Every now and then, an athlete takes a step past being good or great and enters “superstar” territory. These are players that are among the best and most talked about players of their time, and rightfully so. These players and their legacies often live on far beyond their years in the league. Their mark on their sport will live forever and current players will always be compared back to these all-time greats.
The NHL has Gretzky, Messier and Howe. The NBA has Jordan, Bird and Johnson. The NFL has Montana, Rice and Brown. These are players who have long retired from their respective leagues, but are still talked about on an almost weekly basis.
Now, of course, those weren’t the only major stars of their sports at the time, so what happened to every other all-star and MVP of their time frame? These leagues are full of teams with thousands of players being cycled through every decade. That is what this list will take aim at.
This list will look at the Top 15 Forgotten Sports Superstars. These were all guys who, during their playing days, performed at the top of their respective sports. But once retired and out of the league, these players were somehow forgotten and excluded out of conversations that they belonged in.
As to why they were forgotten, we’ll never know. All we can do it highlight them here and shed some light on why they should be mentioned with some of the other greats in their sport.
So, here it is! Enjoy taking a trip down memory lane and remembering the Top 15 Forgotten Sports Superstars.
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15 Mats Sundin
Mats Sundin was a long time superstar in the NHL with the Quebec Nordiques, Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks. His most impressive stretch came with the Leafs, where Sundin served as the captain for 11 years. This captaincy made him one of the most polarizing and scrutinized athletes on earth, as Toronto sports media is intense when it comes to hockey. He is also the highest scoring Swedish player of all time and is an Olympic gold medalist. For a player with the resume he has, you don’t hear much about him anymore, even in Toronto, where he was the biggest figure in town for over a decade.
14 Mitch Richmond
Mitch Richmond is a former NBA superstar who played with the Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Lakers. Despite almost never being talked about by media or fans in the present day, Richmond was one of the best players of the 1990s. In fact, Richmond scored at least 20 points per game in every season from 1988/89 to 1997/98. He was also a six time all-star, NBA champion with the LA Lakers and had his number retired by the Kings. He was also a member of world famous 1996 USA mens Olympic basketball “Dream Team.”
13 Ty Law
Ty Law is a former NFL cornerback that is best known for his nine years with the New England Patriots. In that time frame, he won three Super Bowls, made four Pro Bowls and was a two-time NFL Defensive Back of the Year. He is known as one of the best playmakers of the 2000s and has 53 career interceptions. He is also thought of by many as the best DB in New England Patriots history. With those accolades, it is a real shame that Law is mostly forgotten in the world of the NFL.
12 Paul Coffey
Coffey is a former NHL defenceman, best known for his time with both the Edmonton Oilers and Pittsburgh Penguins. Coffey is without a doubt one of the best offensive defenceman of all time. In fact, he is ranked at #13 all time in the NHL in terms of career points, with 1,531. That's not #13 for defenceman, but for all skaters, which is astounding. He was an instrumental part of multiple Stanley Cup winning teams and was one of the best skating players of his time. Despite these facts, Coffey is still overshadowed by other players like Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque and thus isn’t talked about as much as he should be. Not that Orr and Bourque weren't great, but Coffey was just as exceptional.
11 Bernard King
King was a former NBA superstar who played with multiple NBA teams, but is perhaps most famous for his time with the New York Knicks. In his prime, King was likely the most talented scorer and athlete in the NBA. It was his very explosive burst that made him one of the best players of his time. He was a four-time all-star and the 1985 scoring champion when he averaged over 32 points per game. With New York being one of the sports capitals of the world, it is shocking that King isn’t talked about more, as he is one of the best Knicks of all time.
10 Isaac Bruce
Isaac Bruce is a former WR who played with the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers. Bruce was a member of the “Greatest Show on Turf” with the likes of Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Torry Holt. And despite being on the field with all that talent, Bruce was still able to establish himself as one of the best WRs of all time. In fact, he is fourth on the all-time NFL receiving yards list, which is evidence of just how talented and special Bruce was. Even with all these stats, he is constantly overlooked in the discussion about the top NFL WRs of all time.
