Manute Bol, 47
This is an article from the Dec. 27, 2010 issue
A 7'7" Dinka tribesman from Sudan who came to the U.S. with few hoops skills and no knowledge of English, Bol parlayed shot-blocking and three-point shooting into a 10-year NBA career. He constantly aided his war-torn homeland, even boxing William (the Refrigerator) Perry for $35,000, which he donated to Sudanese orphans. "When I was younger I was bothered [about being tall]," he said. "But not now. My height is a gift from God."
Bob Probert, 45
One of the NHL's most notorious enforcers, Probert did it all in 1987--88: He tied for third on the Red Wings with 62 points, made his only All-Star team and led the league with a whopping 398 penalty minutes, the sixth most in NHL history. But his bad-boy ways extended to his off-ice activities: Probert missed most of the next two seasons after being arrested and serving six months in prison for cocaine possession.
Don Coryell, 85
In the words of his Hall of Fame quarterback, Dan Fouts, Coryell's approach was simple: "We're going to throw the ball, and we don't care who knows it." The coach made a habit of turning teams around—San Diego State, the St. Louis Cardinals, Fouts's Chargers—by airing it out. Said former Rams coach Mike Martz, "Now, 40 years later, you're seeing the second and third generations of coaches running Coryell's system."
Bob Feller, 92
There are none of them left now. Feller was the last of the great athletes who made their mark before the war, so sports' connection to the Depression is severed forever. It is difficult to comprehend what a significant figure Rapid Robert was before he enlisted in the Navy two days after Pearl Harbor. He was the most fascinating player of the time, the rare one who bestrode his game.
In 1936, Feller was like some vision come to life—a 17-year-old out of Van Meter, Iowa, signed by the Indians, striking out 15 in his first game. It wasn't just that he was so good. He was a human marvel, able to throw a baseball over the plate faster than anybody alive.
Yet he was forever grounded in that Midwest soil—direct, loyal, hopelessly honest and notably un-PC. Feller, who won 266 games in 18 seasons, was as unabashedly proud of his life as he could be. I remember, during a visit with him in 2005, how determined he was to show my wife and me an old landing strip where he'd once put down the plane he loved to fly. It mattered to him for us to see. "I flew till I was 75," he said. The strip was outside Cooperstown. His plane brought him back there, but his fastball took him in.
Antonio Pettigrew, 42
A member of the gold-medal winning 4 √ó 400-meter U.S. relay team at the 2000 Olympics, Pettigrew surrendered his medal—plus two he won at world championships—when he admitted in May '08 that he had used HGH and EPO for four years. In '91, six years before he began to use PEDs, he won the 400 at the worlds. After retiring, Pettigrew was an assistant track coach at North Carolina; he committed suicide in August.
Don Meredith, 72
Meredith was 31 when he walked away from the NFL, three years removed from being named MVP. His last game as a quarterback was a playoff loss to the Browns in 1968; a year earlier, in the NFL title game, his Cowboys fell to the Packers in the final minute. Crushed, Meredith gave a heartfelt interview to Frank Gifford after the game, and it was largely because of his candor that Roone Arledge hired him as a color man for ABC's new Monday Night Football franchise in 1970. As Howard Cosell's down-home foil, Meredith was more famous during the second act of his career, but again he walked away early and on his own terms. He was seldom in the public eye after 1985, preferring to be with his family in Sante Fe. "I don't feel reclusive," Meredith told SI in 2000. "I actually feel kinda normal."
Bill Dudley, 88
Dudley was surprisingly slow for an NFL halfback—especially for one nicknamed Bullet. He took part in a race among running backs before a 1942 All-Star game and finished 13th out of 14. But the 5'10", 182-pound Dudley had a way of eluding people. He led the nation in all-purpose yardage as a senior at Virginia in 1941, and in '46, four years after the Steelers made him the first pick in the NFL draft, he was named the league's MVP.
Ron Santo, 70
Santo labored at third base for the Cubs for 14 years—nine as an All-Star—without playing a postseason game, then spent two decades as a broadcaster for the cursed club. Still, he remained boundlessly enthusiastic about Chicago's chances, worked tirelessly to fight diabetes (a disease he suffered from for 52 years) and battled courageously against bladder cancer. To Santo, a day at the ballpark was always therapeutic.
