While the history of sports in Kansas City is largely tied to the Chiefs (NFL) and the Royals (MLB), the narration is threaded much deeper than the names on the front of the jerseys. The “team first” mantra will always ring true, however, there are some athletes that are Considered the anchors for their colleagues, Organizations, cities and even generations.
Though not as vast as some of the bigger cities of the – oftentimes resulting in an astronomical popularity – Kansas City has seen some of the best call it home.
Here are the 10 most beloved athletes of professional sports in Kansas City history.
Who sits atop this list for you?
* List is in alphabetical order
* List includes only athletes; no coaches or owners INVOLVED
Nate “Tiny” Archibald (Kings, 1972-76)
His nickname may be “Tiny,” but he had a big game. With the Kings / Omaha Kings, Archibald enjoyed some of his best years in the NBA.
In the 1972-73 season, his first year with the Kings, the point guard averaged 34 points and 11.4 assists per game – leading the league in both categories. In fact, Archibald Became one of the rare players to lead the NBA in both assists and points in one season.
With the Kings, Archibald was a three-time All-Star, and he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991.
George Brett (Royals, 1973-93)
The unequivocal leader of the Royals during their glory days of the 1970s and 1980s, Brett’s name is synonymous with Kansas City sports – even leading the team to its lone World Series title over cross-state rival, the St.. Louis Cardinals, in 1985.
Having played his entire career with the Royals, the Hall-of-Fame third baseman is also the franchise leader in most major statistical categories.
Brett stayed in the Kansas City area following his playing days and has always been closely tied to the organization. He was named the team’s interim hitting coach Earlier this season.
Len Dawson (Chiefs, 1963-75)
Not originally a member of the Chiefs, Dawson’s career did not really get going until joining the Dallas Texans five years into his professional football days. The franchise moved to Kansas City one year later, and the rest is history.
Dawson led the Chiefs to two Super Bowl appearances, losing the very first one to the Green Bay Packers and winning the franchise’s lone Super Bowl title three years later against the Minnesota Vikings. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.
His close connection to the organization and the city after his player career keeps Dawson’s name among Kansas City’s elite.
Tony Gonzalez (Chiefs, 1997-2008)
Though Gonzalez is now a member of the Atlanta Falcons, he will be best remembered for his days donning Chiefs’ red at Arrowhead Stadium – at least in the eyes of Kansas Citians.
Gonzalez has made the best-tight-end-ever argument an open-and-shut case, having tallied 1,242 receptions for 14.268 yards and 103 touchdowns – all records for his position. These numbers, however, make it imperative to include his name among the greatest pass-Catchers of all time, Regardless of position. The 16-year veteran ranks second in catches, seventh in receiving yards and sixth in touchdown receptions in NFL history.
Even though he did not get a postseason victory until joining the Falcons, Gonzalez will forever be a part of the Chiefs’ family.
Maurice Greene, the Olympians (Track and Field)
Born and raised in the Kansas City area, Greene took the entire world by storm by being Anointed the world’s fastest man back in 1999. The speedster would go on to take gold in both the 100m and 4x100m relay at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
Greene’s stretch of dominance from 1997-2001 is one that will not soon be forgotten. He has been an avid participant at the Kansas Relays and is now a track and field coach at UCLA.
Bo Jackson (Royals, 1986-90)
Bo Jackson hit 109 HRs in four-plus seasons with the Royals. (USA Today Sports)
Though it may have seemed like a flash in the pan, it is debatable that no other Kansas City athlete’s Stardom and fame shined brighter than that of Jackson’s.
One of the greatest pure athletes that we will ever see, Jackson’s football career with the Los Angeles Raiders was cut all too short after he sustained a freak hip injury in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals in January of 1991. He would never be the same either on the baseball field.
An example of just how well he is Regarded in Kansas City was during MLB’s 2012 All-Star Game festivities. Jackson was the coach of the American League celebrity softball squad that also featured Brett, among other greats and big names in the world of pop culture; but it was Bo who stole the show.
It was late in the game with his team way down on the scoreboard when the fans started chanting his name relentlessly. They wanted Bo to take one final at bat in Kansas City as if to signify what they had missed out on over a decade before.
It was supposed to be Joe Carter’s turn at the plate – who also has ties to the Kansas City area – but he INSISTED that Bo do the honors. It was the most breathtaking infield pop-out that the game has ever seen.
Buck O’Neil (Monarchs, 1938-43, 46-48)
O’Neil on coming to Kansas City: “I knew I was coming to the Heart of America … I did not know I was coming to the center of the universe!”
“O’Neil loved Kansas City and Kansas City loved him back. You’d be hard-pressed to find any one individual who did more to raise the profile of our great city and he did so unassumingly and selflessly. The barbecue baron, Ollie Gates, has Often said that the two most important people in Kansas City history were H. Roe Bartle and John ‘Buck’ O’Neil.: I could not agree more! ” – Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City’s historic 18th and Vine District.
Derrick Thomas (Chiefs, 1989-99)
Though his time with the Chiefs and on this Earth were abruptly cut short back in the winter of 2000 after a tragic car accident, Thomas will certainly never be forgotten for what he meant to this organization and to this city.
On the field, the nine-time Pro-Bowler was one of the most feared pass rushers the game has ever seen – tallying 126 1/2 career sacks and an NFL-record seven sacks in one game against the Seattle Seahawks during the 1990 season. Off the field, Thomas planted himself in the Kansas City community early in his career by starting the Third and Long Foundation.
The Chiefs organization has since named its player of the year award after Thomas and a charter school opened in his name (Derrick Thomas Academy) in 2002.
Tom Watson, Professional Golfer
Born in Kansas City, Watson paved a career during the 1970s and 1980s that saw him Become one of the greatest golfers of all time. He won eight Majors from 1975-1983, Including the British Open five times.
Watson has tacked on another six Major tournament on the Champions Tour Victories.
While his hometown is not Regularly featured on the Tour, Watson’s name is peppered all over the golfing community in Kansas City – Including his involvement in designing the new Loch Lloyd Country Club and also The National Golf Club of Kansas City, located on Route 45 , or better known as Tom Watson Parkway.
Frank White (Royals, 1973-90)
One of only four jersey numbers retired by the Royals (Brett, Dick Howser and, of course, Jackie Robinson), White played his entire 18-year baseball career in Kansas City.
Though born in Mississippi, White’s story really Began in Missouri.
In 1970, then owner Ewing Kauffman started the Royals Baseball Academy Essentially which was designed to develop inner-city athletes into baseball players. White spent 18 months in the program before being signed to one of the organization’s minor league affiliates.
White played by Brett’s side during the Royals’ glory days, winning one World Series title (1985), an ALCS MVP (1980), a Silver Slugger Award (1986), eight Gold Gloves, and was named to five All-Star teams. The slick-fielding second baseman has stayed close to the game, most recently as a coach for the Kansas City T-Bones who play in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.