The 1960s were a tumultuous time in America, headlined by the Vietnam War and the shocking assassinations of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, and then Robert Kennedy and Reverend Martin Luther King in 1968.
But it was also a great decade for American sports fans, and that’s what we’ll celebrate here in this space: The 10 greatest sports icons of the 1960s.
15. Paul Hornung
Nicknamed The Golden Boy, Hornung is a Hall of Famer and former running back for the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League (from 1957 to 1966). His Green Bay teams won four NFL titles highlighted by the very first Super Bowl. He was the first football player to win the Heisman Trophy; be selected as the first overall selection in the NFL Draft; win the NFL MVP award; and be inducted into both the pro and college football halls of fame.
14. Gale Sayers
Nicknamed the “Kansas Comet”, Sayers played college football for the University of Kansas Jayhawks, where he compiled 4,020 all-purpose yards over three seasons and was twice recognized as a consensus All-American. Drafted by the Chicago Bears in the first round, Sayers had an immediate impact by setting a league record with 22 touchdowns while gaining 2,272 all-purpose yards en route to being named the NFL’s Rookie of the Year. He continued this production through his first five seasons, earning four Pro Bowl appearances and five first-team All-Pro selections. A right knee injury forced Sayers to miss the final five games of the 1968 season. He returned in 1969 to lead the NFL in rushing yards and was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. An injury to his left knee in the 1970 preseason as well as subsequent injuries kept him sidelined for most of his final two seasons.
13. Oscar Robertson
Nicknamed “The Big O”, Robertson played for the Cincinnati Royals and Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA. He was a point guard and a 12-time All-Star, 11-time member of the All-NBA Team, and one-time winner of the MVP award in 14 seasons. In 1962, he became the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double for a season. Robertson and Jerry West co-captained the 1960 U.S. basketball team at the 1960 Summer Olympics. The team, described as the greatest assemblage of amateur basketball talent ever, steamrollered the competition to win the gold medal.
12. Bart Starr
Starr was the only quarterback in NFL history to lead a team to three consecutive league championships (1965–1967), which included the first two Super Bowls: I and II. Starr was also named the Most Valuable Player of the first two Super Bowls. He won the league MVP award in 1966. Starr has the highest postseason passer rating (104.8) of any quarterback in NFL history and a postseason record of 9–1.
11. Bobby Hull
His blonde hair, legendary skating speed, end-to-end rushes, and ability to shoot the puck at very high velocity together earned him the name “The Golden Jet”. His talents were such that one or two opposing players were often assigned just to shadow him, a tribute to his explosiveness. On March 12, 1966, he became the first NHL player to score more than 50 goals in a season, surpassing Maurice Richard’s, Bernie Geoffrion’s and his own mark of 50 goals. His 51st goal against the New York Rangers earned him a seven-minute standing ovation from the Chicago Stadium faithful. Hull eventually scored 54 goals that season, the highest single-season total of the Original Six era.
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