Harold Connolly, 79
After Connolly won the gold medal in the hammer throw at the 1956 Summer Olympics, photographers called for him to raise his arms in celebration. He only raised the right one. The reason? His left arm, injured at birth and fractured 13 times, was more than four inches shorter than his right, and his left hand was two thirds the size of his right. Connolly came away from the Melbourne Games with more than just a medal. He met and fell in love with Olga Fikotovà, a Czech discus thrower who also won gold. Their Cold War romance was controversial; the Communist Czech government was none too eager to have one of its top athletes marry an American. But after lobbying from the U.S. State Department and Connolly himself—he traveled to Prague and pleaded his case to Czech president Antonín Zàpotock√Ω—the couple finally married in front of more than 30,000 people at a ceremony in Prague in 1957. (They divorced in '74, after Fikotovà had competed in four Olympics for the U.S.) In 1988, Connolly began working as an executive director for the Special Olympics. That year he told The Washington Post, "I had to prove my value on the playing field. That was my motivation: Give me a chance and I'll show you."
Erica Blasberg, 25
After a stellar two-year career at Arizona, during which she was named the 2003 NCAA freshman of the year and was twice an All-America, Blasberg struggled to adapt to life on the LPGA tour. She had only one top 10 finish and was never higher than 94th on the money list in her five full seasons. Struggling with her golf as well as with her personal life, Blasberg committed suicide in May at her home in Henderson, Nev. (SI, Dec. 13).
Bobby Thomson, 86
Thomson won baseball's most memorable pennant race with its most famous home run, but the pivotal moment in the New York Giants' rally from a 13-game deficit in 1951 came that July, when Thomson, taking the advice of teammate Whitey Lockman, closed his stance and crouched more. Thomson went on a tear, batting .358 in the second half. Then, in the final game of a best-of-three playoff with the Dodgers, he hit the Shot Heard 'Round the World, a three-run, pennant-winning blast off Brooklyn's Ralph Branca. The Shot outshone everything else Thomson accomplished, including his eight 20-homer seasons. "It was the best thing that ever happened to me," he said. "It may have been the best thing that ever happened to anybody."
Wes Santee, 78
Santee was the U.S.'s best miler at a time when the four-minute mark was still one of the sporting world's great unbroken barriers. In February 1954 he set a world indoor record with a time of 4:04.9, becoming a contender to run under four. But three months later Roger Bannister of England broke the mark. Santee went on to set a world outdoor record in the 1,500 meters with a 3:42.8 in '56; his best mile time was 4:00.5.
Mosi Tatupu, 54
A bulldozing fullback, Tatupu was named USC's offensive player of the year in 1977—ahead of tailback Charles White, who outrushed him by more than 1,000 yards. In addition to being a superb blocker during his 14-year career with the Patriots and the Rams, Tatupu was a feared special teams players, known best for his kick coverage. As a rusher, he was more than able: In 1983 he gained 578 yards, and his 5.5 yards per carry led the NFL.
Andy Irons, 32
When Kelly Slater abruptly retired from the pro tour after winning his sixth straight title in 1998, it left a void atop the surfing world, one that wasn't filled until Irons won his first title in 2002. The following year Slater returned, setting up a rivalry that was among the best surfing has ever seen. Slater played the part of the old pro, Irons the cocky youngster. For a while their distaste for each other was palpable: In a 2004 documentary Irons said of Slater, "My whole driving force right now is to take his little pretty picture and just crush it." Irons won the title in 2003—beating Slater in a showdown on the last heat of the season—and again in '04 before Slater took two in a row. As Slater reasserted himself, Irons struggled with burnout. He left the tour in 2009 and returned this year, dedicating a September win to his pregnant wife, Lyndie. In November he died in a Dallas hotel room. (The cause of death has not been determined. Irons was suffering from dengue fever, and police found Xanax, Ambien and methadone in his room.) When he won his 10th tour championship four days after Irons's death, Slater, who had grown fond of Irons, fought back tears as he said, "If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be in this position today."
George Steinbrenner, 80
Not long after George Steinbrenner took control of the Yankees, SI described his leadership style as Prussian. "I'm not here to run a country club," Steinbrenner said. "I'm here to run a winning organization." Mind you, this was in 1977, before he had fired Billy Martin even once. Over the next three decades Steinbrenner axed managers seemingly on a whim. He had a history as a coach himself, in the late 1950s. He was a graduate assistant under Woody Hayes at Ohio State and later an assistant at Northwestern and Purdue. But Steinbrenner gave up football and entered the family shipping business, which provided him the money to head up the consortium that bought the Yankees in 1973 for $8.8 million. Before long he was the franchise's leader; the world championships (seven) and controversies (substantially more than seven) followed. "In the shipping business the decisions you make are known to you and your shareholders," Steinbrenner said in '77. "With the Yankees, every move you make is judged by 10 million New Yorkers." They were the only people whose opinions Steinbrenner valued as he threw huge contracts at free agents. The rest of baseball might deem him the embodiment of evil, but to Yankees fans, he was the world's greatest Boss.
