I'm not sure what it is about top athletes that inspire me, but in this post, hopefully I'll get some answers. I've always felt drawn to players who routinely crush it and are at the top of their game. And now, for your convenience WSC readers, I've listed all of them here, in one easy-to-read blog post. You're welcome. :)
This list is in no particular order, mostly a case of them popping into my mind as I was writing. Oh there is one catch... I'm sure you seasoned WSC peeps can guess what it is.
Each athlete must have ties to the best coast. Let's take a look at the top West Coast athletes...
Nicknamed by yours truly, Tecmo Bo, for his ability to run through all 11 defenders in Tecmo Bowl. In fact, there was only one play in the entire video game where Bo can get the ball, and you can just run it over and over again. He's unstoppable. Yes, I am showing my age. No, I don't care.
Bo was always a beast and still is. Surprisingly, he's also kind of underrated, likely because a football injury cut his career short in both sports. But that's the only way he knew how to play. One speed. All out power.
Here's a few of my favorite Bo Jackson memories...
1) Pretty much any Bo Jackson Nike ad campaign ever... Bo knows...
2) Breaking his bat over his knee and helmet like it was an annoying toothpick that couldn't get the job done, he used to snap so many bats like they were twigs
3) As a member of the Oakland Raiders, Bo ran over big, bad (so he thought) Brian Bosworth (no relation to Kate Bosworth, a favorite here at WSC enterprises...)
4) Being the only capable player to play both football and baseball (sorry Michael Jordan and Deion Sanders)
Yes, even after that last back-handed compliment, Neon Deion, aka Primetime, makes the list. I mean the guy's nickname is Primetime... he's gotta be on here, right?
For those of you wondering about his West Coast ties, he played for both the San Francisco Giants and the San Francisco 49ers... the only player in the world to hold that distinction. That also makes him the only player to play both sports in his home stadium Candlestick Park, aka "the Stick."
Fun fact... Did you know, both Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders were drafted by the Kansas City Royals? It's true. In fact, Primetime was drafted in 1985 and Jackson in 1986. Safe to say the Royals had an eye for 2-way sport stars and were willing to take the backlash if it didn't work out.
Sticking with the 2 sport theme for a quick second. Did you know Randy also played basketball and very likely could have played in the NBA? Randy Moss twice won player of the year for basketball, not football, when he played for West Virginia, along side Jason Williams, aka White Chocolate, of the Sacramento Kings.
Randy is mostly loved by WSC for 3 things he said on a cold, snowy morning in a Foxborough, MA, parking lot, home of the Patriots.
"Randy don't write checks." - Randy Moss
"Ten grand? What's ten grand?" - Randy Moss
"Straight cash, homie." - Randy Moss
Also known as the other #23 in Chicago, WSC's All-Time Favorite Athlete, regardless of sport, makes the list. You might be wondering how is Ryno a West Coast star when he only played pro baseball for the Chicago Cubs (and Phillies, briefly)? Well, smart guy, Ryno was born in Spokane, Washington, so there you go.
(Shameless promotion, you can get The Ryno, an old school Cubbies shirt designed by WSC, here.
Another player where you might be asking, Brady has only played for the New England Patriots... how's that West Coast? Well, champ, Thomas Brady was born in San Mateo, CA. Plus, he's married to Gisele, do you really want to leave him off the list? Nope. Didn't think so.
Ken Griffey, Jr.
Let me tell you a quick story. The year was 1990. I was at Scottsdale Stadium, where the Seattle Mariners had just finished playing the San Francisco Giants in a Spring Training game. I was waiting by their team bus. Junior left the stadium and boarded the bus, but before he did, I asked him, meekly handing out a ball for him to sign, "Can I have your autograph?"
Now in his defense, I sort of remember him having a really bad game, so when he completely ignored me and got on the bus, I didn't think much of it. About ten minutes later, Ken Griffey Sr., came out of the stadium and stopped next to me. I handed him the ball and said, "Mr. Griffey, can I have your autograph?"
His response, "Of course." He signed the ball, looked at it and said, "Did you get Junior's autograph?"
I said, "No. He just got on the bus."
