A month into the New Year, it’s pretty evident that the sports world is loaded with young talent and blossoming stars. It’s fun to watch as greatness develops and players begin to make huge impacts on their respective sport. However, golf, baseball, basketball and football, it feels like four different young players are not just establishing themselves as stars of this generation, but are instead looking to join the rarified air of other all-time greats. In the NBA there’s Steph Curry and a shot more accurate than when people make fun of me for having no life. Cam Newton is in the NFL, and his touchdowns and dancing are constantly inspiring hilarious angry-parent-who-thinks-cheerleaders-are-a-better-role-model-than-Cam-Newton-hate-mail. Baseball has a plethora of young talent, but Bryce Harper (and his hair) are establishing themselves at the top of Major League Baseball. And in golf, it only took Jordan Spieth to the age of 21 to start getting put in the same conversations as someone named Tiger Woods. (Yes I realize there is no hockey here, yes Connor McDavid is really good, no I’m not going to talk about him more, no I will not go [censored]. Get over it NHL fans.) All of these players are very good at what they do and very young, which means it’s never too early to start talking legacies of course. All of them could grow to be legends, but who will be the most legendary? Just a reminder, if you don’t agree with what I say and that makes you mad, just remember that I already got your page view so I already win. So you can…
We can’t very well determine legacies without a set criteria, that would be as foolish as deciding Blaine Gabbert is your answer at quarterback. Shout out the 49ers for making that dream a reality once again. This never gets old.
Anyway, the criteria. There are five factors, each player gets assigned a rank 1-4 in each area, with 1 being the best. I then add up the scores and lowest score wins the hypothetical future, it’s easy for everyone, even non-math majors.
1: National Exposure
This is one doesn’t seem like an obvious choice for determining a legacy, but don’t ever forget the importance of player in a major market. It doesn’t matter as much anymore when it comes to getting endorsements and making it rain, but when it comes to legacies, this is still very much a factor. Don’t try and tell me Derek Jeter being as beloved as he is isn’t a factor of playing in New York, and more importantly the Yankees. It matters, if Jeter toiled away in Cincinnati he almost definitely isn’t getting a farewell tour or getting engaged to Hannah Davis. Sport also matters, it’s no secret football gets covered more than any other sport, so that’s an automatic boost to Cam. It’s not everything though, don’t forget Tiger Woods dominated headlines for years as a golfer, so while sport is important it’s not everything.
There’s a lot that goes into legacy besides how you actually play in a game. To make this explanation quick: Tim Duncan is the greatest player of this past generation, Kobe is number two and always will be number two. I will fight for Tim Duncan over Kobe until the day I die because it’s obvious that he was a better player. Kobe is going to have the better legacy though, and this is because he was entertaining and engaging and generally likeable, especially with the media. He’s not so likeable to Shaq, but whatever, Shaq’s not so likeable to most people. Tim Duncan’s problem is he’s known for being reserved, taking the most boring shots of all time (the bank off the glass that every player does when they’re down three letters in H-O-R-S-E), and his eyes bugging out when he doesn’t like a call. Duncan is better, but Kobe is more likeable, and that matters with legacies.
3: Chance to be the Greatest of All Time
It may seem obvious that being great is important to a legacy, but this isn’t just about being great. Can these players climb the mountaintop and pass all the other legends? Lots of guys make the Hall of Fame, but a lot of them are quickly forgotten (shout out to the homie Pie Traynor). If you’re greatest of all time you probably won’t be forgotten.
4: Redefine Your Sport
There’s a lot of ways you can impact a sport and change it for the future. Each case is individual and unique and it’s not just about changing how the game is played on the field (court, course etc.). Players can have tremendous impacts on the sidelines as well. Larry Bird taught us that the three pointer was a good thing, unless you ask Gregg Popovich, and Jose Canseco taught us doing steroids off the field doesn’t make you a better fielder. There’s a lot of ways to change a sport or how many important bodies parts you have.
5: Cultural Impact
Cultural impact is also entirely subjective and covers a large range of topics. It could be anything from breaking down barriers like Jackie Robison, being a great philanthropist like Roberto Clemente, or giving us a hilarious meme, which is secretly the only thing Michael Jordan is remembered for.