Larry Siegfried, 71
Cut by the St. Louis Hawks in 1962, Siegfried—who was the No. 3 pick in the '61 draft—spent a year as a high school teacher before his former Ohio State teammate John Havlicek persuaded Red Auerbach to let Siegfried try out for the Celtics. He became a regular in the backcourt on Boston teams that won five NBA titles in six years. A crafty playmaker and tenacious defender, Siegfried twice led the league in free throw shooting.
Phil Cavarretta, 94
With apologies to Ernie Banks, Cavarretta was the original Mr. Cub. Born and raised on Chicago's North Side and signed by the Cubbies at 17, the first baseman was a fan favorite for his hustling style. Cavarretta was named the NL MVP in 1945, when he led the Cubs to the World Series, which they lost to the Tigers in seven games. A three-time All-Star in his 22 seasons, Cavarretta never returned to the Series—the Cubs still haven't, either.
Merlin Olsen, 69
Talk about being cast against type. For years Olsen was the anchor of the Fearsome Foursome, the Los Angeles Rams' stellar defensive line. (Columnist Jim Murray once joked that Olsen went swimming in Loch Ness "and the monster got out.") But after Olsen retired—he made 14 Pro Bowls at tackle in his 15 seasons, all with the Rams—he was given a role as a gentle lumberman on the wholesome program Little House on the Prairie. Following that, he starred as a frontier priest in Father Murphy. In truth Olsen was closer to his TV persona than his gridiron one. He was a Phi Beta Kappa scholar at Utah State and a devout Mormon. He also won the Outland Trophy for the Aggies, and the Rams made him the third pick of the 1962 draft. At 6'5" and 270 pounds Olsen was an imposing physical specimen who once told SI, "I spring from perfectly average, if sound, pioneer American stock." Olsen was also one of the game's most cerebral players, and he used that combination of size and wile to terrorize opposing linemen and quarterbacks. Those, however, were the only people he terrorized. "Merlin gives off quiet strength," said his Little House costar Michael Landon. "You might be able to fool them in the movies, but never on television—the truth of what you really are always shines through."
Ron Kramer, 75
Before his 10-year career as an NFL tight end, Kramer was a three-sport star at Michigan, where he ran track and was twice the leading scorer on both the basketball and football teams. The Packers picked him fourth in the 1957 draft, and Kramer played a key role catching passes as well as blocking on the team's signature play. Said Green Bay halfback Paul Hornung, "He was the reason the Lombardi sweep was successful."
Mel Turpin, 49
Large in both personality and girth, the 6'11" Turpin was known as the Big Dipper and Dinner Bell Mel at Kentucky, where a student manager was assigned to keep him from snacking. Drafted sixth by the Bullets in 1984, Turpin was traded to the Cavaliers, for whom he averaged 13.7 points in his second season; four years later he was out of the NBA. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in July, shortly after his wife suffered a stroke.
Sparky Anderson, 76
At spring training in 1975, Anderson told his Reds that a separate set of rules existed for the team's biggest stars. Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and Pete Rose would be allowed to do whatever they wanted. "The rest of you," Sparky said, "are turds." Sparky knew about double standards, having belonged squarely in the turd camp as a player. He spent one season in the majors: 1959, when he was the Phillies' second baseman. He hit .218 with 12 extra-base hits in 527 plate appearances. Within five years he was a minor league manager, and a good one. But it still came as a shock when baseball's oldest franchise made the prematurely white-haired 36-year-old its manager in 1970. (First baseman Lee May referred to Anderson as that "minor league mother------.") But there was little complaining when he led the Big Red Machine to four pennants and two World Series titles, yanking pitchers at an unprecedented rate—he was called Captain Hook—and merrily butchering the English language: "I see now they're even puttin' ain't in the dictionary, so I'm good, man. I'm covered." Cincinnati fired Anderson in 1978 after consecutive second-place finishes, and he caught on with the Tigers. In 1984 he became the first manager to win the Series in each league.
