Happy Presidents’ Day to all. In honor of America’s Presidents’ Day, we’re going over the Mount Rushmores for the United States’ four major professional sports. There have been countless remarkable athletes throughout the decades, so these could be totally different depending on who you ask. Let’s get right to it.
While the Mount Rushmore of the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL could vary greatly, there are a few guys that should be locks and likely will be for years to come; Tom Brady is one of those players. Brady is the only legend on any of these Mount Rushmores that is still playing, so hopefully people appreciate his accomplishments as his historic career continues. Brady’s six championships might never be topped, and he’s still not done, as he’ll likely be in more Super Bowls, and he’s almost a lock to eventually set the all-time marks for regular season passing touchdowns and passing yardage at some point.
One liner: Football’s greatest player and champion.
Off-field issues aside, Lawrence Taylor is undoubtedly one of the greatest football players ever. Defensively, many coaches—including Bill Belichick, who coached Taylor with the Giants—and players believe “L.T.” is the best to ever suit up, and Belichick noted twice in the past few months that he doesn’t think anyone else belongs in the conversation with him. L.T. was basically a true master of everything as a modern NFL linebacker, and his 1986 NFL MVP as a defensive player—the second defensive player to win the award, and potentially the last ever—is a testament to his ability and impact on the field. Taylor also has a couple of Super Bowl titles to further confirm his greatness.
One liner: A jack-of-all-trades, master-level defender.
Jerry Rice had 20 seasons to accumulate his amazing numbers that look like they might not ever be touched despite the league trending towards more passing since his retirement, but it’s not like the Hall of Fame receiver didn’t play at a high level late in his career. 1,211 yards at age 40 is mind-boggling, and in his prime, Rice was just uncoverable. During Rice’s 11-year run from 1986-1996 when he was named First Team All-Pro ten times, he averaged 1,404.5 yards and 12.6 touchdowns per season while never going under 1,000 yards or eight touchdowns—and the only season in that span where he was under 1,200 yards was in 1987 when he caught a then NFL-record 22 touchdowns in just 12 games. Both the consistency and eliteness were just insane.
One liner: Unmatched consistency at a time the game was tougher on receivers.
This final spot on the NFL Mount Rushmore could have easily been a running back like the great Jim Brown or the electric Barry Sanders, but another defender gets the nod to make it an even 2-2 split between offense and defense. Reggie White is second in NFL history with 198.0 career sacks (behind Bruce Smith with 200.0), and he likely would be the NFL’s all-time sack leader if not for two seasons spent in the USFL to start his professional career (in which he recorded 23.5 sacks). White was a ten-time First Team All-Pro, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team, 1980s All-Decade Team, and 1990s All-Decade Team, along with having his No. 92 retired for both the Eagles and Packers. White’s arrival in Green Bay was the catalyst that helped them win Super Bowl XXXI.
One liner: A true force on the field and a model person off it.
The discussion for greatest baseball player of all-time always includes George Herman Ruth Jr., better known as “Babe”. It tends to get overshadowed because of his greatness as a hitter, but Babe Ruth started his career as one of baseball’s best pitchers, recording 94 wins and a 2.28 ERA in his career. “The Bambino” became one of the game’s best hitters toward the end of his Red Sox career, but he really exploded into a legendary figure during his time with the Yankees, hitting 54 bombs in his first season in the pinstripes and never looking back. Ruth finished his career with 714 home runs, a .342 batting average, a .474 on-base percentage, and he still has all-time marks in career slugging percentage (.690) and OPS (1.164). There’s some question about how good Ruth would be if he played today, but it’s not like everyone did what he did back in the day.
One liner: One of baseball’s original legends.
These legendary baseball players have some strong names nicknames, as Henry Louis Aaron and the nicknames “Hank” and “Hammer” are all excellent. Ruth’s home run record stood until Henry Aaron broke it 39 years later in 1974, and many consider Aaron the true “Home Run King” at 755 career homers, with Barry Bonds’ 762 homers tainted by the steroid era. Aaron does still hold the MLB record for RBI (2,297) and total bases (6,856) in a career, and he’s top-five in hits (3,771) and runs (2,174). Aaron was selected to a mind-boggling 25 All-Star games, which is just crazy to think about.
One liner: An all-time power hitter and the true Home Run King.