Anyway. There’s your criteria, if you don’t like it get over it because, again, I already have your page view.
We’ll start with the highest score and work our way down to the potential greatest legacy this generation will leave behind.
4th Place – Bryce Harper (Score: 17)
National Exposure – 4
The main thing Harper has going for him here is he plays for a team with National in the name. That’s kind of a joke but it’s also true. Harper may be one of the talked about player’s in baseball, but he’s still playing baseball, for a non-playoff team no less. Baseball is great and you can love baseball, but realistically baseball doesn’t even come close to controlling the headlines all year the way the NFL or even NBA does. Harper will get his due come summertime, but until then he’s stuck behind the rest of these guys.
Likeability – 4
Harper is the closest thing to a villain we’ve got on this list. If you google “Bryce Harper hate”, the first things that come up aren’t just articles telling you people hate Bryce Harper, they are telling you WHY YOU SHOULD hate Bryce Harper. It’s crazy how much people don’t like Harper compared to lot of other stars, especially for someone who hasn’t even been linked to steroids. Sure he yells at umps and is constantly angry or getting into fights, but every baseball player does that at some point. Except for Saint Derek Jeter of course. Also he did name a new puppy he got for Christmas “Swag”, so he’s got that going for him, which isn’t nice. But if what you’re really asking is for me to list every reason why people hate Bryce Harper, well “That’s a clown question, bro.” People just don’t like Harper, but boy does he like Justin Bieber.
Chance to be Greatest of All Time – 4
It’s been a rough start for Harper dropping all 4’s, and that doesn’t change here. Major League baseball has been around a lot longer than the NBA or NFL, and having so many players in different eras playing under different circumstances makes it really hard to evaluate the greatest of all time. People make arguments that if you transported the best players of the 20’s to today, they would be marginal players at best. Baseball Reference has Babe Ruth listed as the greatest player in terms of WAR (Wins Above Replacement), but he never had to face guys throwing 100 MPH consistently. It’s just so difficult to compare players who played in era where ten home runs was a monster season and pitchers were actually allowed to pitch every day to the way baseball is today, and that makes people hesitant to decide who the greatest player was. Harper has a long way to go if he ever wants to come near that conversation.
Redefine Your Sport – 2
Harper has a chance to change baseball in a way that only one player has before. That player is Alex Rodriguez. No, I’m not suggesting Harper is going to do steroids, lie about it more than A-Rod did and get caught more than A-Rod did. This is about the money. There are serious conversations around MLB franchises that Harper could receive a $500 million dollar salary when he becomes a free agent in four years. Let’s think about that for a second. A-Rod obliterated the free agent market when he signed his $275 million dollar contract with the Yankees, when has 32 no less while Harper will be 26 as a free agent, and that set a new level of money that players had never seen before. The current highest dollar value contract is Giancarlo Stanton at $325 million over 13 years. Harper could blow that out of the water by at least $200 million in a shorter time frame. The funny thing is this contract will very likely come from the Yankees. I can hear the Imperial March already. The point is, Harper could completely change the free agency market and raise the amount of money players get paid by nearly double. That’s not going to make team owners very happy, but at least Harper will be able to afford more swag for Swag the Dog.
Cultural Impact – 3
This is where we will take a moment to appreciate the single greatest thing Bryce Harper has done for sports and pop culture in his career. Sure he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16, this is better. Join me on Sept. 27, 2015, for the choke heard round the world. If you haven’t figured out to click the hyperlinks by now, that’s your own fault. On this day, Bryce Harper was choked out by his very own teammate, the notoriously prickly Jonathon Papelbon. I’m going to choose to believe Papelbon said something to derogatory about naming a dog Swag or took a shot at Justin Bieber and that’s why Harper was mad. (If you want the truth, and if you do, you’re lame, what was said was mostly a bunch of words that would get me fined for typing and Papelbon being mad about Harper not running out a fly ball at a satisfactory level. See, the truth is lame, my version is better). Thank you, Bryce Harper, for all you have done for Twitter and my entertainment.
