So with the NBA playoffs in full swing, baseball and all it's wonderful early-season story lines, the NFL Draft, Tiger Woods playing in the Wachovia Championship, the startling plummet of Roger Federer's dominance (what's with the crying and throwing of the racket there, Rodge?), and something called "NHL Playoffs" (allegedly) all materializing before our hungry-for-sports little eyes, which of these juicy subjects will we tackle here at Sue's?
None of them! Come on, you know us better than that! We're in our element making the seemingly irrelevant relevant, so why would we take the easy route and espouse on current (sporting) events? No, no. What you're about to be served is a feast of athletes who - through completely arbitrary but assuredly accurate means Runaround Sue's has decided - deserve to win a championship. The only criteria is that they have to be an active player.
Other figures, such as years in the league, were of course considered. Apologies to bowling and yard darts enthusiasts, but we're sticking to the Big Three sports, here. Besides, I personally don't give a shit if Beckam wins an MLS Championship, do you? Also apologies to the lesser-known but perhaps just-as-deserving players that are unlucky enough to play positions like center or right tackle, where Sue's will clearly overlook your accomplishments with little regret. In reverse order of how deserving the players are, let's go!
Editor's Note: All suggestions and counterarguments are more than welcome
10. Alex Rodriguez
Total Seasons Played: 15 (Drafted in '94, first full season in '96)
Closest He Got to a Title: American League Championship Series, 1995, 2000, 2004
A-ROD?! Yes, especially considering recent reports and the upcoming tell-all book, it may be shocking to see Rodriguez on our list. Postseason choker, steroid user, cougar chaser. We get it. But Sue's is in the business of measuring on the field talent as objectively as possible.
But while you sit and scoff at A-Rod's inclusion, this is probably a good time to mention the people he beat out: Randy Moss, Vladimir Guerrero, Grant Hill, Trevor Hoffman and Tony Gonzalez were all considered but eventually beat out by A-Rod and the rest of the ringless warriors noted below.
At 32 years old, A-Rod is a 12-time All Star, 3-time AL MVP, 2-time Golden Glover, 10-time Silver Slugger, has ranked in top 3 in OPS 5 out of the last 6 years, ranks in the top 50 all time in runs scored (42nd), total bases (38th), home runs (12th), RBIs (30th) and even hit by pitch (22nd). If nothing else, there's athletes out there that you want to win just so you can stop even the slightest bit of rooting interest you have in them (see: Paul Pierce, et. al.).
9. Terrell Owens
Total Seasons Played: 13
Closest He Got to a Title: The Super Bowl, 2004
Oh, I'm just down on my knees with my hands cupped asking for it with this one, aren't I. We did our best to keep off-the-field behavior from influencing the list, but the fact is off-the-field behavior influences on-the-field action. With that in mind, hand-picking the years T.O. didn't make a circus out of his team still merits him consideration on this list.
Forget the fact that Owens detonated a suicide bomb (literally, when you look at those years' stats) on two separate teams (we're going to let the Cowboys mini-soaps go), and remember that this has been one of the best wide receivers in the game for the past decade, and deserves consideration when bringing up a top ten, or, perhaps even top 5 best receivers of all time list. Owens single-handedly took the 2004 Eagles from "Hey, we're pretty damn good" status to the "We're the best team in the league" sauntering mentality you need to be the best. He also completely backed it up on the field and gave Donovan McNabb his best year in terms of statistics.
In 2000 playing in 14 games with the San Francisco, Owens averaged 103.6 yards per game. That's ridiculous. He's also a 6-time Pro Bowler and member of 5 First Team All Pro squads. He also:
- Is fifth all-time in receiving yards
- Is 2nd all-time in touchdown receptions (led the league 3 different years)
- Is 6th all time in receptions
8. Brian Urlacher
Total Seasons Played: 9
Closest He Got to a Title: The Super Bowl, 2006
Spots 7-10 of this List changed so many times it may as well be a woman 15-minutes before she chooses her shoes and heads out the door. Not to spoil your perusal through the List, but let's just say Urlacher ganked Randy Moss' spot. More on that later.
Urlacher's spot, while seemingly obvious and hard to disagree with, is ironically difficult to validate as well. As one of if not the premiere defensive force(s) in the NFL for the past decade, Urlacher's achievements and contributions are less quantifiable and - therefore - harder to lay out. But you know Sue's. We 'gown try.
th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, there is only one among the players drafted ahead of him (notables: LaVar Arrington, Chris Samuels, Plaxico Burress) that you could argue for having on your team in his stead - stutter steppin' Jamal Lewis. As far as those drafted after him...Shaun Alexander? Maybe John Abraham? We're not one for hyperbole here at Sue's, but it's clear that one could argue Brian Urlacher was the class of the 2000 Draft.