Dick McGuire, 84
One of the greatest players in New York City history, McGuire was born in the Bronx, grew up in Queens, went to St. John's in Brooklyn and played for the Knicks in Manhattan. Tricky Dick epitomized the pass-first point guard: As a rookie, in 1949--50, he set an NBA assist record, with 386, while scoring just 8.6 points per game. McGuire is one half of the only pair of brothers in the Hall of Fame; he was enshrined in '93, a year after his brother Al.
Robin Roberts, 83
Roberts was a proponent of country hardball. "I had a high fastball, and I either overpowered them or they overpowered me," he said. To wit: The Hall of Famer twice led the NL in strikeouts and was its starting pitcher in the All-Star Game five times in a seven-year span in the 1950s. He also surrendered a record 505 home runs. Roberts was remarkably durable, especially for a pitcher who threw so hard. He led the league in innings five times, and in 1950, when the Phillies reached the World Series for only the second time, he started three games over the season's last five days, hurling a 10-inning complete game in the pennant-clincher. That was the first of his six straight 20-win seasons. As he told Time in '56, "It's like I say, keep your life and your pitching real simple and you'll get along."
Edwin Valero, 28
A hard-punching southpaw, Valero had a record that might have earned him a shot at Manny Pacquiao; he won his first 18 fights on first-round knockouts, took the WBC lightweight belt and had 27 knockouts in as many pro bouts. But Valero was also prone to fits of violence, which became sadly apparent in April when he was arrested in his native Venezuela on charges of stabbing his wife to death. He hanged himself in his jail cell.
Gil McDougald, 82
The 1951 AL Rookie of the Year, McDougald hit a liner that struck Indians pitcher Herb Score in the eye in '57. The Yankees infielder vowed that if Score lost sight in the eye, he'd quit baseball. Score recovered (but was never the same pitcher), and McDougald went on to play in the third of his five All-Star Games and the sixth of his eight World Series. He retired at 32, anticipating that he would be left unprotected in the expansion draft.
Victoria Draves, 85
Draves wasn't a natural for a career in aquatic sports. She confessed to being afraid of the water as a child, and being half-Filipino meant that she was barred from many pools in the 1930s. But at 16 she began diving and, under the tutelage of Lyle Draves, whom she married in 1946, she made the '48 U.S. Olympic team as a 23-year-old. In London, Draves became the first woman to sweep the platform and springboard competitions.
Juan Antonio Samaranch, 89
In the years that Samaranch was president of the IOC, from 1980 to 2001, the Olympic Games underwent a renewal. Cash shortages and boycotts gave way to commercial growth and unprecedented levels of participation—everyone from Jamaican bobsledders to the NBA's biggest stars. Samaranch's tenure wasn't without controversy, though, as doping and corruption occasionally overshadowed the Games.
John Wooden, 99
When he was named Sportsman of the Year in 1972, Wooden told SI, "I don't know anyone, as participant, spectator or bystander, who is not touched in some way by sport.... [S]port keeps people young; perhaps that is the most important thing." That philosophy helps explain the fact that Wooden was 53 and had been at UCLA for 15 years before he won the first of 10 national titles. His quick, cohesive and well-conditioned Bruins also set a record with 88 straight victories, from 1971 to '74. The first three-time consensus All-America as a point guard at Purdue in the early 1930s, Wooden was old school, but he was also forward-thinking. He had to be to succeed as a coach—an authority figure—at a time when campuses were in turmoil. (His star center Bill Walton was famously arrested in 1972 for protesting the Vietnam War.) Wooden was stern when the situation called for it, but he was also empathetic, a combination that made him in some ways the ultimate dad. "He had structure, a philosophy based on fairness," Kenny Washington, an African-American guard from rural South Carolina, said in 2007. "He was a small-town person too. The same things his father taught him, my father taught me. I felt like a foster child."
Willie Davis, 69
One of the first local products to play for the Dodgers in Los Angeles, Davis signed out of Roosevelt High in 1958. Four years later the speedy centerfielder—nicknamed 3 Dog, for his number and his penchant for three-base hits—led the NL in triples while stealing 32 bases and hitting 21 homers. A career .279 hitter, Davis was hounded by talk that he never realized his potential, but no one has had more hits for the Dodgers in L.A.