3rd Place – Jordan Spieth (14)
National Exposure: 4
Things going against Jordan Spieth with regards to national exposure are basically everything. I hate to say it, but he does play golf and that’s not good for him. Sure golf has its own channel, (smartly named the Golf Channel no less) but everything has its own channel now. Golf is not special in this regard. There’s even a non-stop Mexican wrestling channel on the internet, which I’m not gonna lie, I watched for roughly seven hours yesterday. Anyway, Jordan’s only 1/3 of the way done with the “get exposure as a golfer checklist” I just created. He hits dope shots, but he doesn’t have sick celebrations and he’s not named after a dangerous cat that also represents a certain brand of cereal. The cat thing probably isn’t gonna happen, and unless you are Tiger, golf celebrations are always hilarious in their sadness.
Jordan Spieth should probably be tops in likeability, the problem is he’s going up against someone in Steph Curry who has people like Jay Bilas just randomly telling stories about how he helps old ladies cross the street. Spieth just cannot beat Steph in this area. However, Spieth is loved as much by golf fans as Curry is loved universally. He can quietly do no wrong in the eyes of the golfing world. In the same way Bryce Harper has articles written about why you should hate him, Spieth has articles written about why you should love him. So when I say in the same way, I really mean in the exact opposite way. Spieth handles himself well and he deserves all the love he gets, he’s just not quite at the level with golf fans as Trump is with his supporters. I don’t think it’s ever going to come to that point with Jordan, hopefully.
Chance to be Greatest of All Time: 1
Spieth dominates this category and it really doesn’t feel close. There are a lot of questions surrounding Steph and Cam’s bids to be the greatest of all time. We know what Jordan has to do (19 majors, 80ish wins) and he’s already shown he’s more than capable of doing that. He was just a couple of shots away from the season Grand Slam, something Jack Nicklaus or Tiger ever did (The Tiger slam doesn’t count, nor will it ever count, it’s incredibly impressive but it’s not the Grand Slam, stop kidding yourself). Spieth is the only player on this list I truly wouldn’t be surprised if he was labeled the best of all time at the end of his career. Honestly I would be more surprised if he swore during a round.
Redefine Your Sport: 4
How do you redefine golf at this point? That’s the major question lingering for Spieth. Being the best ever certainly changes the history of the game, but it doesn’t drastically alter golf in anyway going forward. Tiger redefined golf with his personality and his style of play. Heck, tournaments even started trying to Tiger-proof their courses only to see him still win by 15 shots. Jordan’s dominant and he will inspire a lot of junior golfers, but right now he doesn’t have a feel like he’s going to majorly change the sport of golf in some way. That burden now falls on club and ball manufacturers more than anything. It’s not that we shouldn’t appreciate his greatness, we just won’t remember him for changing golf as we know it. Maybe he can become the fifth member of the Golf Boys and totally change golfing’s version of the Village People.
Cultural Impact: 4
I think what was said on redefining the game of golf also applies here. Spieth is just so mild-mannered and smart with what he says that he never dominates the cultural landscape, especially the pop culture landscape. If he does join the Golf Boys though he immediately becomes a 1, 0, -12, whatever he wants and I would vote for him to immediately join the Hall of Fame, not just for golf, but also the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That’s how badly I want this to happen. Someone get Bubba Watson on the phone and make this happen. Spieth still has a lot of time to make an impact, but until then, just pray for Golf Boys 3.0h featuring Jordan Spieth.
2nd Place – Cam Newton (10)
National Exposure: 2
In any other year, Cam is winning the national exposure battle and it wouldn’t even be close, the only problem is he’s going up against Steph Curry this year. Seriously, he plays football, and not only that, he plays quarterback for the best team in the league. That team, the Panthers in case you forgot somehow, went undefeated for the most of the season and are now in the Super Bowl. Also, you can debate how much of an impact this has had, but the fact that he’s a black quarterback having major success is definitely a reason he gets covered as much as he does. Think about Tiger Woods in golf and you’ll realize that race is a factor in predominately white sports (golf) or mainly white positions (quarterback). Can you name the next best black quarterback in football? “Jeopardy sounds…………………………………” If you answered Russell Wilson, Jamies Winston, Teddy Bridgewater, or Tyrod Taylor, congratulations you won $200 dollars and the board is now yours. In playing this game, you just realized there are only five successful black quarterbacks in the NFL. Race matters here. Another reward for getting the question right, besides having a tremendous amount of fun, is you get to take a celebratory dab, which also happened to be made popular by….. Cam Newton. See what I did there? I do and that’s all that matters.
