Ranking Minnesota’s 141 Professional Athletes

As I was digging through some archives on Grantland — a website that actually existed and was considered home to some of the most talented writers in the entire country until it was inexplicably shut down — I came across Shea Serrano’s piece where he basically ranked his favorite Houston athletes based solely upon his love and admiration for each player. His rankings weren’t based on skill, achievements, contracts, or even statistics, but they were based on which athletes he was a fan of the most.

This gave me a great idea to do something a little different. I’ve decided to rank Minnesota’s 141 professional athletes from 1 to 141. Stipulations for an athlete’s ranking will be based upon popularity, skill and well, that’s basically it.

Each ranking will be constructed from 60% my opinion, 20% what I see on social media, and 20% what I’ve observed from the general public. In an effort to keep readers interested and prevent my brain from seeping out of my ears, I won’t be doing all 141 athletes, but after a while I’ll skip around to an athlete I want to write about.

Note — Minnesota has several sport franchises, but I decided to stick to the four most popular with an addition of a franchise that is now considered a dynasty (your Minnesota Lynx!!!!!!!).

Another note — Obviously everybody’s list is going to be a little different. Don’t be an idiot

1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings

Taking all of Adrian’s off the field issues into consideration (and I mean all of them), isn’t it amazing we still root for this guy? All these problems that have come up over the years and he’s STILL our favorite athlete in the entire state.

Sure, you could argue that I’m wrong, or that he isn’t even the most popular player on the Vikings, but it doesn’t matter. Let me ask you a question: Who would you choose if  you had an opportunity to meet Adrian Peterson, Teddy Bridgewater, Zach Parise, Maya Moore, Andrew Wiggins, or whoever.  It’s no question. Come on, you’re taking the once in a lifetime opportunity to get your hand crushed by Purple Jesus. He’s the MVP! He’s a Rushmore running back! He’s one of the best to ever play the game!

By the way, maybe my favorite part of Adrian Peterson’s career thus far has been announcers talking about how crippling his handshake is. Regardless of who’s calling a Vikings game, once they comment on “the strength of Adrian Peterson” it’s over. They always, no matter what, throw in a comment from their experience when they first shook AP’s hand.

Example:

Troy Aikman: “Yeah, you see, right there it was the strength of Adrian Peterson that helped force his body forward. It was the STRENGTH of Adrian Peterson that got his offense that first down.”

Joe “I only yell when I talk” Buck: “YEAH MAN, WOW, THAT REMINDS ME OF WHEN I FIRST MET ADRIAN PETERSON. WHEN I SHOOK HIS HAND, HE NEARLY CRACKED ALL 47 OF MY KNUCKLES AT ONCE. IT’S A REAL TESTAMENT TO HOW HE WAS RAISED!!!!!!!”

It doesn’t matter what Adrian Peterson has done, or will do, because the roar of the fans will forever cover the outside noise. Adrian Peterson has played every snap of his NFL career with Minnesota and it really feels like we’ve raised this guy. I really do feel that is how our state looks at Adrian Peterson, deep down. He’s messed up so many times and done bad, bad things, but at the end of the day he’s ours.

We’ve already been through the worst with AP, this is it. From this point forward it’s just going to be reflecting on how great of career he’s had while we watch him strike fear into NFC North opponents.

Each year that pushes past “the incident” will only be filled with examples of how remorseful and thankful Peterson is to be playing in this league. For every long, exciting run that Peterson rips off will only make his case stronger as the most popular athlete in the state.

For those who have yet to forgive Peterson (and probably won’t), time heals everything. Each page we flip on the calendar will only patch the holes stronger.

At the end of the day you have to realize Adrian Peterson is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. “He’s a man-child now, when he hits that daylight and you see that head start bucking, you can cancel Christmas.”

2. Zach Parise, LW, Wild

Zach Parise is the hometown kid from the State of Hockey. Minnesotans are suckers for their own blood, but especially the hard-working scrubs that are buried at the end of the bench (remember when the Twins had the Piranhas?). The difference is that Parise is a STAR and has kept Wild fans optimistic since he signed a few seasons ago. Each year he’s continued to push the Wild closer to their ultimate goal of taking home the Stanley Cup.

