Thursday, January 29, 2009

North Carolina's Mount Rushmore Of Sports

ESPN is doing this thing called the "Mount Rushmore of Sports". Each state will select four people to annoint as the best in that state's sporting history.

I'm going to do a few of these since I've lived in several states during my days. I was raised in North Carolina and still consider Charlotte as my hometown so let my crack North Kakalaka.

MICHAEL JORDAN: Believe it or not, you do pause a bit when deciding MJ. I mean, his biggest successes came while he was in Chicago and you know he'll be on the Illinois' list. Still, there has never been another athlete in the history of that state that is more beloved and respected than Jordan. None. That man is a god in the Old North State.

DALE EARNHARDT, RICHARD PETTY: You would think that one NASCAR guy is enough but you have to put both on the Rush. Petty was the O.G. of the circuit before it went beyond the southern borders. He won 200 races and seven championships. In 1967, he won a record 27 races ... including 10 in a row.

Earnhardt is, of course, his own legend. From his "Intimidator" mystique to his seven championships (a record that he and the King share) to his untimely death, No. 3 was one of the reasons the sport reached out to new areas and a spot with the big boys at the sports' table.

DEAN SMITH: This one was the hardest for me because I didn't want to make it a "UNC" thing by having both Coach Smith and Jordan up there. But I have to. Coach K may pass Coach Smith on the all-time wins list, but some of the wins he put doesn't count in the records. Coach Smith was a key figure in intergrating UNC basketball and the ACC. He played for Phog Allen, coached under Frank McGuire, and coached against John Wooden, Bobby Knight, Krzyzewski, Everett Case and many others.

I wanted to put guys like David Thompson, Enos Slaughter, Arnold Palmer, Mia Hamm or Charlie Justice (the last two are Tar Heels too) up there but I feel these four men are what North Carolina has been made up of.

TENNESSEE (Where I was born): Pat Summitt, Peyton Manning, Jeff Fisher and Johnny Majors.

KENTUCKY (Where I currently live): Muhammad Ali, Adolph Rupp (imagine those two side-by-side), Secretariat and Dan Issel.

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