But being the captain and, more importantly, vocal leader of an elite defensive squad is again hard to quantify concretely if you want to give Urlacher his true due. The visceral viciousness required to have a bunch of other highly-skilled badasses look up to you and get pumped in minus 40 degree weather is just...frightening. Still not satisfied? Think "visceral viciousness" is a bit over the top? Don't you remember?
Still doubtful? Look, Urlacher's a 6-time Pro Bowler, 4-time 1st Team All Pro. And if you're still not convinced? C'mon. How would you feel having your one shot destroyed by Rex Grossman?
7. Dirk Nowitzki
Total Seasons Played: 11
Closest He Got to a Title: NBA Finals, 2005-2006
Oh, how it pains me to place Dirk here. Perhaps I would like Dirk if he played for the Hawks? Probably. But his terrifyingly alien-like facial features - especially when he's arguing a call - and his particular style of game doesn't inspire much unforced adulation from me. Then again, I've been a Spurs fan for quite a while, and can't stand the Mavericks. So let's put that aside for a second.
First off, Dirk was drafted 9th overall in the '98 Draft, and one could argue without too much difficulty that of all the big name stars drafted in front of him - Bibby, Jamison, Vinsanity (we'll leave Jason Williams and Larry Hughes off the list of "stars" here), Nowitzki has had a better career than all of them. Only one player, Paul Pierce, who was drafted directly after Nowitzki, would I contend is a player I'd rather have on my team for their whole career. And even then, I may go with Nowitzki, as Pierce's championship last year is likely clouding my reasoning. By the way, are Pierce and White Chocolate the only stars from the '98 Draft to win a championship?
Nowitzki's teams have made the playoffs 9 out of his 11 seasons in Dallas. Her certainly never had to 2009 Dwayne Wade will his team to the playoffs, with solid rosters throughout his career:
S. Bradley ▪ M. Finley ▪ J. Howard ▪ S. Nash ▪ D. Nowitzki (First playoff appearance 2000-2001)
D. Diop ▪ R. Marshall ▪ D. Nowitzki ▪ J. Stackhouse ▪ J. Terry (NBA Finals appearance)
E. Dampier ▪ J. Howard ▪ J. Kidd ▪ D. Nowitzki ▪ A. Wright (Current playoff roster)
Now, doesn't that look considerably better than anything AI ever had walking out onto the court with him? Still, Dirk's shown his playoff chops, regardless of his reputation for disappearing in the big games. In 92 career playoff games, Nowitzki is averaging 25 points, 11 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. That's pretty damn solid, especially for nearly 100 playoff games.
Nowitzki's an 8-time All Star and winner of the 2006-2007 MVP Award. He's a 3-time First Team, 3-time Second Team, and two-time Third Team All NBA player. He's been in the top 10 in total rebounds 3 separate seasons and in the top ten in points 8 different seasons. Dirk's finished the season ranked at the top of Player Efficiency Rating twice, and finished in the top 10 on 6 other occasions.
You may not like his game, but this dude's a Hall of Famer f'real. And nobody likes to see their HOFers without rings, right?
Total Seasons Played: 8
Closest He Got to a Title: AFC Conference Championship, 2008
You may snicker at LDT's placement on this list, perhaps due to the fact that he's only been playing for 8 years. But 8 years as a running back - and a dominant one at that - is quite impressive and at least matches 10 years as a quarterback. But OBJ! OBJ! He's soft! He's always pulling up lame in the playoffs! Unfortunately, this may be true. Either this kid has an unbeatable ability to get injured right when it counts most, or he just can't stand playing in the pressure situations. I'd like to think it's the former, but in 6 career playoff games LDT is averaging 3.6 yards per carry (84 ATT/303 YDS) with 4 touchdowns (plus 16 receptions for 157 yards). Not exactly what you would want from your "Get This Guy a Ring" running back. Let's look at something else.
"Who Deserves a Ring" list, LDT has an in-your-face style
Let's look at the 5 Pro Bowls in 8 seasons, First Team All-Pro for 3. Let's look at:
- Finishing in the top 6 in Rushing Attempts 7 different seasons
- Finishing in the top 10 in Rushing Yards all 8 seasons of his career; 4 seasons in the top 3
- The league's leading rusher two years in a row, 2006-2007, and currently second among active players
- In the top 7 in Rushing Touchdowns all 8 seasons of his career
- Rushing Touchdown leader 3 separate seasons (2004, 2006, 2007) and current leader among active players
- In the top 10 for 6 seasons in Rushing Yards Per Game
- Finishing in the top 10 all 8 seasons in Total Touchdowns; in the top 3 for five seasons
5. Donovan McNabb
Total Seasons Played: 10
Closest He Got to a Title: The Super Bowl, 2004
Why does it seem like so many pros on this list are the, "Aw, shucks. Lost another one." guys? I think that's the point but it's getting a bit depressing pointing out all of these amazing players that never won a championship. I'll take that as self-confirmation that I'm doing a good job.
