May be defenders searching for a way to keep Pete Maravich from scoring should have confused him with tire simplest of questions: Where are you from? The Pistol was born in Pennsylvania but moved with his family to South Carolina at age eight. Following his sophomore year in high school, he was uprooted again, this time to North Carolina. After two years there he moved to Louisiana, the state where he morphed into a household name as a three-time All-America guard at LSU.
Maravich's gypsy existence is an example of the potholes we encountered in putting together this issue's centennial list of the 50 greatest sports figures from each state. The package, which includes a different cover for each state, begins on page 68 and presents a look at the top 50 athletes, coaches and other sportsmen and -women from your neck of the woods. On the pages that follow is a rundown of the teams from all the states, plus SI's ranking of the states, from No. 1 ( California) to No. 50 ( Delaware). Canadian readers are getting the Top 50 from their country, plus the lists from all the states.
The project, one of the largest SI has ever undertaken, began last summer when correspondents and reporters, with the help of staffers at halls of fame and local experts, began identifying candidates for each state. The arduous task of sifting through nominees, producing the lists and writing short descriptions of the 2,550 sports figures mentioned fell to the geographically diverse trio of staff writer Jeff Pearlman (a native of New York) and writer-reporters Mark Bechtel ( Alabama) and Stephen Cannella ( Connecticut). "I'm starting to think that Manifest Destiny idea wasn't such a good one," says Bechtel. "Fifty is a lot of states."
We decided to place an athlete in the state where he emerged as a sports figure—usually, where he grew up and went to high school—and not necessarily in the state of his birth or the one in which he gained national recognition. Thus the Pistol, after much debate, landed in South Carolina.
At least we knew he belonged somewhere. More frustrating were the difficult choices forced on us by the disproportionate number of leading athletes from certain states. For example, we had to leave out many Californians who would have made the Top 10 almost anywhere else—among them five-time NBA All-Star Gary Payton and two of the newest inductees into baseball's Hall of Fame, George Brett and Robin Yount. Conversely, relative unknowns like Spencer Dunkley, a gangly center at Delaware from 1989 to '93, and Bob Prince, a Southern Maine outfielder who helped lead the Huskies to the '91 NCAA Division III title, made the lists for sports-strapped Delaware and Maine, respectively. "The funny thing is that Dunkley wasn't even the best player on that team," says Delaware alumnus Pearlman, "but he was the best one from Delaware."
As the saying goes, the three most important factors in anyone's presence on a list turned out to be location, location, location. We hope you enjoy our look at the sports heroes from the location most important to you: home.