What separates Parise from the rest of our athletes is that he’s what each star should set out to become. He’s a hard-working veteran that always says the right things, and does the right things. In regards to professional athletes, Zach Parise is the best role model in the state of Minnesota. If you’re a parent, it’s Zach Parise that you want your child idolizing, not Adrian Peterson. He’s the epitome of high character and is just an overall good guy. Who doesn’t love that?

Hopefully one of these seasons Parise can bring the Wild all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals where his skills are destined to be shown off.

Parise might have been born in Minnesota, but Adrian Peterson started and will (hopefully) end his career here. That’s just something you can’t compete with. It’s always good to be considered number 2, as long as number 1 is an MVP, holds all-time records, and is considered one of the all-time greatest of his kind.

3. Kevin Garnett, PF, Timberwolves

Yes! The first ranking that isn’t the best player on his/her team… or the second… or the third… or the fourth… or the…

Garnett has a case for either of the two top spots. He can’t dethrone Peterson because he hasn’t spent his entire career here like Peterson, but I think he could definitely get the nod against Parise. Out of general respect for the State of Hockey, and the many die-hard hockey fans, I’ll let Garnett settle in at number 3.

Here’s the deal with Kevin Garnett, he was raised here as a teenager, won an MVP here, literally ratchet-strapped the T-Pups onto his back and drug them to the playoffs infinity straight times, was traded, won a championship in Boston, messed around in Brooklyn, and finally, returned.

Why was it important to note all of that? To show that he put in his dues here and still returned as the blue-collar player he’s always been (regardless of accomplishments) and is still insanely loved our fans. And by insanely loved, I’m referring to last year when Andrew Wiggins — the most exciting prospect since LeBron James/Kevin Durant — was easily winning Rookie of the Year, but it was this that was the highlight of the season:

Jigggggggggggly Booooooooooy!!!

Garnett has been the same person since he was a child — extremely passionate, warm, batshit crazy, tall, intimidating. To be honest, he probably came out of the womb beating his chest, and pounding his head against the base of the hospital bed his mother lay on. I actually have insight that Garnett’s first words were something along the lines of calling his Doctor a “weak-minded motherfucker”. Okay, I actually don’t know that and if you see him please don’t tell share that.

The entire culture of the Timberwolves changed once Garnett returned. It’s just something he demands out of his teammates that gains the respect from everybody watching. There’s just something inside KG that makes him tick differently than anybody I’ve ever seen. The intensity, the work ethic, the emotion, the leadership, all of it. It’s his 21st season in the league and he’s diving on the floor for loose balls for the umpteenth time, and calling timeouts during PRESEASON games while doing his best Randy Moss impression.

Garnett is always the first player to pick a teammate up off the floor, or get in the grill of an enemy. He’s got his teammates backs. Once you’re teammates with Garnett he casts off this sense that he will literally give his life for you as long as you don’t abuse his loyalty by doing something he views as disrespectful (Ray Allen). He’s the league’s all-time leader in unnecessary times a player stands up for his teammate, F-bombs caught on TV, and throwing his arms up signaling for a touchdown.

He’s so unbelievably awesome and I’m not sure if he even realizes it. Garnett is legitimately the greatest human to ever live. I’m so thankful he’s going own part of the Timberwolves once he hangs it up, rather than returning to his cave somewhere in the unknown woods where he sleeps with a random pack of Wolves like the crazy man he is.

Towns and Wiggins are for sure on the rise, but the pioneers are still so, so, soooo down with KG. Having The Big Ticket on the Wolves roster to mentor these guys is invaluable. You can’t put a price on the way Garnett has already impacted Wiggins and Towns with his ancient remedies.

4. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Vikings

The youth of Minnesota sports is taking the state by storm. However, Teddy Bridgewater remains slightly ahead of the others. Bridgewater isn’t Minnesota’s most outstanding young talent, maybe not even the third best, but he’s easily the favorite out of the group.

The biggest reason why Teddy is so popular is that he’s the starting quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings. That alone sets him ahead of the other youngsters because he plays the post premier position in sports for the most popular team in the state. Bridgewater has the highest ceiling for a quarterback that we’ve had in a long, long time and that’s what makes him so enjoyable to watch. We’re so proud of Teddy Bridgewater simply because he has shown us something. We’ve seen the flashes and his abilities speak a lot louder than his restrictions.

