Will Leitch is a New York Magazine contributing editor, the founder of Deadspin.com, and the author of three books.
1. Reggie Jackson
In his first game back in the Bronx after he signed with the Angels, Yankee Stadium chanted his name. They wouldn’t even do that for Jeter.
2. Lawrence Taylor
Dominating, gruesome, monstrous, awesome, and would have been even better if he weren’t high so often. That he was makes him even more of a terrifying, otherworldly force of nightmares.
3. Mariano Rivera
Mariano turned late-October nights in the Bronx into a yearly ritual with just one basic, devastating pitch. The real source of the Yankees dynasty. Couldn’t possibly be paid enough.
4. Patrick Ewing
Joe Namath was the one-hit wonder; Patrick Ewing was the lumbering dockworker, providing consistent excellence without the flash or, ultimately, and sadly, the title.
5. John McEnroe
The Times once said he was “the worst advertisement for our system of values since Al Capone.” Like that’s a bad thing.
6. Joe Namath
Not the reason the Jets won Super Bowl III—Namath didn’t even throw a pass in the fourth quarter—but who cares or remembers that anymore? The perfect New York superstar at the perfect New York time.
7. Dwight Gooden
Hard to separate him from Darryl Strawberry; they were the only two people who could make you forget anyone played baseball in the Bronx. That he threw his no-hitter as a Yankee seems like a sin against the baseball gods.
8. Mike Tyson
Forget everything that happened after 1989. For five years, the baddest man on the planet was a Brooklynite, and I still can’t beat him on Nintendo.
9. Derek Jeter
Can’t play defense and was probably never the best player on his team. But so what if anywhere else he’s a mere All-Star instead of a legend? No one said life was fair.
When he entered Studio 54, the place actually went quiet with awe.