Honoring the greats of Minnesota sports
With the Vikings fresh off a spectacular playoff run that featured many talented players, I started to think about the greats throughout Minnesota history. In a state where success in professional sports often seems few and far between, I wanted to celebrate those athletes who were able to excel while playing in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Playing in Minnesota for at least three seasons was my only ground rule, so sorry, Brett Favre—your short stint with the Vikings was magical, but you will always be remembered as a Packer anyway. With that said, here are the top five greatest athletes to play in Minnesota.
5. Cris Carter (Vikings)
Carter donned the purple and gold for 12 seasons while cementing his place in Minnesota sports history. He leads all major statistical categories for receiving in franchise history with 1004 receptions, 12,383 yards, and 110 touchdowns. With Carter’s help the Vikings went to the playoffs eight times and won four division titles. Carter also played in eight Pro Bowls in a row from 1993-2000. The Vikings inducted Carter into their “Ring of Honor,” which is the team’s own Hall of Fame, and they retired his jersey number. To top it all off, he was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013. Yes, I did consider Randy Moss for this slot, but Carter’s franchise records put him over the top.
4. Fran Tarkenton (Vikings)
Tarkenton’s greatness may be a bit lost on the younger generation because he played for the Vikings during the ‘60s and ‘70s, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be on this list. After 13 seasons with the team, he leads all major statistical categories for passing in franchise history with 2635 completions, 33,098 yards, and 239 touchdowns. The Vikings retired his jersey number, his name is in the Ring of Honor, and he was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986. Postseason success also propels Tarkenton up this list because he led the Vikings to three Super Bowls. The team may have lost in each of those Super Bowls, but that doesn’t discount any of Tarkenton’s career accomplishments.
3. Kevin Garnett (Timberwolves)
The Big Ticket spent 14 seasons in Minnesota building his Hall Of Fame resume, and he is the longest tenured athlete on this list. The Timberwolves drafted Garnett with the 5th overall pick in the 1995 draft when he was only 19 years old. His talent was evident early in his career and he led the team to eight straight playoff appearances from 1996 to 2004. Garnett was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2004 after leading the Timberwolves to the Western Conference finals with a record of 58-24. After a trade to the Boston Celtics, Garnett added a Defensive Player of the Year Award and an NBA title to his long list of accolades. The Timberwolves and Garnett were eventually reunited in the twilight of his career, and in 2016, Garnett announced his retirement from the league as a member of the team that drafted him.
2. Kirby Puckett (Twins)
The argument for Puckett’s spot on this list could end with one word: championships. Without question, winning titles is the most prestigious achievement in athletics. Puckett and the Twins won the World Series in 1987 and 1991. He orchestrated one of the most clutch plays in baseball history when he hit a walk-off homerun in the 11th inning of Game 6 in the 1991 World Series to force a Game 7. Puckett’s illustrious career includes a batting title, six Gold Glove awards, six Silver Slugger awards, and he was an All-Star 10 times during his 12 seasons with the Twins. On top of all his league awards, Puckett is top five in hits, runs, and RBIs in franchise history. Oh yeah—he is also enshrined in Cooperstown as a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. There is no denying that Puckett is a Minnesota legend.
1. Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson, Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen (Lynx)
If two championships are good, then four are even better. All four of these women top this list because I simply couldn’t break up the dynasty they’ve helped create. The Lynx have won the WNBA Championship every other year since 2011. They also made the finals in 2012 and 2016 only to fall just short of winning. Not only were all of these women on the roster for every run, but they’ve also led the team with significant contributions each year. They have played a combined 35 seasons in Minnesota, and they combine for 21 All-Star selections. Just to add to this group’s greatness, Maya Moore won the MVP award in 2014. Their success has the potential to continue as they are all set to return next season along with reigning MVP Sylvia Fowles. Augustus, Brunson, Moore, and Whalen have been the core of the Lynx dynasty and that is why they top this list.