Imagine putting together a Mount Rushmore of Kentucky Sports and where to start.
How about a world-renowned heavyweight champion known simply as “The Greatest”?
And horse racing would have to be acknowledged. How about the horse who recorded the fastest time ever in the commonwealth’s signature event?
And you’d probably want to include representatives from both the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville basketball programs. How about the men who built them into national powerhouses?
The Courier Journal asked you, dear reader, to vote and more than 8,000 responded during a five-day process that ended Friday.
The winners: Muhammad Ali, Secretariat, Adolph Rupp and Denny Crum.
Ali was the runaway winner with 1,764 votes, more than double the votes of runner-up Secretariat (822). Rupp was third with 711 votes, followed by Crum with 637.
Former U of L quarterback Johnny Unitas just missed the Mount Rushmore, finishing fifth with 549 votes. Rounding out the top 10 were Darrell Griffith (541), Paul Hornung (527), Pee Wee Reese (373), Lamar Jackson (370) and Mary T. Meagher (339).
We put together a list of 25 nominees and allowed readers to decide who should make it. A look at the four winners:
Muhammad Ali – Louisville native and Central High School product was a three-time heavyweight boxing champion, a 1960 Olympic gold medalist and one of the world’s most celebrated sports figures. In 1999, Time Magazine named Ali one of the “100 Most Important People of the 20th Century.”
Secretariat – He was bred in Virginia but became synonymous with Kentucky, winning the Kentucky Derby in 1973 with a record time (1:59.40) that still stands. Secretariat went on to win the Preakness and Belmont to become the ninth Triple Crown winner in racing history. Secretariat retired after his 3-year-old season and finished with a record of 16-3-1 in 21 career starts. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1974.
Adolph Rupp – In 41 seasons (1930-72) as the men’s basketball coach at UK, Rupp compiled an 876-190 record and won four NCAA championships and one NIT title. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1969.
Denny Crum – He coached the U of L men’s basketball team for 30 seasons (1971-2001), compiling a 675-295 record, reaching six Final Fours and winning national championships in 1980 and 1986. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994.
We heard from several readers, and perhaps the biggest Mount Rushmore debate concerned whether it should be limited to those who were born in Kentucky.
Of the top four vote-getters, only Ali is a Kentucky native. Secretariat was bred in Virginia, Rupp is a Kansas native and Crum was born and raised in California.
(For the record, the top four vote-getters who also are Kentucky natives were Ali, Griffith, Hornung and Reese. Not a bad Mount Rushmore, either.)
We also heard about our original list of top 25 nominees and who should and shouldn’t have been included.
Among the names you liked who weren’t nominated were Ralph Beard, Paul “Bear” Bryant, Pat Day, E.A. Diddle, Tyson Gay, Joe B. Hall, Oksana Masters, Tori Murden McClure, Howard Schnellenberger and Danny Sullivan.
But in the end, boxing, horse racing and college basketball were the winners.
Jason Frakes: 502-582-4046; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @kyhighs. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/jasonf.
Mount Rushmore of Kentucky Sports voting
Here are the complete online voting totals for the Courier Journal’s Mount Rushmore of Kentucky Sports. A total of 8,271 votes were received.
1. Muhammad Ali, 1,764
2. Secretariat, 822
3. Adolph Rupp, 711
4. Denny Crum, 637
5. Johnny Unitas, 549
6. Darrell Griffith, 541
7. Paul Hornung, 527
8. Pee Wee Reese, 373
9. Lamar Jackson, 370
10. Mary T. Meagher, 339
11. Wes Unseld, 268
12. Man o’ War, 220
13. Dan Issel, 212
14. John Calipari, 153
15. (tie) Angel McCoughtry, 101
15. (tie) Anthony Davis, 101
17. Rick Pitino, 100
18. Darrell Waltrip, 99
19. Justin Thomas, 86
20. Eddie Arcaro, 75
21. Phil Simms, 66
22. Jim Bunning, 58
23. George Blanda, 51
24. Cliff Hagan, 32
25. Dermontti Dawson, 16