McNabb was the 2nd overall pick in 1999; he was picked ahead of superstars like Edgerrin James, Champ Bailey, Tory Holt, Daunte Culpepper and Jevon Kearse. Unfortunately the immortal Tim Couch stole the #1 pick spotlight from him.
McNabb's been to the playoffs 6 out of his 10 seasons, and has a 9-6 (about a 67% winning percentage) postseason record. Not too shabby. It's odd that he hasn't made the Pro Bowl for the past four seasons, even though he's had career highs in completions, yards, yards per catch (also met career low for interceptions  and set career low for fumbles ) and has not had a noticeably significant statistical drop-off from his Pro Bowl years. This is because the perception of Donovan McNabb has changed, ever since he lost the Super Bowl. He had one year with a minimally-destructive T.O. to make it work, and you've GOT to say he made the most of it going 13-2 as a starter that season on his way to leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl (and remember, he won in the playoffs without T.O.). But now McNabb has this (somewhat) unfair spectre of not being able to win the big game hanging around him like a gold-digging hoodrat anxious for a boob job. His uncanny ability to Willy Beamen all over the field in pressure-cooked situations has probably added to his Legend of Big Game Impotence.
More Video at iamboredr.com
McNabb throws up a wobbly one?
McNabb's been to 5 Pro Bowls in a row (2000-2005), finished in the top 10 in completions 3 times (most recently last year), the top 10 in touchdowns four times, the top 10 in passer rating 5 times, the top 10 in passing yards per game 6 times and has never finished in the top 10 in interceptions thrown. Not bad for someone who hasn't had an outstanding wide receiver corps. As a matter of fact, Mrs. McNabb's little boy is currently 30th among all NFL players in rushing yards.
Donovan McNabb just seems like one of those genuinely nice guys. He lost at least an entire season because of the bullshit Owens created in that locker room, and while (maybe) you can blame it on a lack of clear, overt leadership on the part of McNabb, it certainly wasn't him that created the strife. If you can think of one active quarterback in the NFL that is more deserving of a ring than 5-time conference-title-playing McNabb other than Mike Vick, Sue's is all ears.
Total Seasons Played: 13
Closest He Got to a Title: NBA Finals, 2001
The first pick in a 1996 NBA Draft that included Marcus Campy, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Antoine Walker, Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Steve Nash, Jermaine O'Neal and Derek Fisher (what happened to drafts like these?), AI is a basketball player certainly like no other that ever played in the NBA.
But my, MY what an awkward time to put AI in the top 5 of such a prestigious list. We all know about the long-and-recently-significantly-added-to list of AI character transgressions. Most notably and hmorously his aversion to practice.
We talkin' 'bout practice? I'm 'sposed to be a franchise playa. But straight up like the above caption suggests, Allen Iverson gave everything he had to the game of basketball, making the playoffs 8 out of his 13 seasons with teams that included starting rosters like this:
M. Geiger ▪ G. Lynch ▪ A. McKie ▪ T. Ratliff ▪ E. Snow
T. Hill ▪ A. Iverson ▪ G. Lynch ▪ D. Mutombo ▪ E. Snow (finals run)
T. Hill ▪ A. Iverson ▪ E. Snow ▪ K. Thomas ▪ K. Van Horn
S. Dalembert ▪ A. Iguodala ▪ A. Iverson ▪ K. Korver ▪ K. Thomas (Webber year)
And of course the two with Carmello. Can we get this guy some help? No offence to Keith Van Horn or 'Ol Beat-up Webber, but AI deserves to win a championship just for having to play his ass off with busters like this for 80% of his career. Iverson's a 10-time All Star, winning the MVP in 2000-2001. At 6" absolutely nothing he was selected to the All-NBA team on 7 occassions, won the scoring title (2004-2005) and was in the top 10 in minutes played per season 6 different years. To top it off, AI led the league in minutes per game 7 times, points per game four times and has been in the top 10 in steals 10 out of his 13 seasons.
As has been discussed on Sue's, if AI doesn't embrace a new off-the-bench role with a contender, he has absolutely no chance at winning a championship. You 'wanna talk about a gamer? AI is the scrappiest professional athlete I've ever known, and his contempt for practice aside he plays his ass off during the game. Even if he detonated any shot at the Pistons reaching the Eastern Conference Finals this year and walked away from his team in an unprecedented move for a Superstar, AI deserves to have a ring before he retires.
