Pro Athletes That Dominated In Their Hometowns

  • LeBron James

    Nike

    LeBron James

    Cleveland, Ohio

    Who says you can’t go home again? After publicly spurning his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers (yes, he’s actually from Akron) in the summer of 2010, LeBron James returned home this past summer to much adulation and fanfare. And you know what? It was totally justified. On his first go-round with the Cavaliers, LeBron carried the team to their first-ever NBA Finals in 2007 while also becoming the franchise’s all-time leading scorer and racking up six All-Star selections and two MVPs. Although his second stint isn’t off to the dream start everyone had hoped for, LeBron and Co. have plenty of time to turn things around.

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  • Derrick Rose

    adidas Hoops

    Derrick Rose

    Chicago, Illinois

    A high school star at Chicago’s Simeon Career Academy, Derrick Rose was the prize when the Bulls both literally and figuratively hit the lottery and got the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. The point guard responded by winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2008-09 and just two years later becoming the youngest MVP in NBA history at the age of 22. While Rose has struggled with injuries in recent years, he has returned to health in 2014-15 and once again has Chicago looking like the team to beat in the East.

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  • Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

    Lou Gehrig

    New York, New York

    “The Iron Horse” was New York through and through. Lou Gehrig was born in New York, went to Columbia, and signed with the Yankees right out of college. After playing part time for two years, Gehrig replaced All-Star first baseman Wally Pipp for a June, 1925 game and remained in the lineup for the next 2,129 games thereafter. When all was said and done, the slugger finished his career with 2,721 career hits, 493 home runs, two MVPs, and (most importantly) six World Series titles.

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  • Pete Rose

    Focus On Sport/Getty Images

    Pete Rose

    Cincinnati, Ohio

    The all-time MLB hits leader may be a persona non grata around baseball right now, but there’s no denying that Pete Rose is one of the greatest baseball players in history. “Charlie Hustle” was a 17-time All-Star at five different positions, making all but four of those appearances for his hometown Reds. Rose also won the 1970 MVP award, and helped the Reds to World Series titles in 1975 and 1976. While his gambling scandal as a manager has kept him out of the Hall of Fame, Rose’s legacy is safe in Cincinnati.

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  • Cal Ripken, Jr.

    The Sporting News/Getty Images

    Cal Ripken, Jr.

    In a weird way, the fact that Cal Ripken, Jr. is largely remembered as “the guy who broke Lou Gehrig’s streak” is a disservice to how gifted a player he was. A strong defensive shortstop who won two Gold Gloves, Ripken helped redefine the position as one that could also be manned by bigger, more offensively potent players. He made 19 All-Star teams during his 21-year career with the Orioles, eclipsing the 3,000-hit mark and winning two MVP awards as well as a World Series title in 1983.

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  • Dick Butkus

    Focus On Sport/Getty Images

    Dick Butkus

    Chicago, Illinois

    One of the most fearsome linebackers ever to play football, Dick Butkus has hardly ever left Illinois. He attended the University of Illinois after being born and raised in Chicago, then was selected at No. 3 overall in the NFL Draft by his hometown Chicago Bears. Butkus then embarked on a Hall of Fame career that saw him make eight Pro Bowls and eight All-Pro teams. While he never won a Super Bowl, the legendary linebacker was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.

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  • Wilt Chamberlain

    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Statistically, there may never again be a player as dominant as Wilt Chamberlain. After being drafted out of the University of Kansas, Chamberlain returned home to Philadelphia and used his remarkable mix of size and athleticism and began dominating the NBA. His ridiculous output from the 1961-62 season for the Warriors will almost surely never be matched: 50.4 points, 25.7 rebounds, and 48.5 minutes per game, all figures that would be amazing on their own and when combined simply defy belief. Wilt was a seven-time All-Star and four-time MVP in his hometown, and in 1967 finally overcame Bill Russell and the Celtics to win his first NBA championship.

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  • LeBron James
  • Derrick Rose
  • Pete Rose
  • Cal Ripken, Jr.
  • Dick Butkus

There are many ways that pro athletes are not like most of us. They can run faster, jump higher, and are just generally much more coordinated. There’s one way that they actually are just like us, though: They grew up rooting for their hometown sports teams.

Being a fan of your local teams comes naturally to almost everybody, and pro athletes often grew up dreaming of playing for their favorite squads. The majority of the time, however, it never comes to fruition. After all, such a homecoming requires a perfect storm of circumstances: The player has to fit his hometown team’s needs, the hometown team needs to be able to compensate that player enough, and the player has to genuinely want to play there.

Perhaps this is why homecomings don’t really happen all that often. Free agency has certainly made it easier for players to return to their hometowns to play (think LeBron James just this past summer), but there are plenty of guys who shy away from the pressure that comes with playing in front of the people who watched you grow up. Players come home to win championships, after all, and the expectations are always sky high.

It’s easy for someone playing at home to struggle. Who wouldn’t with all that pressure? Many athletes have tried and failed playing in front of their home crowd, and it’s certainly not for lack of trying.

There are a select few, however, who have excelled in front of their home fans. They’ve won individual awards and pushed their teams to championship-level play. It’s rare, but it does happen.

Here are some famous examples of Pro Athletes That Dominated In Their Hometowns.

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image via Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images