Imagine there’s a sports heaven;
It’s easy if you try.
Where sports’ greatest legends
Depart to when they die.
Imagine all the athletes, of past and present day.
Now imagine a Cafe;
It’s not that hard to do.
There’s only 101 tables;
It’s open to a select few.
Imagine all the athletes, hoping to get a seat.
You may say I’m a dreamer;
But I’m not the only one.
Deciding the greatest athletes by number;
Who get to enter the Cafe 101.
Well after a long absence highlighted by the postseason push of the NBA and NBA D-League seasons combined with the need to get mock NFL drafts in the hands of all the football fans who read this blog, Cafe 101 is back! And back in glaring fashion! Since it’s been awhile you may recall that the premise is that in sports heaven, the Cafe 101 is the most exclusive restaurant with only 101 tables, each table numbered 00 – 99 and reserved for the best athlete to have ever worn that number. When I went to the random number generator I knew this would be a great article when it gave me #12 but then when the next number I was given was #33? I knew this post may have the most firepower and debate of any Cafe 101 yet. Of course these are two numbers that are pretty popular across all of sport and have been worn by the best of the best of the best. Getting either table will be no easy feat. Additionally we have some good debate at #63 and #85 so let’s get right to it and see who deserves each table.
Quarterback, New England Patriots (2000 – Present)
3x Super Bowl Champion, 2x Super Bowl MVP, 5x AFC Champion, 2x NFL MVP, 3x AFC Offensive Player of the Year, 2x NFL Offensive Player of the Year, 7x Pro-Bowler, 2x 1st Team All-Pro, 2nd Team All-Pro (2005), 2009 Comeback Player of the Year, NFL All-Decade Team (2000′s)
Being a fan of Midwestern sports teams (for the most part) and living just two hours from Boston and 30 minutes from Boston’s greatest propaganda machine ESPN I have grown tired of the hype that surrounds Boston sports teams and athletes. If Boston has a king though, that man is Tom Brady. Others may argue with my giving him the honor of being the greatest to ever wear #12 and yes you can argue for others like Terry Bradshaw, Thierry Henry, Jim Kelly, Roger Staubach, etc. but let’s just take a moment to look at what Tom Brady has accomplished.
When I was a child (though they lost the Super Bowl when I was 1 and again when I was 11) the New England Patriots were a joke of an NFL franchise. Even though they had a championship drought unlike any other, the Boston Red Sox instilled more hope in Boston fans than the Patriots ever would. Then comes along Tom Brady, a 6th round draft pick out of Michigan who nobody ever expected to start but now we all know the story. It only took him 131 starts to win 100 games (the fastest to 100 of any QB in NFL history). His .780 winning percentage over the past 13 seasons is the best all time. He started off his career with 10 consecutive postseason wins (best all-time). He has gone undefeated at his home field 5 times in his career. He threw for 50 touchdowns in 2007 which is an NFL record and his regular season records are unreal.
He is tied for the most postseason wins of all time with Joe Montana. He is tied for most Super Bowl appearances by a starting quarterback with John Elway (5). And he is just 1 Super Bowl win away from tying Joe Montana & Terry Bradshaw’s record of 4. In my opinion, with just one more AFC Championship (although a Super Bowl win would cement this) we might have to consider Tom Brady the greatest quarterback of all-time. There’s no doubt he is already in the top 5. While I am not a Tom Brady fan, this table is all about the best and Tom Brady is the greatest athlete to ever wear #12 and he deserves this table.
RUNNER-UP: TERRY BRADSHAW, Pittsburgh Steelers (1970-1983)
ON THE WAITING LIST: Jim Kelly, Thierry Henry, Dwight Howard, Roger Staubach, Kenny Stabler, Bob Griese, Joe Namath, George Yardley, Dick Barnett, John Stockton, Jarome Iginla, Stan Smyl, Simon Gagne, Colt McCoy (College), Aaron Rodgers, Wade Boggs, Steve Alford (College), Oscar Robertson (College), Roberto Alomar, Randall Cunningham, & Andrew Luck (College)
TOO SOON TO TELL: Andrew Luck (NFL), Colt McCoy (NFL), Percy Harvin, Lamarcus Aldridge, Marques Colston, A.J. Pierzynski, Eric Staal, & Darrius Heyward-Bey
Center, Milwaukee Bucks (1969-1975) & Los Angeles Lakers (1975-1989)
6x NBA Champion, 6x NBA MVP, 19x NBA All-Star, 2x NBA Finals MVP, 10x All-NBA 1st Team, 5x All-NBA 2nd Team, 5x NBA All-Defensive 1st Team, 6x NBA All-Defensive 2nd Team, 1970 NBA Rookie of the Year, NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, 3x NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion at UCLA, 3x NCAA Tournament MVP, Naismith College Player of the Year – 1969, No 33. retired by the Bucks and the Lakers, Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee
Like the #12 there is a lot of debate as to who the best to ever wear the #33 is. And as with #12, where the debate primarily came down to one sport (football), the debate with #33 mainly comes down to basketball. While for some this would be a difficult decision for me it was pretty easy to give the go ahead to Kareem for Table #33. After all I believe that, wait a minute let me make this it’s own line.