Kenny McKinley, 23
A fifth-round pick out of South Carolina, where he set the single-season record for receptions with 77, McKinley played sporadically as a Broncos rookie in 2009. In August he underwent his second left knee surgery in eight months and was put on injured reserve. The injury, reportedly coupled with despair over gambling debts, made McKinley deeply depressed; in September he committed suicide in his Denver home.
Quintin Dailey, 49
The No. 2 scorer in University of San Francisco history, Dailey was also culpable in the program's dissolution in the early 1980s after he admitted to taking money from boosters and pleaded guilty to assault of a female student. The 6'3" guard was drafted by the Bulls days after his plea, and his 10-year NBA career, during which he averaged 14.1 points, was marked by disciplinary issues. "I had to learn life by trial and error," Dailey said. "I erred a lot."
Dorothy Kamenshek, 84
Geena Davis's character in A League of Their Own was a composite of several players in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. But when it came time to give her a name, the movie's producers chose Dottie, a nod to the league's best player. Kamenshek was a seven-time All-Star and batted .292 for her career, tops in league history. Former Yankees first baseman Wally Pipp called her "the fanciest-fielding first baseman I've ever seen, man or woman." Kamenshek was fearless; in 1946 she stole 106 bases—despite the fact that the league's uniforms (skirts with knee-high socks) weren't exactly conducive to sliding. "In the spring, we're always hoping we'd develop calluses," she said. "If you got your skin toughened up, you were pretty lucky most of the year."
Bob Sheppard, 99
The P.A. announcer at Yankee Stadium for 57 years (and for the football Giants for 50 years), Sheppard spoke into the microphone with the same impeccable locution he used in daily conversation. Sheppard served as an adjunct professor of speech at St. John's, where he had played first base and quarterback. Said Red Sox slugger Carl Yastrzemski, "You're not in the big leagues until Bob Sheppard announces your name."
Rob Lytle, 56
A bruising runner who liked few things more than flattening a linebacker, Lytle left Michigan with a school-best 3,317 rushing yards, a total that would have been higher had he not been so eager to serve as the blocker. After finishing third in the 1976 Heisman voting, Lytle was taken in the second round by the Broncos in '77 and as a rookie scored in Super Bowl XII, making him the first player with a touchdown in both a Rose Bowl and a Super Bowl.
Henry Wittenberg, 91
A chess aficionado, Wittenberg took up wrestling at City College of New York only after his inability to master turns brought his swimming career to an end. He won a gold medal at 191.5 pounds in the 1948 Olympics and a silver in '52; his record from 1947 to '52 was 350--2. All the while Wittenberg was a New York City cop; he earned five commendations (including one for disarming an ax-wielding perp) before retiring as a sergeant in 1954.
William P. Foster, 91
After he took over as director of the Florida A&M band in 1946, Foster replaced the traditional marching outfit with one that he said "slides, slithers, swivels, rotates, shakes, rocks and rolls." Countless schools followed step, but only Foster's Marching 100 was selected by the French government to represent the U.S. at the parade marking the bicentennial of the French Revolution. Foster retired in 1998.
George Blanda, 83
"Personally, I think it's a shame, all the star football players who retired in the prime of life," Blanda wrote in SI in 1971. "Lou Groza, washed up at 43. Ben Agajanian, prematurely retired at 45." He was kidding. Sort of. Blanda's longevity was as difficult to explain as it was remarkable. His diet consisted of meat and potatoes, and he said his worst five years were the five in his 20s when he neither drank nor smoked. So he indulged those vices (though he claimed he didn't inhale) for the rest of his playing days. And there were plenty of those. By the time he quit for good in 1975, at the ripe age of 48, Blanda had scored more points than anyone in pro football history (2,002). He had actually retired for one year, in 1959, when it looked as if his days as a quarterback were over. (Bears coach George Halas used him only as a kicker.) But in 1960 the AFL was born, giving Blanda a job, first with the Oilers and then the Raiders; in 1970 he won the MVP award for his kicking and passing with Oakland. Blanda threw for more than 20,000 yards after his season in exile, and he had a simple explanation for what kept him coming back year after year: "I've been running up and down football fields since I was five years old; why stop now?"
Jose Lima, 37
The righthander coined the phrase Lima time to describe his pitching, which was so flamboyant that it often bordered on performance art. He wanted to become a singer in his native Dominican Republic after his baseball career, which had the sharp downward trajectory of one of his sliders. In 1998, Lima went 16--8 for the Astros; the next year he was 21--10. But gopher balls were his undoing, and the Mets released him in 2006.
