Maybe defenders searching for a way to keep Pete Maravich from
scoring should have confused him with the simplest of questions:
Where are you from? The Pistol was born in Pennsylvania but
moved with his family to South Carolina at age eight. Following
his sophomore year in high school, he was uprooted again, this
time to North Carolina. After two years there he moved to
Louisiana, the state where he morphed into a household name as a
three-time All-America guard at LSU.
Maravich's gypsy existence is an example of the potholes we
encountered in putting together this issue's centennial list of
the 50 greatest sports figures from each state. The package,
which includes a different cover for each state, begins on page
68 and presents a look at the top 50 athletes, coaches and other
sportsmen and -women from your neck of the woods. On the pages
that follow is a rundown of the teams from all the states, plus
SI's ranking of the states, from No. 1 (California) to No. 50
(Delaware). Canadian readers are getting the Top 50 from their
country, plus the lists from all the states.
The project, one of the largest SI has ever undertaken, began
last summer when correspondents and reporters, with the help of
staffers at halls of fame and local experts, began identifying
candidates for each state. The arduous task of sifting through
nominees, producing the lists and writing short descriptions of
the 2,550 sports figures mentioned fell to the geographically
diverse trio of staff writer Jeff Pearlman (a native of New
York) and writer-reporters Mark Bechtel (Alabama) and Stephen
Cannella (Connecticut). "I'm starting to think that Manifest
Destiny idea wasn't such a good one," says Bechtel. "Fifty is a
lot of states."
We decided to place an athlete in the state where he emerged as
a sports figure--usually, where he grew up and went to high
school--and not necessarily in the state of his birth or the one
in which he gained national recognition. Thus the Pistol, after
much debate, landed in South Carolina.
December 27, 1999
At least we knew he belonged somewhere. More frustrating were
the difficult choices forced on us by the disproportionate
number of leading athletes from certain states. For example, we
had to leave out many Californians who would have made the Top
10 almost anywhere else--among them five-time NBA All-Star Gary
Payton and two of the newest inductees into baseball's Hall of
Fame, George Brett and Robin Yount. Conversely, relative
unknowns like Spencer Dunkley, a gangly center at Delaware from
1989 to '93, and Bob Prince, a Southern Maine outfielder who
helped lead the Huskies to the '91 NCAA Division III title, made
the lists for sports-strapped Delaware and Maine, respectively.
"The funny thing is that Dunkley wasn't even the best player on
that team," says Delaware alumnus Pearlman, "but he was the best
one from Delaware."
As the saying goes, the three most important factors in anyone's
presence on a list turned out to be location, location,
location. We hope you enjoy our look at the sports heroes from
the location most important to you: home.
BILL COLSON, Managing Editor