There's a difference between loyalty to the home team—athletes imported to play for our local colleges and pro franchises—and the deep emotional bond we share with hometown heroes, the local legends we knew back when. They are the boys and girls from next door, or the next town. We watched them grow up, watched them play when it was still play. Unfortunately, these luminaries are almost inevitably dispersed because of sport's mercenary nature, lured away by scholarships or contracts. Well, we're bringing 'em all back home for the millennium—not necessarily to where they were born, but to where they first showed flashes of the greatness to come. Thus, Broadway Joe is in Pennsylvania, not Alabama or New York; and the Mailman is in Louisiana, not Utah. The result: the top 50 from your state and, on the following pages, a list of those from all 50 states. In short, the ultimate home teams.
EAST ST. LOUIS
World's best female athlete; won six Olympic medals-three gold-and set heptathlon world record in 1988.
Papa Bear: 63 years with the Bears; 318 wins as coach is second alltime; patriarch of the NFL.
A top 10 Heisman finisher and two-time All-America at Illinois; the gold standard for NFL middle linebackers.
Football's Roaring '20s answer to Ruth and Dempsey; built legend at Illinois; had eight spectacular seasons in NFL.
Top U.S. female winter athlete; won five speed skating golds and dominated her sport for nearly a decade.
Three-time All-America at DePaul; won seven titles in nine pro seasons; helped make basketball a big man's game.
EAST ST. LOUIS
Record 109 men's pro singles titles, including eight Grand Slams; one of most fiery players to cross the baseline.
High school All-America; NCAA champ at Indiana; NBA's best small guard since Cousy led Pistons to back-to-back titles.
Basketball and football All-America at Northwestern; passed Browns to seven pro titles in 1940s and '50s.