stats match up. Hayes came along when Jabbar did and was overshadowed by him. But, he was a great player and excelled in almost every category.  He  is ranked 8th all time in scoring (just barely above Malone's NBA total), number 5 in rebounds (just below Malone's NBA total), 21st in block shots per game, but it has to be recognized that they did not count them his first five years when he was visibly in his prime and he was much shorter (only 6' 9") than virtually every other player ahead of him on the list.

10. Tim Duncan - This was the tough one. I had to leave out Bob Lanier, Dave Cowens, Wes Unseld, Willis Reed among a few others.  Arguably he is a center/forward, but I think that is only because he played next to Robinson for years and they had to call him something else.  I would say he is really a center. They are probably the best all time twin towers.  Some would argue that the quiet Mr. Duncan was even better than his taller teammate. He is among the all-time leaders in almost every category you would think likely for a center. Among active players, he is the no. 1 career leader and no. 2 per game leader in blocked shots;  the no. 2 leader in both career and per game rebounds, and no. 6 career and no. 10 per game leader in scoring.  Anyway, you get it, great player.

I'm going to perplex some with this, but I think George Mikan is overrated because he was the first great center.  I also was not a big Bill Walton fan. But they are in the top 15 or 20. Of course, as men my age tend to agree, Ralph Sampson could possibly have been the best of them and we were all disappointed he didn't make it. I do think it was mostly because of injuries, but, such is life.

Ten best athletes turned actors

Lots of them make the cross-over, but these were the most accomplished.

1 - O. J. Simpson - Okay, he's a murderer. Most of us think so. But, he is also one of the top running backs of all time.  I didn't say these guys were great actors. His best stuff he did, The Naked Gun series.

2 - Jim Brown - Well, maybe Jim Brown was a better running back than O. J. but he was certainly a better actor. The Dirty Dozen, 100 Rifles and Ice Station Zebra were his most famous movies, I think, but he acted in tv and film since I was a little kid right up until a few years ago.

3. Bruce Jenner -  I know, it wasn't much, but he did have a career. He even starred on CHIPS  for just a little while.

4. Chuck Norris. Chuck was the real deal (and seemingly a really nice guy).  He competed in the 60s up into the early 70s. Accurate martial arts fighting records are difficult to obtain for back then and I have read an interesting analysis indicating that he lost more than he claims in his biography, although he lost to top competitors, and that he did not win quite all the championships he claims. Nevertheless, he did win a lot of championships and several times beat Joe Lewis, probably the most famous martial artist of that era and probably everyone else worth beating at the time.  Personally, I could watch his Ranger Walker the rest of my life and loved some of his B movies. His fight scene with Bruce Lee in The Way of the Dragon is one of the greatest I have ever seen. My favorite Norris movies - Firewalker, Lone Wolf McQuade, Code of Silence ,The Hitman, Octagon, Silent Rage and An Eye for an Eye. That's quite a few.

5. Bruce Lee - I didn't know where to put him. He really didn't compete much and it is really hard to tell anything about when he did. I wrote a whole post on his incredible career and abilities (1/21/08 - The Incomparable Bruce Lee).

6. Arnold Schwarzenegger -  I know, he turned out to be a big jerk, and it is hard to call body building a sport, but, if rhythmic gymnastics is one, so is body building. I don't need to review his film career. You know it.

7. Terry Bradshaw - Oy. I hate to include him, because I have trouble calling what he does acting. But, even if it is not heavy lifting, he's been in a few things now including a few years ago, Failure to Launch, and he is not playing himself. Believe it or not, he actually has a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Why, I ask? Why? On the other hand, he is the only one to make this blog twice today.

8 & 9 Johnny Weissmuller - You know, Tarzan.  And, while we are at it, Esther Williams - All those movies featuring her swimming. Why? Because she was an actual national swimming champion and people seemed to like it at the time. Unwatchable now, but, lots of things are.

9 &10.  I'm cheating here (it is just a stupid list) giving a tie for four football linemen.  Alex Karras. Okay, so maybe playing Webster's dad in Webster isn't great acting, but it went on for years.  Merlin Olsen. Another great lineman who had a real career, especially on Little House on the Prairie and Father Murphy.  And yet another lineman, Fred Dwyer,  starred in tv's  Hunter. Then there's Rosie Greer.  I can't think offhand of anything he acted in, but I know he did. Can't be worth looking on imdb. Why did so many linemen become actors? Maybe it's like that joke. Question - Where does an 800 lb. gorilla sit? Answer - Anywhere he likes.