Raymond Parks, 96
The last surviving member of the 1947 meeting in Daytona Beach that gave birth to NASCAR, Parks—like many stock car racing figures then—had ties to moonshine running, serving nine months in prison in 1936 and '37. When NASCAR was formed Parks hired Red Byron to drive his car, and they won the first two championships the series awarded: the modified title in 1948 and the Strictly Stock series, the forerunner of today's Cup series, in '49.
Jim Bibby, 65
Armed with what SI called a "conveniently wild fastball," the late-blooming Bibby no-hit the champion A's as a 28-year-old Ranger in 1973, his first full season. As he aged, the 6'5" Bibby—whose 6'1" kid brother, Henry, was an NBA guard—developed a deeper repertoire. He started Game 7 of the '79 World Series for the Pirates, throwing four innings on three days' rest in a 4--1 win over the Orioles. The next year he was 19--6 with a 3.32 ERA.
Laurent Fignon, 50
Known in cycling circles as the Professor because he wore round spectacles and had studied to be a veterinarian, the debonair Parisian with the blond ponytail won the Tour de France in his first two tries, in 1983 and '84. But Fignon would gain far more notoriety for his performance in the 1989 Tour, when he carried a gaping 50-second lead into the final stage, a time trial. Hampered by saddle sores that had made it difficult to sleep the night before, he was overtaken by Greg LeMond, who won the race by eight seconds. (Later, armchair physicists suggested that the drag created by Fignon's ponytail cost him the race.) Never one to smile for the cameras, Fignon was awarded the Prix Citron by journalists as the least likable rider in the '89 field. His response: "At least I won something."
Ernie Harwell, 92
In 1947, Harwell became the rare broadcaster to be traded for a player when Dodgers G.M. Branch Rickey sent a minor league catcher to the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern League for the right to bring Harwell to Brooklyn. Over the rest of his career, Harwell's Georgia lilt made him beloved in, of all places, Detroit, where he was the voice of the Tigers for 42 years. In 1981 the Hall of Fame honored Harwell with the Ford C. Frick Award.
Pat Burns, 58
When he took his first head-coaching job in the Quebec Major Junior League, Burns had yet to abandon his career as a Gatineau, Ont., police detective. Three years later—at the urging of the team's owner, Wayne Gretzky—he gave up his badge for good, and by 1989 the fiery Burns was guiding the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup finals. He was named NHL coach of the year that season for the first of three times, and in 2003 he finally won the Cup, with the Devils.
Gaines Adams, 26
After a stellar career at Clemson, where he tied the school record with 28 career sacks, Adams was the fourth pick in the 2007 draft. He had 12½ sacks in his first two seasons as a Buccaneers end, but when his playing time dwindled early in '09, he was traded to the Bears. In January, 14 days after Chicago's finale, Adams died of cardiac arrest caused by an enlarged heart, a genetic condition that had gone undetected.
Roy Skinner, 80
A year after he led Vanderbilt to within a game of the 1965 Final Four—still the deepest tournament run the Commodores have made—Skinner made history by signing the SEC's first black varsity athlete, Perry Wallace. (Alabama won the league eight years later with an all African-American starting lineup.) In 19 seasons at Vandy, Skinner was the SEC coach of the year four times, and his 278 wins remain the school record.
Maurice Lucas, 58
It didn't take long for Lucas to announce his intentions to the pro basketball community after leaving Marquette. As a rookie for the ABA's Spirits of St. Louis in 1974--75, the 6'9", 215-pound power forward decked 7'2" Artis Gilmore and got into a fight with the league's iconic superstar, Julius Erving, an act SI called "roughly akin to spitting on the flag." But Lucas was no thug. "I play clean physical," he said. "Never hit anybody in the face. I keep my blows between the neck and the belly button.... I never try to hurt a guy. Just maybe wake him up." When he wasn't waking up opponents, Lucas was lighting them up. He averaged 20.2 points and 11.4 rebounds for the Trail Blazers in 1976--77, when they won their first and only NBA championship. Portland lost the first two games of the Finals, but the Blazers swept the last four games thanks to a momentum-shifting scuffle late in Game 2 that Lucas had with 76ers center Darryl Dawkins, one of the few players in the league bold enough to confront Lucas. "To tell you the truth, I don't really know which players are dirty," Lucas, a five-time All-Star, said in 1977, "because a lot of cats don't do to me what they do to everybody else. Which I like."