In my opinion, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the greatest basketball player in history.
There, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way you can understand why I had to go with Kareem. When someone is the greatest to ever play their respective sport, you have to give them the nod for the table. Let’s take a look at what Kareem accomplished. First off, he won an astonishing 3 NCAA Championships in his 4 years at UCLA and on all three occasions was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. He was the first ever winner of the Naismith College Player of the Year award in 1969. Abdul-Jabbar was so dominant in college that the NCAA banned the slam dunk after 1967 and did not bring it back for nearly a decade. He led the Lakers to 5 NBA Championships (and the Bucks to 1) and was twice named the MVP of the NBA Finals. He was named NBA MVP a record 6 times and to this day is the NBA’s all-time points leader. And of course who could forget his trademark “Sky hook” that he could shoot with either hand and was virtually impossible to defend. While many basketball greats have worn #33, I must tip my hat to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
RUNNER-UP (TIE): HONUS WAGNER, Louisville Colonels/Pittsburgh Pirates (1897- 1917) & LARRY BIRD, Boston Celtics (1979-1992)
WAITING LIST: Patrick Ewing, Tony Dorsett, Scottie Pippen, Sammy Baugh, Patrick Roy, Roger Craig, Brian Jordan, Stacey Nuveman, Alonzo Mourning, Henrik Sedin, Grant Hill & Shaquille O’Neal (College)
TO SOON TO TELL: Cliff Lee, Michael Turner, Nick Swisher, & Justin Morneau
Guard, Oakland Raiders (1967-1981)
2x Super Bowl Champion, 1967 AFL Champion, 6x NFL Pro Bowl Selection, 3x All-AFL, 3x First team All-Pro, 1970s NFL All-Decade Team, Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee
Gene Upshaw is one of the greatest guards of all-time and he is the only player in NFL history to play in a Super Bowl with the same team in three different decades. Upshaw was one of the greatest guards to ever play the game and for 14 years was the cornerstone of a great Raiders offensive line. It was his domination of Hall of Famer (and owner of Table #88 at the Cafe 101) Alan Page in Super Bowl XI that allowed the Raiders to rush for over 260 yards and win their first title. He shut down the Eagles’ vaunted defensive line in Super Bowl XV to help the Raiders win another championship. Upshaw was one of the greatest Division II players of all time and the annual lineman of the year award in Division II is named for him.
RUNNER-UP: WILLIE LANIER, Kansas City Chiefs (1967 – 1977)
ON THE WAITING LIST: Dermontti Dawson, Y.A. Tittle, Mike Munchak, Lee Roy Selmon, and Jeff Saturday
TOO SOON TO TELL: Mike Pouncey
Defensive End, Los Angeles Rams (1971 – 1984)
7x Pro-Bowl Selection, 5x 1st team All-Pro, 3x 2nd team All-Pro, 7x 1st team All-NFC, 2x 2nd Team All-NFC, 1975 NFL Defensive Lineman of the Year, 2x NFC Defensive Player of the Year, 1971 All-Rookie Team, NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team, St. Louis Rams #85 retired, NFL Hall of Fame inductee, College Football Hall of Fame
When it came to table #85, I knew I had to give it to Jack Youngblood. There are a lot of great receivers in the game today who wear #85, but Youngblood is one of the greatest pass rushers of all time. In 202 career games, he had 151.5 sacks. Not only was he a great pro but he was also one of the best players in the history of Florida Gators football. In his first full season as a starter with the Rams, he amassed 70 tackles in 11 games played. In 1973, the Rams were the best defense in the NFL and Youngblood led the way with 16.5 sacks. The following season the Rams still had the best defense in the NFL. Few recall that in the 1970’s, the NFL championships were almost always between a combination of the Rams, Cowboys, and Vikings. Youngblood’s stellar play is what allowed the Rams to have the success they did. What Youngblood will always be remembered though is his toughness. During the 1979 postseason, Jack Youngblood played the entire playoffs and Super Bowl with a broken left leg. No doubt that Youngblood is the best to ever wear #85.
RUNNER-UP: NICK BUONICONTI, Boston Patriots & Miami Dolphins (1962 – 1976)
ON THE WAITING LIST: Mark Duper, Chuck Hughes, Chad Ochocinco, & Derrick Mason
TOO SOON TO TELL: Greg Jennings, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Vernon Davis, & Antonio Gates
Agree? Disagree? Tweet us @can_of_corn using the hashtag #Cafe101 to tell us your picks!
Will your favorite athletes be able to get a table at the Cafe 101? Please post below or tweet any questions, comments, or snide remarks to @can_of_corn! Thanks for reading!