The greatest heroes in New York sports history bring Mark Messier‘s impossible feat in 1994 and others sprinkled in throughout the decades.
“Ladies and gentlemen … the Stanley Cup.”
It couldn’t end in five games. No way could the final score represent anything greater than a one-goal game. Of course a Nathan LaFayette post needed to ring the bell. There’s no chance linesman Kevin Collins couldn’t let time expire on the other end of the ice opposite Mike Richter.
The script had to be written with pure agony and exuberance in mind.
Fifty-four years, the New Jersey Devils, Valeri Zelepukin, and the scrappy seventh-seeded Vancouver Canucks all served as monumental barriers for a normal human being. In a hero’s world, it’s all good fodder en route to immortality.
For Mark Messier, it’s simple sport on the route towards New York sports hero status.
Messier is just one of the many heroes to grace New York sports.
Mike Piazza’s 911 home run will forever remain a moment stuck in time.
Martin Brodeur delivered the New Jersey Devils only Stanley Cups, Jason Kidd revitalized a New Jersey Nets organization, Patrick Ewing’s era brought a team that perfectly bled what the city was all about, Mike Bossy’s fresh face served as the frontman for the young New York Islanders, and Derek Jeter’s magic welcomed the ghosts back to Yankee Stadium.
Wayne Chrebet? Yes, Wayne Chrebet. There hasn’t been a more unique athlete in New York history. The undrafted free agent who essentially walked-on to the Jets in 1995 served as a symbol to so many who were told they’d never make it.
9. Lou Gehrig
Any man who can conjure up the “lucky man on the face of the Earth” spirit while staring eventual death square in the face is a hero.
Overshadowed by the right fielder, Gehrig exemplified class at every turn with jaw-dropping aspects that grow as time marches on (the iron man streak, the speech).
8. Tom Seaver
The Brooklyn Dodgers were gone. The New York Giants were gone. The New York Mets took the colors and introduced the world to miracles.
The franchise’s most recognizable face, to this very day, was the frontman.
Tom Seaver sparked a generation of young right-handed youths looking to emulate not only his stuff, but his persona.
7. Joe DiMaggio
Joe DiMaggio served in World War II. He, along with many great ballplayers, took a big-league hiatus in favor of Uncle Sam.
Songs, class, even Marilyn Monroe—Joltin’ Joe served as one of the first Hollywood athletes of our time.
6. Willis Reed
All that was needed were two stumbling mid-range jumpers to spark a new NBA champion.
He didn’t turn out as the New York Knicks greatest player of all-time (probably third behind Walt “Clyde” Frazier and Patrick Ewing), but this single moment catapulted him into immortal New York sports status.
5. Eli Manning
The No. 5 entry is one that’ll continue to grow as time marches forward. During the year 2019, throwing Eli Manning ahead of historic names like Willis Reed and Joe DiMaggio seems blasphemous.
Manning slew the greatest regular-season team in the history of the NFL. Orchestrating the second-greatest upset in Super Bowl history, the unassuming, quiet quarterback always seemed to up his game when things become most chaotic.
As decades collect, this No. 5 entry will serve as disrespect.
It’s tough to explain the Mickey Mantle draw. Just how popular was he? Well, again, it’s difficult to put into words.
To this very day, baseball fans believe Mantle represents the most natural gifted ballplayer in the history of the sport. Power from both sides of the plate, blazing speed in the outfield and down the first-base line, and a body that screams “physical specimen of the highest order”—the kid had it all.
New York youngsters grew up worshiping No. 7.
3. Joe Namath
Joe Namath changed the National Football League. What Joe DiMaggio started, Namath cemented. His celebrity status in the sports world (along with the likes of Arnold Palmer and others) is something that kicked off at the turn of the 1970s and lasts today.
Oh yeah, he guaranteed a Super Bowl win in a game featuring a ridiculous 18-point spread.
The NFL champion Baltimore Colts were heavy favorites over the upstart AFL New York Jets. The mere thought that New York could win was sillier than the Knicks trading Kristaps Porzingis. (Well, whatever.)
The Jets dominant 16-7 victory featuring a ball-control offense and tremendous defense sparked a movement that brought the two leagues together. Joe Namath might still be the single most important player in NFL history.
2. Mark Messier
Upon his New York arrival in October of 1991, five-time champ Mark Messier couldn’t understand why nobody discussed 1940. He soon realized it was purely due to the idea that keeping expectations low wouldn’t greatly disappoint everybody in the end. Messier said, “Nonsense.” Expectations needed to aim high in order to achieve such desired greatness.
Messier’s sole mission at that point was to bring the cup to Madison Square Garden.
After a Hart Trophy and Presidents’ Trophy in 1991-92, Messier missed the playoffs for the first time in his career. One Mike Keenan hire and mercenary trade-deadline additions later, the Messiah had incredibly delivered.
Never had New York Rangers signings delivered. Former stars in the twilight of careers (i.e. Guy LaFleur) would arrive and naturally not live up to a former dominant self. The idea of Messier completing this singular mission was fun yet driven by pure fantasy.
The 1993-94 Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers cemented Mark Messier’s New York sports hero status forever.
1. Babe Ruth
Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle are all heroes. One man, however, started it all.
Babe Ruth was sold to a club that had never won anything. The success-rich Boston Red Sox sold the greatest baseball player of all-time to a team that was nothing.
Through legendary attributes and eye-popping statistics that have yet been duplicated, he built Yankee Stadium while delivering four World Series title to the greatest baseball city in the world.
Babe Ruth not only created New York City baseball, but he also kickstarted an entire baseball movement.