Loyalty is becoming an afterthought in the world of sports. The search for gold in this player movement era, whether in monetary or championship form is the motive, and player’s patience is growing thin if they aren’t able to accomplish it immediately.
Arguably the world’s most prolific athlete took his talents to South Beach, in hopes of shedding the “perennial loser” label. Many have followed suit, departing losing situations to embark on their personal hunt for a championship. On the other hand, some have been reluctant to leave the team that gave them their first opportunity without fulfilling the promise of delivering a championship. They’ve built the framework for winning from the get-go, and cemented their legacy as icons of their cities. The difference is praise to those who remained, and the burning of jerseys to those who cruelly departed – well, at least in LeBron’s case.
Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant said during his MVP acceptance speech “My greatest accomplishments on this earth won’t be an MVP, or a finals MVP, or a championship. It’ll be the impact I have on a little kid’s life or the hope I give to someone who didn’t think they would make it through.”
Whether they were winners or losers, the athletes on this list had a tremendous impact on their franchise and community. Here are the ten best athletes who stayed true.
10: (TIE) Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals And Shane Doan – Phoenix Coyotes
Picking between two of Arizona’s most beloved athletes was a difficult task. Thus, they share a spot on the list.
Fitzgerald is one of the league’s most polished receivers. Unlike most of the guys on this list, both ‘Zona men are still searching for their first championship, although, Fitz was a Santonio Holmes-dropped highlight reel catch away from accomplishing the feat. Trade rumours have swirled the last few seasons, but Fitzgerald remains a Cardinal. After a turnaround season in 2013, Arizona’s future looks bright, and Fitzgerald may get a second chance at the Super Bowl in the coming years.
The Winnipeg Jets drafted Doan, and relocated to Phoenix following his rookie season. That was the last time Doan permanently changed cities in his 19-year NHL career. In the desert, Doan developed into a reliable two-way player. He is fifth among active players in games played, sitting at 1,315.
9: Tony Parker – San Antonio Spurs
When the French point guard joined Tim Duncan and Greg Popovic as a teenager in 2001, he was a raw international talent still trying to figure it out. In the years since, Parker has played an integral role in the success of the original “big 3” consisting of himself, Duncan, and Ginobili. The trio formed an unforgettable basketball dynasty that’s still going strong in the 2014 playoffs.
At just 20 years of age in his second NBA season as the starting point guard of the Spurs, Parker won his first NBA championship. He’s grown tremendously, and is certainly one of the league’s most underrated point guards. Like future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd, Parker has been known as a mediocre shooter but always seems to knock down shots to keep defences honest. Thus, Parker is able to blow by defenders using his quickness and hesitation dribble. His patented teardrop often brings similar emotions to big men trying to block it.
Parker captured two more titles, and put his name on the map for good with his dominating performance against the LeBron-led Cavaliers in the 2007 finals. He averaged 24.5 points per game on 56% shooting and was named Finals MVP. He’s still trying to figure out a rap career off the court, but when he’s on it, there’s few better at the point guard position.
8: Francesco Totti – AS Roma
When the majority of people think of Rome, they think about the Colosseum. The rest think Totti. The captain of AS Roma begin his playing career with his hometown in 1989. He was discovered through the youth ranks, and sought by numerous Italian clubs, each hoping to secure the services of the 13-year old for years to come. Totti committed to Roma, and has been serving his hometown club ever since.
Despite losing a step, Totti continues to play at a high-level in Italy’s top flight Serie A league, even if he isn’t a fixture in the lineup on every occasion. Totti has played different roles on the pitch, never a full-time out and out striker, which makes his 234 Serie A goals, good for second all-time, that much more remarkable. And it doesn’t seem like he’s ready to hang up his boots just yet.
His heir-apparent as captain of the “giallorossi,” passionate midfielder Daniele De Rossi, was given the nickname “capitano futuro,” or “future captain” when he was a teenager. However, he hasn’t been able to adopt that title permanently, even at the age of 30, as Totti has continued to impress. De Rossi’s admiration of Totti prompted him to take a similar career path.
De Rossi, a native of Rome, has rejected lucrative offers from major clubs around the world, seemingly every single summer, apparently determined to make it work at the Stadio Olimpico. With prominent players accepting such lucrative offers to switch squads on a yearly basis, especially in soccer, it’s refreshing to see Totti give his all to Rome. As the Roman fans say, “No Totti, no party.”
7: Ryan Giggs – Manchester United
As unfathomable as it may be, Giggs has been with United longer than Totti has been with Roma. The longtime midfielder began his youth career at United in 1987, and his resume is simply complete. His 13 premier league titles, and 611 league appearances are records.
