Who Is the King of New York Sports?

Photographs: Getty Images; Collage: Gabe Conte

It’s baaack. The sheer tonnage of New York sports excellence in the air this spring demanded that we reignite the King of New York sports discussion. This list, which is meant to rank the ten New York athletes that have the most power, clout, juice, etc at this current moment, made several people pretty upset the last time around. As a reminder, we’re not simply crowning the best or the most accomplished athlete in New York—we’re capturing a snapshot of the here and now.

With the Knicks and Rangers both in the midst of captivating second-round playoff series, the Yankees off to a rollicking start, and the Liberty opening their season with title aspirations, there’s no shortage of hotshot ballers playing in the Big Apple. These are the athletes at the top of the mountain.

10. Sauce Gardner

Team: New York Jets

Position: Cornerback

NEW YORK FACTOID: Earlier this month, unprompted, he declared that he would like to remain in Gotham for the rest of his career.

In 2023, the New York football teams did not perform as well as their legions of fans would have hoped. But, at least on the green side of NYC football fandom, hope springs eternal thanks to some electrifying young talent. Aaron Rodgers is great and all, but Sauce Gardner is still just 23 years old, with All-Pro nods in both his first two seasons. This is the type of impact teams are looking for when they make a top-five draft pick, and so far Sauce has more than delivered on the hype.

Forget the playoffs for a second (the Jets haven’t qualified since the 2010 season). Gang Green hasn’t even finished above .500 since 2015. Reaching that hallowed ground this year, as trivial as it sounds, would be a major step forward. If the future is indeed bright for the Jets, it will be largely because of Gardner, who also has the personality and willingness to become a New York sports VIP.

9. Breanna Stewart

Team: New York Liberty

Position: Power Forward

NEW YORK FACTOID: When she heard the news that the WNBA would begin chartering flights for all 12 teams, Stewart responded with a very New York joke, saying the Liberty will take the league up on that offer even when they’re traveling to nearby Connecticut.

Stewie will climb up this list once the WNBA season begins and she presumably picks up where she left off last year. In her first season with the Liberty, Stewart not only won MVP and earned a spot on the All-Defensive team, but also led the squad to its first WNBA Finals since 2002. She played a big role in revitalizing the Liberty, along with the atmosphere inside Barclays Center—which is noticeably more turnt for the Libs than it is for the Nets.

8. Francisco Lindor

Team: New York Mets

Position: Shortstop

NEW YORK FACTOID: He helped design the Mets’ new City Connect jerseys, which are a stylish homage to the concrete jungle.

Lindor, in both demeanor and bank statements, is a quintessential franchise player. Though he’s off to a bit of a slow start this year, Lindor is still the main man in Flushing, and his charisma never wanes. Plus, even when his bat is slumping, he’s good for basically a sparkling defensive play per week.

7. Artemi Panarin

Team: New York Rangers

Position: Center

NEW YORK FACTOID: He earned a shoutout from Larry David during the final season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Panarin, aka Bread Man aka Yeast Mode, is the Rangers’ best player. His 120 points this season represented the second-most any Ranger has ever scored in a single season. This is a team, mind you, that’s been skating around since 1926. The Rangers are also flying through the playoffs, winning each of their first seven games. With Panarin under contract through the 2025-26 season, the team’s championship window is wide open. That’s also plenty of time to break out his signature celebration.

6. Donte DiVincenzo

Team: New York Knicks

Position: Shooting Guard

NEW YORK FACTOID: One of his nicknames, the Big Ragu, came from the legendarily excitable commentator Gus Johnson, who bestowed the moniker on DiVincenzo in college.

While DiVincenzo is not a superstar, he seems to always be the guy hitting big threes when the Knicks need them most. That’s an A1 way to ingratiate yourself to the fans, and most can agree that Big Ragu has been the Knicks’ third-most important player during these playoffs. The shot to beat Philly in Game 2 will live on forever, just like his friendship with Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson (more on them later), his old teammates at Villanova University.

5. Mika Zibanejad

Team: New York Rangers

Position: Center

NEW YORK FACTOID: He has been on fire during the playoffs, netting three goals and dishing nine assists.