Just like Spieth, Newton should be a 1 in likeability, but for entirely different reasons. Spieth is a golden boy playing golf, so he’s incredible likeable but mainly to golf fans. Newton is nationally known and he plays football in a fun way, running like a madman, throwing touchdowns, and flipping over defenders. He’s got a sweet nickname, “Super Cam”, and he constantly makes kids days by giving them footballs after he scores each of his touchdowns. His smile could probably be used as a source of power and solve the world energy crisis. And again, HE IS THE PERSON WHO MADE THE DAB POPULAR. Anyway Cam does of all this and HE’S HATED FOR IT. If you didn’t read the angry fan mail to Cam from the first paragraph, I strongly encourage you to do it, it makes me want to cry, laugh and punch someone all at once. C’mon people. You hate Cam and say he’s a thug, but Johnny Manziel “just needs help” and to figure things out. That is all kinds of ridiculous. People are dumb.
Chance to be the Greatest of All Time: 2
Steph Curry fans are about to get really angry when they realize I’m giving him 3rd in this category. Well you can all…
Cam Newton is going to be the MVP of the season, at the time I’m writing this he hasn’t been officially named yet, but its going to happen. His season numbers are fairly staggering: 59.7 completion percentage, 3837 yards, 35 passing touchdowns. If Cam were able to keep up those numbers for the next ten years or so, suddenly he’s entering Manning, Favre, and Marino territory in terms hof numbers. He probably won’t surpass any of the passing records, which is fine, because his game is so different from any of the star quarterbacks before him. What sets him apart is the run game and this is really where Cam can make a convincing claim for greatest quarterback of all time. Cam has over 3,000 rushing yards in five seasons, to put that in perspective Peyton Manning is sitting at 667 yards for his 18 career, while putting up -55 yards in his time in Denver. It’s not likely Cam will be considered the best of all time, but if he continues putting up huge running numbers for a quarterback, that could give him a chance to at least be in the conversation someday.
Redefine Your Sport: 3
Those who want to argue Newton has a chance to redefine football into a game where dual-threat quarterbacks rule need to realize this has been a discussion for years. Every time any quarterback who runs well has even an ounce of success, everyone proclaims them the destroyer of football as we know it. Remember when there were debates going on that RG3 was going to turn the league into a mobile quarterback league? Remember how that didn’t happen? Remember how RG3 ended up third on the Redskins depth chart and ended playing safety on the scout team? Yeah me too. Let’s all take a step back on what Cam could possibly do for football and instead accept he is a special talent that is incredibly difficult to replicate. Newton is great at football, but running quarterbacks will never dominate the NFL.
Cultural Impact: 2
The Hate Mail (I’m seriously giving you every opportunity to read this, don’t let me down.)
What more do you want me to say about Cam’s impact on sports culture and pop culutre? If you are upset that I’m not going to explain anymore, well, too bad they don’t make Band-Aids for feelings.
1st Place: Steph Curry (8)
National Exposure: 1
I feel like there’s not a lot to be said about Steph Curry in a lot of these categories. Have you turned on ESPN, social media, the Internet, your life lately? Steph Curry is there. Every time Steph does something cool, he’s suddenly all over Vine, every other form of social media, and popping up on your TV. What really helps Steph too is that he plays at least 82 games a season, which gives him a lot more chances to make highlight reel plays and dominate the headlines from day to day. Newton gets a lot of exposure, but he’s off six days a week, plus, even if Steph Curry has an off night that then dominates the sports conversation for the next 24 hours. You can’t escape Steph, just like Chris Paul can’t escape this vine.
