How does one measure greatness in sports? By statistics? By talent? Is it by how many games an individual’s team wins? Or by new fancy acronyms like WAR (wins above replacement) and PER (player efficiency rating)? Is it perhaps based on one’s financial achievements and popularity? Or is greatness merely something that can only be judged by watching an athlete work against others?
Whatever the answer may be, it seems the term “great” has always been thrown around freely and without solid support. If Derek Jeter is such a poor defensive shortstop, then why is he always referred to as great? If Dwight Howard gets his coaches fired, and if Rajon Rando drives team mates away, are they great?
Regardless of how one determines greatness, one aspect should be considered unanimous: great players must be able to win in the playoffs. To keep from being vague, let’s consider equating a championship game or series to winning in the playoffs. Postseason success is important because it distinguishes those who can maintain greatness, especially when it matters, from those who only seem great when stakes are small.
With that in mind, I present a list of stars that were called great, but played below expectations in the playoffs, making them the biggest losers of sports in recent memory.
10) Michael Vick- Always amazed people with his speed and deep throws, but only made it to the playoffs four times and never got past the second round. In postseason play he has had five TDs and four INTs.
9) Sammy Sosa- Known for his prowess as a power hitter, Sosa only helped the Chicago Cubs to the playoffs twice, and he batted .245 in postseason play with only two home runs.
8) Tracy McGrady- Always called a great player, but he never made it past the second round in seven attempts at postseason play, despite having talented teams.
7) Barry Sanders- The pride of the Detroit Lions and one of the only running backs to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season, he was only able to carry them past the first round once in five postseason trips.
6) Mike Piazza- Despite making the World Series once, Mike Piazza performed fairly poorly in postseason play, especially since many consider him the greatest hitting catcher. He batted a mere .242 in total in postseason play.
5) LaDanian Tomlinson- Widely considered one of the greatest running backs of all time, L.T. was held to a meager 3.57 rush yards per carry, and his team could never reach the Super Bowl.
4)Drew Bledsoe- The one time beloved quarterback of New England reached the playoffs four years. However, he only completed 51.2 percent of his passes and had a subpar 1:2 touchdown to interception ratio.
3) Vince Carter- This is my favorite on the list because it amazes me how Vince Carter plays so well, yet he has never reached the finals. He has had talent around him, too. Carter just can’t win in the playoffs. Perhaps it is his poor playoff shooting percentage of only 41 percent.
2) Chris Webber- Another player with whom I am amazed could never win in the playoffs. In an 11 year stretch where his team made the playoffs 10 times, he only made it out of the first round four times, and he never made the NBA finals.
1) Mike D’Antoni- Okay, so he isn’t a player currently, but I have to put the Lakers coach at the top of the list. He coaches an all-offense, no-defense style that is outrageous unless your goal is to never win. Yet he persists and dooms another team to failure. With the Nuggets, his style failed. Though he had more success during his tenure with the Pheonix Suns, they never could reach the NBA finals as teams that could actually play defense would always beat them. Because D’Antoni continues to preach an unwinnable style, he wins the award for biggest loser in sports.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Edward Quartin at Edward.firstname.lastname@example.org.