Jim Brown (80) – Perhaps the greatest running back to have ever lived. The most dominant at the very least. Brown led the league in rushing 8 times in 9 seasons. He’s one of the Dirty Dozen! I saw Jim Brown in person at the Doak Walker award banquet a few years back and he looks like he could still play. Did I mention that Brown is in the lacrosse Hall of Fame after 2 All-American seasons at Syracuse? TRIVIA ALERT: There are 3 key rules in the sport of lacrosse that are a direct result of his participation. A legend.
Bill Russell (82) – Any jackwagon can win a chili cook off by accidentally throwing a tablespoon of cinnamon in an otherwise unspectacular pot of chipped beef. Trent Dilfer won a SuperBowl for Saraswati’s sake. Win 5 or 6 championships and you’ll enjoy free reign over the sport for the balance of your life. Does anyone honestly believe that Joe Montana couldn’t slap Roger Goddell in the face after hosing him down with chinchilla blood? Of course he could. There’d be a statue erected in his honor in the French Quarter by the end of the week. That’s what makes Bill Russell so special. 15ppg & 22 rpg. 5 MVPs. 12 All-Star appearances. 11 Championships in a 13 year career. Suck it LeBron.
Bob Cousy (88) – Speaking of Boston Celtics greats, Cousy was no slouch himself. He led the league in assists and sweet buzzcuts for 8 consecutive years. 13 time All-Star. 6 NBA Championships.
Joe Namath (73) – Super Bowl champion, Wearer of fur coats and noted Poon-hound. Joe Willie could also drink Boris Yeltsin under the table. Don’t ever change brother, don’t ever change.
Keith Jackson (88) – The Pride of Roopville Georgia and my all-time favorite broadcaster. Mr. Jackson is a US Marine having attended Washington State on the GI Bill. He called the first Monday Night Football game and the UT vs. USC National Championship game, the latter of which is still the greatest college football game I’ve ever seen. His accomplishments are simply too numerous to list. There may never be another like him.
Jack Nicklaus (76) – 18 Major Championships and 3rd on the All-Time PGA Tour wins list with 73. Nicklaus nearly won the 1960 US Open as an amateur finishing 2 shots behind the great Arnold Palmer [pours a measure of current 40 oz out on the ground]. He was the youngest golfer to complete the Grand Slam of Championships at 26, while also being the oldest to win the Masters at 46. A class act among class acts. I give him a pass on attending Ohio State because he didn’t graduate like so many other Ohio State fans. Golf Honorable Mention: Chi Chi Rodriguez (81), Gary Player (81)
Phil Niekro (77) – Everyone’s favorite knuckleballer is still alive. Knuckleballers are like strippers with knife wounds, no matter how well they perform, the club is always looking for a replacement. Niekro led the League in ERA one season and in win total TWICE. Niekro pitched the only 2-5-3 “strike’em out, throw’em out” ever when his strikeout pitch hit the catcher in the skin guard, bounced to the 3rd baseman who then threw out the runner. A worthy Hall of Famer after a career of statistical oddities.
Sandy Koufax (81) – One of the most dominant pitchers of all time and the youngest inductee to Cooperstown at age 36. Second on the single season strikeout list behind Nolan Ryan which was remarkable since he played through multiple injuries. Perhaps the least known of all the baseball greats. Let’s all tip our caps to an era where athletes didn’t put everything in their lives out on social media.
George “the Animal” Steele (79) – I’m amazed any time a pro wrestler lives to see 60, so it is with great pride that I report that The Animal is still alive. He’s also been married for 60 years, so there’s that. Just look at this maniac.
Don Shula (87) – These days, Chris Berman (61) looks like he needs an oxygen tank and inflatable toilet seat, yet Don Shula remains spry. Winner of two Super Bowls and coach of the perfect 1972 Dolphins. Shula holds the record for most wins as an NFL head coach (347). The man had 2 losing seasons in 36 years as a head coach. Jeff Fisher had more losing seasons than that before the Oilers moved to Tennessee. He also served his country with the National Guard during the Korean War.
