Ranking the 10 greatest Washington D.C. athletes of all time
Greatest D.C. athletes of all time
With the Capitals finally hoisting the Stanley Cup, Alex Ovechkin has shaken up the pantheon of Washington D.C. sports legends.
His rise up the list prompted us to re-evaluate the greatest D.C. athletes of all time, based upon overall ability, longevity, and meaning to the city.
10. Peter Bondra, Capitals
Years Played with Capitals: 1990-2004
Career Stats: 503 goals, 389 assists, 892 points
Awards and Achievements: 5x All-Star, 2x NHL goals scored leader, Capitals all-time leader in shorthanded goals
Up until some guy named Alex Ovechkin showed up, Peter Bondra was the greatest Capital of all time.
The previous record holder for goals, points, and hat tricks, he was the leading man in the Capitals' multiple postseason campaigns in the 90’s.
9. Sonny Jurgensen, Redskins
Years Played with Redskins: 1964-1974
Career Stats: 32,224 passing yards, 255 touchdowns, 82.6 passer rating
Awards and Achievments: NFL Champion (1960), 5x Pro Bowl, 5x NFL passing yards leader, NFL 1960’s all-decade team, Pro Football Hall of Fame
Sonny Jurgensen was the defining figure of the Redskins in the 60’s and early 70’s. Holding the best passer rating of the “dead-ball” period of football (82.6), he took the Redskins to an appearance in Super Bowl XII.
Just to give you an idea of his ability, Vince Lombardi said he was “the best quarterback I’ve ever seen.”
8. Elvin Hayes, Bullets
Years Played with Bullets: 1972-1981
Career Stats: 21 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 45.2 FG%
Awards and Achievments: NBA Champion (1978), 12x All-Star, 3x All-NBA first team, 3x All-NBA second team, 2x NBA All-Defensive team, NBA Scoring Champion (1969), Basketball Hall of Fame.
Nicknamed “The Big E,” Elvin Hayes proved to be the perfect compliment to Wes Unseld in the frontcourt. A fierce rebounder and tenacious defender, he averaged 21.8 points and 12.1 rebounds during the 1978 title run, and he remains the Wizards/Bullets all-time leading scorer.
7. Art Monk, Redskins
Years played with Redskins: 1980-1993
Career Stats: 940 receptions, 12,721 receiving yards, 68 touchdowns
Awards and Achievments: 3x Super Bowl Champion, 3x Pro Bowl, Pro Football Hall of Fame, 1980’s All-Decade team
A member of all three Redskins championship teams, Art Monk redefined what consistency meant at the wide receiver position. Nine times during his 15 year career he exceeded 50 receptions in season and five times had over 1,000 yards, setting a new standard at the position.
Just to give you an idea of how respected a person he was, at his hall of fame induction he received one of the longest standing ovations ever recorded, lasting four minutes and four seconds.
6. Joe Theismann, Redskins
Years played with Redskins: 1974-1985
Career Stats: 160 Touchdowns, 25,206 passing yards, 77.4 Passer Rating
Awards and Achievements: Super Bowl XVII Champion, 1983 NFL MVP, 2x Pro Bowler
Although his career as Redskins starting QB lasted only seven years, his peak alone puts him among the top five of all-time Washington greats. In 1982, he led the Redskins to their first championship in 40 years, and followed it up with an MVP season and another Super Bowl appearance.
If his career hadn’t been tragically cut short by a freak leg injury in 1985, he might be higher up on the list.
5. Wes Unseld, Bullets
Years played for Bullets: 1968-1981
Career Stats: 10.8 PPG, 14.0 RPG, 3.9 APG, 50.9 FG%
Awards and Achievments: NBA Champion and Finals MVP (1978), NBA MVP (1969) 5x All-Star, Basketball Hall of Fame
The driving force behind the Bullets' sole championship, Wes Unseld was unlike the other big men that defined the 70’s and 80’s. Standing only at 6-7, he affected the game by setting colossal screens, rebounding, and igniting the fast break with his famed crisp outlet passes. He led the Bullets to three finals appearances and won the 1978 NBA championship in seven games against the Seattle SuperSonics.
4. Cal Ripken Jr., Orioles
Years played with Orioles: 1981-2001
Career Stats: .276 BA 3,184 hits, 1,695 RBI, 2,632 consecutive games played (MLB record)
Awards and Achievments: 19x All Star, World Series Champion (1983), 2x AL MVP, 8x Silver Slugger, 2x Gold Glove, Baseball Hall of Fame
Forget Tony Stark, Cal Ripken Jr. is the real Iron Man. He never played for a D.C. based professional team, but his influence from his time on the Orioles permeated among baseball starved Washingtonians. A power hitting shortstop ahead of his time, his defensive prowess, offensive production and unprecedented durability earned him a spot Cooperstown.
3. John Riggins, Redskins
Years played with Redskins: 1976-1979, 1981-1986
Career Stats: 11,352 rushing yards, 3.9 yards per carry, 104 rushing touchdowns
Awards and Achievments: Super Bowl XVII MVP, 1983 First Team All-Pro, 2x NFL Rushing Touchdowns leader (1983, 1984), 1980’s All-Decade team
Known for his powerful running style and productivity during the twilight of his career, John Riggins durability manifested in the NFL history as he holds 14 “oldest player to” records.
The defining play of his career is arguably the most important play in Washington D.C. sports history; with 10 minutes remaining in Super Bowl XVII, Riggins was handed the ball off on fourth and inches, and ran 43 yards for the game winning score.
2. Darrell Green, Redskins
Years played with Redskins: 1983-2002
Career Stats: 1,159 tackles (13th all time), 54 interceptions, 6 touchdowns
Awards and Achievments: Pro Football Hall of Fame, 4x First Team All-Pro, 2x Super Bowl Champion, Redskins All-Time Redskins leader in interceptions, tackles, games played, consecutive seasons played
Widely considered one of the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history, Darrell Green was a cornerstone of a dynastic Redskins defense. Boasting 4.43 40-yard dash, Green was known for his blazing speed; against the Bears in the 1988 divisional round, he returned a punt 52 yards for what would prove to be the game winning score.
Green's legacy extends far beyond the football field. Founder of the Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation, he's been involved in public service since his retirment. Despite his numerous football accomplishments, he might be best known for his excelcior attributes as a person, not an athlete.
1. Alex Ovechkin, Capitals
Years played with Capitals: 2005-Present
Career Stats: 607 goals, 515 assists, 1122 points
Awards and Achievments: 3x NHL MVP, 7x First Team All-NHL, 7x NHL goals scored leader, All-Time Capitals leader in goals, powerplay goals, points and game winning goals
Better known as “The Great Eight,” Alex Ovechkin's arrival in Washington marked the franchise’s turnaround, as he led the team to 10 playoff appearances in next 13 years along with three President’s trophies.
Although heavily criticized throughout his career for failing to advance past the second round, Ovechkin was the heart of the Capitals' unexpected 2018 championship run, culminating in the Conn Smythe award and Stanley Cup title.