Earlier I posted Part one of the list, featuring numbers 10 through 6, but now it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty (is that still a word?) If you missed them you can click here to see it. Now here is the remaining part of my list of top athletes to never win the big one, beginning with 5 and ending with my top athlete never to have won the big one.
5. The final five on my list starts with the iconic Utah Jazz, Karl “The Mailman” Malone. In his years in the NBA, Malone was joined to the hip with teammate John Stockton, who makes my “Honorable Mention” list. In his 18 years in the league, he spent 17 with Utah before attempting to win that elusive championship with the Lakers. His 36, 298 points is good for the second greatest total in history, and added to that he ranks first in defensive rebounds, free throws attempted and free throws made. Regarded as one the game’s most dominant power forwards in the history, Malone won the league MVP in 1997 and 1999. Having appeared in the NBA Finals twice, once with Utah and the other with the Lakers, the trophy eluded him before his retirement in 2004. There was no doubt in including Malone on my list of “Top Athletes Never to Have Won the Big One”.
4. Ken Griffey Jr., or “Junior”, tops my list of MLB players who never won a championship. Yes, there are other very worthy baseball players, even some on this list, but for me the seasons in the 90’s were dominated by Junior. Griffey is fifth on the list for career home runs, and is tied for the record of most consecutive games with a home run at eight. This long-time Mariner also played for the Reds and White Sox. He was known as much for his power as his defence, appearing in 13 all-star games and winning an incredible 10 Gold Gloves. A lifetime .300 hitter, well, .297, Ken led in most hitting categories for much of the 90’s, and was easily the best player in baseball in his prime. His widespread appeal only helped MLB’s image, particularly in the “Post-Strike Era”. Though his career never thrived outside of Seattle, his years spent there is nothing short of legendary. The fact he did all this and has never come under the scrutiny for PEDs that McGwire, Sosa, Bonds and A-Rod did is also a point in his favour.
3. When the Red Wings drafted Marcel Dionne little did they know what he would turn out to be. Unfortunately for them, he spent most of his illustrious career with the Los Angles Kings. It’s hard to argue with this star’s 1700+ points, eight 100-point seasons and five straight 50-goal seasons. However, being isolated in the pre-Gretzky Los Angeles market really limited his potential. It’s amazing to think what he accomplished without the luxury of a suitable supporting cast.
2. Dan Marino is a very close second. One of the greatest pure passers in the history of the game, “Marino to Duper” and “Marino to Clayton” became part of NFL vocabulary for much of the late 1980’s and 90’s. There are no shortage of reasons why this legend did not win the “big one”. In his career with the Dolphins, he amassed 61,361 yards, 420 touchdown passes, 252 interceptions, and had a career quarterback rating of 86.4. In 1984, he quarterbacked perhaps the greatest season ever by a quarterback; he threw for over 5000 yards and 48 touchdowns. Yes, 48. Forty-eight. With 147 wins, he is far ahead of the competition. Marino appeared in nine Pro Bowls, and won the league MVP. There is very little this guy didn’t do – well, he didn’t win the Superbowl.
1. We have finally reached number one. For me Barry Sanders is the greatest player I have ever watched who never won. Barry is simply the best pure rusher I have ever seen. To put it in perspective, I have been watching professional football closely since the mid-late 80’s. I put Barry ahead of Emmit Smith, Walter Payton, Eric Dickerson, Adrian Peterson, Ladanian Tomlinson, and any other rushers over the past three decades in pure running ability. Can you imagine what Barry would do if he were playing for the current Lions team, and not the one of old who routinely sucked? Lights out, Barry would dominate the ground game. His starts and stop, turn-on-a-dime style left his admirers in awe, thinking, “How did he not break his ankle turning like that?” Barry dominated, but the Lions could never surround him with proper blocking and scheming. He retired with 15,269 rushing yards, 2,921 receiving yards, and 109 touchdowns (99 rushing and 10 receiving). He was only one season away from surpassing both Emmit Smith and Walter Payton for the all-time rushing yards lead when he got into a dispute with Lions’ ownership and subsequently retired. Sanders only played ten season, all of which he was an all-star.
Honorable Mentions: John Stockton, Mike Gartner, Dan Fouts, Barry Bonds, Anthony Munoz, Tony Gwynn, Eric Dickerson, Ryne Sandberg, Adam Oates…. really, there are so many.
There you have it. As I said, this is NOT a complete list. These are the players I feel deserved a championship in the time I have been watching sports. Please add to the list by commenting on this article. Better yet, come up with your own and post below.
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