Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson isn’t simply having the best start of his career — he is on track for a historic NFL season. Storm forward Breanna Stewart isn’t simply a newly crowned WNBA champion — she established herself as the supreme queen of the women’s basketball world.
One has a quarterback rating of 136.7 and 16 touchdown passes through four games. The other averaged 28.3 points in a three-game sweep over the Aces in the WNBA Finals.
When it comes to Seattle-area sports, is there anyone else who has had a stretch this good? Have there been equals in these single-season levels of dominance?
Actually, it turns out there are quite a few contenders, whether they’re from high school, college or the pros. And we’re only talking about athletes who were at the pinnacle of their sports in a given year.
Seattle legends such as Gary Payton, Steve Largent, Jack Sikma, Edgar Martinez or Brandon Roy won’t be on this list, as they were never considered the best in their games. Same goes for Storm point guard Sue Bird, who, as Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner said, “deserves a statue,” but was never a true WNBA MVP threat.
Like Wilson and Stewie, the names below all prompted people to think “there is no one better at what they do.” Let the debate begin.
Randy Johnson, Mariners, 1995: The Big Unit was 18-2 and led the American League in winning percentage (.900), ERA (2.48), WHIP (1.045) and strikeouts (294) on the way to winning his first of five Cy Young Awards. The Mariners went 27-3 in games he started that year.
Danielle Lawrie, Washington softball, 2009: The Olympian pitched 64 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, 90 straight innings without an earned run and finished the year with a 0.97 ERA, a national championship and USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year honors. Possibly the most dominant athlete in UW history.
Kelsey Plum, Washington women’s basketball, 2016-17: The NCAA’s career leading scorer also set the national single-season scoring record her senior year when she averaged 31.7 points while shooting .529 from the field and .428 from deep. She went on to win the John Wooden Award for national player of the year.
Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners, 1997: In The Kid’s lone MVP season, he led the AL in home runs (56), RBI (147), slugging percentage (.646) and total bases (393). Perhaps most impressively, the presumably clean Griffey did this in the middle of the steroid era.
Ichiro, Mariners, 2004: The M’s won only 63 games that year, but Ichiro collected an MLB record 262 hits while hitting a league-high .372. It wasn’t the right fielder’s MVP season, but it was his best.
Steve Emtman, Washington football, 1991: The defensive lineman anchored the unbeaten, national-championship winning Huskies’ D and won the Lombardi Award, given to college football’s best player regardless of position. Emtman also finished fourth in the Heisman voting, the highest ever for a Husky.
Lauren Jackson, Storm, 2007: Probably the most dominant season in WNBA history. The Aussie center averaged 23.8 points and 9.7 rebounds while shooting .519 from the field and .402 from deep. Her player efficiency rating was an insane 35.0. For context, no NBA player has ever had a rating above 32.
Michael Porter Jr., Nathan Hale basketball, 2016-17: The current Denver Nugget averaged 36.2 points, 13.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 3.2 steals and 2.7 blocks for the unbeaten, national-champion Raiders before winning the Gatorade National Player of the Year award.
Elgin Baylor, Seattle U men’s basketball, 1957-58: The Hall of Famer averaged 32.5 points and 19.3 rebounds while essentially carrying the Redhawks to the NCAA championship game. He also won the NCAA tourney’s most outstanding player award despite losing in the final.
Shaun Alexander, Seahawks, 2005: Won the NFL MVP award while rushing for a league-high 1,880 yards and a then-record 27 touchdowns. Did he have two Hall of Fame linemen in Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson blocking for him? Yes. But it was still a monster season.
Cortez Kennedy, Seahawks, 1992: The defensive tackle recorded 14 sacks and was so dominant on the interior that he compelled voters to award him Defensive Player of the Year despite his team’s 2-14 record.
Kim Little, Reign, 2014: The Scottish attacking midfielder scored a league-high 16 goals while winning Most Valuable Player and leading Seattle to the NWSL Shield for best regular-season record.
Tim Lincecum, Washington baseball, 2006: The two-time Cy Young Award winner struck out a whopping 199 batters in 125 1/3 innings pitched his junior year and finished with a 1.94 ERA. He also won the Golden Spikes Award, given annually to the best amateur baseball player.
Someone I forgot, The Seattle Times sports page, 2020: Go ahead and let me have it.