Editor's note: YCN contributor Patrick Michael has compiled his list of the 10 greatest athletes for New Orleans. Drew Brees edged Pete Maravich in user poll voting. Complete results to the right.
As a lifelong New Orleans resident, I have personally witnessed how special the bond is between local fans and athletes. A New Orleans Jazz player became a local and national legend, while Saints players have thrilled fans since 1967. And although it's too soon to tell what kind of impact he will have on the local sports scene, Anthony Davis could soon reverse the fortunes of the Pelicans.
Take a look back at the 10 greatest New Orleans pro athletes in history, listed in alphabetical order. Who is the most beloved of all time? Cast your vote.
Morten Andersen (Saints, 1982-94)
This may sound crazy to NFL fans of other teams, but Andersen was one of the most popular Saints players for many years. Kickers have a bad reputation, but Andersen was an extrovert, with a very engaging personality. In fact, he opened a very popular local sports bar and restaurant.
Drew Brees (Saints, 2006-present)
For more than 40 years, New Orleans residents thought a Super Bowl victory was about as likely as a blizzard during hurricane season. And for one terrible year, it looked like we might even lose our beloved Saints. But the greatest free-agent signing in NFL history ensured the impossible dream was a reality.
New Orleans immediately embraced Brees for making his residence in Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. Brees has also started the Brees Dream Foundation and he has taken an active role in supporting local public schools. For his work both on and off the field, Drew Brees is clearly one of the most beloved New Orleans pro athletes ever.
Bobby Hebert (Saints, 1985-92)
For many years, Hebert was a controversial figure in New Orleans. He sat out a year in a contract dispute with the Saints and he later played for the hated Atlanta Falcons. But Hebert led the Saints to four playoff appearances and the native of Cut Off, La.,, now works for local radio station WWL.
Rickey Jackson (Saints, 1981-93)
Jackson was a freak of nature as a Saints linebacker. He was effective in pass coverage, defending the run, and sacking the quarterback. He also had a knack for both causing and recovering fumbles. New Orleans fans also respected the Pro Football Hall of Famer for his candid comments in postgame interviews.
Archie Manning (Saints, 1971-82)
People in New Orleans still wonder how good the Saints would have been if Manning had better talent around him. A porous offensive line also led to many injuries for Manning. Local fans respect Manning for residing in New Orleans and he was the Saints' radio color analyst for many years.
Pete Maravich (Jazz, 1974-79)
It is a myth that the Jazz left New Orleans because of bad attendance. In fact, the Jazz twice ranked sixth in NBA attendance while in New Orleans. Maravich was a superstar at LSU and his incredible ball-handling skills made the Jazz very popular. Maravich is in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Deuce McAllister (Saints, 2001-08)
It's hard to explain why McAllister was so popular with Saints fans in New Orleans. Maybe it's because he was the antithesis of previous Saints running back, Ricky Williams. I remember people in New Orleans losing their minds when they heard the Saints re-signed McAllister for the Cardinals playoff game in 2010 -- a contest in which McAllister didn't play.
Chris Paul (Hornets, 2005-11)
Though Paul didn't leave New Orleans on the best terms, he was responsible for making basketball relevant in the city. In his six years with the Hornets, Paul was a machine. He won the 2006 Rookie of the Year Award, was a four-time All-Star and led the NBA in assists in 2008 and 2009.
Paul guided the Hornets to one of their best seasons in franchise history in 2007-08, winning the organization's only division title behind 56 wins.
Willie Roaf (Saints, 1993-2001)
For several years, Roaf was the only star in New Orleans. He was already a Louisiana fan favorite after playing collegiality at Louisiana Tech. The Saints thought so highly of the left tackle that they broke up the "Dome Patrol"-- trading Pat Swilling to the Lions -- to acquire the draft pick to select him. Roaf is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
George Rogers (Saints, 1981-84)
The No. 1 overall pick in 1981 enjoyed a legendary rookie season -- 1,674 rushing yards (still a Saints record) to lead the NFL, Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, and a trip to the Pro Bowl. Though his career was cut short by injuries, Rogers was electric in his four years with the Saints.
While all of these athletes made indelible impacts on the City of New Orleans, only one can be No. 1. Who should it be?
Patrick Michael lives in New Orleans and has covered local pro sports since 2010. Patrick's favorite Saints season was 2009 when New Orleans won Super Bowl 44 and his favorite Hornets/Pelicans season was 2008-09 when New Orleans won the Southwest Division. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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