Jim Taylor (81) – Remember how Jim Brown won the rushing title in 8 of his 9 seasons? Jim Taylor was the only running back to outrush him. Owner of 4 Super Bowl rings and the first man to run for 1,000 yards in 5 consecutive seasons, Jim Taylor earned his place in Hall of Fame as fullback on the great Lombardi Packers teams. They don’t make them like Jim Taylor anymore.
Bill Cannon (79) – Speaking of great LSU running backs from the late 1950’s, Everybody’s All-American is still alive. Your 1959 Heisman Trophy winner and the first overall pick in the 1960 NFL Draft (though he would ultimately play for the Houston Oilers of the AFL) is alive and well. Take a break and watch Cannon’s Halloween punt return from 1959. TRIVIA ALERT: Cannon is from Philadelphia, Mississippi, the hometown of former Oklahoma All-American Marcus Dupree.
Bob Gibson (81) – Bob Gibson might be my favorite player among those I never saw play live. Ponder this: In 1968, Gibson threw 28 complete games in 34 starts. In each of the 6 games that he did not complete, he was pulled for a pinch hitter meaning Gibson was never taken off the mound in an entire season of baseball. His 1.12 ERA from that season remains the live ball record. He finished the season with a 22-9 record and the MVP award. He’d also throw at your grandmother if she were crowding the plate. After the 1968 season, the pitcher’s mound was lowered from 15 to 10 inches and the height of the strike zone was reduced.
Connie Madigan (82) – Many of you won’t recognize this name, but Connie Madigan holds the distinction for being the oldest rookie in NHL history when he debuted in 1973 at the age of 38. He is also immortalized in the 1977 classic film Slap Shot where he portrays Ross “Mad Dog” Madison. At the time of his retirement in 1976, he was 2nd on the minor league career penalty minutes list. He is still in the top 100.
Mike Ditka (77) – “Iron” Mike Ditka is still occasionally on television, but I thought it important to include him here because of his numerous accomplishments before he assumed the role of salty old guy on the pregame shows. The 5th overall pick in 1961, Coach Ditka was the first tight end ever enshrined in Canton. He won Super Bowl VI with the Cowboys recording a touchdown catch in that game. He’s the only Head Coach of any Super Bowl team to have also scored in the Super Bowl. I’m giving you gold here people.
John Madden (80) – Speaking of entertaining coaches who have won Super Bowls, John Madden is still with us. The man earned his place in the Hall of Fame for having managed a locker room with the following players: John Matuzak, Ted “The Mad Stork” Hendricks, George Atkinson and Jack Tatum. Beside Hendricks, there were 8 OTHER Hall of Famers on the field for that team. Though I would ultimately tire of his endless stream of nonsense in the broadcast booth, his effect on bringing the game to casual football fans is undeniable.
Oscar Robertson (78) – Big O has been mentioned with more frequency now that Russell Westbrook flirted with a triple double season stat line. Against this backdrop, let’s appreciate how much better he was than the 1960-1961 season. Robertson won 2 Olympic Gold medals. He won a NBA MVP in 1964 and a NBA Championship in 1971. He actually averaged a triple double over his first FIVE seasons in the NBA when the stats are combined.
Bobby Hull (78) – The Golden Jet still draws breath and is right there with Oscar Robertson with respect to astonishing stats. Hull won 2 MVPs and 3 scoring titles in a career that spanned more than 2 decades. Legend has it that Hull’s shot was clocked well in excess of 110 mph. This is even more interesting given the fact that this was 2 full seasons before Hockey goalies began to wear masks regularly. The Pointe Anne, Ontario native is a member of several Halls of Fame and also fathered Hall of Famer Brett Hull. #Versatility
Honorable Mention: Forrest Gregg (83), Paul Hornung (81), Sonny Jurgenson (82), Gayle Sayers (73), Fran Tarkenton (76), Roger Staubach (74), Jerry Jones (74)