By Jose M. Romero / @RomeroJoseM
A couple of weeks ago, a committee of notable Latino sports media professionals at ESPN came up with 30 nominees for the top 10 best Hispanic athletes of all time, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.
The names on the list were intriguing. The list included baseball stars Albert Pujols, Juan Marichal, Roberto Clemente and Fernando Valenzuela. Boxing giants included Julio Cesar Chavez, Roberto Duran, Oscar de la Hoya and Teofilo Stevenson of Cuba, who won multiple Olympic gold medals as a heavyweight.
There was Mary Jo Fernandez and Rafael Nadal in tennis, and Lee Trevino and Nancy Lopez in golf. Plus Anthony Munoz in football, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi in soccer and Manu Ginobili in basketball.
It was a good list, and I’m not here to debate who was on it. Opinions vary, of course, and one must differentiate between the 10 best and his or her 10 favorite Latino athletes of all time.
I also believe there is a separate list for the 10 best Latino athletes of today. But then one would have to factor in athletes who play or are based in Mexico, South America and Europe. So let’s just go with my 10 best U.S.-based Latino athletes of our current times.
In no particular order, I’d start with guys from ESPN’s list. Pujols (L.A. Angels) and Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers) belong.
Victor Cruz is on the verge of stardom in the NFL. The New York Giants wide receiver belongs in the top 10. So does New England Patriots tight end/running back Aaron Hernandez, when he is healthy and at full strength.
If we’re counting those who are half-Latino, Carmelo Anthony of the NBA (New York Knicks, Olympic gold medalist) is a no-brainer. Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs) is on the list.
Boxers Sergio Martinez (lives in California) and Miguel Cotto (Florida) are from outside the continental U.S. (Argentina, Puerto Rico), but they are U.S.-based athletes, so they make my top 10.
So does one of mixed martial arts’ best pound-for-pound fighters, Dominick Cruz.
I’ll add Olympic gold medal winner Felix Sanchez to my list. The world-class hurdler represented the Dominican Republic and won in London.
So that’s 10. Pujols, Cabrera, Cruz, Hernandez, Anthony, Ginobili, Martinez, Cotto, Dominick Cruz and Sanchez.
Honorable mention: Brenda Villa, U.S. Olympic water polo gold medalist. It takes a lot of strength and endurance to swim and stay above water in a physically taxing sport.
Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland A’s – the native of Cuba has been a great addition to the surprising A’s, who are headed for the postseason.
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys and Mark Sanchez, New York Jets – Not the NFL’s best quarterbacks, but it takes a special ability to play QB in the pros. These guys have been winners and have taken a lot of hard hits.
Gilbert Melendez, UFC. – Another pound-for-pound great.
Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees – Performance-enhancing drug use or not, A-Rod is still an elite baseball player.