Where Pros Come From

On numbers alone California has produced the most current pros in each of the three major sports. But on a per capita basis, states in the South have a heavier concentration of NBA and NFL talent, and baseball has an unlikely outpost
December 27, 2004


The state that contributes the most NFL players per capita isn't California, Florida or Texas. It's Louisiana, which has 85 players in the league, including Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (left), from a population of 2.2 million males. In New England, on the other hand, you see the effect of a relatively subdued football culture. Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont are states that do not have a single Division I-A program, and they have not produced a current NFL player. Why is New Mexico, where Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher starred in high school and college, shown as having no NFL players from the state? Because players were counted as natives of the states in which they were born, and Urlacher spent his first eight years in Washington, the Evergreen State gets credit for him.


California's 220 major leaguers is more than triple the total that came out of runner-up Texas (67). Yet in the players-per-capita rankings California is second to Alaska, which has five players in the big leagues--including Red Sox hero Curt Schilling (above) and Rockies closer Shawn Chacon--from a male population of just 324,000 (compared with the Golden State's 16.9 million). With 17 players in the big leagues and a male population of 1.4 million, Mississippi is third, while Delaware, the sixth-least-populated state, is fourth with four players. Montana and Vermont are the only states with no major leaguers.


While California again leads all states in the total number of players in the league (46), it isn't in the top 10 when it comes to players per capita. The No. 1 state by that measure is Mississippi, which has 11 players in the NBA and a male population of 1.4 million. South Dakota has only two players--Grizzlies sharpshooting forward Mike Miller (above) and Bulls rookie center Jared Reiner--but it is second in the per capita ratings because it is the fifth smallest state. Three other areas of concentrated hoops talent are in the Midwest: Michigan (21 players, 4.9 million males), Illinois (24, 6.1 million) and Ohio (20, 5.5 million).

• For a complete list of the current pros per capita rankings in each sport by state, go to SI.com.


THREE COLOR MAPSInternational Mapping COLOR CHART   KEY The states are sized in proportion to the number of players per capita, and the colors relate to the total number of players. Even though California is the birthplace to the most NFL players on the map below, Louisiana is the largest state because it has the most per capita. COLOR PHOTOANDY LYONS/GETTY IMAGES (MANNING) COLOR PHOTOCHUCK SOLOMON (SCHILLING) COLOR PHOTOJESSE D. GARRABRAND/NBAE/GETTY (MILLER)

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)