Editor's note: YCN contributor Ken Pomponlo has compiled his list of the 10 greatest athletes for Denver. With John Elway eliminated from the poll, Terrell Davis and Patrick Roy finished in a dead heat for second place. Complete results are to the right.
The task is to come up with a list of nominees and have you, the readers, select the most beloved athlete in Denver pro sports history.
We all know how that would've turned out.
Denver Broncos quarterback winning in a landslide and deservedly so -- even a full 15 years after the first-ballot Hall of Famer's final, Super Bowl-winning seasonIt would have been all-John Elway, of course, with the former
After all, Elway is one of the all-time greats in the nation's most popular sport, plying his trade at the most visible position in sports while playing for the Mile High City's oldest and most cherished franchise.
It all was summed up rather succinctly by one local radio talk show host who recently stated that if there was to be a Mount Rushmore of Denver sports, the two-time Super Bowl-winning QB would deserve his own mountain.
Well, that task was easy. But the real question is who's No. 2?
And that's what we'll debate here: The most beloved athlete in Denver pro sports history NOT named John Elway.
With Denver fielding a representative in all four major pro sports, we'll offer at least two candidates from each franchise, presented alphabetically.
Oh, and spoiler alert No. 2: Carmelo Anthony missed the cut.
Dante Bichette (Rockies, 1993-99)
It's a coin flip between Bichette and Larry Walker, but the original Blake Street Bombers definitely need to be represented. The four-time Colorado All-Star came aboard as an original member of the '93 expansion Rocks, and quickly established himself as a fan favorite. His best season came in 1995 when he nearly won the National League Triple Crown with a .340 average, 40 homers and 128 RBIs, finishing second in league MVP voting and leading the franchise to its first postseason appearance.
Terrell Davis (Broncos, 1995-2001)
Without the legs of T.D., one of the best sixth-round draft picks in NFL history, Elway might've never reached the Super pinnacle. Davis eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards in his rookie season and only got better from there, rushing for 157 yards and a Super Bowl-record three TDs in the memorable win over the Packers and then soaring past the 2,000-yard barrier a year later while running away with league MVP honors. Even though his career was cut short by a knee injury early in the ensuing season, he still ranks sixth on the NFL's all-time postseason rushing list with an impressive 1,140 yards in eight games.
Alex English (Nuggets, 1980-90)
How many Nuggets fans -- let alone the rest of NBA Nation -- realize that this smooth operator led the league in scoring during the 1980s? It was a decade where Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and the emerging Michael Jordan monopolized the headlines and the Larry O'Brien Trophy, but English was most certainly The Man in the Mile High City, making eight All-Star appearances, appearing on three All-NBA teams and leading the Nuggets to nine postseason appearances.
In fact, English averaged more than 23 points per game nine years in a row, including a career-high 29.8 points per game in 1985-86.
Todd Helton (Rockies, 1997-present)
This homegrown Rockies star is still slugging away at Coors Field, even with his 40th birthday rapidly approaching in August. A 1995 Colorado draft pick and former teammate of Broncos QB Peyton Manning at Tennessee, the aptly nicknamed "Toddfather" owns a .318 career batting average and is the franchise's runaway leader in almost every offensive category imaginable - including games played, hits and home runs.
Helton has five All-Star game appearances and a combined seven Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards in the process. After Helton missed out on the '95 playoffs, Colorado fans shared his unabashed Rocktober joy when he finally made it to the postseason -- and World Series -- in 2007.
Floyd Little (Broncos, 1967-75)
Almost a decade before Elway burst upon the scene, Little was regarded as "The Franchise." He was the first first-round draft pick to sign with the then-AFL Broncos, and he quickly established himself as one of pro football's top running backs, leading the NFL in rushing in 1971. Little, a 2010 Hall of Fame veteran's-committee enshrinee, did it all without much help as the Broncos didn't earn their first playoff berth until 1977 -- two years after his retirement when, at the time, Little walked away as the game's seventh all-time leading rusher.
Patrick Roy (Avalanche, 1995-2003)
Sir Patrick, already having established his NHL stardom playing for Montreal, became an instant fan favorite after his trade from the Canadiens in the Avs' first season in the Mile High City. His acquisition also put the franchise over the top in its first Stanley Cup-winning season (1996). Roy cemented his lore and popularity by shedding the mask and brawling with goalies Mike Vernon and Chris Osgood of the hated Detroit Red Wings. Two years after backstopping the Avs to another Cup in 2001, Roy retired as perhaps the game's greatest goalie - an honor bestowed upon him by a panel of hockey writers in 2004.
Joe Sakic (Avalanche, 1995-2009)
Super Joe -- a quiet leader who spoke volumes with his superb play, his penchant for clutch playoff goals and one of the game's most potent wrist shots -- teamed with Roy on the Avalanche's two Stanley Cup-winning squads. Appearing in 13 NHL All-Star Games, Sakic was the 2001 league MVP and retired with an eighth-place ranking on the league's all-time points (1,641) list. He does, of course, rank as the Avs' all-time leading scorer and career leader in games played among his multitude of franchise records.
David Thompson (Nuggets, 1975-82)
Thompson may not rank as the Nuggets' all-time best player or career scoring leader, but he certainly was the franchise's most electric and exciting star. The 1975-76 ABA Rookie of the Year, he narrowly lost to Dr. J that year in the memorable ABA All-Star Slam Dunk Competition in Denver and then shepherded the franchise into the NBA the following season. Thompson was a five-time All-Star, a two-time All-NBA selection and the only player to be named MVP of both the ABA and NBA All-Star contests. Knee problems and struggles with drug abuse cut his career short in the early '80s.
Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies, 2006-present)
Anyone who's heard the "TU-LO" chant at Coors Field has an idea of how popular the current Colorado shortstop is. It really took the city by storm in the fall of 2007 when the then-rookie helped the Rockies to what still are the only postseason series wins in franchise history during their out-of-nowhere run to the World Series. The fiery, hard-playing team leader finished second in the '07 NL Rookie of the Year voting and has gone on to earn All-Star berths and Gold Gloves in both 2010 and '11. The trouble for Tulo, though, has been staying healthy as he's missed 268 career games and counting, including recent stints on the DL.
Ken Pomponio has spent the past 25 years as a sports journalist who has been published extensively in print and online. He's been an avid follower of the Denver sports scene since early childhood, and can be found on Twitter @kenpomp.
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