Honorable mention to Chuck Connor, who was a real actor, but was also one of the few people to be an NBA (very early on and on a championship team) and Major League Baseball player (but not so good). But, mostly, he was an actor, most famously in The Rifleman. It's my list and I refuse to consider Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal and Michael Jordan as actors, even if they did, kind of, sort of act. Life isn't fair.

My guys

This is a list of my favorite players in various sport and mostly when I was growing up. Most of them were the best or among the best in their sport, but they happen to be the ones I admired most:

Baseball - I was not that into baseball and once devastated by the Mets defeating the Orioles in 69, which I considered a travesty of a flash in the pan beating one of the greatest teams in sport history, I stopped watching altogether (well, after Baltimore won the next year). But, when young, I was a Hank Aaron guy more than any other. I still consider him the all time home run king, steroids having tainted that record completely. He was so well known for his hitting it was little recognized that he was an exceptional fielder as well, winning 3 Golden Glove awards. There was a time I knew all his stats.  I am not going to argue that Aaron was greater than a lot of hitters. Some of his records are related to incredible longevity. Now that, like championships, counts for something, but it has to be taken into account as well in comparing players. I was a Willie Mays fan too and probably saw him as the best all around player I ever watched, probably even better than Aaron. I preferred Willie's Giants to Aaron's Braves, but, for some reason I can't even explain, identified with Hammering Hank. Perhaps it was the nonchalance he embodied, rather than the ebullience Mays exuded. I also was a big fan of Eddie Matthews, a much less well known home run hitter who played 3d base on the same team as Aaron for a number of years, during which they hit 863 between them over 13 years - still the record for teammates. Aaron hit more, but I bet Matthews hit them further. His power was exceptional. And perhaps it was because he wasn't as revered I found myself rooting for him. That would be typical of me. And, the Robinson boys, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson were big favorites of mine. Frank's career is comparable to Aaron's in many ways, if Aaron was slightly better. But, Frank also won a triple crown, one of only three since Mantle won one in 1956. Brooks was not as great a hitter, though he was good enough, but I thought he was the best fielder I ever saw. His 1970 playoffs was the one of the great performances I've ever seen in sports, both in the field and at bat. For pitchers, three stood out for me - Juan Marichel, Fergie Jenkins and Bob Gibson. The first two were great, and they were my favorites, but Gibson was probably the greatest pitcher of the 60s (I can tell you literally nothing about Major League baseball after that other than a handful of names). His 1968 earned run average of 1.12 (that one I did not need to look up) is almost unbelievable. It was as someone had hit 85 home runs in a season.

Basketball - this was the sport I liked to watch the best and the one I felt most competent. I had a lot of favorites, so I will try and keep the list down. Among centers, no doubt I was a Nate Thurmond guy. He was an underdog whenever he faced Chamberlain or Russell and I wanted him to come out on top.  Aside from him, probably Connie Hawkins, whose autobiography Foul I think one of the very best sports biographies I ever read (not that it is really that many). I felt he was among the greatest forwards I ever saw. He played most of his career in the ABA and when the two leagues merged was still very good, but no doubt he had already played his best years. While he was being blackballed by the NBA, which later settled with him, for being mentioned during a point shaving scandal (never charged, indicted, etc.), he was the MVP of the American Basketball League, then a Harlem Globetrotter for 3 years, then the MVP of the ABA for a year, another year was injured a lot, and then finally got into the NBA. He had a great first year, another good one, then some mediocre ones. He played beautifully, sometimes it seems almost magically, in a high flying class with players like David Thompson, Dr. J and Elgin Baylor (this was all pre-Jordan). Although my memories of him are not as fond now as they are for Thurmond and Baylor, I was probably in my youth most impressed by Oscar Robertson, who I thought was the best guard in history up to that time. Arguably, ever, but no one is going to say you are crazy if you put Jerry West or Magic Johnson up there with him. But, he has some claims of his own. He once averaged a triple double for a season - points, rebounds and assists. Most players are happy if they can do that one game in their career. Not Chamberlain or West or Johnson or Bird or Jordan or Kobe or James has ever done it for a season. Nobody. Aside from being one of the top scorers ever, he is arguably the greatest assist man of all time even though Johnson and Stockton have bigger numbers (it is argued they record assists much more liberally these days). They might be better, but they definitely had much better players to pass the ball to most of their career. And, he was the greatest rebounder for a guard in the league, possibly ever, having a higher rebound per game average over his career than even the much taller Johnson. No doubt he could not win a championship until he teamed up with Jabbar for a magical year in '70-'71 when they won the Milwaukee Bucks' only title, but that was because he did not have many top players on his team. The Lakers and Celtics were loaded and won most years. For me, Robertson was basketball's Aaron - incredibly talented, if not the most talented, but something understated about him. But, that doesn't mean he wasn't intense - he was. I love this recollection by NY Knick Dick Barnett: "If you give him a 12-foot shot, he'll work on you until he's got a 10-foot shot. Give him 6, he wants 4. Give him 2 feet and you know what he wants? That's right, man, a layup." My other guys - Dave Bing (poor Dave, a very talented man, became one of Detroit's mayors) and the ever graceful James Worthy. There were much greater players. I just liked them for some reason.