Real heads may appreciate the stalwart defensive play of Adam Fox, or the physicality of 6'7'' hulk Matt Rempe, but Zibanejad is the team’s leading point scorer during the playoffs, an honor he shares with Vincent Trocheck. That’s the surefire way to win the city’s collective heart. During the playoffs, all that matters is what you’ve done for me lately, and Zibanejad has a point in every one of the Rangers’ postseason games this spring. The Swede’s long, flowing locks also make him instantly recognizable, something that goes a long way in a sea of close-cropped, square-jawed teammates.

4. Aaron Judge

Team: New York Yankees

Position: Center Field

NEW YORK FACTOID: Judge and fellow slugger Giancarlo Stanton each went deep on Wednesday night, marking the 34th time they’ve homered in the same game. That is good for sixth-most by a duo in the Yankees’ storied history.

Judge has been the biggest Yankee for almost a full decade now, both figuratively and literally. That will always hold an immense amount of weight in New York City, but a new arrival in the Bronx and the Knicks being in the throes of an intoxicating playoff run keeps Judge out of the top three. Check back in if he can get the Yanks to their first World Series since Obama’s first term.

3. Josh Hart

Team: New York Knicks

Position: Shooting Guard/Small Forward

NEW YORK FACTOID: He’s been twisting his braids into several patterns that pay tribute to the city, beginning the playoffs with the iconic interlocking NY, then going with a more specific “NYK” for the second round.

Don’t fact-check this, but every single New Yorker loves Josh Hart. The reason? He plays basketball with an undeniable New York spirit, putting his body on the line, constantly bodying other dudes in mid-air to collect offensive rebounds, and playing every second of every game. (Literally! Hart’s game log from these playoffs includes four games where he was on the floor for every second of game action, and one of those went to overtime.)

With the old guard all in Cancun, it’s time for the next generation to shine.

Like several Knick cult heroes before him—John Starks, J.R. Smith, Jeremy Lin—Hart is unlikely to receive a Times Square billboard. In fact, Hart has never been an All-Star, or even averaged 15 points per game. But he’s one of the main reasons the Knicks are still alive, and securing a dozen rebounds a night while standing only 6’4” (shorter than Starks!) is the type of blue collar basketball that will make him a legend in all five boroughs.

2. Juan Soto

Team: New York Yankees

Position: Right Field

NEW YORK FACTOID: Soto’s cleats for his first home game at Yankee Stadium were about as New York as they could possibly be.

The new kid on 161st Street has re-energized the Yankees, and given Judge his most talented teammate ever. But he’s also straight up been one of the best players in Major League Baseball. Nine home runs in his first 38 games with the Bronx Bombers is exactly what the doctor ordered, and if things continue the way they are, Soto and the Yankees are in for a serious, theatrical battle with the Baltimore Orioles for the AL East crown.

1. Jalen Brunson

Team: New York Knicks

Position: Point Guard

NEW YORK FACTOID: With a light 43 points in Game 1 against the Pacers, he matched a franchise record, joining ‘80s icon Bernard King as the only Knicks to notch at least 40 points in four consecutive playoff games. He’s also one of just four players in NBA history (along with King and some guys you might have heard of, Michael Jordan and Jerry West) to accomplish that feat.

Let’s just say it. Brunson is the best Knick since Patrick Ewing, which is pretty damn cool. Apart from maybe Philadelphia (a city he heroically defeated in six games), no city is harder on its athletes than New York. Brunson’s unanimous approval rating shows just how much juice this six-foot-nothing king has. No matter how the rest of the Knicks’ postseason unfolds, Brunson’s virtuosic performance has added his name to the pantheon of beloved Knickerbockers.

King of New York Vol. 2

June 28, 2023

10. Daniel Jones

9. Justin Verlander

8. Mikal Bridges

7. Garrett Wilson

6. Sauce Gardner

5. Jalen Brunson

4. Gerrit Cole

3. Aaron Judge

2. Aaron Rodgers

1. Breanna Stewart

King of New York Vol. 1

April 21, 2023

<cite class="credit">Photographs: Getty Images; Collage: Gabe Conte</cite>
Photographs: Getty Images; Collage: Gabe Conte

10. Daniel Jones

9. Igor Shesterkin

8. Pete Alonso

7. Francisco Lindor

6. Julius Randle

5. Anthony Volpe

4. Saquon Barkley

3. Mikal Bridges

2. Aaron Judge

1. Jalen Brunson

Originally Appeared on GQ