My Ten Favorite Athletes
1. Lawrence Taylor: The best defensive American football player ever, and the reason I started playing the sport. My all-time favorite athlete.
2. Michael Jordan: For obvious reasons.
3. Larry Bird: My basketball idol. I was a halfway decent* high school basketball player, and my entire game was a Bird imitation, despite growing up in an urban neighborhood and learning how to play mostly from black players – or at least trying to. I shot the ball with my left elbow cocked way out to the side and my fingers in the seams, and I’d dry my hands on the soles of my feet every thirty seconds the same way Bird did.
4. Walter Payton: Best running back who ever lived. Nobody ran the ball like Payton did, before or since. Nobody got away with holding it like he did either. When I tried to justify using the “loaf of bread” method one day in practice, my coach said, “Payton can get away with it ‘cause Payton can squeeze the air of out the fuckin’ thing. You can’t.”
5. Bo Jackson: Would have been better than Payton if he hadn’t gotten hurt. The infamous Bosworth play was total bullshit – nobody could have made that tackle – but Bo was the truth.
6. Dwight Gooden: The best pitcher I’ve ever seen for two years. Couldn’t keep it going because of the drugs, but I’ve never seen anyone throw the ball like that. I still remember the Gooden mural on the side of the building near Times Square and his giant panoramic billboard in Penn Station. That, my friends, was the shit.
7. Keith Hernandez: My baseball idol. Smartest player ever, at least on the field. I used to love the way he played bunts. When he thought a hitter was about to lay one down, he’d creep up to about ten feet from the plate and sit there, daring the guy to go through with it. Awesome.
8. John Elway: Yes, he was better than Marino.
9. Bernard King: I grew up a Knicks fan, and Bernard was the reason I wore number 30 in every sport from grade school on. When I was a kid, every Knick game was on channel 9 here in New York, and there was a stretch back in the early 80’s where Bernard was doing something amazing just about every night. That made an impression.
10. James Jett: For showing me reality during a game once and making me realize I’d one day need a day job. Until something like that happens, you don’t know the meaning of the word “fast.” Trust me on this one.
* Calling yourself a “decent basketball player” is a tough sell when the strongest part of your game was free throw shooting but you rarely managed to get to the foul line.