Sports "Mount Rushmores" and (hopefully) the debates that follow

Heavyweight Boxing Champs

Jack Dempsey
Joe Louis
Muhammad Ali
Mike Tyson

Not necessarily the four best heavyweight champs, but definitely the most iconic. Mount Rushmore is about ICONIC Presidents, not good administrators, after all. Larry Holmes might have whipped Jack Dempsey, and Lennox Lewis might have slaughtered Joe Louis, but Dempsey and Louis were still icons, while Holmes and Lewis weren’t.

American Race Horses

Man o’War

NFL Placekickers:

  • Lou Groza
  • Jan Stenerud
  • Adam Vinatieri
  • Morten Andersen

As I’ve noted in other threads… TODAY’S kickers are all excellent. WAY better than any of the elite kickers were when I was a kid. Jan Stenerud was definitely the best kicker around when I was young, but Justin Tucker is so much better, it’s absurd!

But when ALL kickers are great, no one kicker stands out. Meaning today’s best kickers probably can’t and won’t get into the Hall of Fame.

Aye, for certain. I’ve been a student of the kicking game since the 1970s (and was briefly a kicker when I was in high school), and it’s astonishing just how much kicking accuracy has improved over the past 40-50 years.

In the 1970s, if a kicker made more than 50% of his field goals, his job was probably secure. Now, 75%-80% is pretty much the bare minimum.

Thus, my list was based more on the kickers who were seen as the iconic players at their position over time, rather than on accuracy (at which point, all four places would be taken by kickers from the last decade).

I could have also argued for Pete Gogolak, for being the first soccer-style kicker, as well.

Well, given that only one pure placekicker is in the HoF (Stenerud), and no other one has made it in since, it’s more about how sportwriters and the voters view the position itself, than the glut of excellent kickers.

A number of writers believe that Vinatieri has a real shot, but that’s due to a combination of (a) longevity, (b) sustained excellence, and (c) having made some clutch, game-winning kicks in playoff games.

Proper Football:


Drag Racing:

Shirley Muldowney - Nobody wanted her to race except herself. She was the first three-time Top Fuel champion.
Don Garlits - Too many firsts, too many innovations. He’s probably the father of drag racing.
John Force - If he didn’t have 18 Funny Car championships (including 10 in a row), it would almost be enough that he lives and breathes racing. He’s owned teams, been his own pit chief, and three of his daughters are drag racers.
Bob Glidden - So dominant for so many years in Pro Stock. I’m tempted to put Warren Johnson there instead, but this is about more than just numbers.

NBA Centers

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Wilt Chamberlain
Hakeem Olajuwon
Bill Russell


Johnny Bench
Yogi Berra
Mickey Cochrane
Carlton Fisk

Picking four college football coaches is hard.

Knute Rockne
Bear Bryant
Bud Wilkinson
Tom Osborne

Switzer, Paterno, Leahy, Stagg, Yost, Bowden… not to mention Saban if (I mean, when) he wins it this year.

No John Heisman!?! They named the trophy after him!

(kidding… but only a bit. Pop Warner probably deserves consideration also).

Running Backs

Jim Brown
Eric Dickerson
Barry Sanders
Emmitt Smith

My version would have Walter Payton, instead of Dickerson.

There is a pretty cool documentary on Netflix called “Fastball” that interviews him and goes into his story.

An interesting aside, which I did not know: when velocity is measured today the target point is just after the ball is released from the pitcher’s hand. When Nolan Ryan was timed (early 70’s) it was measured at the point it crossed home plate. By today’s standards, Ryan would be throwing 108mph.

I had the notion there should be an app for this – and lo-and-behold, there is:

I have not tried it; download/use at your own peril.

NFL Bruising Running Backs
Jim Taylor
Earl Campbell
Bo Jackson
Marshawn Lynch
Not sure about Bo, who was as fast as he was bruising. I gather the same could be said of Jim Brown (whom I never saw play.)

I’m not in agreement with Affirmed or Seabiscuit. Sure they’re great, but they’re not better than Citation, Seattle Slew, Ruffian, or Kelso. I’d probably switch them with Citation and Kelso. Kelso isn’t as well known now, but he won horse of the year in 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1964.

And so that I’m not just naysaying your list, here’s my picks for American Race Horses since 1990:

American Pharoah
Wise Dan

The top 3 were easy. The 4th was between Wise Dan, Holy Bull, Rachel Alexandra, Smarty Jones, California Chrome, Silver Charm ,and Skip Away.

I think you’d be in a minority of 1 there, he was decent but no world beater in F1. I wouldn’t have him in my top 25 and he certainly wouldn’t get in ahead of his contemporary Jochen Rindt.

The correct Mt. Rushmore for F1 would be Fangio, Schumacher, Clark, Senna. With Prost and Moss to be chipped onto the ends if there is room.

For Cricket, Bradman, Tendulkar, Sobers, Dev (with Richards and Khan in reserve)

Tennis, Federer, Djokovic, Nadal, Laver (Sampras and Connors in reserve)

Payton was a very close call. Very close.

NFL Kickers:

George Blanda
Jan Stenerud
Ray Guy
Ray Wersching (a decent kicker, but the NFL’s all-time best tackling placekicker)

That’s three of my “NBA Players” …

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Wilt Chamberlain
Michael Jordon
Bill Russell