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Kansas' 150 greatest athletes: The top 50

  • Published Sunday, August 7, 2011, at 12:08 a.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, June 4, 2014, at 6:01 p.m.


Who should have been No. 1 on Kansas’ list of greatest athletes?

Kansas 150 Criteria

* The athlete had to excel at one or more sports. Emphasis was placed on achievements, longevity and levels of excellence (high school, college, pro, Olympics).

* Must have been “raised” in Kansas. There was not a hard line on how many years an athlete had to be in the state, but it had to include the years when his or her development in the sport began.

* Collegiate athletes who came to Kansas schools from out of state were not considered. For example, KU’s Wilt Chamberlain (Philadelphia) and K-State’s Jacob Pullen (Maywood, Ill.) weren’t in the mix.

It really comes down to just two.

Name all the great athletes Kansas has produced — certainly more than the 150 The Eagle has highlighted these past three weeks — and the title of Kansas' Greatest Athlete can go to only one of two men.

There's Wichita's Barry Sanders. Heisman Trophy winner, greatest season by a college running back, Pro Bowler in all 10 of his electrifying NFL seasons, No. 2 career rusher when he chose to retire, first-ballot Hall of Famer.

There's Humboldt's Walter Johnson. No. 2 in major-league victories. First in shutouts. Third in innings. Fifth in complete games. Ninth in strikeouts. Career 2.17 ERA. Charter member of the Baseball Hall of Fame (with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson and Honus Wagner).

You can't go wrong either way, but in this case we're going with the guy who shook our heads — and defenders' bodies — with unparalleled moves and a humility that made Kansans proud to call him theirs. Sanders gets the nod.

The rest of today's top 50 isn't half-bad, either. Enjoy.

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