The top 5 American sports figures born on Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras day is the culmination of a season of revelry and fun before the 40 days of Lent in the Roman Catholic faith. But in New Orleans, the parades really ramp up and begin in earnest two Fridays prior to Mardi Gras day. In fact, as a lifelong resident of New Orleans, I have been to many more parades before Mardi Gras day than on Fat Tuesday. However, for many great athletes in America, Mardi Gras day was just the beginning. Take a look back at the top five athletes and sports figures who were born on Mardi Gras day.

5. Roland James (NFL, born on February 18, 1958)

For 11 years, Roland James was a defensive back for the New England Patriots. During that time, he compiled 29 INTs and recovered nine fumbles. However, he only paraded into the end zone once during his NFL career. In his rookie season of 1980, James returned a punt 75 yards for a TD. Roland James experienced a bit of Mardi Gras firsthand when his Patriots were thumped by the Chicago Bears 46-10 in Super Bowl XX in New Orleans.

4. Michael Finley (NBA, born on March 6, 1973)

Michael Finley played 15 years in the NBA. For three of those years, he led the league in minutes played per game. Due to a trade, he actually managed to play in 83 games in one season. The two-time all-star also ranks 15th in NBA history with 1,454 three-point FGs. In 2007, Michael Finley and the Spurs brought Mardi Gras to San Antonio when they won the NBA championship.

3. Ron Gant (MLB, born on March 2, 1965)

Although he had a propensity for striking out and his batting average was rarely high, Ron Gant was a terrific power hitter during his MLB career. I remember watching Gant and the rest of the Atlanta Braves dominate the NL in the early 1990s. During his career, Gant belted 321 HRs, stole 243 bases and was a two-time all-star. Despite appearing in 52 postseason games, Ron Gant was never able to celebrate a Mardi Gras-like pro sports championship.

2. John Calipari (NBA and NCAA basketball coach, born on February 10, 1959)

John Calipari is one of the most successful and controversial NCAA men's basketball coaches in the business. Widely regarded as one of the best recruiters in college basketball, Calipari's teams have twice had to vacate wins. I remember when Calipari was the coach at Memphis and he rendered my Alma Mater Tulane and everyone else in C-USA insignificant. Despite his success, Calipari has never brought Mardi Gras to his colleges with a national title.

1. Dwight Freeney(notes) (NFL, born on February 19, 1980)

If everyone born on Mardi Gras was as successful as Dwight Freeney, there would be many more parents trying to have children in February and March. I remember when the Saints played the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV one of the keys to the game was whether or not the offensive line could protect Drew Brees(notes) from Freeney. During his amazing NFL career, Dwight Freeney has sacked the QB 94 times, has been selected to six Pro Bowls, has been first team all-pro three times and won Super Bowl XLI.

Sources

"Mardi Gras Dates - Past and Future," nutrias.org

"Roland James," pro-football-reference.com

"Michael Finley," basketball-reference.com

"Ron Gant," baseball-reference.com

"John Calipari," sports-reference.com

"Dwight Freeney," pro-football-reference.com

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Updated Tuesday, Mar 8, 2011