Considered by many as the greatest hitter who ever lived, Ted Williams has the numbers to back it up: a .344 career average, .482 career on-base percentage (best in MLB history), 521 career home runs, a two-time Triple Crown winner, and the last player in MLB history to hit .400 in a season. Williams’ overall numbers might’ve been even better if military service didn’t interrupt part of his playing career, but his loyalty to country helps his argument for making baseball’s Mount Rushmore. It’s hard to see another player ever hitting .400 in a season or matching Williams’ career batting average, which is highest in the live-ball era. A two-time AL MVP and 19-time All-Star for the Red Sox, the only thing missing for Williams was a championship.
One liner: There might never be a better hitter.
You could say Jackie Robinson should be on the MLB Mount Rushmore because of the difference he made breaking baseball’s color barrier; Mike Trout will almost certainly be on here someday, and some might argue he should be on right now as arguably the best baseball player ever; and Ken Griffey Jr. likely would be a lock for baseball’s Mount Rushmore if he didn’t battle injuries. It could have also been Mickey Mantle and others, or perhaps a full-time pitcher, in a sport with more players with a case for the Mount Rushmore than any other because of its long history. But Willie Mays is the choice as a fellow five-tool player like Trout and Griffey, as the 24-time All-Star showed more longevity in his career. Mays was just below Aaron as a 24-time All-Star, he won two NL MVPs, a World Series, and a record-tying 12 Gold Gloves. Mays hit 51 home runs in 1955, and he hit 52 home runs a decade later in 1965, which is the longest stretch between 50-homer seasons. And his 660 career home runs with a .302 average and 330 steals while playing outstanding defense is tough to match.
One liner: A rare five-tool player with longevity.
Any NBA Mount Rushmore starts with Michael Jordan, who became the game’s great modern-day champion during an epic run in the 1990s which included two three-peats for his six titles—you can also throw in Jordan’s national championship win during his college career at North Carolina. MJ was unguardable as an offensive force that led the league in scoring ten times while adapting his game from pure freak athlete to one of the game’s most skilled players, but his defense and competitiveness were a big reason he became the greatest. Despite playing against tough defenses in an era that was not as favorable as today for offenses, Jordan averages the most points per game in history (30.12). MJ also won two Olympic gold medals, including as a member of the 1992 “Dream Team”.
One liner: A dominant champion that helped take the NBA to new heights in popularity.
Somehow overshadowed—despite his size—in the discussion of greatest basketball player of all-time for some reason, Wilt Chamberlain clearly belongs on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore. Chamberlain is behind only MJ in career scoring at 30.07 points per game, and he’s the only player in NBA history to average either 40.0 points per game (which he did in 1962-1963 at 44.8 points per game) or 50 points per game (which he did in 1961-1962 at 50.4 points per game). Everyone knows about Wilt’s 100-point game in 1962, a performance that will likely stand as the record forever; and his 22.9 rebounds per game almost certainly won’t ever be broken, either. Chamberlain did it at a different time, but he still probably would’ve been a dominant big man in any era.
One liner: One of the most unstoppable players in the history of sports.
Perhaps the greatest point guard of all-time despite standing at six-foot-nine, Earvin “Magic” Johnson was almost like MJ before MJ as a clutch performer, five-time NBA champion, college basketball national champion, and “Dream Team” Olympic gold medalist. As a rookie, Johnson started at center in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, recording 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, and three steals in a Lakers win, becoming the only rookie to ever win Finals MVP in the process. With nine appearances in the Finals, Magic could’ve had a more accomplished career if not for his HIV diagnosis in 1991. Magic is still the NBA’s all-time assist leader at 11.2 helpers per game for his career.
One liner: One of the greatest all-around basketball players ever.
Bill Russell is one of the top champions in all of sports, winning 14 championships between the NBA, Olympics, and college basketball. Behind only Wilt Chamberlain in career rebounding marks, Russell is second all-time in NBA history for total rebounds and rebounds per game (22.5). While he was a very capable scorer and playmaker on offense, Russell’s rebounding and defense was the foundation of both his game and Boston’s 11 titles during a stretch that likely won’t ever be matched in any team sport.
One liner: The NBA’s 11-time champion belongs on its Mount Rushmore.
“The Great One” Wayne Gretzky is considered the greatest hockey player of all-time by almost everyone, and he was so good that he was immediately put into the Hockey Hall of Fame without a waiting period. Gretzky holds one of the most insane stat nuggets of all-time: he has more career assists than any other player in NHL history has total points. The Canadian legend has 894 career goals (also the most ever), 1,963 career assists, and 2,857 career points, along with a +520 plus/minus during his time on the ice. Gretzky led the Oilers to four Stanley Cup titles.