You just can’t compete with Steph in this area. I’m sure your grandmother would choose Steph Curry over you. That’s not a reflection on you, unless of course you’re a terrible person. Steph Curry is just really great.
This guy is destroying the whole NBA.
Yeah, you’re parents probably even like Steph Curry more than you.
Chance to be the Greatest of All Time: 3
Warriors fans, I’m going to ask you to take deep breaths and calm down for a second. Is Steph Curry going to be the greatest shooter of all time? Yes. Is scoring a lot of points important? Yes. Do other things matter in basketball matter? The answer here is yes. Steph is great at a lot of things, making tons of threes even though he shoots them from distances only the annoyingly overconfident guy at pickup basketball games would dare try, making Chris Paul sad, and creating jaw-dropping assists to name a few. That is awesome and that’s why we love watching Steph play. But if you’re going to be the best at basketball, you need to be really good at everything in basketball. Steph Curry is average at best on defense. There, I said it. People forget because they’re too busy watching Steph make shots from the heavens, but he’s not a star defender.Michael Jordan was a star defender, Larry Bird was a star defender, and LeBron is a star defender now. Steph is not at that level. He hasn’t come close to making an All-Defense team yet. Jordan made nine of them in his career. Also, we tend to forget Steph is almost 28 (his birthday is in March), and he’s only had four really good years so far. This is because he played three years of college at Davidson, but he was also hampered by injuries his third season while his first two seasons were nothing truly spectacular. Jordan and LeBron made immediate impacts, and that really hurts Steph. Could he have 11 straight incredible seasons? I wouldn’t doubt it, but his defense is lacking enough that I don’t think he’ll ever hit the Jordan stratosphere. Also his dunking is kind of sad.
Redefine Your Sport: 1
For those confused about why Steph is tops here but only third when it comes to potentially being the greatest, I explained that in the criteria and that’s on you for not paying attention and I’m not going to go over it again. Steph is changing the game of basketball with his offense, or at the very least he is the most important player on a team changing the way basketball is played. The Warriors play fast, the pass a lot, and they shoot more threes than that annoyingly overconfident guy at pickup basketball games. Teams can’t keep up with them, and the Warriors have a chance to be the greatest regular season team of all time. No one was ever expected to challenge Michael Jordan and the Bulls, but the Warriors are making it a reality. The Warriors with their crazy lineups, exciting and fun way of playing basketball and absurd amount of winning are forcing other teams to change just to try and keep up. If Steph and the Warriors are causing other franchises to consider waiting to build a contender until the Warriors run of dominance is over, you’re probably changing your sport at least a little.
Cultural Impact: 1
I mentioned how you can’t turn on the TV or go on the internet without hearing Steph. But have you also gone outside and seen billions of Warriors jerseys with Curry’s name on the back? (I’m not saying their bandwagon fans, but they ain’t messing with no bad teams man.) Curry is everywhere. Instead of wanting to be like Kanye, people now say they want to be like Curry, especially after that whole Kanye twitter beef. The point is Curry is everywhere, and his influence is only going to get stronger, he has all the power, and he will never let you down. Also I just made a bunch of Kanye references here that I’m really enjoying. Go back and try and count them all kids!
All these guys are really good. End of story. Just kidding, but try and remember there’s a lot that goes into defining a legacy. This all is assuming that all of these guys stay healthy and productive for years to come, but if they do, suddenly all of these factors become incredibly important in defining a career. Steph may never be the best ever, but that won’t stop him from having a bigger legacy than any of the stars from his generation. Spieth is great but he has a lot going against him with the sport he chose to play (I’m begging you Spieth, join the Golf Boys). Harper and Newton just have image problems, Newton’s is entirely undeserved and Harper’s is probably very much deserved. In reality, we won’t know until their career ends, and all of their careers look like they’re going to be great, but Curry is going to end up a legend. Also it occurs to me all these guys are endorsed by Under Armour. Good for Under Armour, they really are trying to catch Nike. You’re welcome for the shout out Under Armour, give me free stuff now.
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