Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Greatest American Sports Figures

By SuiteSports Staff

SuiteSports celebrates Independence Day with our "All American" team of sports figures we feel best embody the spirit of this great land. Happy 4th of July!

Muhammad Ali

Ali epitomized American culture in the 1960s and 70s more than any other athlete at any other point in our history. He was young, brash, anti-authority, unafraid to stand up for what he believed, and willing to (literally) fight for what he felt he deserved. He was unquestionably the most famous athlete in the world for almost two decades, and even if he didn't invent trash talk, he certainly perfected it.

He was simultaneously galvanizing and polarizing more than any other athlete before or since, just like America is the country with the most insular patriotism that borders on arrogance. Ali, for better or worse, is the athlete that most characterizes America.

-Jeremy Conlin: @jeremy_conlin on Twitter

Ted Williams

A great American. Who, what, where and how does someone walk through the world with that tag?  What would the criteria be for that? Sacrifice of career, sacrifice of family and sacrifice of life all seem to qualify. 

The key word being sacrifice. 

When it comes to athletes we have known, a few do stand out and most come from an era that covered both World War II and/or the Korean War. Names nominated include Joe and Dom Damaggio, Bob Feller, Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams. Then Moe Berg, catcher and spy, would be in the conversation.   

So would Pat Tillman. The one that jumps off the page and probably is the one everyone names, is WWII and Korean War vet, Ted Williams. He served willing in two wars, sacrificed key years of his baseball career and in general, would certainly qualify as “a great American!”  There are probably others with dramatic stories to tell, but Ted, although a Godless person by his own admission, would be my choice.

-Bob Lobel: @boblobel on Twitter

Herb Brooks

There are few sports figures more associated with the United States of America than Minnesota native Herb Brooks. He played for the University of Minnesota hockey team in the last 1950’s, and later won three national championships as the head coach of his alma mater. Soon after his 1979 NCAA championship, Brooks was chosen to coach what would be the most famous Olympic team of all-time.

While his style was unorthodox, he knew what it would take to achieve the "Miracle on Ice" and the Olympic gold. Brooks brought together many of his Golden Gophers with some players from the rival Boston University Terriers as well as a few from other schools. Although it was difficult, he taught them how to play with each other and for America. At the Olympic Fieldhouse in Lake Placid, New York, the 1980 Olympic hockey team beat the Soviet Union in the David vs. Goliath semifinal, and then defeated Finland in the gold-medal round. Brooks passed away one decade ago, but he will always be remembered in all of our hearts.

-Adam Lowenstein: @StatsAdam on Twitter

"Stone Cold" Steve Austin

Few figures in popular culture embody the American spirit like Stone Cold. After all, this is a guy that did what every red-blooded American male wants to do. That is, of course, whatever the hell he wants, and when asked for justification he simply answered "because Stone Cold said so!"

Not only did he beat the crap out of his boss and drink beer all day, Stone Cold was so damn badass that there were hardly any consequences for his less-than-diplomatic behavior. He pretty much represents American foreign policy.

-Joe Parello: @HerewegoJoe on Twitter

Michael Jordan

While this answer might appear blatantly obvious and unoriginal, Air Jordan needs to be in the conversation of most American athletes of all time. Michael Jordan not only captained a dynasty with the Chicago Bulls throughout the 90's, but is widely recognized as the greatest basketball player to ever play the game.

His tireless work ethic and refusal to lose made him one of the most iconic athletes of all time, and one that every American looks up to. He also served as the face of the 1992 Dream Team, where Team USA slaughtered competition game after game. Factor in his contributions in the movie Space Jam, and this pick is a no-brainer.

-Bennett Corcoran

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