One liner: No debate he belongs on NHL’s Mount Rushmore.
Health issues impacted Mario Lemieux’s career, but he played more than enough time to be considered one of the greatest hockey players ever. Appropriately nicknamed “The Magnificent One” (a similar nickname to Gretzky), Lemieux really was magnificent on the ice, as a smooth and athletic man that moved unlike most six-foot-four guys in skates—as indicated by him being the only player in NHL history with 70+ power-play goals in a season, which he did three times. Lemieux was also immediately inducted into the Hall of Fame upon retirement in 1997, but he then returned to the ice from 2000-2006. The Penguin great basically saved the franchise from bankruptcy by purchasing it in 1999, and he won an additional three titles as the team owner (2009, 2016, 2017) after winning back-to-back titles as a player in 1991 and 1992.
One liner: A force on the ice and one of hockey’s most important people.
“Mr. Hockey” might be the best nickname of anyone on these Mount Rushmores, and Gordie Howe earned it by playing in the most NHL games of all-time and being the oldest person in league history to play (52 years old). With 801 career goals in his 26 seasons (24 with the Red Wings), Howe is behind only Gretzky in career goals. Howe has four championships, and he led the playoffs in scoring six times. He continued his playing career in the WHA, and then even for one shift in the IHL in 1997 to become the only player to appear in six different decades—clearly, Howe loved hockey as much as anyone.
One liner: Mr. Hockey should have a spot on the sport’s Mount Rushmore.
Bobby Orr played in just nine full NHL seasons (12 total) and played in just 47 games after he turned 27 years old, but he had a nearly unmatched impact during his time with the Bruins when he was healthy. Orr won two Stanley Cup Finals and two Conn Smythe Trophies, including scoring a game-winning goal in the 1972 Final. He revolutionized his defenseman position as a skilled playmaker, and he’s the only player at his position to win two scoring titles. Orr is fourth in NHL history in point-per-game average (1.39), and his +597 plus/minus surpasses even Gretzky despite playing just 657 career games.
One liner: The best defenseman in NHL history.
Bonus: College football is arguably the second most popular even in America behind professional football, so here’s a bonus Mount Rushmore for the great Saturday tradition.
Tim Tebow was a key contributor on Florida’s national championship team in 2006, following it up with a Heisman Trophy in 2007 and another national championship as the team’s starting quarterback in 2008. Tebow then returned for his senior season, which ended in a crushing Sugar Bowl loss to Alabama—but the Gators finished strong under Tebow with a 51-24 Sugar Bowl victory and a No. 3 ranking to end the season. There weren’t many players out there in any sport that played the game with more passion than Tebow, who gave an epic speech as a college athlete after the team’s loss in its 2008 championship season. Tebow was automatic in most short-yardage situations, and he was very efficient as a passer operating Urban Meyer’s attack.
One liner: There might not be a better leader in the history of collegiate athletics.
Barry Sanders had to bide his time while playing behind All-American running back Thurman Thomas at Oklahoma State, but he more than took advantage of his opportunity in the starting role after Thomas moved on to the NFL. As a junior in 1998, Sanders put together one of the most prolific seasons in college football history, rushing 344 times for 2,628 yards and 37 touchdowns en route to winning the Heisman Trophy. Both the yardage and touchdowns still stand as the highest single-season marks in history.
One liner: An epic record-breaking season is enough for college football’s Mount Rushmore.
The only two-time Heisman Trophy winner in history obviously belongs in the discussion of college football’s Mount Rushmore. While Archie Griffin never had an all-time single-season season performance like Sanders, he led Ohio State in rushing all four of his college seasons and was named a three-time All-American. Griffin rushed for 100 yards in an NCAA record 31 straight games, and he was able to get his No. 45 retired because he didn’t leave school early like other college football greats. The Buckeyes had a 40-5-1 record and won four Big Ten titles during Griffin’s time at the school.
One liner: The only two-time winner of one of the most prestigious individual honors in sports.
Herschel Walker immediately entered college football as an absolute freak for Georgia, becoming the first true freshman to be named an All-American while helping lead the Bulldogs to a national championship. Walker rushed for 1,616 yards, 1,891 yards, and 1,752 yards along with touchdown totals of 15, 20, and 17 in his three college seasons, and he was the only player to ever finish top three in Heisman Trophy voting in all three years in school. Walker was also SEC Player of the Year every year of his college career and has his No. 34 retired despite leaving school early.
One liner: An immediate force of nature from a freshman to a junior.