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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

COLUMN: Ranking top-10 Chicago-born athletes

Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis celebrates a three-point shot in an NBA game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday. Davis ranks eighth on Sports Reporter Eddie Miller’s top-10 greatest Chicago-born athletes. (AP Photo/William Liang)

Chicago is home to some of the greatest athletes in sports, hosting 1,061 total current athletes. I looked at the pool of talent and ranked them into a list of the top-10 athletes born in Chicago. 


Beloved to the fans of Chicago sports, current Memphis Grizzlies guard Derrick Rose left a great impact on Chicago after being drafted first overall in 2008 by the Chicago Bulls. Raised in the south side neighborhood Englewood, Rose is the youngest player in NBA history to earn the MVP Award, winning in 2011. 

Rose has one Rookie of the Year honor, three NBA All-Star nods and one All-NBA First Team honor. Rose was primed for a successful career, seemingly having the potential to lead the Bulls to a championship. 

Unfortunately for Rose, he tore his right ACL in 2012 in the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers. He missed the following season and never came back the same. If Rose didn’t tear his ACL, he would probably be higher on the list. 

This season, Rose averages 8 points and 3.2 assists per game for the Grizzlies. 


Former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb spent 13 years in the NFL and leads the Philadelphia Eagles all-time in passing yards, passing touchdowns, pass attempts and pass completions. McNabb is often regarded as the best quarterback in Eagles history. 

McNabb totaled 37,276 passing yards and 234 passing touchdowns with a 59% completion percentage. Although he did not win a Super Bowl in his career, McNabb appeared in five NFC Championship games. 

McNabb’s inability to win a championship hurts his placement on the list. 


Los Angeles Lakers power forward Anthony Davis is the second first overall draft pick and current player on this list. In 11 full seasons, Davis has eight NBA All-Star selections, four All-NBA First Team Selections and won an NBA Championship with the Lakers in 2020. 

Davis has been a prominent big-man in the NBA since he joined the league. This season, Anthony Davis averages 24.5 points and 12.6 rebounds per game. 

Since Davis is still playing, he has potential to move up on the list. 


Playing for the Minnesota Twins between 1984 and 1995, former MLB player Kirby Puckett’s career was cut short due to untreated glaucoma causing Puckett to lose vision in one eye. Despite the shortened career, Puckett keyed 10 consecutive All-Star selections, won two World Series Championships and was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame in 2001. 

Puckett is third all-time in RBIs and is fifth in batting average for the Twins. If he played longer, Puckett would be higher on the list.


Former Detroit Pistons guard Isiah Thomas amassed 12 NBA All-Star selections, five All-NBA selections, won two NBA Championships and is in the Hall of Fame. 

Thomas and the Pistons were dubbed the “Bad Boy Pistons” and competed toe-to-toe with the Michael Jordan-led Bulls. Thomas finished his career with averages of 19.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game



Former Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus is the oldest member of the list, playing for his hometown team between 1965 and 1973. Butkus racked up eight NFL Pro-Bowls, six NFL All-Pros, won the Defensive Player of the Year award twice and is a member of the NFL Hall of Fame. 

Butkus was a dominant force known for his unforgiving play style. Butkus produced 25 fumble recoveries and 22 interceptions across his career. Butkus has gone down in history as one of the best linebackers of all time.

Butkus had a great, successful career, but failing to win a Super Bowl is what ranks him in the middle of the list. 


Former NFL tight end Shannon Sharpe played 14 seasons in the NFL. Sharpe finished his career amassing 10,060 receiving yards, 62 touchdowns, eight pro-bowl selections, three Super Bowl wins and an NFL Hall of Fame induction. 

Sharpe is fifth all-time in receiving yards by a tight end and eighth all-time in receiving touchdowns. Sharpe’s record of most receiving yards in an NFL game by a tight end – 214 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2002 –  still stands. 

Sharpe revolutionized the tight-end position with his athletic ability, influencing a cluster of some of the best former and current tight-ends. Sharpe’s long list of accolades earn him a high placement on the list. 


Former Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade is a 13-time All-Star, two-time First Team All-NBA, member of the NBA Hall of Fame and won three championships over 18 seasons. Wade was notably a member of the “Big 3” in Miami, playing with LeBron James and Chris Bosh. 

Wade finished his career averaging 22 points per game and 5.4 assists per game. 

Wade’s efficient production over a long career combined with three NBA Championships makes him a great candidate for No. 1, but his inability to log an MVP puts him behind the next two athletes. 


I didn’t know American Olympic speed skater Shani Davis before researching for this list, but Davis’ resume is so impressive he cracked into the second spot. Davis is the first African-American to win an individual Winter Olympic gold medal. 

Davis has two gold medals and two silver medals at the Olympics. Davis also won the World Allround Championship twice and the World Sprint Championship once. Davis is the second skater to win both the World Allround and the World Sprint Championship. 

Davis also set a samalog world record of 149.359 in January 2005. His world record along with Davis’ success at the Olympics makes him an easy choice for the second best Chicago-born athlete. 


Former MLB left-fielder Rickey Henderson played in the MLB from 1979 until 2003. Henderson has a stacked resume, logging 10 All-Star appearances, two World Series Championships, one American League MVP and was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame in 2009. 

Henderson is commonly known as one of the best lead-off hitters of all time, holding the MLB record for runs-scored (2,295) and bases-stolen (1,406). 

Henderson’s records, MVP award and multiple Championships solidify him as the best Chicago-born athlete of all-time.

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