Bridgewater has his deficiencies, and he’s shown them in his young career, but he has built hope within the minds of Vikings fans. Teddy is presented with an opportunity to become the first franchise quarterback we’ve had in my lifetime. A promising career that can eventually engulf Adrian Peterson’s statewide stardom once he falls off the table, or Bridgewater ascends into the tier just below the elites of his position.

The love for Teddy Bridgewater was never more obvious than two weeks ago when he got knocked out from that nasty shot against the Rams. Everybody who’s a fan of the Vikings instantly stood up yelling for LaMarcus Joyner to be kicked out of the game — even when realizing the hit wasn’t as bad as it appeared. As the game went on and Joyner continued to play, the state collectively gathered their pitchforks and torches in defense of our rising quarterback.

It’s important to note that I’m not sure if fans love Bridgewater because of his talent, or because he’s a young promising quarterback that we drafted after the Christian Ponder saga. More importantly, he’s just not Christian Ponder. Because for me, it’s both. I mean, only a couple of seasons ago if Ponder got crushed the way Bridgewater did, well, you can spot the difference.

5A. Andrew Wiggins, G/F, Timberwolves

We got this guy in replace for Kevin Love moping around the Target Center because he hated how much money he made while never being able to accumulate wins.

Anytime you have an opportunity to trade a tad-bit overrated player that brings down the general morals of everybody else on the team for a guaranteed superstar that had college and professional scouts drooling when he was a 13-year-old, you do it every time. Every single time. I’m still shocked Cleveland made that trade with Minnesota.

It’s been so much fun this season watching Wiggins grow into a super freak. He’s shooting the basketball at a higher level than we hoped he’d be, and he’s out here dunking on everybody. He’s a legitimate top 10, maybe top 5, trade asset in this league already and it’s just amazing.

When I have trouble sleeping at night I just listen to the audio from a Wiggins highlight montage on YouTube because it soothes me knowing we have the next face of the league. Change the logo!

5B. Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Timberwolves

Does anybody know if Karl-Anthony Towns actually goes by “Karl-Anthony”? Because I kind of only want to call him Karl, Towns, or KAT (!!!!!!). Whatever. But this guy is such a freak of nature. So far this season I’ve watched him punk players such as Pau Gasol and Al Jefferson. He made Al Jefferson look worthless, which might not be an impressive feat, but you get the gist. This dude is INSANE.

I’m officially going to walk back all of my cold feet questions I had after Minnesota drafted Towns. I wanted Towns and even had him ranked #1 on my 2015 NBA Draft Big Board.  It’s just really nerve-racking when you watch the organization you grew up with make the first selection of a draft. Especially when that team has been worthless and irrelevant since 2007-08. Especially when that draft is loaded with talent being selected immediately after your pick. I want to apologize to the Minnesota Timberwolves, but more importantly Karl Towns (is that weird?) for having even 1% doubt in him. This guy is a stud. I purchased 5,000 Towns jerseys to spread around Los Angeles for being forced to pick after Towns was taken.

Let’s just forget I wasn’t completely 100% all-in on Karl-Anthony Towns.

I have always thought that Towns would become a superstar. He’s the greatest player of his generation. Towns and Wiggins will lead the Wolves to 24 straight NBA Finals. They’ll win 23 of them. This guy is a STAR!

5C. Miguel Sano, DH/3B, Twins

Finally, the power hitting savage that the Twins have been asking for since Harmon Killebrew retired and Kirby Puckett threw out his arm celebrating his home run in Game 6 of the ’91 World Series . This dude put genuine fear into opposing aces after something like a minute into his debut season. He’s going to be an absolute STAAAAAAAAAAR!

If you can’t remember, Sano is the guy responsible for trying to smack a baseball outside of Earth’s atmosphere, but it hit the catwalk at Tropicana Field before it could escape the external gravity waves of our planet.

