Today, David Beckham may be most well-known for being in the tabloids with his Spice Girls wife Victoria and being in underwear ads for H&M. But don’t let his most recent claims to fame fool you. Beckham is a former football superstar, with 20 years of professional experience around the world that didn’t even conclude until 2013. He spent most of his time with three teams: in the English Premier League for Manchester United, in Spain’s La Liga with Real Madrid, and in the MLS for the L.A. Galaxy. Over the duration of his career, he won 20 League titles/cups, captained the English national team in two World Cups, and scored over career 100 goals.
Beckham’s professional career began with Manchester United. His penchant for playing on championship teams began early, as he won the FA Youth Cup one year into his career. After being loaned to Preston North End in 1994-95 to gain starting experience, Beckham became an integral part of a young Man U team that won both the Premier League title and FA Cup the next season, and the Premier League championship again the next year. Beckham quickly became a star in England and across the world thanks to his own skill, especially on free kicks, and the success of the team. He scored 85 goals and 152 assist in his 10 season on Manchester United. Even more impressive was the 15 total titles won by Man U while Beckham was on the team, including six Premier League titles, two FA Cups, four Community Shields, and one FA Youth Cup, Champions League, and Intercontinental Cup.
In 2003, Beckham began a five-year stint with Real Madrid in Spain’s La Liga. Real Madrid won the Spanish Super Cup that same year. Over the next three seasons, Beckham scored 20 more goals and bookended his time at Real Madrid with another title in 2006/07, this time the La Liga title. His time in Real Madrid was also spent focusing on things outside of his team, such as becoming a football ambassador and his family with Victoria Beckham.
Historically, the MLS has struggled to gain the respect of top-tier football leagues and players. With a lot of money to offer, however, the L.A. Galaxy in 2007 were able to obtain a few prominent international football stars, and David Beckham was among them. With superstar talent, the Galaxy became one of the best teams in the MLS, winning their division three times in a row and the MLS Cup in 2011 and 2012. Beckham ended his time with the L.A. Galaxy in 2012 with 18 goals and 40 assists.
David Beckham finished his career after spending 2013 with Paris Saint-Germain in the French Ligue 1. He appeared in 12 games for PSG, and while he didn’t score a goal he did play solid minutes as the team went on to win their league title. This became a fitting end for Beckham as he retired from football at the end of the season.
When discussing any sports topic, getting anything close to unanimous agreement is nearly impossible. Michael Jordan’s status as the greatest basketball player in NBA history, however, is rarely ever questioned. Proof of his greatness can be easily gleaned from his long list of accolades. But that wouldn’t do justice to the way that he purely dominated the sport for an entire decade.
He became recognized as a budding star in college with North Carolina. In 1982, Michael Jordan scored the game winning shot in the NCAA Championship, and in 1984 he was named the ACC and Consensus National Player of the Year. Even with these achievements, he was picked third overall by the Bulls.
When Jordan got to the NBA, he immediately proved he was a force to be reckoned with, winning Rookie of the Year for the 1984-85 season. While the Bulls were good, they didn’t become a dynasty until 1991. Between 1991 and ’93, the Bulls won three straight Championships behind Jordan who was awarded Finals MVP all three times. During this time, Jordan led the league in steals three times, being named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1988, and won the NBA scoring title every year from ’87-93. Jordan was also part of the 1992 Dream Team that dominated international play at the FIBA American Championship and Olympics.
In 1993, Jordan shockingly retired from the NBA and, even more surprisingly, began to pursue a career in baseball by joining the Chicago White Sox’ minor league system. Although it’s impressive for anyone to simply pick up another sport and perform at all, his performance was not up to par, hitting in the low .200s.
After missing most of the 1994-95 season, Jordan returned to basketball, and he made it clear that that was where he belonged, bringing the Bulls back to the playoffs again while not looking quite as spectacular as he used to. Beginning in the ’95-96 season, however, Jordan was unquestionably back and as good as ever. He led the Bulls to another three NBA Championship titles in a row as the NBA Finals MVP each tune, and won the scoring title each of those three years.
