Across all levels of sports, the state of Oregon has had a tremendous amount of athlete who has called the Emerald State their home at one point. Oregon was once known almost exclusively as the home for track and field in the United States, but over the years has gotten a lot more attention for other sports, especially football.
Between the Ducks, Beavers, Trail Blazers, and many other teams that are based out of Oregon, who are the top sports heroes that the state claims? While there are sure to be differing opinions, here are our picks for the five greatest Oregon sports heroes.
Clyde Drexler could be considered a legend in many different parts of the country. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana then raised in Houston, Texas where he became a college basketball legend. Drexler then entered the 1983 NBA Draft where he became the 14th overall pick. Thanks to his career with the Portland Trail Blazers, Drexler was one of just two Hall of Famers selected in that year’s draft.
During his 12 seasons in Portland, Drexler averaged 20.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game. Drexler was named an All-Star for eight of those seasons, including his tremendous 1988-89 campaign. During that season, Drexler averaged 27.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, both of which were career highs. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004.
Hawaii native Marcus Mariota was highly sought-after when he was coming out of high school in 2011. Oregon ended up being the lucky recipient of his services at quarterback, and Mariota didn’t disappoint. He would end up playing for three seasons with the Oregon Ducks, including getting significant playing time as a freshman.
All in all, Mariota finished with 10,796 passing yards and 105 touchdowns while also adding in 2,237 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns. Mariota only had 14 interceptions throughout his career, as well, with the cherry on top being the first Oregon player to win the Heisman Trophy. Mariota was selected second overall in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans.
The first member of the list to be born and raised in Oregon, Steve Prefontaine became the face of running during the early 1970s. In fact, more people took up running as a hobby because of “Pre” and his signature mustache. He grew up in Coos Bay, Oregon, and chose to stay in-state for college at the University of Oregon.
Prefontaine participated in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich the year after winning gold at the Pan American Games. He broke the 4-minute mile barrier, and set a personal best of 3 minutes 54.6 seconds in 1973. Sadly, Prefontaine’s was taken in his prime in 1975 as a car crash claimed his life at just 24 years old. To this day, though, he remains an iconic figure in the world of track.
Danny Ainge is the only member of the list to not participate in college or professional sports in the state of Oregon but was a legend because of his high school days. Aigne was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon, attending North Eugene High School during the mid-1970s. Ainge excelled at every sport and was named an All-American for football, baseball, and, of course, basketball.
Ainge had the offer to stay in-state for college but ultimately decided to head to BYU. While there, he was a member of the All-WAC Team in all four seasons and had his number retired by the BYU basketball program. Ainge spent well over a decade in the NBA before retiring as a member of the Phoenix Suns in 1995.
The other Portland Trail Blazer to make the list is point guard Damian Lillard, who has established himself as the franchise’s all-time best player. Lillard didn’t go to a large school for his college hoops days, heading to Weber State as he was only a two-star recruit and ranked outside of the top 100 in the nation.
Lillard showed his value, though, and he would end up being taken sixth overall by the Blazers in the 2012 NBA Draft. Since then, Lillard has been named an All-Star more than a half-dozen times while also being named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team. Being able to average more than 25 points per game after a decade in the NBA is remarkable, and Lillard did just that.