In the latest ESPN magazine there is a table showing the numbers worn by players on the field across a variety of sports from football to baseball to hockey to basketball to soccer. The intent of this is to pick
The jocks who did the most for their digitsIn any list like this there will be controversy - even in the tag line ESPN says that
The over /under on how many you'll agree with - oneFine... so we have an interesting idea here, crossing sports, and they even acknowledge that any idea like this will be fraught with controversy.
So as a Chicago sports fan (and also a fan of sports in general, but mostly Chicago) I scanned for the two numbers that I "knew" would be pre-ordained:
#23 - Michael Jordan
#34 - Walter Payton
While Jordan was #23, WALTER PAYTON WAS NOT LISTED AT #34! I had to stare at this list for a while to see if it wasn't a typo or something.
ESPN picked Hakeem Olajuwon at #34, instead!
While certainly Hakeem is a great basketball player, and one of the top 50 of all time, and even one of the top 5 centers, he wasn't a candidate for the greatest basketball player EVER, which is what he'd have to be in order to compete with Walter Payton, who is a candidate for the greatest football player EVER.
While we certainly are Bears fans and can be accused of bias, Walter Payton's career totals, playing for many years on a weak Chicago Bears' offense where he was virtually the only weapon, are astounding. It is true that although his career total yards numbers were eclipsed in recent years, his numbers and durability stand the test of time. And not only was he a great player, unlike many others, he was an extremely positive role model of sportsmanship and toughness, making 100% use of his available skills through immense toughness and discipline.
If you go to a Bears game today a significant portion of the stands are filled with #34 jerseys, almost a decade after he died. While other players come and go, he epitomizes what the franchise is all about - toughness, discipline, and making the most of what you can do.
I am not going to dump on Olajuwon but even his self-serving bio on wikipedia acknowledges that he won 2 championships while Michael Jordan was off playing baseball and when Jordan returned Houston went back to being a non-achieving franchise. Hakeem made the most of his opportunities and certainly is a great basketball player but his achievements and championships are just brackets while Jordan took a mid-career sabbatical.
ESPN - this is a terrible error. I really can't believe that this happened, unless you were trying to randomly stir up controversy. It isn't just Chicago fans, it is sports fans, and football fans that would be amazed at this choice. It's just dumb.
Cross posted at Fire Ron Turner