Jordan retired from the Bulls again in 1999. However, he eventually came back to the game as President of Basketball Operations for the Washington Wizards and then as a player. Even though his age showed at times, he was 40 by 2003, he proved yet again that he was a superstar in the highest sense of the word, leading the team in scoring, assists, and steals in the ‘01-02 season and playing in every game during ’02-03. Jordan retired for a final time in 2003, but has stayed in basketball to this day, as he is now the owner of the Charlotte Hornets.
Undefeated in six NBA Championships, and MVP all six times. Two three-peats. Five MVPs. Four Gold medals in international play. Fourteen All-Star games. Ten-time ALL-NBA First Team. Ten scoring titles. The list of accomplishments and accolades can go on forever, and they all point to the clear fact that Michael Jordan completely dominated basketball for an entire decade. And he did it in a way that no man in any sport has accomplished before, and probably never will again.
When LeBron James was a junior in high school, most kids his age were worrying about learning to drive or getting a date to prom. James, on the other hand, was worried about when, not if, he would become an NBA superstar. LeBron was Ohio’s Mr. Basketball and a USA Today’s All-America for three consecutive years and was named the Naismith Prep Player of the Year during his senior year. He was one if not the most hyped basketball players ever when he entered the NBA Draft in 2003. And to this day, James hasn’t only met the sky high expectations; he has exceeded them in many ways as well.
LeBron James was drafted to the Cleveland Cavaliers and made an immediate impact, winning Rookie of the Year. Over the next six seasons, James game continued to improve in all facets. He’s participated in the All-Star Game and been named All-NBA first or second team every year since 2005. The 2005-06 season also began the run of five straight playoff appearances for the Cavaliers. However, the Cavs never succeeded in bringing quality pieces around James, leading to only one Finals appearance that ended in a sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs.
In the summer of 2010, James made a decision, “The Decision,” to leave his hometown fans and go to the Miami Heat and team up with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Cavaliers fans and sports fans across the country vilified his treatment of his hometown and his decision to take what many saw as the easy way to a NBA Championship ring. His likability did slowly improve during his Heat tenure.
LeBron James’ run with the Big Three lasted four years. In those four years, he won the MVP three more times. But most importantly to him, the Heat went to four straight NBA Finals appearances, including two series wins in 2012 and 2013. James was the MVP of both Finals. During this incredible run, James maintained his high level of play, but began getting less and less from the Wade and Bosh. By the 2014 NBA Finals, the Miami Heat were starting to look like the Miami Cavaliers, with James carrying the team and losing by a historic margin to the Spurs.
After the terrible defeat in the NBA Finals, the sports world became abuzz with the possibility of LeBron opting out of his contract and leaving the Heat in free agency. A few weeks into the free agent period, LeBron announced through an emotional letter that he was going back home to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Before leaving the Cavaliers in 2010, James already owned nearly every Cavaliers record on the book. The only thing that is missing from his Cleveland resume is a Championship.
LeBron James already has four MVPs, two rings, and a rookie of the year title. But for the remained of his career and in any discussion of it after the fact, there will always be comparisons to past greats like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. While opinions may vary, one thing is a fact: LeBron James is a once-in-a-generation player, one who lived up to the incredible hype and his limitless potential.
Peyton Manning was born and raised an NFL quarterback, but he doesn’t play with arrogance. Through his career, he has relied on his incredible smarts and an unheard of dedication to his craft to reach his status as all-time NFL great. With the sky-high success he’s reached, however, disappoints have been frequent as well.
Having an NFL quarterback as a father and two other aspiring football players for brothers certainly helped him get a head start in understanding how to think like a professional quarterback. By high school, Manning was already tough to face. During three years of starting for Isidore Newman School, the team had a 34-5 record. He won the Gatorade Player of the Year award in 1993.
Manning achieved similar success in college at the University of Tennessee, winning a number of awards including NCAA QB of the Year and SEC Player of the Year, as well as the 1997 SEC Championship. Manning also set nearly 30 records for UT, including most wins, most passing yards, and highest completion percentage.
