New York Sports Legends: Celebrating the Iconic Athletes and Teams of the Empire State

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With ten different professional franchises across the four major North American sports, the state of New York is loaded with professional talent. The Big Apple alone accounts for all 45 of the Empire State’s major professional championships (sorry, Buffalo), with legendary moments aplenty in these team’s championship runs. Here’s a look at some of the most iconic athletes to ever suit up in New York, and what made them stand out from the rest of the pack.

NFL: Joe Namath

We’ll start off with Joe Namath, a man born for the spotlight that only the largest media market in the country can provide with his flamboyant outfits and outspoken personality.

While he’s far from the best athlete to play in New York, Broadway Joe is certainly one of the most iconic. Namath’s guarantee ahead of Super Bowl III that his Jets, a -19.5 underdog against the Baltimore Colts, would pull off the stunning upset victory, was a founding moment in the NFL as we know it today.

He earned Super Bowl MVP honors for his performance in the game, completing 17 of 28 passes for 206 yards as New York dominated the time of possession, keeping Baltimore’s high-flying offense off the field. The win gave the upstart AFL (what would become today’s AFC) legitimacy, proving that its teams could hang with the big dogs of the long-established NFL.

The Jets have some of the best odds of winning their first title since Namath’s legendary run in 1968, listed at or around +1600 on various sports betting apps.

Odds and promotions can vary quite a bit from sportsbook to sportsbook, so make sure you shop around first if you think you have a winning bet so that you know you’re locking in the best possible chances of winning big.

Honorable mentions include Lawrence Taylor, a two-time Super Bowl champion for the Giants and one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the NFL, as well as quarterback Jim Kelly, whose star-crossed career saw him carry the Buffalo Bills’ high-scoring K-gun offense to four straight Super Bowl appearances… and an 0-4 record.

MLB: Babe Ruth

The New York Yankees have had more than their fair share of generational players (no surprise, given their otherworldly 27 World Series rings). From Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth to Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio to later dynasties centering around Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, I could easily write this article about Yankees players alone: where’s the fun in that, though?

For the Yankees’ selection it’s impossible to pick anyone but the Great Bambino himself. Ruth ushered in the live ball era with his towering home runs despite entering the league as a pitcher, hitting 714 long balls across his career at a time when few players could hit double digits over the course of a season. The Sultan of Swat sparked the Yankees’ dynasty in the roaring twenties, leading the club to their first four championships, and they haven’t looked back since.

Like Namath, the Babe was legendary for his exploits on and off the field, punching umpires after unfavorable ball or strike calls and swilling liquor like water, a man larger than life and a headline waiting to happen.

NHL: Dominik Hašek

The lone Buffalonian on the list, Hašek holds a strong argument as the greatest goalie of all time. His six Vezina Trophies (awarded annually to the best goaltender in the league) are a league record since 1982, when the modern system for determining the award began.

That record is made all the more impressive by the fact that Hašek was competing for votes with Martin Broseur and Patrick Roy, themselves two of the greatest goalies ever, during that time: Hašek quite literally established himself as the best of the best, and won all six of his Vezina Trophies in a Sabres uniform.

While Hašek never managed to lift the Stanley Cup with Buffalo, falling just short in 1999 on Brett Hull’s controversial triple overtime goal, he won a pair of cups with the Detroit Red Wings later in his career.

NBA: Patrick Ewing

Like Hašek, Ewing never managed to win a title in New York, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. The 7 foot tall behemoth led the Knicks to a pair of Finals appearances in the 1990s, falling to a dynasty each time: the Rockets in 1994 and the Spurs in 1999.

Ewing racked up 24,815 points, 11,617 rebounds and 2,894 blocks in his career, earning All-NBA honors seven times with his excellent two-way performances, played for the 1992 Dream Team and earned himself a place in the conversation of best centers ever.

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