Additionally, he captured four FA Cups and two Champions League Trophies. Giggs is also the only player ever to score in 17 different Champions League tournaments. This week, the 40-year old became the first player-manager in 87 years to take the pitch.
6: Dirk Nowitzki – Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs franchise was on the upswing when Mark Cuban bought the team in 2001. And in 2004, the team had to make a decision on whether or not to retain its starting point guard. Cuban was set on building around the team’s cornerstone, Nowitzki and resisted matching Phoenix’s offer for the future league MVP, Steve Nash. Nash thrived in Phoenix, although Dirk was able to reward his owner with an NBA Championship.
After reaching the NBA Finals and losing in 2006, in a tough Western Conference, Nowitzki was demoralized, but he vowed to come back even stronger. He since joined Nash as a league MVP, and ultimately won his championship in 2011. This year, “disco Dirk” etched his name at number ten on the all-time scoring list.
5: Derek Jeter – New York Yankees
In 19 years in pinstripes, Jeter has accomplished everything any major leaguer dreams of. The greatest shortstop of this generation has five World Series titles, including three straight from ’98-2000.
Jeter brought the movie “Mr. 3000” to life when he went yard in 2011 and joined the prestigious club. He now sits eighth on the all-time list with 3,339 career hits. The trend with the athletes on this list is that they’ll likely be inducted into the hall of fame. Jeter is no exception.
4: Martin Brodeur – New Jersey Devils
The list of records Brodeur has amassed throughout his career is a long one. He sits atop nearly every major goaltending category, including wins, shutouts, games played, and even losses, though the latter simply exhibits the length of his tenure in New Jersey. Arguably the greatest goaltender of all-time, Brodeur completed his 21st NHL season with the Devils in 2014.
The Montreal native’s style of play was entertaining, acrobatic, and consistently dominant. With Brodeur between the pipes and guys like Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer in front of him, the Devils became one of the league’s most feared units during the late 90s and early 2000s. Brodeur has hoisted Lord Stanley on three different occasions, and he is the only net minder in NHL history with eight 40-win seasons. Marty’s the guy that some of the goaltenders fighting in today’s NHL postseason emulated in the backyard as children. They can only continue to dream of matching his greatness.
3: Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe nearly missed out on cracking this list altogether. Had it not been for a trade on draft day, Bryant may never have been a Laker, and may never have enjoyed the success he did in purple and gold. Sure, he might have developed into a formidable star anywhere on the planet, but its doubtful he would have had a handful of championship rings anywhere but in LA.
The night he dropped 81 points on the Raptors, in one of the most memorable performances of all-time, summarized his career; he’s been putting defenders in disbelief ever since he stepped on an NBA court straight from high school. He now sits fourth on the all-time scoring list.
As much as Bryant has excelled at scoring the basketball, he’s been more than just that. He’s taken pride in locking down opposing team’s best option, and the league has recognized his intensity, naming him to the all-defensive team nine times. Kobe will be remembered as one of the great Lakers of all-time. His latest two-year deal, worth over $48.5 million, should help keep him in the city of angels forever.
2: Tim Duncan – San Antonio Spurs
Like the transition from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, David Robinson to Tim Duncan in San Antonio signalled the passing of the torch from one future Hall of Famer to the next. In Duncan’s case, the transition was even smoother, as he had the opportunity to learn from the legendary Robinson and even win his first two championships with him.
Duncan still looks just like he did when the team selected him first overall in the 1997 Draft, and is still taking the Spurs to the playoffs like he did when he came into the league. Aside from the strike shortened season in 1998, the Spurs have won 50 games in every year Duncan’s been in the league. “The big fundamental” is the model for success. A 4-time NBA champion, two-time league MVP, and the face of San Antonio. Robinson was one hell of a teacher.
1: Tom Brady – New England Patriots
Brady’s story is well-documented. From sixth-round pick nobody wanted, to becoming a dynasty igniting, Super Bowl winning, future Hall of Famer. However, Brady didn’t take the field instantly in New England. As a backup in his sophomore season, Brady was handed the keys to the Patriots’ offense following a gruesome injury to starter Drew Bledsoe. And the rest, as they say, was history.
It turned out to be Bledsoe who gave him a valuable piece of advice prior his first Super Bowl-winning two-minute drive. As Brady was heading back to the huddle following a timeout, his offensive coordinator Charlie Weis glared into his eyes and told him to make sure he took care of the football. Before Brady marched back to the huddle, Bledsoe shouted “screw that, let it rip.” Brady’s been listening to Bledsoe ever since.