All three players are basically at the same level in their careers and have already shown real, legitimate potential to not only become the face of their state/teams, but of their sports. It’s amazing to have a trio like these future studs, especially when two of them are teammates. It’s almost impossible to decide who should be ranked ahead of each other of these three.

6. Joe Mauer, the human being, Twins

More on this later… but shout-out to Joe for being an awesome guy and the things he used to do for the Twins. And the things he still does, but at a lower level.

Okay, time to skip around a little bit.

11. Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings

Maybe a little surprising to already be this high, but let me explain.

First off, Diggs wears the coveted #14 on his jersey — which belonged to a former legendary fan favorite, Joe Webb. It’s 100% an honor to wear the jersey of a former backup to Christian Ponder because naturally, fans will see your #14 jersey and tears of happiness will roll down their cheek when they realize Christian Ponder is being replaced. But then they’ll remember that was a few years ago and #14 is the new stud receiver.

Secondly, Stefon Diggs is going to be a freaking problem in this league.

Third, Diggs was a fifth round pick. HE WAS A FIFTH ROUND PICK!!!! Who DOESN’T love late draft steals???? He could be the steal of the draft!

Lastly, Diggs is the wide receiver that we were hoping Cordarrelle Patterson would become. He’s dynamite with the ball in his hands the way that Patterson was (/is?), except he’s a fully functional route runner that’s certainly capable of catching the ball.

15. Zach LaVine, G, Timberwolves

Zach LaVine, to be honest, should probably be higher on this list. I kept him at 15 because he isn’t a starter and he hasn’t had his breakout season yet. Well, breakout in terms of skills, not popularity. Or dunking ability. Or just being a cool dude. Zach LaVine is, maybe, the best dunker since Vince Carter and can possibly finish above him — all he needs to do is his windmill from the free throw line in this year’s Dunk Contest and it’s a wrap. He’s amazing. He’s superhuman. He’s adored by the girls. He’s adored by season ticket holders. He’s adored by my grandmother. He’s adored by NBA highlight scavengers. He’s the man!

However, #15 could be a good rank because some fans still have this clip engraved in their minds whenever we think of Zach LaVine.

I actually thought it was funny. I mean, come on, would you want to go to Minnesota while they’re in rebuild mode? He’s from the West Coast, Minnesota would be awful. But I totally forgot about the whole draft fiasco once I saw this:

16. Nino Niederreiter, RW, Wild

After the Niederreiter game winning goal in overtime of Game 7 against Colorado, I became convinced of a few things:

  1. Nino Niederreiter climbed the rankings of this list and won over the hearts of Wild fans solely because of that goal.
  2. Is there anything better in than yelling Nino Niederreiter over and over as loud as you can?
  3. El Niño is a dirty nickname.
  4. The Wild have the oddest collection of names on their roster — Nino Niederreiter, Dubnyk, Dumba, Graovac, Zucker, Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund. hsnskmnsnssjatef!!! WHAT????

21. Harrison Smith, S, Vikings

Harrison Smith is the warrior of the Vikings secondary. Smith (who’s  literally called “Harry the Hitman”) should be a LOCK for the Pro Bowl, finally. He was a FIRST team All-Pro safety last season and still didn’t make the exclusive Pro Bowl list.

Smith has been dominating this league ever since his rookie season, but the ability to stay healthy has kept his name out of the glamour until now.

It’s bone crushing hits like this one that Smith lays each week that are circulating his name more and more in conversations of the NFL’s elite safeties. He’s a well spoken, hard-working perennial talent that will soon become the best safety in the NFL. I mean, technically, he already is. But maybe I’m just optimistic. Or maybe I read the statistics.

22. Anthony Barr/Eric Kendricks, LB’s, Vikings

The best way to describe these two players is by saying they are adults playing linebacker in the National Football League. Adults.

Also, what would it take for you to want Clay Matthews over Anthony Barr? How many millions?

27. Aaron Hicks, OF, Twins

*Minutes after I begin working on Hicks explanation, I received a notification that Hicks had been involved in a trade. I’m going to leave this in here because Hicks is the man and I wish him the best of luck with the Yankees. But mostly I just really, really wish he was still a Minnesota Twin*

Aaron Hicks, just another great outfielder that the Twins have added to their long list of amazing playmakers we’ve had running around in their outfield.

