While sports dominate American life, some athletes have changed theirs forever. These men represent the most hardworking and talented individuals in the history of their competitions. These are the top athletes who redefined their sports.
Dale Earnhardt – NASCAR
You cannot talk about NASCAR without mentioning the racing legend Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt was 49 years old when he died from collision-based injuries in the 2001 Daytona 500, but his legacy remains. NASCAR fans remember Earnhardt for the 76 Winston Cup wins and 7 NASCAR Winston Cup championships. Known as “Ironhead,” “The Intimidator,” and “Mr. Restrictor Plate,” Earnhardt is one of the top NASCAR drivers of all-time. His legacy carries on in the Earnhardt Tower seating-section at the Daytona International Speedway, Earnhardt Road just off I-85 in northeast Charlotte, and his legendary black and red No. 3 car.
Michael Jordan – Basketball
Michael Jordan is a basketball superstar. His reputation stems from his time as the shooting guard and small forward for the Chicago Bulls during the 1984-1993 seasons, and 1995-1998 seasons. Jordan earned the nickname “Air Jordan” for his signature leaped dunk from the free-throw line. Throughout his career, Jordan collected six NBA championships, six NBA Finals MVP awards, five NBA MVP awards, 14 NBA all-star awards, three NBA all-star game MVP awards, and ten All-NBA first team honors. Today, many fans remember Jordan for his basketball highlights and continue to support him through Nike’s Air Jordan shoe line. Jordan even made an appearance in the hit 1996 film Space Jam.
Barry Bonds – Baseball
Another key athlete to change their sport is baseball legend Barry Bonds. Bonds is arguably the Michael Jordan of baseball. He was famously the left fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants. He won eight Gold Glove awards for his outfield plays and is one of the few baseball players to have hit over 500 home runs and stolen over 500 bases. He set numerous MLB records, including 762 total home runs and 73 home runs in a single season. Unfortunately, Bonds’ reputation suffered greatly because of his affiliation with his coach, who was caught administering performance-enhancing drugs to players. Many baseball fans believe that Bonds was one of them.
Tiger Woods – Golf
Tiger Woods is one of the world’s best golfers. While not many people find the sport too exciting, Woods made a name for it and himself with his numerous records and championships. He ranks first as one of the top golfers to hold the most PGA Tour wins and ranks second in men’s major championships. Woods first gained prestige after ranking as the best golfer in the world within his first year after turning professional. He held this position from 1999 to 2004. Though he lost that title between September 2004 and June 2005, Woods won it again from mid-2005 to the end of 2010.
Lance Armstrong – Cycling
Lance Armstrong is one of the top cyclists in the world. He is most known for his seven Tour de France wins between 1998 and 2005. Sadly, like Barry Bonds, Armstrong’s career took a hit after numerous doping allegations came forth, exposing him as the ringleader in the biggest blood-doping scandal in cycling. After all of this came out, the World Anti-Doping Agency and International Cycling Union stripped Armstrong of his titles, ending his competitive career.