Football - Gale Sayers was my guy. In my humble opinion he was the greatest running back I ever saw. If his career was not ended prematurely, many more might feel the same way. The year he suffered his first big injury, tearing ligaments, he had a 6.2 per carry average. He came back a year later a different man, but still led the league in rushing. A second major injury changed everything and though he continued to try, that was really it. He still has some records, including the highest career kickoff return average. I was not really into his biography I am third when I was young or his tragic friendship with Brian Piccolo, who died of cancer, but it says a lot about him. I was also a Don Maynard fan. I liked his long ball catching feats and his quirky personality (why do I remember he had muttonchop sideburns?) Even though passing/receiving is so much easier these days, given quarterback and receiver protection rules, Maynard still has the longest reception career average for anyone who has caught more than 600 balls. Though I was never a Jet fan, I also liked (the almost unlikeable) defensive end Mark Gastineau. I was impressed by his talent, speed and power, not his personality. I hated the sack dancing though - hated it. I still remember vividly being in a diner with Bear at 3 something in the morning with Gastineau sitting in the booth behind us, trying to defend himself to his then wife, that he wasn't cheating on her. I'm pretty sure it was both politeness and fear that kept us from laughing until they left. Ah, memories. When Lawrence Taylor became a Giant it made me want to watch them. I preferred when the other team had the ball. Steve Young, Jerry Rice and a few other running backs from my youth stir memories too - Leroy Brown, Jim Nance, Floyd Little and Mercury Morris, the last probably my favorite.

Track - I probably have too many favorites here to go through. Historically speaking, I revered Pablo Nurmi from Finland (see my 4/11/07 tribute to him - The Great Paavo Nurmi). Growing up though, I idolized a middle distance runner named Peter Snell from New Zealand and a longer distance runner from Australia named Ron Clarke. Both set a lot of records, especially Clarke who set 12 world records in less than a month and a half in 1965 and I think had 17 overall. Yet, he never won an Olympic Gold Medal. In recognition of his greatness, the legendary Emil Zapotek gave him his 1952 gold medal, writing that it wasn't because of their friendship, but because he deserved it. Snell's career was shorter and more dramatic. He won the 1960 800 meter Olympic Gold medal, then the 800 meter and 1500 meter Olympic gold in 1964, set 5 world records and then shocked everyone by retiring in 1965, saying he had other interests. He later moved to America. In 2003 he became the national (America) orienteering champion for men 65 and older. Not bad. Of sprinters, Michael Johnson (200-400) meters and Lee Evans (400 meters) were my favorites, though some would say 400 meters isn't a sprint. But, the greatest race I ever saw was the Olympic 800 meters in 1972, won by Dave Wottle. I put the video on a prior top ten list (3/25/12). Worth watching it. Keep your eye on him the race through. Wow.

Tennis - I liked Ivan Lendl, even if he could be hard to like. I disliked Connor and McEnroe, and frankly most anyone with a temper. Earlier, when Aussies dominated, I preferred Tony Roche to Rod Laver, though Laver was the best of his time. In more modern times, I preferred Pete Sampras to Andre Agassi and Roger Federer to Rafael Nadal, though I personally like Nadal better. Doesn't everyone?

Hockey - I just never liked hockey. Period. I guess Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretsky.