While his high school and college careers were successes, no one could have predicted how incredible he could become in the NFL. In Manning’s rookie year was up and down, with him setting many rookie records amidst throwing more interceptions than touchdowns and ending the season with a 3-13 record. The next year, however, the Colts flipped their record to 13-3, and this dominance continued for the rest of Manning’s Colts career. However, his sophomore season also ended early, with a loss to the Titans in the second round of the playoffs. This trend of underperforming in the playoffs has also continued for Manning’s teams, haunting him in both Indianapolis and Denver.
Between 2000 and 2010, Manning led the Colts to two NFC Championships, and one Super Bowl win in the 2006-07 series. He also won Offensive Player of the Year once, four MVPs, and was First-team All-Pro 5 times during this span. He became the lifeblood of the Colts and Indianapolis sports in general. By the end of his Colts tenure, he took over every major franchise record, from career wins to passing touchdowns and yards. Even with all the achievements, it’s clear that with such success, only one Super Bowl win is nothing less than a disappointment.
In 2011, Manning was forced to miss the entire season due to a neck injury that required surgery. Many questioned whether he was ever going to be the same, including the Colts, who released him. After being released, Manning shopped around to a few different teams before landing with the Denver Broncos. Over the first two years of playing for the Broncos, the team has gone 26-6 in the regular season, and he has gone to one Super Bowl. His stats don’t indicate any slowing down, as he captured the record for most passing touchdowns in a season in 2013, on his way to his fifth MVP.
Manning’s career is marked by incredible consistency. He has played in started in all 16 games during every season he’s played in, and his teams have won 10 games or more in every season except two. He holds countless records on every level he played in. But occasional lapses in his own and his defense’s performance that have hampered him from winning as many Super Bowls as his capabilities suggest. Nevertheless, Manning is aptly known as the greatest regular season quarterback in history, and he is arguably the best on-field captain as well.
Historically, golf and the Professional Golfers’ Association of America have been reserved for the wealthy and white, both because of the expenses associated with playing it and occasional instances of discrimination. And while Tiger Woods certainly wasn’t the first non-white professional golfer, he made it seem cool to be a golfer. And along with that style came win after win, to the point where he not only became a unique player because of his background, but because of his legendary success on the golf course.
Before Tiger Woods, there were two winning records that seemed impossible to top; Sam Snead’s 82 PGA wins (only 4 players had more than 60) and Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors (on 2 players have more than 10). Before he hit age 22 and during his second year of professional play, Woods won The Masters in absolutely convincing fashion, and then won a few more on his way to becoming ranked number one in the world and being named PGA Player of the Year.
Between 1999 and 2002, Woods was hot in a way never before seen in golf. He won seven Major Championships, including the PGA Championship, U.S. Open, and Masters Tournament twice, and The Open Championship once. He experienced a career lull for the next 3 years, but in 2005, Tiger went on another run of Major Championship wins. He won the Open and Masters in 2005, Open and PGA in 2006, PGA again in 2007, and finally the US Open in 2008. This was the last Major that Tiger has won to date.
Beginning in 2008 to present, Woods’ career has featured as many times of struggles both on and off the course as times of success. In 2009 Woods came back and won the FedEx Cup and was named Player of the Year. But in this same year, off-the-field issues involving rampant infidelity led to an international media frenzy and Woods ended the 2009 season by take a leave of absence that lasted until the Masters Tournament in April of 2010. However, he did not look the same and struggled to win for the next few years.
In 2012 he began to start winning again and by 2013 looked as close to the old Tiger Woods as he did since early 2008. Although he won many tournaments, Player of the Year, and the Vardon Trophy, he failed to win another major, keeping him at 14, four behind Jack for the lead. However, the successful season did bring him within three of San Snead’s record for most overall wins (79 to Snead’s 82). The next year, Woods was injured yet again, but this time a more serious back pain that needed surgery. After attempting a come back but looking injured and rusty in three straight PGA events, Woods decided to shut it down once again, this time for the remained of 2014.
Normally, finishing a career second in wins would be an incredible achievement. However, for someone that was so dominant and successful, seeing Tiger’s career end like this would feel unfulfilling. But with one of his best years being only one year prior, it would be ridiculous to count out someone with Tiger Woods’ competitiveness and intensity. And no matter how he ends his career, he will always be remembered as the man who opened up golf to an entire new demographic of younger fans and was fun to watch every time he played.