One of the best perks of sports fandom is reminiscing about successful and legendary athletes. Recognizing these stars and their major contributions to sport is uplifting, inspiring, and patriotic. With this in mind, let’s look at some of the most successful athletes born in Michigan.
Bennie Oosterbaan (Football)
Bennie Oosterbaan is widely considered the greatest athlete in Michigan history. The football star was a three-time All-America football player for the Michigan Wolverines, where he played end. Additionally, he was an All-Big Ten Conference baseball and two-time All-American basketball player. He later became the head football coach for the Wolverines, leading them to a national championship in 1948.
Sports Illustrated named Bennie Oosterbaan the fourth greatest athlete in Michigan's history and one of the eleven best players in the first century of college football. Speaking of college football, the current NCAA season is only a week in, and The Sports Geek has already updated its stats. You can get up-to-date college football championship odds here all year long.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson (Basketball)
Magic Johnson is an all-time basketball legend and one of the sport's most recognizable athletes. Given the state's history with athletic stars, it should be no surprise that he was born and raised in Lansing, Michigan. Johnson was born on August 14, 1959, and went to school at Lansing Everett High School, where he became a household name. He led the school team to a state championship during his senior year and stayed to play for Michigan State with the Spartans.
Magic Johnson led the team to a national title in 1979 – his sophomore year – before moving to the NBA. That year, he was the top overall draft pick and joined the Los Angeles Lakers, where he remained for 13 seasons. Johnson’s time with the Lakers cemented his legendary status in the world of basketball. He is a 12-time All-Star, 3-time NBA MVP, 3-time NBA Finals MVP, and 5-Time NBA champion.
Serena Williams (Tennis)
You cannot talk about tennis without mentioning the legendary Serena Williams and her sister Venus. Serena was born on September 26, 1981, in Saginaw before her family moved to Campton. Widely considered the best female tennis player of all time, she began playing at 3 and went pro at 14. She ranks first on the Women's Tennis Association rankings and has 72 career singles titles to her name, with 23 of these being Grand Slam titles. In addition to a 783-130 singles record, Serena has won four Olympic gold medals, 14 Grand Slam doubles titles alongside Venus, and $85 million in prize money. She recently retired but went down in history as “the best to ever do it.”
Hazen Shirley “Kiki” Cuyler (Baseball)
According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Hazen Shirley “Kiki” Cuyler is one of the best hitters in Major League Baseball history. Cuyler, who was born on August 30, 1898, in Harrisville, Michigan, died in 1950 of a heart attack and was inducted into the Hall of Fame 18 years later. He led the Pittsburgh Pirates to a World Series win in 1925 and spent 17 years with the Chicago Cubs. Cuyler also played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds and coached the Boston Red Sox later in his career. In the mid-1970s, the Ki Cuyler Sports Bar & Grill was opened in his home town his honor.
Dan Majerle (Basketball)
Famously nicknamed “Thunder Dan,” Dan Majerle was born in Traverse City. He was a star player for the Central Michigan University basketball team and had a 14-season NBA career. Before joining CMU, the shooting guard-small forward went All-American in 1987 while playing for Traverse City High School. He led the Chippewas in steals, rebounding, and scoring for three consecutive seasons between 1985 and 1988.
In the 1988 NBA draft, he was 14th overall and a first-round pick for the Phoenix Suns. He was also named the USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year during his draft year. At the moment, Majerle is the head coach for the Grand Canyon Division I basketball team. He has been a 3-time NBA All-Star and was inducted into the CMU Athletic Hall of Fame. In his honor, his CMU team retired his No. 44 jersey, as did the Phoenix Suns with his No. 9 jersey.
Dan “The Beast” Severn (MMA)
Dan “The Beast” Severn is aptly nicknamed. The UFC Hall of Famer is a 2-time National Wrestling Alliance world heavyweight champion with a professional MMA record of 101-19-7. Born in Coldwater on June 8, 1958, he is also the only triple-crown IFC champion and the first true world-class professional wrestler to compete in the UFC. In college, Severn played for Arizona State University and was All-American. He is considered one of the pioneers of MMA fighting.
This list includes only athletes born in Michigan, not those born elsewhere but who played in the state. Whether they played in the 90s or early 2000s or are still active, it is no debate that these are some of the most recognizable names in the world of sports to hail from the Great Lake State.