We asked, and you responded in big numbers. With more than 1,600 responses, one thing is clear: The Kid is Seattle's GOAT. The rest? Well, we diverged a little. (And yeah, Elgin Baylor deserves a little love.)
We had our say last Sunday, presenting our list of the top 10 Most Important Athletes in Seattle history, as well as listing 15 others we heavily considered.
Now you have had yours, with more than 1,600 readers weighing in with their own lists this week.
The Times and readers were in heavy agreement on one thing — Ken Griffey Jr. is the most important athlete in Seattle history.
Griffey was at the top of our list for his role in saving baseball in Seattle and he also finished with a whopping lead in the reader poll. Next came Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who was also second on our list.
But from there things began to diverge a little, although the top 10 in the readers’ votes were also the same as the top 10 on our list (though it’s possible those who voted may also have been influenced by the Times’ top 10).
The biggest difference involved Ichiro, who was ninth in the Times’ top 10 list but sixth among the readers.
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As for the rest of the list, readers made one thing abundantly clear — Elgin Baylor should have been included.
Baylor got the most votes of anyone who was not on either the Times’ Top 10 list or the list of The Next 15, finishing 14th.
There’s no doubt Baylor left a hefty resume in his two years at Seattle University, leading the men’s basketball team to the NCAA championship game in 1958. Baylor then had a lengthy NBA career that landed him in the Basketball Hall of Fame. One caveat: we considered only what athletes did in Seattle, and their long-term impact on the city. We also did include Johnny O’Brien, who led some of the great Seattle U teams from earlier in the 1950s (O’Brien was 18th in the readers’ vote).
But point taken: if one measure of an athlete’s importance (which as we noted is also somewhat different than merely how good an athlete is/was) is how well-remembered he or she is decades later, then Baylor definitely left an impact.
Several others not on our top 25 whom readers thought should have been included were Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez, UW running back Hugh McElhenny, UW goalie Hope Solo and Sonics forward Jack Sikma.
But switching in one athlete means taking out another. Those who were on our top 25 but who were not even in the readers’ top 30 included: UW basketball great Brandon Roy, Sounders goalie Kasey Keller, UW women’s basketball standout Kelsey Plum, UW basketball player Bob Houbregs and former Sonic Dennis Johnson.
In fact, two members of the Sonics’ 1979 NBA title team — Sikma and Fred Brown — each made the reader list of the top 25 instead of Johnson, who got our nod for having been the MVP of the Finals that season.
We also went with Johnson in part because the Sonics never seemed the same after he was traded in 1980. But you could hardly have gone wrong with any of the three, who all were vital to the city’s only NBA title team. Johnson got enough votes to rank just outside the top 30.
Also, a few who got votes were outside the parameters of those we considered, such as golfer Fred Couples, UW coach Don James and Mariners manager Lou Piniella. The list was specifically for team sport athletes and also those who played in the post-World War II era (which also ruled out a few who also got some write-in votes, such as UW’s 1936 crew team, also known as the Boys in the Boat.)
While agreeing 100 percent on any list such as this is impossible, what we mostly hope is that it generated some fun discussion and brought some recognition to the athletes who have done the most to make the Seattle sports scene what it is today.
What we said:
What you said:
The reader top 35:
- Ken Griffey Jr. 15,357 pts (1,097 first-place votes)
- Russell Wilson 11,387 pts (142 first-place votes)
- Gary Payton & Shawn Kemp 10,342 pts (54 first-place votes)
- Steve Largent 10,255 pts (97 first-place votes)
- Lenny Wilkens 9,346 pts (85 first-place votes)
- Ichiro 8,568 pts (40 first-place votes)
- Steve Emtman 6,197 pts (41 first-place votes)
- Sue Bird 5,854 pts (25 first-place votes)
- Warren Moon 5,629 pts (13 first-place votes)
- Clint Dempsey 2,942 pts (4 first-place votes)
- Edgar Martinez 824 pts (4 first-place votes)
- Marshawn Lynch 391 pts (2 first-place votes)
- Randy Johnson 299 pts (2 first-place votes)
- Elgin Baylor 293 pts (14 first-place votes)
- Walter Jones 197 pts (2 first-place votes)
- Felix Hernandez 147 pts
- Richard Sherman 145 pts
- Johnny O’Brien 132 pts (2 first-place votes)
- Hugh McElhenny 126 pts (4 first-place votes)
- Spencer Haywood 124 pts (2 first-place votes)
- Sonny Sixkiller 98 pts
- Jack Sikma 90 pts (1 first-place vote)
- Lauren Jackson 87 pts
- Hope Solo 85 pts (2 first-place votes)
- Fred Brown 82 pts
- Fred Couples 81 pts
- Bob Schloredt 78 pts (2 first-place votes)
- Jim Zorn 76 pts (2 first-place votes)
- Cortez Kennedy 75 pts
- Kenny Easley 48 pts
- Don James 43 pts
- Marques Tuiasosopo 43 pts
- Dennis Johnson 41 pts
- Chip Hanauer 39 pts
- (t) Lou Piniella 37 pts
- (t) Kelsey Plum 37 pts