15 Of The Most Iconic Figures In Chicago Sports History

15 Of The Most Iconic Figures In Chicago Sports History

Chicago sports fans have been blessed with great teams in the past and present. These are the players and coaches who helped build great teams in Chicago professional sports.

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Chicago has always been one of the premier sports cities in America. In all four major North American sports they have fielded some of the best teams of all time in their respective sports. The Bulls, Blackhawks, Bears, Cubs, and White Sox have all had periods of supremacy in 4 competitive leagues. Players and coaches have come and gone, but the truly great ones live in the hearts of fans forever. From the gridiron to the hardwood, these are Chicago's greatest sports icons.

1. Walter Payton, Bears 

Walter Payton was more than just a great running back, he was, and still is, one the most celebrated players in the NFL history. Sweetness is the epitome of great Bears' running backs. His never die easy attitude made him one of the most legendary players ever. He broke Jim Brown's rushing record in 1984, won an MVP award, and won a Super Bowl in 1985. Payton's status as an all time great will never be challenged. Attend a Bears game in 2018 and you will still see number 34 jerseys in the stands.

2. Michael Jordan, Bulls

Michael Jordan put the Chicago Bulls on the map as soon as he entered the league in 1984. It was apparent early on that he would cause headaches for the rest of the league for many years to come. Jordan didn't just win 6 NBA championships and 5 MVPs. He made the game of basketball a global sport. That was never more apparent than during the 1992 Olympic games when Jordan was a part of the legendary Dream Team. Everywhere the team went, everyone wanted to get a glimpse of the best player in the world.

3. Stan Mikita, Blackhawks 

The late Stan Mikita spent his entire 22-year career in the windy city. He still leads the Blackhawks in games played, points, and assists. He was a gentleman off the ice and his impact was felt by everyone. He helped Chicago hoist the Stanley Cup in 1961.

4. Frank Thomas, White Sox 

Frank Thomas was a force to be reckoned with. "The Big Hurt" was the face of the White Sox as their first baseman and designated hitter for 16 years. Thomas was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014. He chose to have his White Sox hat in his hall of fame plaque.

5. Ernie Banks, Cubs 

Ernie Banks defined what it meant to be a Chicago Cub. The man they called "Mr. Cub" was one of the best shortstop's baseball has ever seen. He was the first player to win back-to-back NL MVP awards in 1958-59. Despite never appearing in the postseason, Banks is one of the most legendary Chicago athletes ever.

6. Dick Butkus, Bears

Dick Butkus was the original Monster of the Midway. His demeanor on the field struck fear in the hearts of his opponents. Butkus played in a time before roughing the passer was a serious concern for quarterbacks, and he took full advantage of that. He spent his entire 9-year career with the Bears. During his playing days, he set the bar high for any and all middle linebackers who come to Chicago, Illinois.

7. Scottie Pippen, Bulls 

Scottie Pippen was Jordan's right-hand man during their dynasty in the 90s. He was one of the defining players of his generation and was an iconic Bulls player. For all of Michael Jordan's greatness there would be no dynasty without number 33 by his side.

8. Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks 

Jonathan Toews came to the right town at the right time when he was drafted 3rd overall by Chicago in 2006. In his second season Toews was named team captain, the second youngest in NHL history at the time. In 2010, Toews and the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1961. Toews also won the Con Smythe Trophy in 2010 as playoff MVP. He would go on to lead the Blackhawks to two more Stanley Cups in 2013 and 2015. Toews' leadership has kept the Hawks moving forward as he's left his mark in NHL history.

9. "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, White Sox 

"Shoeless" Joe Jackson was a superstar outfielder in the early 1900s. He will be forever linked to the "Black Sox Scandal", when players of the 1919 White Sox fixed the World Series. Jackson was banned from professional baseball in his prime.

10.  George Halas, Bears 

There probably wouldn't be a National Football League if it weren't for George Halas. Halas started his career as an end with the Decatur Staleys. He would move them to Chicago and the Staleys would become the Bears. Halas was a player, coach, and owner for the Bears from 1920 to 1983. He won 6 NFL championships and was the winningest head coach in history when he retired. "Papa Bear" was a co-founder of the NFL way back in 1920. In 1963 Halas and 16 other inductees was a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Bears wouldn't be where they are today if it wasn't for Halas. No coach or owner had more respect from his players than George Halas.

11.  Patrick Kane, Blackhawks 

Patrick Kane was and is one of the cornerstones of the Chicago Blackhawks modern NHL dynasty. He helped lead the Hawks to 3 Stanley Cups from 2010-2015. In 2013 He won the Con Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Kane was the first American player in the NHL to win both the Hart Memorial Trophy as MVP, and the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion. His fast and electric play on the ice has made him one of the most entertaining players of his generation. Kane helped bring the Hawks to glory in the 2010s.

12.  Gale Sayers, Bears 

Gale Sayers was a once in a lifetime athlete. The "Kansas Comet" burst onto the NFL scene like no other rookie had before or since. His God-given talent made him one of the greatest running backs the game has ever seen. He only played pro football for 7 seasons, as knee injuries cut his career short. Bears fans are left to wonder what could have been. But during his time in cleats, Gale Sayers was the perfect Chicago running back.

13.  Joel Quenneville, Blackhawks 

Joel Quenneville was the head man in Chicago from 2008 to 2018. In that span he won 3 Stanley Cups and became the second winningest coach in NHL history. He led the Blackhawks to 9 straight playoff appearances. His personality and leadership were critical in Chicago's success in the rink. He may have been fired recently, but the memories he helped create in Chicago won't be forgotten by true Blackhawks fans.

