The Drive with Jody Oehler

The Drive with Jody Oehler

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Top5Thurs: Top 5 Underappreciated Stars

Like everyone watching The Last Dance, I'm constantly reminded of hilarious/awesome things from the 90's: how many goofy white guys were on every NBA team, how ridiculous baggy clothes were for everybody involved, how awesome 90's NBA broadcasters were like Mike Fratello, Dick Stockton and even Ahmad Rashad.

But mostly, I can't help but be reminded of not only Michael Jordan's unparalleled greatness but Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman's greatness as well.

And it got me to thinking what athletes legacies from my lifetime, for whatever reasons, are not fully appreciated now as they should be. Like Pippen and Rodman before this documentary.

So without further ado, here is this week's Top 5 Thursday: Most Underappreciated Stars

5.Gary Payton

  • Payton is a Hall of Famer, made 9 All NBA teams, 9 All Defensive teams, one of the greatest nicknames ever ("The Glove") and eventually won a ring late in his career. But Payton was a force of nature in Seattle. Now, he may get occasionally mentioned for his prolific trash talk but imagine if Patrick Beverly was the best player on the Clippers. That was Gary Payton. The best explanation for his career not being fully appreciated? He became a late career ring chasing journeyman. After 13 spectacular years in Seattle, he played for 4 different teams in his final 5 seasons including, apparently, the Milwaukee Bucks.

4.Tony Gonzalez

  • Tony Gonzalez is a Hall of Famer, made 14 Pro Bowls, 6 All Pro Teams and is 3rd all time in receptions for any player at any position but somehow he's never gotten his due. He toiled in Kansas City for 12 years, made the playoffs three times but did not win a single post season game while a member of the Chiefs. Then he went to Atlanta where he'd win one playoff game. But man, none of that was Gonzalez's fault. You could set a metronome to his consistency. He was one of the first freak athletes turned football players but you wouldn't know it now. He's been upstaged by Antonio Gates, Rob Gronkowsk, Jimmy Graham and Travis Kelce, amongst others but there was nothing on the football field they could do that Gonzalez couldn't.

3.Sterling Sharpe

  • Sharpe only played 7 seasons in the NFL before being forced to retire due to injuries. He'd watch as his brother Shannon went on to a Hall of Fame career but to everyone else who watched, we know who the best Sharpe brother was in the NFL. He made those 7 seasons count with 5 Pro Bowls, 3 All Pro teams and 5 1,000 yard seasons. He was Brett Favre's best weapon and one of the most reliably productive WR's in an era that eventually gave birth to some of the greatest to ever play. Sharpe was undoubtedly one of the 5 best WR's in football for six of his seven seasons but never quite gets the credit his abbreviated career earned, unlike his RB contemporary Terrell Davis.

2.Hakeem Olajuwon

  • Hakeem made 12 All NBA teams, 9 All NBA Defensive teams, two Defensive Player of the Year awards, two NBA Finals MVP's and a regular season MVP. No one who watched would ever deny him greatness. But Hakeem was more than just great. He was a dominant two way center who was durable, reliable and lethal. He averaged 20 plus points per game for the first 13 years of his career. He swooped in and took advantage of Michael Jordan's absence and won both titles, leaving no doubt who the second best player in the league was to MJ at his peak. Yet, he's constantly overshadowed by other big men like Patrick Ewing or Shaq. Hakeem may be the greatest big man in history but because no one would watch a 10 hour documentary on him there are millions of young NBA fans who would never know it.

1.Rickey Henderson

  • Rickey's career was like a Stefon skit from SNL, it had everything: drama, trade demands, ego, prolific statistical success, championships, records, off and on the record stories that boggled your mind. He was a 21st century athlete who began his career in the 70's and wrapped it up in the 2000's, spanning four different decades. He's MLB's all time leader in stolen bases and runs. His career OBP was over .400. He hit 20+ HR's from the leadoff spot on three different occasions. He had a perfect home run trot out of the box. He had a distinctive batting stance and a presence in the box. Rickey Henderson was one of the greatest baseball players I ever saw and the least I can do is put him #1 on this list.

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