Boxing - I was only really interest from the 60s through the 80s. But, in those eras - of course, Muhammad Ali. Sugar Ray Leonard is probably my favorite ever. Alexis Arguello I loved for the poetry in his boxing and his gracious personality. Back in the 70s and 80s my favorites were often light heavyweights and welter/middleweights. There were a number of well matched Muslim convert light heavyweights champions - Matthew Saad Muhammad (Maxwell Loach), Eddie Mustafa Muhammad (Eddie Gregory) and Dwight Muhammad Qawi (Dwight Braxton). MSM (now a homeless man I've read) was my favorite among them, but he lost to both of the other two. He also had an incredible match against a fighter known as Yaqui Lopez. Yaqui beat the tar out of him and MSM took it. You couldn't understand how he was still standing. But all of a sudden, MSM turned it around and put together his own beating. It stuck. He actually beat Lopez twice, stopping him both times. But even more so it was the group of outstanding fighters led by Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran and Wilfred Benitez that were so good that every fight between them was outstanding (actually, one exception). Leonard took a championship from Benitez  by a tko in the last seconds of an outstanding fight. Duran beat Leonard once in a dramatic controversial decision (I thought Leonard won, but almost everyone else disagreed) and then a few months later Leonard demolished him in the rematch, when Duran gave up - "No mas." Unfortunately they fought again about 9 years later and Leonard won a boring decision they both got booed for. But going back to after the first No Mas fight, Leonard beat Hearns in one of the most anticipated fights ever, knocking him out in the 14th round with Hearns ahead on points. He retired and Hearns took a championship from Benitez too (Benitez would die young with severe dementia). A few years later Hearns fought Hagler and Hagler knocked him out in 3 of the most exciting rounds you can imagine. Two years later Leonard fought Hagler and beat him in a controversial decision. Though Hearns lost to Leonard and Hagler, he was an outstanding fighter who won four titles and who knocked out many of his opponents. In a sense, he was a human Alydar who had the misfortune to fight in the era of two of the greatest fighters of all time. He actually fought Leonard a second time in '89 and it was called a draw. But, much later on, Leonard admitted Hearns should have won. I don't know that it mattered with both men past their primes.

Other boxing memories. The pugilistic poetry of Alexis Arguello. His two heart breaking losses to the lesser boxer but physically superior Aaron Pryor.  One of the greatest fighters I've ever seen, a young featherweight named Salvador Sánchez knocking out another incredibly exciting fighter with the great name of Danny Little Red Lopez. Sánchez later died in an automobile accident. Too bad for general reasons, but also because he probably was also one of the all time greats. I have to put his picture here, because it looks like Richard Simmons could kick his ass.


Uh oh. Went way too long. Sorry. Old men sport memories are like that.



  1. If I wrote all my comments it would be as long as your blog, as this subject is close to my heart and my nostalgic youth. Surprisingly, we agree more than we disagree, but of course I would be remiss if I chose not to show you the error of your ways in the comment section:
    centers - Bob Lanier has to make the list. Also, Bob McAdoo, the best pure shooter of any center in NBA history and an underrated rebounder.
    athlete/actors: YOU MORON! Alex Karras as Webster's Dad???? How about MONGO in Blazing Saddles, one of the best comic supporting roles EVER? You MORON.
    Baseball: aw,what's the point? You don't know anything about it.
    Basketball: You can't leave out: Walt Frazier, Nate "Tiny" Archibald or Dennis Johnson when it comes to guards.
    Boxing: a separate article all by itself, but I will say watching many of those great fights in the 70's and early 80's with you is a fond memory. You did omit Shavers vs. Lyle, not great fighters, but what a great fight.

  2. I thought about both Lanier and McAdoo. I left off Lanier simply because I thought Duncan was the better of the two. McAdoo I left off for two reasons, though I agree with you he can be underrated. The first reason is again, because I think Duncan is the better of the two, but also because he though I think he was 6'10", he played forward a lot, especially later in his career. In fact, when he was with the Lakers, I would even say he was playing small forward, big as he was. Duncan may also been listed as a forward, but that was more for the line up. I don't think he was really playing the position.
    As for Karras, okay the Blazing Saddles Mongo scenes were funny, but I'm not putting him up for a Missing Oscar award for it, like Mandy Patinkin in The Princess Bride or Val Kilmer as Doc in Tombstone both deserve. He was in the movie for a couple of minutes.

    Baseball, well, you may be right, but I'd always prefer detailed bashing to generalized bashing. Can't think of what you would have disagreed with me about.

    Shavers/Lyle was a great fight, but not one of my all time favorites. Lyle said Shavers was a harder puncher than Foreman, though, ironically, Shavers decked Lyle, but then Lyle knocked him out. Then Foreman ko'd Lyle in what was probably even a better fight and said Lyle was the toughest guy he ever fought. I have a lot more boxing memories - we lived through a golden age - but you have to end these things somewhere.

  3. Just the fact that you are comparing Karras to real actors instead of athlete/actors completely validates my point. Ba-zinga!

  4. I could only get through basketball before before havinng to comment
    OSCAR ROBERTSON!!!!! He averaged a triple double for almost a whole season. I would put him at a close second to Jordan. Hakeem shouldn't beyond ant list that has fewer that 50 players on it.


  5. Hmmm. I'm not sure from your comment if you realize the list was only centers. So, Hakeem has to be on it even if you would put him lower. And Robertson, great as he was, can't be on it. But I wrote in worshipful tones about him in a later section. You are working too much these days. Now go read the whole thing slowly.


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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .