St. Patrick's Day 2019: The most prominent Irish and Irish-American athletes in sports history
For St. Patrick's Day, here are some of the most influential athletes with Irish blood
St. Patrick's Day is a lot more than a reason to put Bailey's in your coffee and drink green beer. It's a celebration of Irish heritage.
The Irish have had a huge impact on sports. There have been tons of great Irish and Irish-American athletes, from Conor McGregor to the Ireland Quidditch team (those chasers were a sight).
So, without further ado, here are some of the most well-known Irish and Irish-American athletes throughout the United States.
If you don't know who Tom Brady is, it's hard to imagine how you ended up on this site. Brady's father is Irish, and the only athlete in general who has rivaled Brady in terms of career success across sports since the turn of the century is LeBron James. The Patriots have won six Super Bowls with Brady as the MVP in four of them. He's fourth all-time in passing yards and will jump ahead of both Brett Favre and Peyton Manning on that list next year if he stays healthy. Brady has had an all-time great career and he is one of the most influential athletes period.
Conor McGregor was born in Dublin and his larger-than-life personality made his time with the featherweight and lightweight belts were fascinating times for UFC. It all culminated in his fight with Floyd Mayweather. His foray into boxing was must-see television and his brashness and arrogance made him a riveting opponent to Mayweather -- even though he lost by TKO. He recently lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov, but his legacy as one of UFC's most prominent fighters endures.
An Irishman and a Celtics legend, you can't ask for much more out of Kevin McHale on this list. A seven-time All-Star and three-time NBA champion, McHale is also a Hall of Famer. He's seen as one of the best power forwards ever and coached the Timberwolves and the Rockets after his playing career. He made three straight playoff appearances with the Rockets in the early 2010s.
Jason Kidd's New Jersey Nets were a dominant squad in the early 2000s, but he made his name on the Suns. Kidd finished his NBA career second in all-time assists with 12,091 (John Stockton's record of 15,806 is likely insurmountable) and he was a nine-time All-Defensive team member. Kidd is now a Hall of Famer and he was called Mr. Triple Double way before Russell Westbrook was in the NBA. Kidd was fun to watch throughout his entire career, and although he was never a great scoring threat, his presence was always felt on the court.
John McEnroe's tennis career was fascinating to track. Although the accolades speak for themselves -- an 881-198 record, seven Grand Slams and a former No. 1 ranking -- McEnroe's main draw was being a "bad boy" of the tennis world. He famously had a spat with the All England Club after winning Wimbledon. McEnroe wasn't given an honorary club membership so he responded by not attending a champion's dinner. He is now a tennis commentator and growing tennis is a passion of his.
OK, so his track record as a GM is questionable to say the least, but no one can question Elway's playing career. Now a Hall of Fame quarterback, he led the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998 before retiring. He famously had "the helicopter" dive against the Packers, which remains one of football's most replayed plays. He's also ninth all-time in passing yards. Although Peyton Manning is technically the best quarterback to ever wear a Broncos jersey, Elway is the quintessential Denver quarterback, and he's remembered as such.
Long before the Warriors compiled superteams, they had Rick Barry. The MVP of the 1975 NBA Finals, Barry played 794 games and 226 ABA games. He averaged 24.8 points over the course of his prolific career and he was a six-time All-NBA player. A 12-time All-Star and a Hall of Famer, Barry was an outstanding scoring forward. He's fourth all-time in 40-plus point games behind Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
Arguably the most influential person on this list, you can't say enough about Muhammad Ali. Though Ali was predominantly African-American, he does have Irish roots that trace back to his great-grandfather. A three-time heavyweight champ who was boxing's best trash talker, Ali's career extended far beyond boxing. Post-boxing, he was a philanthropist and an activist, not to mention a pop culture icon. "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" is ingrained in the boxing world's zeitgeist, and even after his death Ali's trash-talk is must-watch for anyone looking to get into the sport -- not to mention fights themselves.
Jack Dempsey came way before Ali and he was part of the first million dollar gate for a boxing match. Dempsey had 44 knockout wins and lost just six of 75 matches. Dempsey won the heavyweight title on the Fourth of July in 1919, when he defeated Jess Willard. Dempsey, who fought in an era of bareknuckle brawling, defeated Willard so soundly that controversy still persists on whether he had plaster of Paris -- a hardened wrap -- on his knuckles because he injured Willard so badly and yet sustained no damage to his own hands. The theory has largely been debunked, though. Dempsey held the title until 1926, when he lost to fellow Irish-American Gene Tunney.
Ben Hogan won nine majors from 1946 to 1953, but '53 was by far his best-remembered season. Hogan won a Triple Crown in 1953, winning the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship. Hogan is one of just two players to ever win three majors in a season, alongside Tiger Woods, who achieved the feat 47 years later. His 1953 season is recognized as one of the best in golf history, despite not playing in the PGA Championship due to overlap with the British Open. He won five of the six tournaments he played in that year, a ridiculous feat.
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