America can be ugly. America can be petty. America can seem like it’s consumed with money. America can seem like it’s consumed with war.
Despite all the warts though, the United States of America remains the greatest country on this Earth.
A small part of what makes the U.S. so great is its sports and its sports figures. There are prima donnas and there are nice guys. There are bad guys and there are borderline heroes. America is a melting pot of personality, after all. In honor of our Nation’s Independence, here are the five most uniquely American athletes in sports today.
1. LeBron James
America loves a redemption story. How strange was it that LeBron – the most passive-aggressive person in this nation's history – got Stephen Curry, the Warriors, and the entire Golden State fanbase to look like the whiny chumps instead of himself during the NBA Finals?
The Warriors were America’s sports darlings for a calendar year – winning the title in 2015 and then eclipsing the Bulls’ record regular season win total earlier this year. There were dozens of articles themed around the statement, “Why it's impossible to hate the Warriors” in the past 12 months and another parade in the Bay Area seemed certain.
2016, however, will prove to be the year of the “oh, I guess so.” People will settle and say, “oh, I guess so” and vote for Hillary. People will eventually say “oh, I guess so” and vote for Trump. In June, people said, “oh, I guess so” and actually rooted for LeBron. His greatness was impossible to hate against Golden State. He scored 41 points in Games 5 and 6 and he had a triple-double in Game 7. His worst game in the series, Game 2, was a 19-point night in which he had nine rebounds and eight assists. Curry, the league MVP, had four games in the series in which he scored 19 or less points.
We are learning that LeBron is like Bill Clinton. We can overlook the bad stuff (getting BJs in the Oval Office/being passive-aggressive as hell) as long as brilliance is on display when it comes to the important stuff (creating a booming economy/killing it in the Finals).
2. Johnny Manziel
America has a collective drug and drinking problem, and is afraid to admit it. Same deal with Manziel. The QB has said time and time again that he’ll clean up his act. Two or three days after these “vows” he winds up in a 4 a.m. Instagram post by some random Vegas visitor. We would love to see a redemption story here, but as of Fourth of July weekend 2016 – it's highly unlikely.
3. Kevin Durant
Durant will listen to pitches from six NBA teams this weekend. Grown men will drool over him, despite the fact that everyone knows that he will re-sign in Oklahoma City. The humble Durant will say that he hates the whole process, but deep down he loves it (who wouldn’t?). America is the land of opportunity, and Durant is taking advantage.
4. Vince Wilfork
The rest of the world looks at America in the same way America looks at Texas. Everything is bigger here. The 330-pound Wilfork will appear (more or less) nude in the July 8 version of ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue.
Only in America. (Click here to view cover)
5. Hulk Hogan
Every year on the Fourth of July I do what all tried-and-true patriots do and listen to Hulk Hogan’s theme song, “Real American” on a loop. The seven-to-226 times I play it this coming Monday will be especially emotional considering the year that the Hulkster just endured.
Hogan was fired from WWE last July when a video of him making racist comments was unearthed. Hogan’s comments were absolutely gross, but he was forgiven by most due to the fact that he was being secretly recorded at the time of the comments. (Side note: Former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling did not get this same forgiveness from the American public. But that’s just because Sterling is a serial A-hole and Hogan is a childhood hero to most American males currently aged 32-46. America is often hypocritical like that. Oh well.)
Nearly everyone was on Hogan’s side during his sex tape/invasion of privacy trial with Gawker Media earlier this year as the tipping point came when former Gawker employee A.J. Daulerio was asked where he drew the line when it came to publishing celebrity sex tapes on his website.
“Under what age?” Hogan’s attorney asked.
“Four,” Daulerio answered … and that was that. Hogan was cool again in the eyes of most Americans and was awarded a cool $140 million at the end of the trial.
Now, that’s America.