9 Pavel Bure
Pavel Bure is a former right winger who is best known for his time with the Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers. Bure is without a doubt one of the greatest skaters and scorers in NHL history. Over his career, he had five seasons with over 50 goals and in two of those seasons, he had 60. He was also among the fastest players in NHL history, which is the reason behind his nickname of “The Russian Rocket.” Though he is still remembered by Canucks/Panthers fans all these years later, he is often forgotten in the discussion about the most creative, explosive and talented scorers of all time.
8 Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is a former PG who played with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns. He was a talented scorer, along with being an exceptional passer. In fact, he averaged 17.9 points per game and 9.1 assists per game for his career. His 9.1 assists per game over his career ranks as the sixth best in NBA history. He is almost never mentioned in the conversation about best point guards of all time, which is a travesty. Another interesting tidbit about Johnson is that he is the current mayor of Sacramento, California, and has been since 2008.
7 Brian Westbrook
Brian Westbrook is a former RB with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers. Despite only hitting the 1,000 yard mark twice in his short career, Westbrook was still among the best and most talented RBs of the 2000s. This was largely due to his outstanding ability to catch the football out of the backfield. Throughout his career, he put up receiving numbers that were rarely seen by a RB, which made him one of the most dangerous players on the field. It is a true shame that his low rushing numbers cause people to overlook him as one of the best backs of his time.
6 Peter Forsberg
Peter Forsberg was an NHL center who is most well-known for his time with the Colorado Avalanche. Forsberg, along with Joe Sakic, made the Avalanche one of the best teams of the late 90s and early 2000s. He had some of the best vision in NHL history and his points per game and assists per game are some of the best of all time. On top of that, he's a two-time Stanley Cup champion and he won the 2003 Hart Memorial Trophy. Despite his talents and the numbers he put up, he is often overlooked in the discussion about the top players of his time.
5 Bob McAdoo
McAdoo is a former PF/C who played with numerous teams in the NBA. McAdoo is a six-time all-star, two-time NBA champion and the 1975 NBA MVP. Despite being a relatively large player at 6’9, his playing style was incredibly modern. By this, we mean that he was capable of not only scoring from the post, but also scoring from the perimeter, which made him almost impossible to stop in his prime. For a player of his skillset and with his accomplishments, he should without a doubt be mentioned as one of the best scoring big men of all time.
4 Priest Holmes
Priest Holmes is a former RB who is best known for his time with the Kansas City Chiefs. Holmes was one of the best NFL running backs of the early 2000s. In fact, he had over 1,400 yards in three straight seasons from 2001-2003 and also scored 56 rushing touchdowns in those three years. He made the Pro Bowl in each of those three seasons and also set a then NFL record of rushing 27 TDs in 2003. With these numbers and accolades, it’s crazy we don’t hear more about this guy, as he was one of the best backs of his time.
3 Ron Francis
Ron Francis is a former center who is best known for his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Carolina Hurricanes. He had a lengthy 20+ year NHL career and enjoyed a lot of success throughout. In fact, Francis has the second most assists in NHL history and is fifth all time in terms of points. Those numbers are a shock to most people, as they didn’t realize that he was a hugely prolific scorer. In fact, most people would not believe you if you told them that Ron Francis has more points than Mario Lemieux. Francis is also the current General Manager of the Carolina Hurricanes.
2 Adrian Dantley
Dantley is a former NBA forward who played with multiple NBA teams, but enjoyed the most success with the Utah Jazz. Dantley was a great scorer who could score from either the post, the free throw line or from mid-range with ease. He enjoyed a .540 career FG percentage, which is in the top 20 all time. This is extremely impressive for a smaller forward. Dantley was a six-time all-star and a two time scoring champion. He is second on this list because most people who aren’t big basketball fans likely won’t have a clue who he is, despite his great career.
1 Shaun Alexander
And coming in at number one on this list is none other than former RB, Shaun Alexander. Alexander was perhaps the best RB of the 2000s as a member of the Seattle Seahawks. He had five straight seasons of 1000+ yards and 10+ touchdowns from 2001-2005, including his 2005 season that goes down as one of the best in history. In 2005, Alexander ran for 1,880 yards and 27 TDs, which earned him the NFL MVP award for that year. Despite his mammoth statistics and success, he seems to have fallen of the face of the earth and is rarely talked about anymore.
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