Griffey, Sr. then did what I'd imagine most fathers might do. He told me to hold on a minute, went on the bus and disappeared. About five minutes later, Junior came off the bus, looked at me, (I was even wearing a Mariners hat), and sincerely said, "I'm sorry. Can I sign your ball?"
I now have an official Major League baseball with both father and son signed autographs on it.
Love him or hate him, Black Mamba has to be on this list. He played his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers and won 5 NBA titles with the team. Speaking of 5 titles with the Lakers, here's another guy who pulled off that feat...
Earvin "Magic" Johnson
I actually got to see Earvin play once, live in person, at the Madhouse on McDowell. The Lakers were in town hosted by the Phoenix Suns and my uncle took me to the game because he wanted me to see the "best basketball player" he's ever seen.
I remember only one play from that game, Earvin grabbed a rebound, dribbled the ball down court and in a flash, just as he passed the half court line, the ball completely disappeared. Next thing I knew, the ball was back and being laid in by him for two points. I looked at my uncle, astonished and said, "He can make the ball disappear?" My uncle simply smiled and said, "That's why they call him 'Magic'."
Steph has gone from being loved to hated in just under a year. I guess that's what success does to you. I still love him because I have never seen anyone be able to shoot like him. It's mind blowing. Plus, Drake likes to make up songs and lyrics about him, so he's got bonus street cred.
The San Francisco 49er and NFL All-Time leader in just about every receiving category, Jerry Rice definitely makes the list. And how is it possible I have met in person (or at least seen live) almost everyone on this list? I don't know. Face it, WSC gets around.
So my quick Jerry Rice story...
It was a warm, sunny say in Napa, and Jerry Rice just finished a training camp practice with the Oakland Raiders. He was signing a few autographs, I missed getting mine, but did get to hear a funny story. One guy had a very large Budweiser sign. He asked Jerry, "Will you sign my sign?"
Jerry Rice responded, sure, grabbed a pen and just as he was about to autograph it, he looked at the sign and said, "Budweiser? You want me to sign a Budweiser sign?" He then turned and walked away and I heard him mumbling, "Talkin' about some Budweiser sign."
But the story doesn't end there, the guy turned to me and said, "That's strange. He signed it last year."
Joe Montana/Steve Young
Did you know Jerry Rice actually had his best seasons with Steve Young and not Joe Montana? It's true.
Young to Rice was responsible for 85 TD receptions...
Montana to Rice was responsible for 35 TD receptions...
While Montana won 4 Super Bowls in San Francisco, much of Rice's success can be attributed to Steve Young. It could be argued neither of these QB's would have done anything without Rice, but you still have to give them some credit. Montana is known as Joe Cool, and the Comeback Kid, one main reason was his pass to Dwight Clark dubbed "The Catch" to win NFC Championship.
Steve Young threw 6 touchdown passes in a Super Bowl versus the San Diego Chargers and all of them went to #80, Jerry Rice.
Sticking with the San Francisco theme for a second, here's another player I met. Willie Mays, arguably one of the best baseball players of all time.
Here's what happened, I was hanging out at the San Francisco Giants Spring Training practice fields, back then known as Club Sar (no clue why, it used to be a boxing gym), in Scottsdale, AZ.
A nice car pulled up and out steps a huge, mountain of a man. But he was old. I looked at him like, who is this old geezer? My mom told me, "Kevin! That's Willie Mays." I looked at him, then looked over his shoulder and recognized J.T. Snow, a current Giant at the time. I said, "Hi" to Mr. Mays, after all my mom raised me to respect my elders, then walked right past him and asked J.T. Snow for an autograph. Whoops.
The last few athletes I discussed all have ties to the Bay Area, not my intention, but I was shocked as I was writing this list just how much of an impact San Francisco and Oakland have had on sports. Not to mention there are about 5 plays in sports known as "The Catch" and all of them have Bay Area ties. Editor note: It also happens to be the birth place of this writer, so there's that.
Terrell Owens, Bay Area... check his numbers, enough said
Wayne Gretzky - I'm just not that into hockey
Michael Jordan (he'd be #1, but has no ties to the West Coast... shame)
Tony Gwynn - the San Diego kid... born in San Diego, went to San Diego State University where he starred in baseball and basketball... and then of course, played his entire career with the Padres
Did I leave anyone off? Anybody you disagree with being on the list? Drop me a comment below and let me know.