Mount Rushmore Of Northwest Sports

Missed this one yesterday, but it’s still worth a mention:

Tuesday would have been Steve Prefontaine‘s 60th birthday. Not many sports fans in this part of the country need to have Prefontaine’s legacy explained to them, but here’s a short primer from Sports Illustrated on the 30th anniversary of his death.

I was reminded just last spring, when I covered the high school district track meet and a distance runner dropped Pre’s most famous quote: “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” That’s pretty amazing: More than 30 years after his death, Prefontaine was still inspiring high school runners.

So here’s the question: Who is on the Mount Rushmore of Oregon sports? Off the top of my head, I would say Prefontaine, Phil Knight, Bill Walton, and Terry Baker. Am I missing anybody? Probably.

When ESPN picked a Mount Rushmore for Oregon two years ago, based on reader submissions, they had Prefontaine, Knight, Gary Payton and Clyde Drexler.

I think they missed. Here’s what they wrote about Baker as an honorable mention: “Baker won HS state titles in baseball, basketball and football, became first player west of Rockies to win Heisman Trophy (1962).” Baker went to high school in Portland and won a slew of state titles, while Payton was from Oakland. Baker also was a starter at Oregon State on a Final Four basketball team, was the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, and was Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. And he’s still the only player from a Northwest school to win a Heisman.

For Washington, here’s my Mount Rushmore: Ken Griffey Jr., Don James, Edgar Martinez, and Walter Jones. Here is ESPN’s: Griffey, Steve Largent, Martinez, and James. As an offensive lineman, Jones wasn’t as popular as Largent, but he was by far the best player in Seahawks history.

As for Prefontaine, he long ago reached that point where it’s impossible to separate the myth from the reality. That’s what happens when somebody famous dies at the age of 24. But he did hold the American record at every distance from 2,000 meters to 10,000 meters, so there was plenty of substance to go along with the style.

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