Editor's note: YCN contributor Nathaniel Reeves has compiled his list of the 10 greatest athletes for Seattle. Ken Griffey Jr. easily won the top spot in user poll voting. Complete results are to the right.
Seattle's long history of professional sports includes only one champion, the 1978-79 Seattle SuperSonics. Despite often being disappointed by playoff failures or years of rebuilding, the city has seen a number of sports stars and personalities pass through, particularly in the past 20 years.
Even when Seattle finally has another champion, these 10 athletes and the impact they have left will not be forgotten.
In alphabetical order, here are the top 10 professional athletes in Seattle sports history:
Shaun Alexander (Seahawks, 2000-07)
In his eight seasons in Seattle, Alexander was an elite running back. In leading the Seahawks to their lone Super Bowl appearance in the 2005 season, he put it all together. He led the league with 1,880 rushing yards (11th all time) and a gaudy 27 TDs (tied for second all time), and he averaged an astonishing 117 yards on the ground per game. No surprise Alexander was awarded the MVP that season.
Alexander ended his stellar career with 9,453 rushing yards and 100 rushing touchdowns.
Fred Brown (SuperSonics, 1971-84)
Brown was the captain of Seattle's lone title winner and one of the city's first sports stars. A career Sonic, Brown is second in franchise history in points scored (14,018) and third in assists (3,160) and steals (1,149). His nickname "Downtown Freddie" was both one of the most memorable of any in the city and accurate, as Brown led the NBA in 3-point percentage in 1979-80, the first year the league used the 3-point line.
Ken Griffey Jr. (Mariners, 1989-99, 2009-10)
In his first 11 years, Griffey captivated Seattle as quite possibly the best baseball player on the planet. In that time, he accumulated 1,752 hits, 398 home runs and 1,152 RBIs, along with a Gold Glove every year but his first in the league. An extremely likeable personality and infectious smile made Griffey a fan-favorite, and his return in 2007 as a member of the Cincinnati Reds was one of the most anticipated Mariners events of the decade.
Matt Hasselbeck (Seahawks, 2001-10)
Hasselbeck never had the attention of the national sports media as one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks, but he led the Seattle Seahawks to their most extended period of success in franchise history and only Super Bowl appearance during the 2005 season. He remains beloved within the Seattle fan base for being the Seahawks' all-time passing leader and bringing stability and constant production for a period of 10 years. In his final of six playoff appearances in Seattle, he had an unheralded yet effective performance of 272 yards and four touchdowns in a massive upset win over the New Orleans Saints.
Ichiro Suzuki (Mariners, 2001-2012)
Ichiro came to the Mariners from Japan with rumors of greatness but still a lot of mystery. He quickly made himself known in Seattle and around the baseball world with a .350 batting average and an AL MVP Award in his first season in the United States, while leading the Mariners to 116 wins. During his career in Seattle, he set several batting records, including breaking the major-league record for hits in 2004 with 262. Until a trade last season, Ichiro would remain the favorite player on often poor Mariners teams.
Randy Johnson (Mariners, 1989-98)
The Big Unit put up dominating stats that were simply unbelievable during his time in Seattle. His noteworthy games as a Mariner are numerous, including a no-hitter in 1990, an 18-strikeout start in 1992 and a win in the decisive Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS. Johnson's mound presence was peerless, delighting Seattle fans and striking fear into the heart of opposing hitters.
Walter Jones (Seahawks, 1997-2008)
Left tackle isn't a glamorous position, but Seahawks fans recognize Jones as perhaps the most important piece to the Seahawks' success in the 2000s. Largely considered one of the greatest offensive linemen ever, Jones was a seven-time All-Pro and helped Shaun Alexander run to an MVP Award in 2005. During his 12-year career, all in a Seahawks uniform, Jones amazingly only gave up 23 sacks and was only called for holding nine times.
Steve Largent (Seahawks, 1976-89)
A star at the inception of the franchise, Largent is still regarded by fans as the greatest Seahawk of all time. He led the team in receiving all 13 years he was in Seattle and has nearly twice as many receiving yards as any other player in franchise history. Largent was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995.
Edgar Martinez (Mariners, 1987-2004)
Martinez spent a staggering 18 years with the Mariners, consistently putting up elite offensive numbers while revolutionizing the position of designated hitter. He has a position in the top three in franchise history in nearly every offensive category. What separates him in Seattle lore is his performance in the final two games of the 1995 ALDS against the New York Yankees, including a walkoff double in the 11th inning of Game 5.
Gary Payton (SuperSonics 1990-2003)
Payton was one of the stars of the Sonics of the 1990s, possibly the most beloved team in Seattle history. He is the franchise leader in points (21,813), assist (8,966) and steals (2,445), while tenacious defense earned him the nickname "The Glove." Known for being an expert trash-talker, Payton's personality remains one of the most unique and recognizable of any Seattle player.
Nathaniel Reeves is a lifelong Seattle sports follower who is studying journalism at the University of Washington. He currently covers sports for The UW Daily.
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- Shaun Alexander