50 Sports Figures We Lost in 2016
2016 has been a tough year in sports.
We aren’t talking about a Saints team that didn’t make the playoffs, an Astros team that fell short or the injury plagued Pelicans.
And, we aren’t talking about a Cajuns’ football team that finished 6-7, an LSU club that fired its coach four games into the season, or the saga of Ben Simmons.
No, 2016 will be remembered for some of those in the world of sports we had to say goodbye to.
There were some of the all time greats: Arnold Palmer, Pat Summitt, Gordie Howe and “The Greatest,” Mohammad Ali.
There were those we felt we knew because they spoke to us in our living rooms often: Craig Sager, John Saunders, Bud Collins, Joe Garagiola and NASCAR’s Barney Hall.
There was an Olympic hero, BIll Johnson.
There were some that can only be described as a horrible tragedy: Will Smith, Joe McKnight, Jose Fernandez, Vanderbilt’s Donny Everett, NASCAR’s Bryan Clausen, and two collegiate punters; Sam Foltz and Mike Sadler. And, the Pelicans’ Bryce Dejean-Jones.
There were those who fought: Aaron Pryor, Bobby Chacon, Kimbo Slice, Ryan Jimmo. And Chyna.
There were coaches: Bill Dooley, Buddy Ryan, Ted Marchibroda and Bill Foster, the man who preceded Coach K at Duke.
There was Dennis Green, who always was who we thought he was.
There were not one, but two former Butler players who left us way too soon, Joel Cornette and Andrew Smith.
There was Fulton Walker, the first ever to return a kick for a touchdown in the Super Bowl. And, Ralph Branca, who served up Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World..” We lost Milt Pappas, who admitted grooving a pitch that Roger Maris hit for his 59th home run in 1961, Dick McAuliffe, who won a World Series ring with the Detroit Tigers, and one of the greatest nicknames in sports history, Walt “No-Neck” Williams.
We said goodbye to basketball’s Nate Thurmond, Clyde Lovellette, Sean Rooks and Greg Ballard.
And the man who made Syracuse a national power, Pearl Washington.
Monte Irvin would have been even greater in the record books had his MLB career not been shortened because of the color of his skin.
We lost a Yankee, Luis Arroyo, and an Amazin’ Met, Jim Hickman.
Former football players Konrad Reuland and Zurlon Tipton were both in their twenties. Rashaan Salaam was only 42.
Christy O’Connor was a gentleman of golf. Rick MacLeish played 14 seasons in the National Hockey League. Tony Phillips of the Oakland A’s was only 56.
And, there was that other guy named Phillips. How would we be remembering Lawrence had he not taken too many wrong turns in his life in his 40 years on earth.
There have been other years that have been tough for losing some of our sports heroes. But 2016 seemed especially brutal.
May they all rest peacefully. We thank them for the good times.