Thursday, July 9, 2009

Five Thoughts on Sports Illustrated's Most Thrilling Players Lists

On Thursday, if you visited SI.com, I'm sure you noticed the large feature on the front page. The Thrill Lists is what they decided to call them. It features a large collage that was a who's who of the greatest names in sports history.

Side note: one can only assume the idea of most thrilling athletes is SI's idea of a slight tribute to the late Michael Jackson and his megahit "Thriller."

Anyways, SI gathered 13 of its writers to come up with lists of the ten most thrilling athletes of all-time that the writers would pay to watch in 15 sports: MLB, NBA, NFL, college football, college basketball, boxing, NHL, golf, soccer, tennis, horse racing, car racing, winter sports, figure skating and track & field. While I won't bore you with my take on all 15 lists (you can find them here), I will give you my opinion on a few aspects of some of them.

1. Three basketball players show up on both the NBA and college basketball list: Michael Jordan (4th on the college list and 3rd on the NBA), Bob Cousy (9th on college and 10th on NBA) and "Pistol" Pete Maravich (3rd on the NBA and 2nd on the college). That right there has got to speak to the talent of those three men. Yeah, Jordan is widely recognized as the greatest of all time by many, and Cousy was magic for the Celtics dynasty back in the 60s, but sometimes Maravich gets forgotten about, seeing as how his career was cut short when he injured his knee. After all, the guy did average 44 points per game in college (and that was in a time before the 3-point line). It's good to see that SI's writers are giving the man his credit. In the interest of full disclosure, Maravich has been one of my favorite players since I learned about him, and still have his No. 44 "Pistol" jersey from when he played for the Hawks. I do think Maravich should be first on the college list, though, since, according to former LSU coach Dale Brown charted all of Maravich's career shots and calculated that he would have averaged 13 threes per game, raising his career average to 57 points per game. That's just down right unfathomable.

2. Another interesting thing to point out comes from the college football list. Three of the ten players listed by Austin Murphy played this century: Reggie Bush (8), Tim Tebow (5) and Vince Young (1). Also of note: two players each from Illinois (Red Grange and Dick Butkus) and Texas (Young and number 2 on the list, Earl Campbell). While this might sound like blatant homerism, I think Tebow still has a shot to rise on this list, seeing as how he's still got one year left to thrill the fans (and haters).

3. I love the idea of having a list dedicated to the most thrilling horses in horse racing. To me, the sport of horse racing is thrilling on its own (the nation is captivated by the three races of the Triple Crown every year from May to June), making it a bit difficult to narrow it down to ten horses. I agree with the little tidbit that Tim Layden has at the top of his list, "horses with relatable back stories have been the most thrilling." I have to agree with him on that, and that line probably expands to all sports: people are compelled by the storylines of sports, often making them that much more interested in the outcome of sporting events, whether or not they have a team involved.

4. Still curious how Wayne Gretzky got left off of the NHL list. Oh well, it is just one person's opinion. Also, enjoy the inclusion of a goalie on the list with Dominik Hasek.

5. Final thought comes again from the NBA list. If I were to include a current player on the list, it would probably be LeBron James instead of Allen Iverson. I udnerstand the thrill of watching a tiny-framed guard that's well under 6-feet tall crossing over anyone and everyone, then slashing to the lane and collided with men twice his size. However, you're lying to yourself if you say you don't tune in to ESPN or wherever just to see what kind of sick highlights LeBron had. When he's dribbling the ball and preparing to take it to the hole, most fans collectively hold their breath until he finishes strong with a ridiculous slam. Another aspect that makes hime qualified for the list: we haven't seen any player that large 6'8"-ish and 270-ish, with that sort of speed, strength and agility.

Anyways, to quote Forrest Gump, which I watched again the other day, "that's all I have to say about that." But I do suggest you check out the lists, they do make for an interesting read, and are sure to spark discussion.

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