3. Steve Nash
Total Seasons Played: 13
Closest He Got to a Title: NBA Western Conference Finals, 2003, 2005 and 2006
Poor Steve Nash. His best shot at even an appearance in the NBA Finals was with a peak-Dirk on the 2000-2004 fired up Dallas squad. Unfortunately for this little futballer he was unlucky enough to be not only in the same conference, but in the same division as a peak-Timmy D and the Spurs. He then moved on to the SSOL Suns teams (2004-2007) that were quite frankly the most entertaining basketball team to watch in my lifetime...perhaps the most entertaining team period. One of the saddest things about Nash is, unless he latches onto a team as a back-up, I don't see him winning a championship. The Suns are clearly unstable and rebuilding, and picking up an aging point guard to start doesn't a championship team make, typically.
I've heard many a times that Nash didn't deserve his consecutive MVPs. Debate it all you want, but he still won them. He's also a 6-time All Star and a 3-time All NBA First Team member (twice All NBA 3rd team, once All NBA 2nd team). Then you have his 8-time appearance in the top 5 for free-throw percentage and 8-time appearance in the top ten for assists (including leading the league on 3 occasions).
When's the last time you heard Nash complain about anything? I understand Canadians are conflict-averse by nature, but this 'lil guy just seems like someone you wouldn't mind having coach your kids in soccer or basketball. Not that we should consider that when deciding if he's among the most deserving of a championship, but if none of the figures above work for you that sweet ass soccer-style header-alley-oop to Amare in the 2005 dunk contest clearly pushes him over the edge.
2. Jason Kidd
Total Seasons Played: 15
Closest He Got to a Title: NBA Finals, 2002 and 2003
Jason Kidd is absolutely, positively, without question a future Hall of Famer. Other players on this list you may be able to disput, but Kidd is a sure-fire IN to everyone that didn't right the short bus to school. A 9-time All Star player, Jason Kidd is quite possibly the best passing and rebounding point guard of all time. Kidd also earned the 1994-1995 Rookie of the Year, an impressive accomplishment when you consider the likes of Glenn Robinson, Grant Hill, Juwan Howard and Yinka Dare came into the LIG that year too. Kidd happens to be a 6-time All NBA Team member, as well as a 9-time All Defensive Team member. Kidd never won an MVP, which is a damn travesty, but is the league-leader in active players' accumulated minutes. He led the league in assists on 3 separate occasions (5 times if you're looking at APG), and is the active leader as well.
For this reason and his overall brilliance Jason Kidd is Runaround Sue's runner-up as the athlete most deserving of a ring.
1. Ken Griffey, Jr.
Total Seasons Played: 21
Closest He Got to a Title: American League Championship Series, 1995
Griffey, Griffey, Griffey. After weeks of back-and-forth between SJF and I, we finally settled with Junior at #2. I wrote it off as an acceptable loss, because I was adamant about Griffey being in the One slot likely - at least in some measure - because he's my favorite athlete of all time. I was prepared to except that bias was a part of my decision and to allow Kidd to creep in. But then I spoke to a few other people who love Griffey nearly as much as I do, and my bias became acceptable. Regardless, the reasons for Griffey at 1 are virtually endless.
It would be fun to try this in one breath: Griffey is a 13-time All Star who won the American League MVP in 1997 (finishing in the top 5 in voting four other years). He's a 10-time Gold Glove recipient and 7-time Silver Slugger. Junior appears in the top 50 in nearly all of those "Jeezus, What If He Weren't Injured" all-time categories like slugging % (31st), OPS (50th), games played (42nd), runs scored (38th), stolen bases (30th), doubles (45), triples (41), total bases (14), walks (44th) and RBIs (18th). And, of course, he's currently 5th all time with 613 career home runs. Ken Griffey, Jr. is not simply the greatest active baseball player without a ring, some could argue that without injury he'd be in the argument for best baseball player of all time.
"But in 21 seasons, he only made it to the playoffs 3 times, OBJ!" you might say. Well, in 1995, the closest The Kid ever got to sniffing the World Series, Griffey OPS'ed 1.488 and 1.011 in the two playoff series, respectively. He's a decidely un-Arod-esque career .290 hitter with a .947 in the postseason, so you can't really lay the blame on him. There's not much else to say about Griffey except that he's the poster boy for the "he played the game right" athlete. Remember the story about how Bonds decided over dinner that he was going to start injecting himself with Hippo steroids, and Griffey said it wasn't for him? Man, sometimes I wish Junior HAD taken steroids, if only to come back from injury a little quicker. But the lasting legacy of being 94.5% positive Griffey is clean is even better. The Kid, with his "I Love This Game" smile and backwards hat, will always be remembered as one of the more positive sports figures of his time.
And, honestly. Is there really another athlete you'd rather see crying while being hosed with champagne and hoisting the championship trophy?
(Note: All stats courtesy of baseball/basketball/football reference. As if you needed to be told)