Rewriting Sports History

Here’s how winning (or winning more) can change a career. Five athletes who could benefit from rewriting the sports record books.

Stars, not legends.

Courtesy of Sports Illustrated, Angel Fire, NY Daily News, Seattle Times, Golf Discussions.


5. Ken Griffey, Jr.

13-Time All-Star
1997 AL MVP
10-Time Gold Glove Award
Batting average .284
Hits 2,781
Home runs 630
Runs batted in 1,836

When Ken Griffey, Jr. first appeared on the Major League Baseball scene in 1989, it was apparent he was going to be a star. Junior was born into a baseball family, his father an all-star caliber major leaguer, most notably a part of the Big Red Machine (Cincinnati Reds). Griffey, Jr. had the talent to be one of the game’s all-time greats, and better than Senior. And he was. But, imagine how great Griffey, Jr’s career would have turned out if he were able to deliver a World Series to the Mariners in the 1990s? Or, if he went home to Cincinnati, and captured a ring, playing for the team his father aided in making famous.

None of that happened, of course. If it did, I would most likely be writing about how Ken Griffey, Jr. is the greatest the game has ever seen. He has never been associated with steroids, and if not hobbled by injuries for the entire second half of his career, would have surely passed Barry Bonds* all-time home run mark of 762. Think about that one more time: never associated with steroids. In the steroid-era. Amazing.

Ken Griffey, Jr. was a complete five-tool player, played Center Field with the grace of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, and swung the bat as well as anyone who has ever played the game. If not for devastating injuries and no World Series ring, Ken Griffey, Jr. may have been the greatest baseball player to ever live.

4. Patrick Ewing

11-Time All Star
1986 Rookie of the Year
2-Time Eastern Conference Champion
Points 24,815 (21.0 ppg)
Rebounds 11,617 (9.8 rpg)
Blocks 2,894 (2.4 bpg)

Winning in New York is never easy, and many can say they were never able to accomplish it. But, Patrick Ewing is without a doubt the best athlete to never win a Championship in the Big Apple. A coveted pick out of Georgetown in 1985, Ewing’s athleticism, size and potential was something unseen in years. Just like Ken Griffey, Jr. in baseball, it was obvious that Patrick Ewing had the impending prospects of being one of the all-time great NBA Centers.

Ewing went onto accomplish just about everything he could individually, but what hurts his legacy the most is what wasn’t accomplished: an NBA ring. Understandably affected by the Jordan era (where he joins Karl Malone and Charles Barkley – easy contenders to make the final five of this list), Ewing did make two NBA Finals (1994 – the year Jordan played baseball; 1999 – the year Jordan retired). Unable to win a ring on either opportunity, in my mind, Ewing stood the most to gain in his legacy of all NBA players to never win.

Being in New York, a championship driven city, there always seems to be an asterisk next to Patrick Ewing’s name: the great one that was supposed to win, but never won. With one championship, the giant size Georgetown product could have went from superstar to legendary status for eternity.

3. Jim Kelly

5-Time Pro Bowler
4-Time AFC Champion
TD–INT   237–175
Yards 35,467
QB Rating 84.4

In Buffalo, the Hall-of-Famer Jim Kelly was a star quarterback whose Super Bowl performances left much to be desired. However, he did lead the Bills to four Super Bowls in ten seasons, winning a remarkable four AFC Championship games in a row. I believe that no one would have had their legacy altered more in NFL history than Jim Kelly if he were able to win multiple rings. He could easily have two, and definitely should have at least one (blame kicker Scott Norwood).

Was Terry Bradshaw really that much better than a player like Jim Kelly? I’m not sure; it’s certainly debatable. One thing is certain, however: no one mentions Jim Kelly as an all-time great Quarterback, despite being a clear cut Hall-of-Famer with some pretty impressive statistics. That would most certainly have been reformed if he came away on the winning side of at least one of those four Super Bowls.

Clearly, Jim Kelly is not the greatest Quarterback to never win a Super Bowl. The idea of the post was who gained the most by rewriting their history on the big stage? Dan Marino already gets praised as a top 5 Quarterback ever, despite being ring-less. If Kelly wins multiple rings, I can guarantee he would be recognized as a top 5 Quarterback of all-time by many.

2. Andy Roddick

Record: 612–213 (32 Titles)
2003 U.S. Open Champion

Andy Roddick’s career has been deemed by the worldwide tennis media as some type of failure because he won just one Grand Slam, a U.S. Open in 2003. So, you are probably asking, he won a Grand Slam, a major championship, so isn’t he disqualified from the list? My argument is this: Andy Roddick would have won multiple Grand Slams and put U.S. Men’s tennis back on the map if it weren’t for one player in the middle of his prime: Roger Federer.

Roddick had an extremely impressive record – nearly 400 matches above a five-hundred winning percentage for his career. He also played in five Grand Slam finals, as stated earlier, he did win one. Similarly to Ewing in the 1990’s with Michael Jordan, it wasn’t necessarily a matter of luck with Roddick – he simply ran into a player better in Roger Federer. But that doesn’t make his career a failure by any stretch of the imagination. If he were able to pull off several Grand Slam titles over the duration of his career, I am fairly certain the future of U.S. men’s tennis would not be as bleak as it currently stands. Instead of the media consistently ripping apart his career, we should be celebrating it, because let’s not forget – he is the last American men’s tennis player to win a Grand Slam, ten years and counting.

1. Sergio Garcia

Total Pro Wins: 28 (PGA Tour 8, European Tour 11, Asian Tour 4, Others 5)
Ryder Cup Record: 16–8–4

In all of sports, no one has more to gain than golf’s Sergio Garcia. Haunted by a number of runner-up finishes in major championships, the trajectory of Garcia’s legacy could easily be altered by slipping on a Green Jacket next April, or holding up the Wanamaker Trophy this Sunday. Sergio let majors slip away at the Open Championship in 2007, and the PGA Championship the following year. Deemed unable to hit the big shot or hole the clutch putt, specifically by the American media, Garcia stated in 2012, “I’m not good enough … I don’t have the thing I need to have […] In 13 years I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place.

Sergio has bounced back since that low-point of his career a few years ago. This season he already has three runner-up finishes, notably at the Open Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone. His confidence seems to be soaring, and is presently 3rd in the Official Golf World Rankings.

Of course, Garcia’s career is not over.

But up until this point, in my opinion, he has more to gain than any other athlete in professional sports by winning a major championship.

There is no doubt in my mind that Sergio Garcia still has the ability to triumph on golf’s biggest stage, despite several mentally bruising finishes in past majors. He is only 34 years old, and is currently playing some of the best golf of his entire career.

But, until he does it, he is still major-less. And no one needs a major more than Sergio to validate an impressive yet disappointing career. Several majors would really put an imprint on the legacy he deserves. As a golf fan, I hope he at least gets one.

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About Tyler Michels

Tyler is an NC State alum living in Raleigh, NC. Growing up in Northwest New Jersey, Tyler developed a love for New York sports teams, driving his desire to become a writer. In his free time, Tyler can probably be found on a golf course.

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