14.  Ryne Sandberg, Cubs 

Ryne Sandberg spent nearly his entire career in a Cubs uniform. Sandberg was one of the best second baseman of all time. His stats speak for themselves. When he retired, he had hit more home runs than any second basemen in history.

15.  Mike Ditka, Bears 

Mike Ditka was a typical Chicago Bear. He was a tough player and he revolutionized the tight end position. He became the head coach of the Bears in 1982 and three years later he led the Bears to their first Super Bowl title. His toughness defined him both in the field and on the sidelines. He is one of the most iconic figures in Chicago sports as a player and coach.

Chicago is the 3rd largest city in America. Their professional sports franchises have brought championships and many great memories to the residents of the great city. Some teams will have their ups and downs in the future. But Chicago's past proves that good times are ahead. Each major sports league has historic franchises in Chicago and the memories these icons created will last a lifetime.

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The Coach That Killed My Passion

An open letter to the coach that made me hate a sport I once loved.
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I fell in love with the game in second grade. I lived for every practice and every game. I lived for the countless hours in the gym or my driveway perfecting every shot, every pass and every move I could think of. Every night after dinner, I would go shoot and would not allow myself to go inside until I hit a hundred shots. I had a desire to play, to get better and to be the best basketball player I could possibly be.

I had many coaches between church leagues, rec leagues, personal coaches, basketball camps, middle school and high school. Most of the coaches I had the opportunity to play for had a passion for the game like I did. They inspired me to never stop working. They would tell me I had a natural ability. I took pride in knowing that I worked hard and I took pride in the compliments that I got from my coaches and other parents. I always looked forward to the drills and, believe it or not, I even looked forward to the running. These coaches had a desire to teach, and I had a desire to learn through every good and bad thing that happened during many seasons. Thank you to the coaches that coached and supported me through the years.

SEE ALSO: My Regrets From My Time As A College Softball Player

Along with the good coaches, are a few bad coaches. These are the coaches that focused on favorites instead of the good of the entire team. I had coaches that no matter how hard I worked, it would never be good enough for them. I had coaches that would take insults too far on the court and in the classroom.

I had coaches that killed my passion and love for the game of basketball.

When a passion dies, it is quite possibly the most heartbreaking thing ever. A desire you once had to play every second of the day is gone; it turns into dreading every practice and game. It turns into leaving every game with earphones in so other parents don't talk to you about it. It meant dreading school the next day due to everyone talking about the previous game. My passion was destroyed when a coach looked at me in the eyes and said, "You could go to any other school and start varsity, but you just can't play for me."

SEE ALSO: Should College Athletes Be Limited To One Sport?

Looking back now at the amount of tears shed after practices and games, I just want to say to this coach: Making me feel bad about myself doesn't make me want to play and work hard for you, whether in the classroom or on the court. Telling me that, "Hard work always pays off" and not keeping that word doesn't make me want to work hard either. I spent every minute of the day focusing on making sure you didn't see the pain that I felt, and all of my energy was put towards that fake smile when I said I was OK with how you treated me. There are not words for the feeling I got when parents of teammates asked why I didn't play more or why I got pulled after one mistake; I simply didn't have an answer. The way you made me feel about myself and my ability to play ball made me hate myself; not only did you make me doubt my ability to play, you turned my teammates against me to where they didn't trust my abilities. I would not wish the pain you caused me on my greatest enemy. I pray that one day, eventually, when all of your players quit coming back that you realize that it isn't all about winning records. It’s about the players. You can have winning records without a good coach if you have a good team, but you won’t have a team if you can't treat players with the respect they deserve.

SEE ALSO: To The Little Girl Picking Up A Basketball For The First Time


Cover Image Credit: Equality Charter School

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Despite The Rough Tracks Of 2018, I'd Like To Admit That 2018 Was A Good Year

I saw. I came. I conquered.

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2019 is just a couple breaths away from us. December just started, and I bet we're all going insane about the fact that this year went by quickly. Others would agree that this year felt really long -- like 2018 is finally coming to an end. *sighs*

The other day I read a post saying how 2018 felt like a long year. We had the Olympics this year, and it seems like they came a long time ago. Really, time is just as confusing as ever, to be honest.

However, I remember how last year I had written an article on why I don't do new year resolutions, I'm absolutely shocked by the fact how I feel like I didn't accomplish anything this year but I like to believe even the smallest of tasks are great accomplishments. Dealing with mental illness most of the year wasn't an easy road, let me tell you.

The fact that I allowed my mental health to stop me from doing many things I wanted to do didn't entirely bring me down. So I saw, I came, and I conquered. Instead of 2018 making me it's bitch, I (tried to) made it my bitch.

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Probably one of my most treasured accomplishments was being able to buy tickets to Troye Sivan's concert on October. That would be the highlight of my 20-gayteen. I feel like Hayley Kiyoko, you know, gay and proud. 2018 was the year that I came out to the world and was able to find love and by coming out, I encountered even more love and more support from other people. 20-gayteen was the year I attended my first pride. In this year, I was able to shamelessly embrace who I am and start to love every small aspect of myself.

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During this year, I began to embrace my company a little bit more. I learned the valuable lesson that I am my best friend, too. I learned to appreciate myself a little bit more, and how to not bring myself down for every little mistake. I discovered that self-care isn't just about laying in bed for a week straight and listening to sad music in the darkness.

Perhaps 2018 wasn't the year where I decided on more physical and tangible goals. For this year, I had decided I wanted to learn how to embrace myself more -- how to love myself more -- and I guess I nailed it.

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