Jack Tatum, 61
Embracing the outlaw ethic that defined the Raiders, Tatum had a reputation as a fearsome tackler, boasting in his 1980 autobiography, They Call Me Assassin, "My best hits border on felonious assault." His most notorious shot came in a 1978 exhibition game, a collision that left Patriots receiver Darryl Stingley paralyzed. Tatum never apologized, saying that he was merely doing what had earned him three Pro Bowl nods.
Ralph Houk, 90
When the Yankees tapped Houk—who had played just 91 games during his eight-year career as a catcher—to succeed Casey Stengel in 1961, they knew he could lead: A major in World War II, Houk was awarded the Bronze Star, Silver Star and Purple Heart. He guided New York to the World Series in his first three seasons (winning twice) before becoming G.M. Houk later managed the Tigers and the Red Sox, finishing with a record of 1,619--1,531.
Fran Crippen, 26
Strong in the pool—he won two individual medals at the 2001 Goodwill Games—Crippen was even stronger in the open water. He won gold in the 2007 Pan Am Games in the 10-km open-water race and took bronze in the '09 worlds in the same event. Crippen died during an October meet in the United Arab Emirates in which the water was 86°; the investigation into his death, believed to be the first in a FINA event, is ongoing.
Dodge Morgan, 78
In 1986, Morgan, a former Air Force fighter pilot, became the first American to sail around the world alone. In American Promise, a 60-foot cutter, he made the trip in 150 days—beating the record by 142. Before leaving he met with psychologists who determined he had the makeup to spend months alone. Upon returning, Morgan said that his most harrowing moment was "when I pulled the next-to-last bottle of beer from the bilge."
Lorenzen Wright, 34
The 6'11" Wright was the pride of Memphis: He was a star at Booker T. Washington High and at the University of Memphis, and he spent five of his 13 NBA seasons with the Grizzlies. Drafted seventh by the Clippers in 1996, Wright was known not only as a tireless rebounder but also as an ambassador for his hometown. In July his bullet-riddled body was discovered in a patch of woods on the outskirts of the city.
Stan Jones, 78
One of the first pro athletes to use weight training, Jones—a Hall of Famer who was just 140 pounds when he started playing football at Lemoyne (Pa.) High—disproved the notion that lifting would lead to a loss in mobility. At 6'1" and 250 pounds, he was one of the NFL's best pulling guards, making seven straight Pro Bowls for the Bears. In 1962, Jones's ninth NFL season, he played both ways; the next year he switched to defensive tackle.
Tom Brookshier, 78
A 10th-round pick out of Colorado in 1953, Brookshier played seven seasons as a hard-hitting defensive back with the Eagles, twice making the Pro Bowl. Philadelphia retired his number after a broken leg prematurely ended his playing days. In 1962, Brookshier began a second career, in broadcasting, and by the mid-1970s he and Pat Summerall had become TV's most recognizable NFL team, calling three Super Bowls.
Mike Cuellar, 72
Barely a .500 pitcher when the Orioles acquired him at 31 in 1968, the Cuban-born Cuellar averaged 21 wins over the next six seasons. In 1969 he became the first Latino to win the Cy Young Award. The junkballing lefty was known for his many superstitions, including smoking exactly nine cigarettes a game, but he was shrewd on the hill. Said Yankees manager Billy Martin, "His fastball couldn't black my eye, but he owns my hitters' minds."
FROM THE SI FAMILY
Maury Allen, 78
After spending two years at SI, Allen went on to become a widely read columnist for the New York Post and a prolific author—he wrote more than three dozen books.
Vernon Biever, 87
The longtime team photographer for the Packers had countless football pictures appear in SI; his son John has shot regularly for the magazine since 1988.
Ron Fimrite, 79
In his 34 years writing for SI, Fimrite turned in stories—always on a manual typewriter—about a number of sports, but none more than baseball, a beat he owned in the 1970s.
Dick Francis, 89
A former jockey who wrote more than 40 novels, many of them horse racing mysteries, Francis wrote a short story for SI in 1970 and a run-up to the Kentucky Derby in '73.
Donald Moss, 90
No illustrator produced more SI covers than Moss, whose most famous work featured Muhammad Ali and George Foreman before their 1974 heavyweight title fight in Zaire.
Mickey Pfleger, 61
While he was best known for his football pictures, Pfleger's most enduring cover shot came from baseball: a 1989 close-up of Pete Rose when he was accused of betting on baseball.