Hicks is (was) my favorite player on the Twins. The thing I like the most about Hicks is not only the amazing plays he is capable of, but how much hard work he’s put into becoming a better hitter. And it showed last season after he came back up from AAA and was, actually, one of the more consistent players on the team.

Maybe Hicks was a favorite of mine because from his first start at Target Field there was a sense that he could become the next guy out there. There was an opportunity for him to become our next great outfielder aaaaaaand unfortunately he was traded.

He also had the best walk up song on the team:

After Hicks switched his walk up tune, there was still a high possibility it was ranked first on the team anyways. This guy just has a great taste in music:

31. Maya Moore, F, Lynx

For those that don’t understand who Maya Moore is, or watch WNBA hoops, she’s basically becoming the Michael Jordan of women’s hoops. She’s actually sponsored by Jordan. She’s a phenomenal leader of this team, but an even better scorer as she has been on of the WNBA’s top 3 scorers in three of her first four seasons.

The shot that helped turn the Lynx into a dynasty:

39. Marcus Sherels, PR/DB, Vikings

Sherels is absolutely a favorite out here. Statistically, he’s the best punt returner the Vikings have ever had and it has shown over the past few seasons as he’s been a threat to break one at anytime. Of course, I always loved Mewelde Moore returning punts for the Vikes, but Sherels is extremely dangerous.

Sherels is a fan favorite across the state because he was a walk-on for the Gophers.

The most underrated part of Sherels is that he NEVER looks like he’s sprinting. Everything he does looks like a jog, but it’s clearly deceptive to the tacklers.

The most overrated part of Sherels’ game is anything to do with playing defensive back.

44. Ricky Rubio, G, Timberwolves

There are two types of Ricky Rubio fans in this state: (1) those who defend them with their entire life as if he’s still this great young player with amazing upside, or (2) those who wish he’d move to China and perform passing routines for their young basketball players, become a Chinese basketball phenomenon, and never come back to Minnesota.

I mean, Rubio will never live up to what fans were hoping he’d become, especially with Stephen Curry being drafted after him, but that isn’t his fault. All Rubio has done since he’s came over from Spain is show he wants to be a member of the Timberwolves.

I’m not sure where Ricky Rubio belongs on this list, but in a season that’s likely make-or-break for him it’s important to note how great of a guy he’s been. He could’ve easily been a prick about getting injured routinely, the Kevin Love situation, or constantly being butchered by the Minnesota radio, but instead he’s been awesome.

He clearly isn’t a scoring threat in this league, but at least it’s funny whenever he takes a jump shot. He’s messed with his mechanics so many times that it looks like he’s re-learning his jump shot each time he gets ready to hoist up a three.

I’m also not sure if Ricky Rubio ages. He’s looked the same age since he was playing professional basketball in Spain when he was a 7-year-old.

92. Ervin Santana, P, Twins

How are you going to sign the largest free agent contract in the history of the franchise and get suspended for half the season? Knucklehead.

134. Joe Mauer’s Contract

See, this is tricky because fans in this state still love Mauer (I think…?). I do at least. Mauer will forever be loved by the real fans and they’ll always believe in him. However, his contract is so bad at this point that you have to rank him this far down the list.

You simply can’t make those big deals in baseball because they never ever ever ever ever ever ever work. For every one player on a massive contract that performs to a high level, I can show your thousands that don’t. Especially pitchers.

As much as Mauer has declined, fans need to remind themselves that he still led our team in batting average, on-base percentage, and hits. 

135. Trevor May, P, Twins

The only reason Trevor May is this low is because he kind of looks like Joe Mauer and it makes me think of that contract. Trevor May, it just isn’t your fault.

140. Cordarrelle Patterson, KR, Vikings

Patterson was worshipped by fans here, but the truth hurts. Patterson isn’t a good wide receiver like fans were hoping he’d become. For some reason he can’t ever get onto the field, I’m not sure what it is, but he’s basically a $7,221,049 kick returner.

The only reason he wasn’t 141 was because he showed us something last week with that kick return touchdown and dope celebration with the eleventh ranked Diggs.

141. The Ghost of Christian Ponder

 

 

 

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